With audiences and potential revenue only a post away, social media has provided photographers an unparalleled way to reach new clients for more than a decade now. But it can be hard to predict which platforms are the best investment of your time. This next year looks to be one of the most tumultuous in social media yet.
Motion and Video
Whether you want to open a YouTube channel or not, video is increasingly the most popular format to share and view on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Across all social media platforms, videos are roughly six times as likely to be retweeted than a link or an image, according to social-media analytics platform HubSpot, which reports that mobile video usage has increased by nearly 10 million daily viewing minutes over the last two years alone.
Citing the explosive growth of Stories on both Instagram and its parent company, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg targeted the quickly exploding TikTok app during a leaked conference in April as the primary competitor to their Messenger and Instagram apps. Similar to Snapchat, TikTok quickly adds filters, text and animation add-ons to short videos taken with mobiles.
“Right now, I’m working on getting familiar with Snapchat and TikTok,” explains wedding photographer Vanessa Joy, “because that’s where people who will be getting married in five to ten years will be.”
Statista, which consolidates statistical data from more than 22,500 sources, backs her up. The company reports more than 203 million daily Snapchat users in 2019, almost 70 percent of which are teenagers.
Generation Z, who land roughly between the ages of 16 and 24, spends 20 percent more time in apps than the rest of the population, adds the 2019 Annual State of Mobile Report from App Annie, which compiles mobile data for Silicon Valley talents like LinkedIn and Pinterest.
“Everything I read says that video will be the predominant way to communicate through all social media channels moving forward,” says WPPI conference producer Arlene Evans. “That’s true with Instagram Stories, Facebook Live and any new channels popping up. According to Facebook, over 500 million people watch video on its platform every day.”
Despite an eruption in growing discontent from media professionals and even the public over the last two years, almost seven out of ten adults still use Facebook, says a 2019 survey by Pew Research Center. But there is one platform that beats that percentage: YouTube, which is owned by Google. Instagram and Facebook launched IGTV in June of 2018 specifically to compete with this pervasive video platform.
“I still think YouTube is a powerful platform for sharing content and telling your story,” says fashion and beauty photographer Lindsay Adler. “It continues to be the world’s second-largest search engine and a place where the population devours a great deal of content.” YouTube also dominates when it comes to audience retention, according to Pew Research.
“Globally,” reports App Annie, “YouTube accounted for 9 of every 10 minutes spent in the top five video streaming apps in 2018.” They also count YouTube as the top application for time spent in video streaming for every worldwide market except for China, for the last three years running. HubSpot adds that YouTubers watch over a billion hours of video a day combined.
More Than Likes
How can photographers get on the YouTube bandwagon? “I see short, informative videos coming in hot and heavy,” explains photographer Eric Kelley. “Learning platforms have been on the rise. [Marketing entrepreneur and photographer] Jenna Kutcher said something like $4,000 a minute is being spent on online education at the moment. That’s huge, and figuring out how to be a part of that would be amazing.”
Kelley adds that he has observed quite a few people creating separate brands for their educational offerings. “For me, I am creating the Referral Network in hopes of helping people get more referrals and to find second shooters, assistants and education.” Kelley says he’s seen a lot of people having success with secondary sources of income online through social media. “YouTube and IGTV are the main platforms that I know,” he says. “We have beautiful portfolios now on Instagram, but I’m finding that potential clients want more from us. They also want to see how we do what we do.”
Engagement metrics are also changing, and that’s going to be a really good thing for people in the photo industry. Both Facebook and Instagram are testing rollbacks on follower counts and the rather nebulous “Like” as ways to measure audience engagement. Instead, ironically, they are looking to new metrics that are actually old metrics, the same kinds of analytics that SEO companies like Google use: Analytics are searching posts for original content, and social media’s emphasis will now be on you, the creators, rather than re-bloggers, aggregators and “influencers.”
These new metrics include everything from beginning-to-end content views for video and Stories, watch times and audience retention—whether or not viewers close out of the app. Social media companies can also watch cross-referential metrics—like where on a screen the cursor or fingertip is hovering—follow-through clicks to other sites and whether or not linked material is repurposed content.
“Right now, Instagram is really my network of choice,” Adler affirms. “Being in the fashion and beauty industry, Instagram is a powerful tool for networking.”
E-commerce opportunities are growing on the Instagram platform as well. Hinting at more to come, Instagram introduced checkout payments for a select group of business accounts last March.
“Art directors regularly utilize Instagram for inspiration, research and finding talent—I’ve asked them,” Adler adds. “This makes it a great way for brands and advertising agencies to find me and connect directly.”
Instagram business accounts, which come equipped with built-in analytics, are free to setup, and unlike Facebook, a business account does not have the minimum follower requirement. Currently, business accounts support outgoing linking to external websites in Stories and posts, which can be an incredible boon for photographers looking to sell prints or services from their websites or e-commerce platform of choice.
“At the moment, I would say my favorite social media platform is Instagram,” says family portrait photographer Elena S Blair. “The organic reach and engagement is still super available to all users without any ad spend. It is an aesthetically pleasing platform that really allows you to reach your target market in a meaningful way.”
