Quit Complaining and Grow Your Facebook Photography Page the Right Way

Quit Complaining and Grow Your Facebook Photography Page the Right Way

Photographers love to complain about the abysmal reach of their Facebook pages, as if Zuckerberg himself is gleefully conspiring to cripple everyone's business pages. He's not. If your Facebook page is floundering, it's because you're doing it wrong. Here's how to get back on track and ahead of your competition on social media.

A Bit About My Experience

In addition to growing my own verified Facebook profile to 400k followers, I spent a year working with a high-traffic multinational publishing company managing social media for 20 profiles across 5 social networks. Each day was spent planning, testing, and implementing an effective social media strategy. I've read all the blogs, used all the tools, and have witnessed the ebb and flow of engagement along with the occasional viral spike. I've even been to Facebook HQ for a photo hack and photowalk as part of a small photography feedback group, so I've had a peek into the inner workings of the most prosperous social network of all time.

I've learned that there's a bit of luck and timing involved to achieve success — that's the nature of social media — but there are also many proven strategies to help you get there. Before you can tailor your own social media strategy, it's important to understand how Facebook works behind-the-scenes to share your content throughout its network.

How Facebook Curates Your News Feed

It's no secret: Facebook doesn't show us every single real-time post from all the friends and pages we follow. There's a complex algorithm behind Facebook's News Feed that determines which posts we all see when we visit the site on any given day.

This has significant implications for page owners who have come to rely on Facebook to help promote their businesses. If you're like many of these page owners whose reach is declining, this probably infuriates you. You might feel you deserve to be seen by everyone who's ever liked your page, each and every time you post. You may feel you're being cheated or scammed by Facebook. But that's silly.

If Facebook instantly showed us every story from the hundreds of people and pages we follow, we wouldn't see most of it anyway; we would be bombarded with way too much information. It would be an anxiety-inducing infinite scroll of never-ending new content minute after minute — much of it not even relevant to our current interests. We would burn out on all the noise.

When we engage with the people and pages we like, Facebook shows us more content from those sources.

The average user has around 300 Facebook friends and has liked about 100 Facebook pages over the years. For many of us, the numbers are much higher. Most of us don't have enough time in the day to consume that much content from so many sources, so Facebook kindly curates our feeds based on what we indicate we like. It's actually quite smart and convenient for end-users: when we engage with the people and pages we like, Facebook shows us more content from those sources. Out of an average of 1,500 posts each day, we're shown only 300, and it's primarily based on your own activity, such as:

  • Whose posts you engage with via likes, shares, or comments
  • Whose content you view, such as clicking a photo, link, or playing a video
  • Who you interact with, including check-ins, photo tags, and private messages

This intuitive curation is a brilliant way for Facebook to stay relevant by showing us content we're interested in lately, not something from a page we liked one time three years ago. It makes perfect sense and I would argue that it's absolutely necessary for a network intent on lasting growth. It keeps things fresh, and it allows us to like more pages and friend more people over the coming years without feeling overwhelmed by a bloated News Feed.

So the challenge to page owners is the same challenge faced by everyone in the world of marketing: how do you rise above all the noise?

How To Work the Algorithm To Your Advantage

While the News Feed algorithm is said to be based on thousands of intricate factors that are mostly unknown to the public, what we do know is that measurable engagement in the form of likes, comments, and shares play a huge role in growing your reach.

Photographers have a nice advantage over other industries because our central purpose is to create eye-catching imagery. But pretty pictures are just the start. Here's my advice for growing the organic reach of your Facebook page.

Post Consistently

From consistently good photography to consistent post frequency, to grow a page you have to display ongoing, quality work that your audience can grow to expect. You can post all sorts of things to social media, but the most impactful post will be a singular photo upload. Make it your best work and always strive to improve.

How often to post is a subject of great debate in social media circles. Remember, Facebook curates News Feeds in part based on what people have recently or often liked. If you don't post often enough, your work will fade away. If you post too much, it might be hidden or marked as spam. I suggest posting about once per day to maintain a good consistency. You can easily schedule posts in advance to save time. 

Write Concise, Pertinent Captions

If your engagement is low, consider what words you are pairing with your images, and adjust for your particular audience. If you shoot travel photography, share a little background about the location or local culture. Shooting portraits? Talk about your subjects, posing techniques, or equipment. Are you followed by many other photographers? Consider posting your EXIF data alongside your work. 

Experiment to discover what your audience finds most engaging. If you're stuck, learn how to write a headline and apply this to your photo captions to entice your audience to take action, whether it's to buy a print, subscribe to your list, or click through to your latest blog post.

Give Your Fans a Reason to Share

The most valuable form of engagement you can get on Facebook is a share, because shares expose your content to a user's own audience, growing your reach exponentially. Consider what inspires someone to share your work. Stunning images will always give you an edge, but try adding a little extra to inspire sharing whether it's a meaningful quote, a special offer, knowledge, or humor. People are eager to share posts that inspire, provide value, teach, or make us all laugh.

Keep The Conversation Going

Be responsive to your fans and make an effort to acknowledge all public comments and respond to any questions. This will double your overall comment count, encourage an ongoing conversation, and welcomes others to join in on the discussion.

