It’s true, Facebook organic reach isn’t what it used to be. While it is certainly frustrating, the reality is that it isn’t all that different from any other aspect of photography marketing. Think about it for a bit; every marketing tactic eventually morphs and we have to adapt. I’ve been working in Facebook marketing for business for almost 10 years now. The suggestions I have below are lessons learned, many of them from my own mistakes, over that time.
As someone who has been there, I’d like to encourage you to channel the energy you have with frustration into creating solutions. Today’s post is about that – looking at creative ways to increase your organic Facebook reach.
The best piece of advice I can give you is this: Don’t beat the algorithm – impress it. You can’t change the algorithm, but you can work within it’s confines. Just like SEO, social media is equal parts arts and science. If you live by the rule that your strategy should be centered around providing the best user experience, you’ll probably be okay.
Why Facebook Reach Has Changed
In order to tackle any challenge, you have to understand what is happening to create the challenge. Think about how many Facebook friends you have and think about all the Pages you like on Facebook. On average, there are about 1,500 different posts competing for a spot in a user’s News Feed. For some people, there could be as many as 15,000 Pages publish an astonishing 3 million links per hour on Facebook. When you start thinking about the numbers, you realize that the decline in reach is logical.
Put yourself in the position of a Facebook user and not a Facebook Page owner and think about what your experience would be like if you saw almost every update from almost every friend and every Page that you liked. The entire platform would be frustrating and soon it wouldn’t be an effective place to market, paid or otherwise.
Track Your Facebook Insights – Make Strategic Decisions
Are you using data to make strategic decisions about your Facebook posts? Sure, what we observe is incidental, but it isn’t until you start reviewing the numbers over time that you get a true sense of what you can accomplish. If we just go by what we see on a daily basis, it’s easy to trick your mind with a set of facts that aren’t really facts. Data doesn’t lie, however, so it’s important to use Facebook Insights (and hopefully Google Analytics) regularly – at least monthly.
Some of the metrics you should be paying attention to: time of day your fans are most active, the posts with the most engagement, and the posts that caused more people to hide or unlike your page, or that were marked as spam. Believe it or not, you can usually learn more from when people have a negative reaction to your posts than you can when they love a post.
Build Facebook Community and Engagement
Many of the photography marketing I see is “push marketing.” Photographers use Facebook as a way to push, push, push at their audience without providing anything of value to their following. What I mean by “push” is that their Facebook Page is a spot where they only promote. They don’t use the platform to receive (pull) from their audience. It isn’t a community feeling with dialogue – it’s a one-way conversation (a/k/a push messaging) about what services the photographer offered, photos of sessions they completed, and maybe a couple of blog posts on their own blog.
What if, instead of always talking about yourself and your business, you started offering additional value? We take for granted the education we have in our photography businesses, easily forgetting that to our clients, we’re the experts. Try sharing stories and links that add value for your clients:
- Link to a Pinterest board with ideas for how to dress for a family session
- Share blog posts from other photographers that you found interesting or valuable. Add your own feedback as the status update (and be secure enough to know that it’s okay to show others’ work)
- Ask for their feedback about what kind of sessions they’d like in the future; everyone likes being heard
- When sharing a photo from a session, compliment the subject and educate the others. For example, “We loved how relaxed the whole family is in this shot, allowing us to capture them as they usually are. Booking an extra half hour allows everyone to feel less rushed, less pressure, and get a little more comfortable in front of the camera so we can get shots like this one!”
Fan Abandonment Decreases Your Facebook Reach
One of the other mistakes I see in photography pages on Facebook is what I call “fan abandonment.” Photographers will post something, but then never respond to the person who comments. There are a few benefits to staying engaged. The first and foremost reason is that it’s polite. How would you feel if you gave someone a compliment and they didn’t thank you or respond?
The second reason is that the Facebook algorithm looks at engagement rates to determine it’s time decay and freshness factors. It doesn’t care if the response is from the Page or another person – it’s a response. Even commenting with something like a “thank you” on a comment helps increase that engagement factor. Don’t abandon your fans when they take the time to comment on one of your posts.
“Be Interested and Interesting”
I’m a social introvert and if I’m being completely honest, in-person networking is something I struggle with. Once I’m at an event or workshop, I’m perfectly fine. The time leading up to it, though, can be a challenge. My other half is an extrovert and improviser who is energized by being around people. One of the best pieces of advice he gave me to help me become comfortable and in-the-zone a little faster is “Be interested and interesting.”
If you’ve read any Dale Carnegie, like How to Win Friends & Influence People, the concept will already be familiar. For me, I employ this whenever I’m just getting started at an event. I have a few questions that serve as my go-to questions to get a conversation started. They’re all about the other person, and during that time, I can look for little pieces of that conversation that connect us. Usually, I only make it to my second question before the conversation has naturally taken off.
The same concept applies to your Facebook Page: Are you sure that what you are about to post is actually interesting to the people who are going to see it?
Confession time – 75% of the time, the photographers I see struggling the most with their Facebook marketing are the ones who just aren’t being interesting. It’s a difficult thing to talk about, because the photographers themselves are interesting, their work is interesting, and they do have an interesting angle to share. Yet they just aren’t tapping into the minds of their clients.
As a photographer, I love looking at the work of other photographers. As a client, I’m not always that interested in photos of weddings or children or headshots. It’s not about me. It doesn’t help me with photos of me in the future. That said, as a client, I also tolerate a fair amount of photography marketing if the mix of what is posted does somehow pertain to me, my family, my photos, my future sessions, etc.
Don’t be surprised if people do not ooh and ahh over every photo you post. Think of your Facebook photos the way you would your portfolio: choose one or two of the very best images from each session or wedding or every travel stop. Evoke emotion. I don’t even look at every photo my sister posts of my super-loved niece and nephew sometimes. Chances are I am not going to look at every photo in an album full of Joe Schmoe and his family either.
Facebook Video, Facebook Video, Facebook Video!
One of my favorite tactics for jump-starting a photographer’s organic reach on Facebook is to get them on the video bandwagon. Not that long ago, Facebook really revamped their video platform while at the same time downgrading links shared from YouTube and Vimeo. Video is (more and more) an important part of photography marketing.
With a jillion different apps available or a site like Animoto, you can create a nice highlight reel and upload it as a video to Facebook. Because Facebook is really pushing their video services, the algorithm has native video ranking higher than photos or links. You can use still photos in the video, as well.
Here are some video ideas to share with your audience:
- Favorite photos from the month, capped at about 20-30 seconds
- Highlights from a season (wedding season, mini sessions, holidays)
- Yearly highlights
- Your own photo tips – (i.e, Hey clients, here’s how to get decent point-and-shoot composition!)
These suggestions are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Facebook strategy and using it to promote your work. Remember, there are a million ways you can capitalize on the power of Facebook. Even $25-50 a month can bring in thousands of dollars in revenue per year, if you understand how to utilize psychographic targeting and grow your fan base. You can also use it to grow your email marketing list, do competitive research, test out different promotions – the opportunities abound. But like anything in marketing, we have to adapt to the changes and implement creative solutions.