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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.