But when it comes to Facebook, Blair adds, “I am most excited about the evolving features on Facebook groups. My online communities all have thriving Facebook groups and the platform has tons of features that allow me to stay connected and engaged with them.”
While Joy estimates that she uses Instagram the most out of any platform so that she can be where her target demographic “hangs out,” she says, “if you’re a wedding photographer who wanted to advertise to the parents of someone getting married, Facebook would likely be a good place for you to do that.”
For multimedia professionals really looking to benefit financially from their work in the next year, Pinterest may be worth a second (or third) look. According to Pew Research, 39 percent of people in households worth $75,000 or more per year are using Pinterest. And according to a post from Pinterest in August, 66 percent of current users were polled as being women between the ages of 25 and 54.
The image-hosting service is a good way to share shot ideas and inspiration with followers and clients, so it’s no surprise that many wedding and event photographers are already solidly invested in the site as a platform. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, platforms heavily invested in keeping traffic within their apps, Pinterest’s business model has always been a more laissez-faire approach to outgoing links.
According to social media aggregate Oberlo, Pinterest is the second-largest source of social media traffic to e-commerce site Shopify, a site with templates for online stores, checkout and shipping. Buyable pins for Pinterest posts can be created from within the Shopify or Pinterest apps. Etsy, another popular e-commerce site, can also be linked. Free business profiles give
All of this has given the Pinterest site and any outgoing or incoming links a high rating for SEO efforts. Those links are about to get even better for e-commerce needs. The company went public in April, giving it a flood of money to invest.
This past September, Pinterest introduced ad buys called Shop the Look, new Catalogues for products and a dedicated Shop tab giving “shoppable” pins to certified businesses. A new Lens mode in the Pinterest app, also unveiled in September, is giving users a visual search index of the real world. A snap of an object shows similar matches online with pricing.
Even if you don’t want to partake in social media, commercial and event photographers should still take a long look at how to shoot for these markets. With the exponential growth of other platforms stealing social media’s thunder, like Facebook’s WhatsApp that combines voice and video with social media capabilities, photographers and video professionals should be looking toward mobile platforms like Web 3.0.
App Annie predicted that in 2019, consumers would spend more than $120 billion through app stores, and that 60 percent more apps would take advantage of in-app ads throughout the year.
That number is twice the amount of the global box office market. Social and communications apps made up 50 percent of time spent globally in apps in 2018, cites App Annie.
To sum up, mobile accounted for 62 percent of the global ad spend in 2018 and globally, mobile is set to comprise nearly 75 percent of total e-commerce transactions by 2021.
Social Media Image Resolution Chart for 2019-2020
Profile: 180 x 180 (RGB, JPG, PNG)
Cover: 820 x 312 (max 100KB)
Timeline and newsfeed images: 1200 x 630
Shared link timeline and newsfeed image: 1200 x 628
Event images: 1920 x 1080 with highlighted image at 1200 x 717
Profile: 110 x 110
Thumbs: 161 x 161
Full resolution: 1080 x 1080 covering 1.9:1 through 4:5 aspect ratios, but posts scale to 612 x 612 and appear in feeds at 510 x 510
Vertical images: 1080 x 1350
Header: 409 x 409 and 204 x 204
Stories at full resolution: 1080 x 1920 (9:16) with minimum at 600 x 1067, aspect 9:16 with a max file size of 4GB (newer phones in Stories have a more aberrant 1080 x 2340 resolution)
Profile: 400 x 400
Background: 1584 x 396 at 4MB (PNG, JPG, GIF)
Logo image: 300 x 300
Company cover: 1536 x 768
Banner: 646 x 220
Hero photo: 1128 x 376 at under 2MB
Links: 1200 x 628
Shared single image: 1104 x 736
Company photos: 900 x 600
Profile: 180 x 180
Shared single image: Max 32MB (PNG, JPEG)
Pins: Recommend 2:3 aspect ratio, suggested at 1000 x 1500 or 600 x 900, 1200 x 1800
Carousel: Aspect ratio of 1:1 (square) and to 2:3
Shared single image: 1080 x 1920
Profile: 400 x 400 at max 2MB (JPG, GIF, PNG)
Header: 1500 x 1500 at max 5MB (JPG, GIF, PNG)
Twitter stream: Updated from 1024 x 512 (at 2:1) in 2018 to 1200 x 675 in 2019 at 5MB max (JPG, GIF, PNG)
Images for shared links: 800 x 418
GIF: 1280 x 1080, less than 350 frames, less than 300 million pixels in total (width x height x frames) for each frame in the GIF, at less than 15MB
1. Tweet up to four images at one time.
2. Edit images via the Twitter iOS app to horizontally center content and avoid odd cropping.
3. Mobile viewing will be limited by a max 16:9 ratio
4. If height exceeds width, it will be cropped to a square.
5. At a minimum of 600 x 335 pixels, center the portion of the photo you would like seen by setting the width at the minimum requirements.