Partner With Relevant Brands

This is some of the most potent advice you'll find on growing your social media reach. When you partner with strong, influential brands, you can tap into their audience to help grow your own. When I partnered with Cape Town Tourism this year, my engagement spiked by as much as 700% when they shared my photos on their own popular Facebook page. Consider who you could partner with throughout the course of your business. For example, a wedding photographer could partner with other venders, or a street photographer could partner with fashion brands. This requires the most effort but the payoff is well worth it.

 

This is why I love South Africa. <3Photo by Hillary Fox

Posted by Hillary Fox on Friday, March 20, 2015

 

Photographers Who Rock at Social Media

One way to get inspired to improve your social media feed is to study the work of photographers who are doing it right. Here are a few of my favorite photographers whose reach and engagement continues to climb. Browse their pages to get a feel for their social strategies.

Underwater Photographer Elena Kalis

Based in the beautiful Bahamas, Elena Kalis is an underwater photographer with a huge following. Her work is consistently dreamy and emotive fine art, inspiring many shares from her fans, which keeps her reach high. 

 

Golden hour with Bahamas Girl

Posted by Elena Kalis Underwater Photography on Wednesday, June 3, 2015

 

Landscape Photographer Iurie Belegurschi 

Moldovan photographer Iurie Belegurschi shoots landscapes in Iceland. His Facebook page features stunning photos often captioned with inspiring quotes or engaging questions to help him connect and converse with his audience.

 

If you were to pick, what aspect of nature moves you the most?

Posted by Iurie Belegurschi Photography on Thursday, July 2, 2015

 

Street Photographer Brandon Stanton

The street photographer behind the wildly popular Humans of New York has a voracious following. In an in-depth interview, Brandon Stanton talks about the value of hard work, which shows on his Facebook page. He posts consistently each day and his captions connect with his audience like no other page out there.

 

"I take her everywhere I go."(Karachi, Pakistan)

Posted by Humans of New York on Friday, August 7, 2015

 

Fashion Photographer Natalie Dybisz

Known as Miss Aniela, U.K. photographer Natalie Dybisz produces surreal artwork in the fashion realm. Her exquisite photography and intricate post-production work is truly awe-inspiring, and has earned her a solid following.

 

 

Share Your Experience

With more than 50 million business pages and 1.49 billion active users on Facebook, there's a lot of noise to contend with. There's a reason companies hire coordinators, managers, and strategists to run their social media: it can easily be a full-time job. It's possible to be a breakout success on Facebook, but you have to work hard to get there, and work to maintain your reach.

What have you struggled with in social media? What successes have you achieved on Facebook? Share your experiences and post your own Facebook photography pages in the comments below.

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25 Comments

Scott Stebner's picture

Great post. Facebook is a great marketing tool IF you use it correctly, wisely, and strategically with ample amounts of planning.

One thing I would add is to include analytics and metrics in there to identify what type of content is resonating with your fans. I always try to teach doing a form of content analysis over the previous quarter several times a year to identify not only what type of content is engaged the most (it's most likely pictures), but what themes within that set of content.

Facebook also has another neat little feature that allows verified pages to follow several other competitors to see how they are measuring up in terms of engagement for the week. Though every page is different, this can be a good way to see what your competition is doing well and areas where you can set yourself apart.

Lastly, and I think everyone knows this, figure out what time of the day and day of the week your users are online the most. This is easy just within the Insights tab. I usually try to post about 15-20 minutes prior to that.

Thanks again for a great article. Facebook is still an awesome marketing resource, but it's not an easy one.

Hillary Fox's picture

Thanks, Scott, that's all great advice. And you don't even have to be verified to use the "Pages to Watch" feature, it's at the bottom of the page under Insights > Overview. :)

I use a different technique for timing posts. Since News Feed doesn't necessarily show posts in real time, I'll upload in the early morning in the EU (say, 9AM CET) and let the post float up the News Feed across all Western time zones for the remainder of the day. Seems to work best for me.

Joakim Drake's picture

One more piece of the social media puzzle, thanks for a well written article :)

Hillary Fox's picture

Thanks, Joakim. I appreciate that :)

ALEXANDER TARDIF's picture

Boom! ...and that's how you do it, folks :)

Hillary Fox's picture

Alex, you're hilarious :D

Dylon Algire's picture

Interesting article...
I think it's nice to see opposing views (Dani Diamond's article "The Sad Truth About Facebook")

Wouter Oud's picture

How many of your 400k followers actually interact with your posts? Let me guess... A really small percentage. That is where the problem with Facebook lies, it's one big bubble.

lee arthur's picture

Let me ask this... I started my photography page from my personal page. Now anytime I go to like another page from my photography page, the "credit" goes to my personal page. Example: say I was on my photography page and decided to like the Fstoppers page. It does not post to my photography page, just my personal page. ideas?

