Social media has become a central fixture for many photographers. For some, it’s another box to check off in the daily to-do list and for others, a source of inspiration, income and influence. Whatever your attitude, it’s a fluid medium where change is the only constant. To help you stay on top of it, we connected with photographers and marketers to a get a glimpse of the social media trends that are set to shape the months to come.
Forget About Forgetting About Facebook
While Facebook’s reputation has taken a beating since the 2016 elections, photographers shouldn’t be pulling up stakes from the platform just yet. It remains as relevant as ever, says Brooke Sellas, Founder and CEO of B Squared Media, a social media marketing agency.
“Don’t listen to the rhetoric,” she says, “it’s still the number one, top-dog platform.”
Photographer and social media consultant Neil Binkley agrees. “I don’t see an alternative to Facebook or social media in general,” he says. “It’s not going away. It’s a very effective way to reach millions of people.”
Recent research from Animoto bolsters Binkley’s case. In a survey of over 500 marketers and 1,000-plus consumers, the video service found that 76 percent of consumers had been impacted by a brand’s social media presence when making a purchasing decision.
More people keep signing up for social media, too. A recent study from the scheduling app Hootsuite found a 7 percent growth in U.S. social media users with all users spending about 2 hours a day on social media browsing. Keep in mind that social media use is well-established in the U.S. already, with 71 percent of the population considered an active user, according to Hootsuite.
This market dominance ensures that Facebook retains its value as a platform for photographers to advertise to prospective clients. Indeed, many businesses find Facebook to be the most cost-effective means of marketing to customers. “We’ve been getting conversions for way under a dollar,” Sellas says.
One continuing consequence of Facebook’s (and Instagram’s) powerful market position and emphasis on advertising is that it will continue to be difficult to grow follower counts organically in 2019. If you want visibility, social media platforms want you to pay up. In fact, Hootsuite’s study found just 8.8 percent of Facebook posts reaching a page’s followers organically. “All the major platforms are becoming pay-to-play,” Sellas says.
While Facebook and Instagram clearly want businesses large and small paying for increased visibility, Binkley still sees room for organic growth on both platforms. The road to organic growth means having authentic content, not just ads, as part of your social media presentation, he notes. It also entails aggressive hashtagging and committing to regular posting schedules, Binkley adds.
IGTV vs. YouTube
YouTube is ground zero for video, helping photographers grow and monetize an audience with tutorials, vlogs and more. Instagram wants in, and this year, the platform launched IGTV for long-form videos on Instagram. The rollout has been slow this year, but next year, Sellas sees momentum building around Instagram’s video plans.
“I’m not certain it’s going to be a YouTube replacement,” she notes, but more advertising dollars are likely to flow in that direction as marketers migrate away from traditional TV. Animoto’s survey also found that Instagram is the fastest-growing platform for driving purchases with video.
This presents a new opportunity for photographers looking for video exposure to get in relatively close to the ground floor of a major new Instagram feature. But IGTV isn’t a YouTube clone; videos are capped at 10 minutes for many users (verified accounts and those with large follower counts can upload hour-long videos), and they must be recorded in the mobile-friendly vertical orientation. And while YouTube affords users the ability to earn revenue on their videos once their channel hits certain viewership and subscriber metrics, Instagram has yet to detail how they plan to pay IGTV filmmakers.
Whatever the fate of IGTV, video remains one of the best ways to engage your followers. Hootsuite found that Facebook posts with videos earned the highest engagement (5.23 percent) followed by posts with photos (4.42 percent). Not surprisingly, Animoto’s survey found that video content is a consumer’s favorite type of content to see from businesses on social media.
Give Twitter Another Look
“I’ve always been an advocate of Twitter before Instagram,” says UK-based photographer Nicholas Goodden. “Instagram plays so much with their algorithm that it’s a lost battle. I know so many influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers who overnight will see their engagement drop dramatically due to an algorithm change… It’s quite disheartening after all the effort many of them put in.”
Twitter, on the other hand, has been less impacted by constant changes, Goodden notes. “Engagement seems to be fairly stable and therefore reliable.” Plus, Twitter makes it easy to share links to websites and drive traffic back to your own home base. “Of course, Instagram is as visual as it gets and could seem to be the obvious and necessary choice for a photographer, but my aim is to attract visitors to my website, which already gets about 250,000 visits a year, and Twitter has really helped.”