It's time to mention the huge elephant in the room, and shed some light on some catastrophic social media blunders made by photographers everyday on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks. Time to decide to either take the high road of professionalism and maturity or drown in the sea of misguided, no name whiners who act like children. At least my children have an excuse.
Right, ok, so you've seen the posts. You've seen the tweets. The endless stream of mostly self-righteous declarations of perceived injustices, incendiary criticisms and inexcusable transgressions. Because, by golly, someone needs to call out these idiots, you are thinking, and it may as well be you. Right?
Allow me to use this article to do my own share of calling out, in hopes that I can perhaps dissuade you to post such things.
UPDATE: After all the feedback I received about this article, I have written a follow up: Be a Purposeful, Confident Photographer on Social Media.
Woe Is Me
Also known as "My business sucks and I am mad about it" posts.
Ok so, right off the bat, who cares? You do, of course. Your friends might, your mom likely does. If your kids depend on your business to eat, I would wager they care. But your potential clients on social media care? Nope. Telling them your business is in a current downturn is basically saying "Don't hire me." No one hires an alleged professional service provider out of pity. In fact, they may assume you're in that hole because of your own doing. Or maybe you're just no good at what you do. And remember, when you are self employed, business goes up and down, plain and simple. Keep that to yourself.
Dump and Run
"Follow me!", "Like my Page!", "Vote for my photo!" etc.
If you're trying to, you know, gain clients via social media, you may want to make a small effort to try to tell them why they should bother with you. When you "dump and run" a link to your Page, Profile, etc. on social media networks with not so much as a "Hello" involved in it, you are sending only one clear message: You just want to increase your count of mostly vapid followers. What sort of incentive are you giving potential clients to contact you when you do this? None. You just want empty Likes and Followers so you can be pleased with yourself for a few minutes.
What does one real client do that ten thousand random social media fans don't? Hire you.
"Let me tell you what so-and-so did, and why they are sooooo wrong!" posts and tweets.
Bad news: No one cares. That is, no one who is likely going to hire you cares. In my experience, most photographers who are "calling out" other photographers are doing so in lieu of taking real action against often very serious allegations.
Someone stealing your photos? Call your lawyer. Contact the offending party directly. Send nasty letters. Tackle your problem head on, and work to solve it (You know, the way you did before Facebook? Yeah, that.) Same goes for clients who haven't paid you timely, or at all. Take real action and get a lawyer involved, don't try to call them out in some passive-aggressive manner to other potential clients on your social media venues. Because, come on, would you hire someone who you just saw bitching about a previous client?
Or hey, some obviously amateur photographer is doing well in their business, and getting hired regularly, and this makes you mad because you are convinced you're better than they are? That's not your concern. Go back to paying attention to your business, and get your head out of junior high.
Heard about a photographer who lies to clients, or associates, or models, or is just a fraud, plain and simple? Guess what, that's hearsay, not evidence. If you don't have evidence, shut up. If you do have evidence, as I said before, contact the authorities. Don't wanna put the time and effort into actually doing that? Then you don't care as much as you think you do, so shut up. Potential clients don't want to think that the photography industry is wrought with liars and thieves.
Had a previous client lie to you? Another photographer steal your gear? Physically threaten you? Assault you? Call the freaking police. Contact the local newspapers and TV stations. Personally call or text your closest associates and friends and tell them exactly what happened. Make a huge deal about it, and work to get this obviously dangerous person off the streets as soon as you can to protect yourself, your business, and your loved ones. Not willing to do that? Then it either didn't actually happen or you don't care that much about it. Real problems require real action, not snarky social media posts. All you accomplish when you post about it is scaring the shit out of your potential clients. (Please note, if something serious enough to call the police is happening, take action and take it now. Find support in your community and industry, but don't just call out someone on social media and then walk away.)
On a less severe note: Someone posted a painfully awful image in a photographer group, and it's so bad you can't tell if you're mortally embarrassed for them or just mad at the world that the image exists? Who cares. And? You're making fun of this person because...? Way to waste that energy on making fun of an obviously beginning photographer instead of working on your business, or maybe even your own images. When you see this stuff, shut up about it, and be happy you hold yourself to a higher standard.
Not one client in the history of humankind has ever hired someone based on how well they make fun of other people in their industry.
"FedEx just dropped it off. It's glorious! I can't wait to try it out!" type of posts.
I like gear as much as the next photo-nerd, don't get me wrong, but please stop telling your would-be clients about your latest purchases. First off, 98% of your potential clients don't know the difference between a 200 2.0 and a 18-55 3.5-5.6, so it means exactly zero to them (I can see their tight-lipped, phoned-in smiles and raised eyebrows as they read your gushing post). Your photographer friends may care, so just send them a text about it and nerd out with them for an hour like you know you want to (I know I do).
