How to Promote Your Photography Business Without Social Media
Following my abrupt departure from Social Media, I got regular messages asking about my accounts. Clients and colleagues were looking to tag me or see my portfolio. Most were surprised that I could leave Instagram and expect to book weddings.
Why is it that after four years away from Instagram and Facebook, I did not lose any work?
My professional photography journey began on social media; seeing people’s work, asking questions, and eventually trying it out myself. With some paid photography under my belt, it made sense to show off my own photos. Peer pressure is powerful and I wasn’t going to be that one photographer not on Instagram.
I wanted my account to be unique so I made my profile into a mosaic; a continuous blend of photos. Even videos would have a thumbnail that worked into the collage. Album tiles would have a swipe to reveal pages of that book. This would take a lot of time to prepare but “likes” seemed important, and you need to go above and beyond to earn them. After a few months, my account gained the attention of a high-profile photographer who said it was the most original use of Instagram he had seen. Yet the question always lingered in my mind as to whether or not it was worth it.
Did it bring in enough leads to warrant my time? I had a feeling that the answer was no, but I plowed through. “Likes” was an ego boost and didn’t cost any money. Until I hired a company to manage my accounts.
I realized that 90% of my work was direct referrals either from previous clients or as a freelancer for others. None of which required social media. They cost me nothing other than doing a fantastic job for each client. At the same time, print ads and social media were topping $600 a month and for only a tiny amount of bookings. Even those that found me on one of those sites, would mention they found me from another source before reaching out to me via social media “We saw your Instagram, and my friend just used you.”
I decided to call it quits on Social Media
Without warning, I deactivated my accounts, and here’s what happened.
- How could people find me? Many people who initially sought me out on social media still found a way to contact me.
- Did I lose out on work? After four years, my overall volume of work has gone up as predicted, with no noticeable hiccups from the lack of Social Media.
- What about all the free time? I found plenty of more important things to do.
Stepping back gave me a perspective that as a solo owner-operator, those accounts were causing more of a hindrance than a gain. I hated that a portfolio on those sites is tied to algorithms and trends that need to benefit the social media companies and not you. Whereas I have complete control of what people see and how it gets presented on my website. I would often get asked why not keep the accounts open and just not post. This is because social media will usually get ranked higher on a search engine than your small personal website. People are more likely to click those options and get stuck with outdated content. Better that only my main website shows up on searches and I can just worry about keeping that up to date.
My marketing strategy changed to drive traffic to my website.
Nurturing potential referrals is the best return on investment and one that business owners often neglect. Many of my clients receive “strategic free gifts,”; things that leave a significant impact at little to no cost. Just to name a few:
- Printing and framing enlargements during the wedding.
- Creating interactive experiences with digital frames.
- Sign-in books and upgraded albums.
- Sending couples an anniversary gift that is likely to be displayed like a fridge magnet or photo block.
The trick is to engage someone positively which generates actual leads who have already been impressed with your work.
Bonus fact: friends will often share on their social media, effectively getting organic reach on those platforms.
In the spirit of full disclosure, my Instagram (not Facebook) is active again. I now employ staff who handle sharing my photos. We post regularly but don’t really use the platform for any interactions. It doesn’t hurt to have an account to share what you’re really proud of, it just never made sense for me to be spending additional time or money on it. You can still see the 4 plus year gap from some of my busiest years.
In my opinion, personal interactions fare way better than those online. My casual and fun demeanor at any job is something that people remember and pass on to others (I know this from the feedback). Your business may be different, and I’m not suggesting that anyone go cold turkey and shut down Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok. But it should be on everyone’s mind to at least calculate the costs in time and money and assign a value to online marketing. See if it makes sense. For my business, it did not, and I feel that I’ve gained as a result!
I currently shoot 50-100 weddings a year all over the country.
I also do commercial video work for charitable organizations and private schools, and I coach new photographers as they get their feet wet while assisting me on jobs.