Is a Lack of Followers Hurting You?

Is a Lack of Followers Hurting You?

Has your lack of followers affected you when trying to get a model for some project work? I have not experienced this situation. Maybe I was told another reason as to way they weren’t interested, but this hasn’t been one of the reasons I received. Recently, I was in a chat group with fellow photographers, and this topic was brought up. One of the photographers asked a model about doing a TF project, and the response was he didn’t have enough followers to work with. This isn’t the first instance where I have heard of. This had me thinking for a bit: why would this be the determining factor?

Photography is always evolving, and now with social media playing its part in it, it will continue to change even more. I know it can be tremendous help, but personally, I have not put much work into getting a big following on my accounts. Lately, I have been pushing to gain some, but it can be another job in itself. A tip I here offer is you have to be active on it, but as it is, I am already limited on time. As a photographer, we have to juggle so many positions, especially if we work alone, and now there’s another one to add to the list of hats we must wear. And now, with some models, it's best to contact them through Instagram or Snapchat. Mind blown! You mean to tell me you can't respond to a text message, but you will respond to a message in an application on the same phone? Maybe if I were a new contact, I could understand so you know who it is, but if we already exchanged info and you know whose number it is, why not respond in the text message? I know I am not alone in this matter, but just go through with it to speed up the process on the project or job for communications. Have you dealt with this issue as well?

I am sure many of you noticed a while back when Facebook changed their algorithms on the business pages to where you pretty much have to pay for people to see the post. At that point, my desire and motivation to obtain a larger following went away. With Instagram owned by Facebook and changing as well, now we have insights to see how the posts are doing if you switch to a business account. If you were unaware of this new option, make sure to check out our Instagram Insights article; I have also included a snapshot of the insights view on the Spekture page I am part of. I’m a bit worried they may follow the same trend of Facebook in the future. This brings up another hesitation to work to gain more followers if in the end I have to pay for them to see my work.

Going back to the issues of models turning down projects due to the photographer not having a huge following, what about the photographer’s portfolio? This would be number one in my book. Shouldn’t this be number one for them as well? If a not-so talented photographer happens to have a huge following for whatever reason, you will work with that one instead of a very talented photographer? I still believe that the portfolio should speak for itself; if it’s amazing, and the project idea is wonderful and something that interests you, shouldn’t you both come together to make another masterpiece? I understand the whole social fame aspect of it all, but I just don’t understand why you would turn down a talented photographer solely based on the fact their following isn’t enough in your eyes. In that thought, what is enough? Equal to your following, double, or triple? What if the social platform they use most isn’t the one where you have the best following? 

This isn’t only a one-way street; models can experience this from photographers as well or even the makeup artist. Have I declined a model on a project based on their following alone? Nope. My main concern when looking at their portfolio is their body of work. I have worked with some models whose  following isn’t bigger than mine or isn’t much at all. Do they have the look I am going for? Do they have a solid portfolio? Those are the questions I ask.

I understand their point of view when they say if I work with someone who has a large following, I can gain some more for myself. Well, that part of it may be one-sided; at least, in my experience, it has. I can work with a popular model, and when they share the work, I am lucky if I gain four new followers from them.

There are plenty of ways to buy followers, but then I am back to the point of questioning this for Facebook: buy followers to look more popular than you are and then have to pay for people to see you. Now, you can buy followers for Instagram as well, which is just for the perception once again of looking more popular than you actually are. I have seen some pages where the follower count is off the charts, but on average, their likes are absolutely small in reflection. I understand it’s not possible to reach all of your following based on the time you post, how active your followers are, and other factors. However, let’s say you have over 25,000 in followers, yet your photos only yield 20 likes on average; to me, it looks like you purchased followers. I could be wrong, but if I don’t have anywhere near that amount of followers and return more likes, something looks a bit fishy. I would like to see the average reach stats to see how many people actually come across the photos instead of how many followers they have. To me those would be the real numbers I would base any judgment on if I were to base them on numbers. 

Have you experienced rejection based on a lack of followers? What social networking platform are you most successful on? Is the other person's amount of followers a major factor when considering trade work? What tips do you have for those trying to increase their following?

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Nicholas Schultz's picture

I feel like this is a thing, but I haven't experienced it yet (at least vocally been told). Then again I haven't tried to approach people with hundreds of thousands of followers. *typo*

Alex Ventura's picture

Same for me, maybe it is a reason but it's not what I am told if it is one, if I am told anything.