But your potential clients on social media? Spare them. They don't care, seriously. Can you picture this: "Oh, honey, look, she bought that new 400 DO IS II with the newly developed gapless dual-layered diffractive optical elements, that's perfect for our son's baseball action photos we wanted. And with the DO, she won't get as tired doing cuz of all the weight savings that DO offers her, so we will have better quality images!"
Yeah, uh, no. Anyway, stop geeking out about your gear to potential clients.
Holier Than Thou
"I know better than you.", "I've accomplished more than you.", "You obviously don't know what you are doing, and I obviously do, so allow me to tell you in a dick-ish way." etc.
So, you're pretty good at what you do nowadays (what with all that practice and studying you've done for years) and by golly it's time to let your underlings know what's what and, frankly, it won't be polite or reasonable. But really, it's for their own good. Hell, you're doing them a service, if you're honest, by doling out such brusque, witty nuggets of brilliance unto the peasants of your industry. They should be grateful.
Only, they're not. They don't care. Why should they?
They don't care because real leaders of industry motivate, challenge and support their fellow photographers by being a bastion of inspiration, charisma and respect. Not by crudely reminding the social media masses of their successes and triumphs via arrogant posts about how they know better than anyone else. Or, worse yet, attempting to insult others' perhaps lesser triumphs in a pretentious and idiotic way, just to prove that they are better than an amateur. Or something.
You've been published in umpteen magazines around the world? Good on you. Another photographer is having a proud moment in the sun because of their very first published image on a some brand new webzine? So, it's time to make fun of them? Really?
If I thought like that, then I would laugh at my 9 year old for feeling accomplished now that he understands his latest math homework assignment dealing with fractions. I mean, come on kid, fractions? Yeah, that's cute. But seriously, I've been calculating fractions since the Reagan administration.
Basically, stop finding pathetically shallow excuses to try to show off your accomplishments or knowledge. And if you still think that's your birthright to do so, show me all the arrogant, insulting posts about amateur photographers made by Erik Almas, Sue Bryce, or Webb Bland. Oh wait, there aren't any by them. Because they are real artists, consummate professionals, and properly motivational leaders in our industry who don't think the world revolves around them.
Politics and Religion
Avoid. At all costs.
Unless you hinge your entire marketing approach specifically about a certain political leaning or religious ideology, avoid. Of course, that's also the fastest way to cut your potential client count in half even before you get your first gig. And if that doesn't bother you, remember that you sound wholly annoying to, oh, pretty much everyone when you bemoan the other party or belief system in the middle of your portrait session specials posts.
And let's face it, almost no one has particularly open-minded political or religious opinions, and you're going to get into an argument on your post, right there on your business Page / Profile. In doing that, you're going to distract potential clients from why they may be reading your posts to begin with. Have all the personal and political convictions you want, but keep them to yourself.
Photo. Link. Funny cat meme. Another link. Photo. Link. Link. Funnier cat meme. Snarky video about "shit people say to photographers". Some political rant. Play-by-play of the latest sporting event happening on TV.
Short and simple: Don't post 50 times a day. Apart from it hurting your social media relevance, it also annoys people. Your potential clients, and even your industry associates, won't be impressed. Social media is a balance, and definitely "less is more" for the most part.
Fishing For Compliments
"I suck!", "Man, I wish I was a better photographer.", "My gear is crap so I can't get any better." posts.
Look, we all want, and need, reassurance at times. So we reach out to our family, our friends, our associates, and ask for critique, or advice, or just have a quick phone call or coffee and talk photography. We're human, we're artists, and many of us are business owners. Lots of ways to fall into self doubt and difficult times when you're all of that.
But on your business Page or Twitter is not where you reach out for reassurance. It simply makes you look desperate. And seen out of context (like most of your clients likely will), you will come across as flat out fishing for compliments. Would you hire a lawyer whose Facebook page had posts like "I just can't win any of these cases. I am no good at this. I wonder if I should just quit or something..." posts? Of course you wouldn't, because that's crazy. You may be an artist, and not a lawyer, but your would-be clients would prefer to think you are reasonably confident in what you're doing.
It's Worse Than You Think
Why? Because, if I'm honest, you shouldn't do the above actions anywhere on social media, in my opinion. Not in a group, not on your personal profile, and not on any comments section of anyone else's post. First off, I say this because I have done it several times in the past. And it never, ever, not once, ever make anything better for me. Even if no potential clients ever see you post this crap, what's the point? Do you want your industry peers to assume you're just spiraling out of control? Or what you're just a jerk? Heck, maybe you are a jerk, in which case you're basically a lost cause, but you may find you can garner that much more peer respect and adoration by, you know, not being a jerk.
Everything listed above is a bad habit on social media, plain and simple. Some are arguably innocuous in certain contexts, but none do anything to help you grow your business, your brand, your industry visibility, and the respect of your associates.
What did I miss? Help your fellow photographers by sending me your best practices for social media, particularly what to avoid doing. I'll do a follow up article about this with your input.