Matt Rennells's picture

Click on the down arrow to the right of the message/notification area. Select "use Facebook as" your page. Then you can go an like any pages you want as the page. You can even then go to "home" on that page and have a feed of nothing but the pages you like as your photography page. I use that for some things to keep my photography interests and personal interests separated. For this to work sometimes you have to copy and paste a link to the page that you're liking.

albert radford's picture

So let me get this straight Hillary. Your paragraph on experience sings praises of you sky high on your skills in social media marketing. Yet only 200 people on average actually interact with your posts put of your 400k followers? Damn girl who's been buying them likes....

Facebook sucks and only a fool won't admit it.

Scott Stebner's picture

The research is pretty conclusive, companies that use Facebook the right way make more money than those who do t (Paine, 2014).

Facebook takes strategy...tons of it. It takes heavy analytics, ability to conduct complex content analysis, and the ability to factor In Statistical difference and some regression models to really get the most out of it.

Also, people need to realize Facebook is not a direct marketing tool for sales. It's a way to build brand advocates by practicing consumer relationship management the right way and move them along the consumer pathway from mere lurkers I to electronic word of mouth superstars.

Good content that is valuable to your target market will overcome any algorithm ...even though Favebook pretty much uses engagement rate to determine reach right now.
Focusing only on people commenting or liking your stuff or direct sales will only lead to missed potential...Facebook, Instagram, enewsletter, etc..

I'm no pro, but I did write a 200 page thesis on CRM using Facebook.

Books I highly recommend
measure what matters - Paine
Brand media strategy - young
Social media ROI

Podcasts I recommend
Social media examiner
Content marketing institute

Hillary Fox's picture

That's a fair assumption, Albert, but I didn't buy any of these followers. They're 100% organic.

Dig a little deeper and you'll find I'm on some substantial lists, which unfortunately offers very little in terms of reach. I also gained a tremendous number of followers from the suggested users sidebar. Which seems great, except it does nothing for reach when users follow you without ever clicking to your profile. No clicks means no-show in the News Feed.

That said, I've more than doubled my engagement this year using the methods I described in this article, so I'm trending upwards despite contrary complaints that it's impossible to do without paying for it. It's not. (As Dani Diamond wrote, paying for reach may even be disasterous.)

I can get why you're not into Facebook. It can be a frustrating time suck if not used properly, and none of this is very fun if you're not someone who's into reverse-engineering algorithms and marketing strategies. In which case, best to focus on your photography and leave the social media to the nerds. :)

I don't have time to write a lengthy reply to this article but it is a fact that Facebook has changed the organic feed. Yes, if you have luck and super amazing content you may get more "likes". The agencies and social media companies I work with have all publicly stated that fact. Facebook is a business. If you are not willing to pay, your message will not be heard.

Most small businesses can not afford to pay an agency 5K+ a month to manage their page.

Before spending your precious time and money on any marketing efforts have a PLAN.

Who are you trying to reach?
Do they use FB?
Learn about conversion rates and cost per acquisition.

I have never hired a professional photographer or model from Facebook.

Scott Stebner's picture

Good points.

I do wonder though if the decline of organic reach correlates with the increase in users. It seems like a steep drop since 2013, but it would make sense to see organic reach decline when there's much much more content being created across the whole site in general.

I don't think you need 5K a month though.

Usually you're looking at about 11 - 12 cents per impression snd about $1 per like...the last time I checked. That can still add up, but much cheaper than some radio or television advertisements.

Great points though on having a plan...so many businesses just don't do that.

My model is different, as I am really using my page to promote other companies (and my site), but the article is still very helpful. I'm going to share it with my contributors.

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Great tips! I think it's important not to compare results from other social networks either. Each is its own animal and expectation management helps.
Do you know if doing things like including external links or tagging the business page hurt a post?

Scott Stebner's picture

It doesn't hurt a post. The only thing that will hurt it is if people don't engage with it.

Some studies indicate posting an image with a link engages better than posting a Link with a picture...if that makes sense.

Charles Gaudreault's picture

Dany Diamond should read this :P

I like how the title says, "quit complaining and grow your facebook photography page" but the feeling I get from this article is that unless I am a pro photographer with unending content to post it will be a waste of time. So what advice do you have for the people who have a full time job and shoot a couple times a month that cant post new content daily? Like me I have a job, a 3 year old at home to watch while my wife finishes school, and a house to take care of. Probably why I get a couple page likes a week and only minimal post reach...

Don't waste your time. Invest your time in Instagram for now. Build a killer portfolio and network. What the author doesn't understand is that the "common man" can't compete with the professional agencies and companies.

Sudhanshu Singh's picture

great article but still the reach of facebook is very limited.
check for example post of Brandon Straton:
457,081 Likes on post /14,503,498 Likes on page = 3% of likes.

Brad Barton's picture

I cannot up vote this article enough. I keep reading articles whining about their lack of reach and the only thing I can think of is how the writer doesn't "get it."

You want reach? You've got to engage. Reach back.

Facebook has changed the organic feed. Yes, if you have luck and super amazing content you may get more "likes". The agencies and social media companies I work with have all publicly stated that fact. Facebook is a business. If you are not willing to pay, your message will not be heard. Read https://www.mindstick.com/Articles/12457/are-you-using-facebook-the-righ...