Bryan Gateb's picture

The new algorithm has hurt large followings, real or not -- one of my accounts has 128k followers (organic) and we're lucky if we see 0.5% engagement.

On my other new account, I hit 1000 in ~2 weeks, completely organically, and that one is seeing 50-300% engagement, depending on the content. It could be the industry of each (one is vaping/ecigs, and the other is photography/gear-based) -- but I have to believe it's the new algorithm forcing businesses or high-visibility accounts to pay to be moved up on the feed.

Sabin Kolarov's picture

it's because she is stupid and cannot appreciate your work looking at the portfolio. If you have the followers you are the men! Numbers are easier than art.

Anonymous's picture

If social media numbers are the only thing important to someone, they probably aren't worth working with. There's more the craft than numbers on an app.

Anonymous's picture

As someone who doesn't really do photography commercially anymore (mainly because of personal reasons), I found Facebook ads were quite good to get wedding photography. Now that I shoot 99.9999% personal work, I couldn't care less about likes. I mainly focus on instagram, but have only posted a couple of my personal lifestyle - climbing - photos instead of photographic work since the beginning of August. And I am also looking at submitting some unpublished works to a couple of magazines / blogs.

I tire of 'likes', they have no substance as I would much rather talk face to face or at least some sort of interaction with my fans / followers.

Daris Fox's picture

Facebook isn't really for businesses, never was as it's where people go to meet friends, be social or see pictures of cats. Whilst it's possible to build a following/groups to support/advertise your business it's approach is very scatter gun as you can't always choose your target demographic precisely (yes there is tools but they tend to be opaque and non-intuitive). It's more suited to established brands than those trying to set up shop or those who have a large network to spam posts.

It really comes down to what you're advertising, your geographic region and what your business is. Some businesses are more suited for Fb than others. I grew my business faster by spending the same amount of cash on a stall in the mall using a pop-up banner, vouchers and some albums to pre-book clients through there than through Fb advertising and it was a lot more personal.

Followers means diddly now, it's just a metric of popularity and from various reports doesn't even figure into Fb's algorithm anymore.

Instagram will go the same way, and Fb is being forced to be more aggressive with advertising as they're also suffering from the effects of the increased usage of adblockers and other tools to prevent their spying. Instagram also lacks the tools to really build a meaningful interaction with your clients, Fb is better but their system has been glitchy and messages more often gets lost in their ''other' folder and they keep making major changes to their system without notifying businesses which causes a lot of confusion and grief. I can't think of another organisation that can get away with this to a business (except maybe Google).

Fb is also doing what YouTube, making a killing off of other people's IP by allowing people to copy videos/images without attribution.

Oh and a friend was quoted $400 per day to create an target 'action' and that's a new account who was trying to build up business followers. People wouldn't complain so much about Fb asking for money for advertising space but they're not consistent and the more you advertise the more expensive it becomes or the reach becomes less for the same amount of cash.

If you want to do industry networking the best method would be to find some modelling groups in your area, there's often dozens available even if they're non-paid gig variety.

Tomash Masojc's picture

It's interesting topic. I knew one girl at school, then she started studying abroad, started modeling, became quite succesfull for little country. Ok. I seen that she is planning to visit hometow, i wrote her, shown my works, said that want to shoot her, she said that she likes works, but needs to ask her agnecy, her agency said that works are good, but she can't pose to me because i'm not popular in instagram (don't have a lot followers). Yes, true story.

Dave Kavanagh's picture

Surely quality of work beats number of followers every time. At least it should do.

I could create an account and repost kitten memes all day long and build up a massive number of followers in no time....that doesn't mean the content is good. Likewise one of the best photographers I know barely has a few hundred followers because hes not that into the whole social media thing. His photography consistently leaves my jaw on the ground though.

Honestly if somebody picks who they want to collaborate with purely based on the number of followers somebody has, they're probably not worth working with anyway.

Drew Pluta's picture

I've had people who hire photographers tell me that if you don't have at least between 50K and 100K followers on social media, they won't talk to you. Clearly this is a problem because that criteria would obviously exclude some amazingly good and historically successful people. Even now some very famous photographers who "made it" in the old system and still have vital careers don't have that many followers.

