Did you 'like' my photo?
Recently Alex Polizzi's The Fixer showcased HECK, a new sausage-making company. They were ignorant of the power of social media and didn't get it or see the point and yet, given that they seemed to have nothing to say or promote (apart from their sausages), they still have 2,700 followers on Twitter and 3,600 'Likes' on Facebook.
Did you know that the Facebook 'Like' has become an important social currency on the web and for brands? Every year, 1.17 trillion 'Likes' are registered on Facebook!
A social media expert for The Fixer said that the breakdown of small business marketers who use social media is as follows: 89% use Twitter, 75% use Facebook and 65% use YouTube. She went on to say that the average person checks Facebook 16 times per day. Given that information, are you now thinking about social media differently?
Today, I think we ignore (at our peril) the potential advantages that social media affords us. Most of the old traditional mediums are no longer available, or they don't work as well as they used to, they don't have the reach, they are expensive and they simply take too long. In comparison, social media outlets are free platforms, and they are quick, pretty simple to use and engaging. You simply need to understand how they work and which one works best for your audience, then create relevant content to share/post.
What's your point?
I know we are all struggling artists trying to make our mark, and clearly doing it alone is a hard task, but it need not be that way. Pursuing photography can be lonely enough, so if you see something that connects with you, inspires you, or simply impresses you, take a moment to comment, leave a personal message or directly message the artist.
Isn't clicking 'Like' enough? Sure, take a second to make that click but consider also sharing a post, tweeting about it or even writing a blog post if it moves you that much. Try to give the creator a bit more appreciation of the time and effort they have put in. In today's world, big-named brands get your recognition almost without trying but artistes NEED acknowledgement - it feeds the fire in their belly. When I was a magician, I loved the applause but I relished the comments and feverish excitement - they are what made it worthwhile.
Imagine if just one 'fan' shares your work with his 300 friends, who then share with their 300 friends, who go on to share with their friends. You can see it wouldn't take too long to get some decent exposure, despite FB's efforts. Sharing with your friends can exponentially increase eyes on your work. Of course, all this does mean you will need to create something worth sharing in the first place but once you have, put it out there and get sharing.
An example of this - back in 2012, the photo of President Obama embracing the first lady was posted to his Facebook profile on election night. Within hours, the image made social media history as the most 'Liked' Facebook photo of all time with more than 4.4 million 'Likes'. I could only dream of such exposure.
How does this affect me?
Here is a personal example - on the Jack Sparrow lookalike page, the above image got 1,886 likes and was shared 57 times, and another image got 3,246 likes and was shared 97 times. As you can see, the shares helped to spread awareness of the image and boost the 'Likes'. However, on my Facebook page I only got 13 likes and 0 shares. Given the first stats, it's clear the image was not a bad one, so what went wrong?
One thing that worked best on my Facebook page was the blog post featuring the Jack Sparrow portraits - that reached 11,564 people and was shared 19 times. Oh, and I didn't need to pay FB for the privilege! It just goes to show that if you can get your work out there amongst the masses, it can benefit you. Some advantages to others sharing your work are that their networks are different from yours and you don't have to feel like you are spamming forums.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying chase 'Likes' or beg your friends to like your page - that just screams desperation. Oh, and don't fill your page up with other people's work, that is just counter-productive. However, it doesn't hurt to promote your fellow artists in other ways.
I have a policy that unless I genuinely like an image, I don't click the 'Like' button. It's not that I don't want to support my friends or fellow artists but I don't think friendship alone should be the reason for clicking 'Like'. The people who know me know this, so when I do click 'Like' they know that (at least in my eyes) they hit the mark. I might still leave a comment or message them directly.
Interestingly, quite a bit of my work on 500px has been 'Popular' (similar to Flickrs Explore) several times, yet on Facebook it gets no traction. Unless you do what Facebook want and pay to show your work off, fewer people end up actually seeing it. So you have to consider where works best for you. If I were marketing solely to other photographers, 500px would be a great place, but that is not where my clients are. That being said, I can still leverage the work on 500px to help boost my exposure.
This final part is directed towards the artists themselves - seek engagement, start a conversation or show your audience something new. I think there is more value in this, rather than a 'Like', if only so that you get some genuine feedback on all your hard work.
Whether you agree or disagree, why not comment below? ;)
Dade Freeman is a Brighton photographer producing portraits and headshots for actors, musicians, corporate business and other professional industries.