This is a rant that I’ve thought about more times than I’d like to consider and I’ve been meaning to write this, but it’s just been too daunting of a task. Fortunately, I’m sitting at an airport with absolutely nothing else to do so I’m going to take a crack at it.
Social media and social marketing is a subject that’s new to most of us in general, then add it to the world of action sports photographers and the pile of what to do’s is very uncertain. Most of us are not marketing people, most of us are not business people. We are creative people which usually translates into very un-creative when it comes to marketing ourselves in the growing, changing, and completely un-defined realm of growing our following on the internet. Our goals these days are mostly getting our work more exposure, and hopefully the right exposure to the creative directors, photo editors or maybe even just the popular blogger that can amplify our audience to the scope that we couldn’t even imagine. All, potentially changing our audience in a 24 hour viral period. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy task that we are far from trained for.
What seems to be happening, is really what I see as the wrong way of doing things. It’s throwing a turbo charger on the race to the bottom that seems to be happening in our business. We started off by doing the opposite of what we should have with internet image licensing. Our pricing was set low, way low below the bar. Internet traffic has exponentially grown, giving our images on the web higher circulation that could ever have been seen in print, yet the pricing has been set to about 20% of the pricing that would be charged for licensing with similar print circulation. While it’s going to be a daunting task for most of us to be able to change this black hole of internet pricing, there are things happening now that there’s still time to do something about.
There’s a current trend in social media among photographers, specifically among action sports photographers that we need to think about. We need to think about it a lot before the next time you do it. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the avenues driving this trend that really, has to stop. The trend that’s beginning is simply tagging companies in your photos, shared in your social media. I’m sure most of the young photographers are thinking this is an quick and easy way to get your photos in front of the athletes, the gear manufactures, photo editors, basically anyone of influence that needs to see your photos to get the useful exposure you are looking for right? Sure, it is. However this is telling your potential paying clients one simple thing, you don’t need them to pay you for your photos to be used in their social networking and social marketing programs. If you are taking your hard earned photos, that cost you a lot of time, and also money to create, then posting them on Facebook, well that’s fine. If they don’t get purchased then why not get them out there for people to see right? The problem begins when you start tagging these photos with the athlete’s sponsors, the resort it was taken at, etc in the context of the ski and snowboard industry. The same concept can be applied to any other market really.
If you tag these companies, what happens is simple. Your photos end up in their Facebook page’s feed, in their photo galleries. You wouldn’t just give Company A these photos for free if they asked you for them, with absolutely zero payment or compensation of any sort would you? If the answer is yes, then I guess you like paying your own money, spending your own valuable time to work for Company A. Let me repeat that. You are basically paying Company A to do a job they should be paying YOU for. If you don’t see the problem in this look at it this way. Would you pay your mechanic $500 so you could do the work to fix your own car instead of them? I hope not, cause that would be you’d be pretty broke if you operated that way. If you are tagging Company A in every photo you post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram then you are telling your Company A and any other potential clients that they do not have to pay you for social marketing photography.
In case you haven’t noticed there are numerous companies these days that are no longer doing print advertising campaigns. Lots are doing web only direct marketing campaigns but also putting a lot of resources into social media. Think about how this is going to effect your ability to stay in business if this trend continues, print dries up and you are still just tagging away. We need to adapt and effectively market ourselves and our own work without just giving every company a free ride.
Have I tagged Company A in my photos I’ve shared on my Facebook Fan Page? Of course I have. The difference in what I’m talking about vs how I’m doing it is I’m adding tags when the photos have come as a result of an ad purchased, from a day shoot I did for Company A, or maybe even some sort of cross marketing campaign I was somehow involved with. I am however not just giving those up for free. Those have been paid for and are simply an added value for both myself and Company A. I certainly am not saying I know what to do in the way of self-promotion and successful social networking and marketing for my photography business. If I did, I’d be a big deal, have tons of money and certainly have more Twitter followers (some of which are following me, simply because my last name is SEO, a acronym for Search Engine Optimization). I wish I had those answers. What I think I have is an idea of how this trend can effect your bottom line, and how it can put us in the race to the bottom.
I’m hoping this can start a bit of discussion on the matter. Please if you do have something to say, comment on this, don’t hold back. It’s an important thing to discuss.