What we have now is essentially a broken system that can only maintain being broken. Lazy marketers who don't know anything about marketing think that social is "marketing." The entire outlook is social media. When the entire outlook is social, the entire onus of responsibility shifts. Instead of pairing the right clients with the right photographers, they're looking for "influencers." It is basically now the photographers job to sell the client work based on influence and association. The quality and style of work is a consideration further down the list.

I don't see this changing any time soon and there doesn't seem to be any professional reasoning to approach this scenario. Making social media the centerpiece of your public professional efforts is basically like trying to herd a pack of greased cats. It is by definition not professional and the tools (apps) are even more so. It really places us at odds with most standards of best practices.

Dave McDermott's picture

A large online following is often the result of serious spaming. A photographer with 5000 friends on facebook who constantly puts up "Like and share" posts is bound to get a decent following regardless of their talent. It's a popularity contest and it gets really tedious when those posts keep popping up on your timeline.

I don't have many followers myself and have never experienced rejection because of it. It's not really a factor when I look at other peoples work either. There are plenty of models with thousands of followers despite having very little quality in their portfolios.

Ferrell McCollough's picture

People are inherently lazy, they use number of followers to assess the photographer. Like it or not, number of followers gives some ppl a quick assessment of your work, it saves them from having to decide if your work is good or not. I have 7 followers, I bet you think my work is lousy?

borisschipper's picture

Not just with models this is a topic, the agencies are starting to use the same standard.
All the top agencies I know actually now have an instagram button next to the models profile page, just because of this mindset.
If you want to work with a certain model, the agency checks out your instagram followers and thus determines your importance (in my case this is not a good thing)

Alex Ventura's picture

I agree, I think this is a step backwards.

Anonymous's picture

It shouldn't surprise you that models are hesitant about doing trade work with little potential for exposure. Their time is better spent shooting with someone that has a large following comprised of people working in the industry they're trying to enter.

It's like writing an article for a magazine nobody reads. It's a waste of time.

Alex Ventura's picture

It's not 100% the same. Also what it the potential image that could come from that project be the best work ever, and when he or she post it, in turn it's their most popular image on social networks as well. That in my eye is much better than shooting with social popular photographers that produce ok images.

Randy Smith's picture

I have 2500 followers on instagram, and I have had brides find me via instagram. However, I shot wedding for a client recently, and she loved the photos. She Recommended me to her friend. Her friend did not want to hire me because she was hoping her photos would get a bigger social media bump with a photographer who had a large following. It is the world we live in.

Chris Adval's picture

Really odd in the personal, non-commercial world of clients wanting this, unless they're really high end clients where those type of high end clients need to show off as much as possible... shooting with a photographer X, Y or Z following to show off even more.

Chris Adval's picture

If I had a lot more pro models near me, I'd see social media following as a factor in hiring them and their rates. Just like any job today. Gotta look at every little crack of differences, negatives and positives. Having a strong social media following is a positive in everyone's book I'm sure. As for TF with a model though, depends on where I'm at, plus their look, plus skills/experience, plus their social following. I've seen great shots where many photographers that have no or little following, and soon as they work with a big name model on social media, its an obvious rub to that photographer's following as well, generally... not a ton, but there is some.

Anonymous's picture

It's funny. My experiences so far when working with a model with higher following is that I'll get followers and likes, and then those followers unfollow after I follow them. It seems there's a lot of follow farming going on and I just don't trust numbers on social media anymore. It seems mostly bought or farmed. So numbers really do lie. Sadly, it sounds like a lot of agencies, businesses, models, etc. have not caught onto that fact.

Chris Adval's picture

Not all... its hard to farm models with 100k, 200k, 1 million+ followers... especially independent models. Granted if you look at the IG accounts and they have even 1000 followers to whatever amount of followers but have little to no engagement as in comments and likes then it is questionable... I've seen those, but not too often with models, more with photographers and other types of accounts honestly. Beauty is with models, hence why they have most fame in this platform from what I've seen.

Jim Tincher's picture

Yes, it is annoying communicating with the current generation at times. I don't understand the thought process behind not responding via text but all over it in an app with DM capabilities....

As for converting my IG to a business account? Not on your life, I fell for that one on Facebook, not gonna set myself up for "pay to be seen" on IG.

I'm really hoping some other social media platform will emerge to compete with the FB/IG monopoly. They're imitating Snap on IG and now doing something similar with FB that's twitterish.... in the meantime they are continually making it difficult to see what we want to see or to be seen.