Is LinkedIn one of the most overlooked social media networks for photographers? With over 460 million users and growing, it’s not something you can just ignore. Yet, that's exactly what a lot of photographers do, myself included. We joined Facebook because everyone was already there, and Instagram just makes sense for visual professionals. LinkedIn started out as a tool for building a resume and finding a new job. As self-employed freelance individuals, do we really have a need for that?
However you look at it, LinkedIn has a lot of tools, tons of potential clients, and industry peers that can benefit photographers. For every one user that doesn't see the worth, there is another claiming to get a lot of work from it. It’s for that reason I’m guessing a lot of you only use LinkedIn for occasionally updating what you've been up to or accepting new requests. For the last several years, that's really all I did, and yet, I keep holding on to it.
I've set up strategies and profiles for dozens of businesses and professionals with great results. I know firsthand how powerful LinkedIn can be in the business world. LinkedIn is an amazing service and success story, but how do you take what works so well for the business world and make it work for freelancers in the creative market? More importantly, how do you make it make sense and appeal to us visually driven creatives?
I’ve decided to give it more attention. I want to know how new clients can be obtained through networking and connections on LinkedIn. I want to know if the real-world networking I've done can be leveraged even more online or if my online connections can be realized in the real world. So, I’m taking everything I've learned over the years about setting up a business profile for success and seeing what works and what doesn't for photography. I’m also taking this opportunity to reach out to the community and see who is using LinkedIn successfully? What tactics and strategies are working for you? At the end of the year, I’ll either be successful or have one less social network to manage.
Obviously, what type of photography business you run will determine just how successful LinkedIn will be for you. If you're a wedding photographer, you’ll want to connect with vendors, editorial and commercial photographers will want to get the attention of editors and art buyers. Each genre may or may not see some benefit over the other. No matter what type of work you shoot, there are a lot of simple ways to improve your profile and start increasing your chances of it being seen.
So, here are six tips to start getting more out of LinkedIn.
The Perfect Profile
Getting as much info as possible filled out on your profile should be simple, but close to half of all profiles never do. Considering that LinkedIn’s algorithms give a lot of weight to complete profiles, this is the easiest way to get ahead of the crowd. Create a detailed headline with lots of keywords,' don't just put "Photographer." Instead, try something like "Freelance Photographer and Owner of XYZ Studios Specializing in Editorial and Commercial Photography." Add and remove sections to emphasize your strong points. Do you have a blog? Then add a publications section with links to your most read articles. Awards and Honors? Add that section. There are sections for all kinds of info that you might not think of adding, but will help get you to 100 percent: interests, volunteering, certifications, courses you’ve taken, and projects you’ve worked on. All these things may seem unimportant, but could just be what gives you an edge over another photographer with a similar skill set. Often, the person who gets the job when equally qualified is the one that has something in common with the person doing the hiring. Create a gallery of your work. LinkedIn may not be Instagram, but they still have several great ways to add visual info to your profile. You can place images in just about every section that is relevant, so take advantage of it. You can also add links, video, and more.
Endorsements Are Not Recommendations
LinkedIn is more than just a profile resume. There are two completely different mechanisms used by the people who you have worked with or that know you to let others know that you are legit and can actually do what you say you can. The first, "Endorsements," was created to give users a quick and easy way to essentially rate the set of skills and expertise that were used in your service to them. The more often you connect with clients that use those skills, the higher that skill will be endorsed. Not only does this give a quick visual metric for your skill level, this is another bit of info the algorithm takes into consideration during searches. It's so simple to do every time you connect with someone you have worked with that you should endorse them so that they will return the favor. The second, "Recommendations," is the digital equivalent of getting a letter of recommendation from a former boss to go with your old analog resume. These are fairly straightforward and important aspects that tell potential clients what previous clients' experiences were like.
Groups, Groups, Groups
Being an active member of lots of niche groups is the best way to network and expand your connections. It takes time and effort that a lot of us would probably rather spend on Instagram or emails. If you can make LinkedIn part of your social media routine, groups is where you should spend your time. A lot of people will recommend joining industry-specific groups so you can network with your peers, such as ASMP, NPPA, APA. etc. There is nothing wrong with that, but those groups won't lead to a lot of jobs or new clients. You want to look for groups that target your market. If you are a travel photographer, join groups like Travel and Hospitality, Tourism, and Travel Bloggers. You have to get creative and join the groups that will have discussions you can participate in but also have people who might need your skills. Some groups you can freely join, others you might have to ask. In addition, if you join groups that have people not in your network that you want to speak with, you can bypass the first-degree messaging rules.
LinkedIn’s search engine can be a powerful tool, allowing for you to research just about any company or business. When I first started shooting editorial work, I used LinkedIn to search out all the publications I wanted to work with. Through the search engine, you can then find who the appropriate people to contact are. You can follow those people and stay up to date on what they are working on, what groups they are active in, or if you have any connections that can introduce you. I used these features to build an Excel sheet of all the editors' names and contact info for cold calls and emails. Without LinkedIn's advanced search functions, it would have taken a lot longer to gather all that information.
Make More Connections
Yes, that is the overall point and not much of a tip, but you have to be diligent and keep at it. The more connections you have, the more visible your profile is to your connection’s connections, leading to you showing up in more searches. This means every time someone gives you a business card, look them up and reach out to them. You’ll be fresh in their memory and more likely to be added. This will also help with staying on their radar, as once you are connected, they will see any updates you post.
Use Pulse. Pulse is a LinkedIn app that lets you stay up to date with all kinds of industry news and info. You can select what type of industriy news you follow as well as the businesses and organizations.
So, are you using LinkedIn? If so, tell us how successful it's been for you. What kind of strategies or tips have helped you convert connections into new job opportunities?