In this article I am asking the question – is social media an essential part of a modern day photographers tool-kit or is it all just a complete waste of our time? Does social media provide positive business benefits, or is it just a nice to have?
Social media – why?
Because we are being told all the time that we have to be out there on social media. If we are not all over social media then we will not get seen. That is what I hear all the time, with the odd exception.
As photographers, what value do we get from social media? Speaking for myself, if I am being brutally honest, very little benefit, if any. I would also say that the time investment is difficult to justify – if you were making a business case for social media would it pass a viability test in providing a business benefit?
I am not sure.
Are you a social media lover?
If social media is something you enjoy then great, crack on and enjoy it. I have absolutely no problem with that. To be clear – I have no problem with social media – if that is what people enjoy then great. All I am asking is if social media can provide tangible, positive business benefits to working photographers.
Or are we better off spending our precious time on other things? I hope that I have cleared that up, and prevented all those social media lovers from sharpening their pitch-forks for an attack!
A bit about me
If you are a regular reader on the Improve Photography website hopefully you have read some of my stuff before. I am a 50 something (just) photographer based in England. I photograph buildings and nice places. I am a photographer, writer and blogger.
I rely solely on referrals, word of mouth and the internet to get customers. I also sell photos online. So social media is something that I have tried to take seriously, but has it benefitted my business?
I am just not a grumpy old man who hates this modern fangled social media stuff. Well OK I am old, and a bit grumpy (it will happen to all of you at some point believe me!), but that is not why I am questioning the value of social media.
I am however old enough to remember the world before
- Mobile phones
- The internet
I know – there really was a time when these things did not exist.
And black and white TV, the colour TV, but with three channels only – BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. And that was it.
We used to phone each other from phones plugged into a socket in the wall, often conveniently located under the stairs. That was our primary means of non face to face communication.
The other form of communication was a thing called letters. To send a letter you had to follow the following steps
- Find some paper
- Find a pen
- Write the letter
- Put it in an envelope
- Write the address on the envelope
- Put a stamp on the envelope
- Walk to a letter box/ Post Office and post the letter
- Some days later the letter would arrive at its destination
And that was it.
The only other way we communicated was to talk to each other.
And was the world a better place then? Difficult to say.
I am not necessarily saying that it was – have you seen the clothes people wore in the 70s and 80s?
But that was all we had.
But I am not a curmudgeonly old technophobe either
No I use all the latest stuff.
Cameras, Phones, IPad, Lightroom, the cloud, Netflix, Amazon etc.
So I am relatively with it – I am not desperately trying to maintain a grip on current technology – not yet anyway.
- I use Lightroom and Photoshop (well bits of Photoshop)
- I produce content for my own website
- I do my own SEO
- I have created my own WordPress website
- I back up stuff to the cloud, move from device to device working on the same thing.
- I think I am quite with it technically. So this is not necessarily an age thing, or just an act of bitterness!
- It is just I question the business value that social media adds.
A very brief history of social media
According to various sources, the first true social media platform was SixDegrees.com, which was unleashed on the world in 1997. Six Degrees lasted until 2001.
There is some debate about earlier platforms, but 1997 is a good starting point. AOL appeared in 1997 as well.
When did the big names we all know appear?
- 1999 – Yahoo Messenger
- 2001 – Windows Messenger
- 2002 – LinkedIn
- 2003 – MySpace
- 2004 – Facebook
- 2004 – Flickr
- 2005 – YouTube
- 2006 – Twitter
- 2010 – Instagram
- 2010 – Pinterest
And lots and lots of others.
Blimey – those dates surprised me.
16 years since the first social network I recognise was launched. To be honest I was expecting these to be much newer – I was surprised how long some of them have been around. Lots of social media platforms have come and gone, but some have stood the test of time. Obviously there is debate and speculation about Facebook after recent events, but some of the main platforms appear pretty solid. I didn’t expect that!
Back to my question
What has social media ever done for me? In true Monty Python style, what has social media ever done for us? OK for me?
Well it has taken a lot of time to be fair. But to what end? Not a lot. If anything.
What social media platforms am I on?
Well we all have to be on that don’t we? Instagram is where it’s at if you are a photographer. Apparently.
I really don’t get Pinterest but have over 5,000 unique visitors every month?
Short and sweet but what is the point?
Google is pretty much the internet. That is why I am on Google +. But Google + is something of a forgotten thing.
The business Facebook. I have some great connections on Linked In.
Don’t really know what this is – see below for why I don’t particularly care.
The Google blogging platform. I used to post to this but had forgotten about it until I wrote this.
Remember Flickr? I had forgotten all about it. Which is part of the point.
I used to spend a lot of time sharing stuff to social media – not so much time now but I will come on to that.
What social media am I no longer on?
I have deleted my accounts with
And many others that I have long forgotten. And what happened when I got rid of these unnecessary things? Nothing. Other than I got back a little bit of time. And a few less log-ins to remember.
And that is in part the point.
Instead of social media what do I concentrate on?
My own websites. My own piece of the internet. This is where I focus my internet based attentions, generating new content for my business.
I have two websites at the moment, my main business website, and a new website which I am creating about my photos of Santorini – very much a work in progress.
And there will be lots more websites coming – lets see how the Santorini one goes first. My main website is where you can find out all about me It is where my photography blog sits. It is where all points lead to. My Santorini website is a new website where you can view my photos of Santorini – hence the name (I was surprised that I managed to get such a great URL). I am producing my own website using the WordPress platform (on which Improve photography is built). I told you I wasn’t an old has been!
My time is spent on my own sites, not those owned, controlled and managed by others.
How I save time with social media sharing
Automation is the key for me. This came about from a culmination of SEO advice, the Four Hour Work Week and various other podcasts where automation is mentioned as an invaluable timesaver.
How do I automate my social media output?
I have a daily blog on my Squarespace website. Squarespace automates my blog output to
- Google +
- Linked In
When I say automate once set up all I do is select to share a post and when it is published it does just that. It takes me seconds to do. Which I like.
And as well as that posts from Instagram are automatically outputted to all social media channels using the great time-saving App IFTT – If This Then That.
And that is my social media activity pretty much done.
I also add posts on my Google page, which is pretty important as it is new content straight onto Google. I take Google very seriously.
But I'm not being very social
I know. It is meant to be all about social interaction isnt it? Well I use to respond to every comment on Instagram, but quite frankly could not sustain this, so my social media activity is merely posting things automatically from other media. And when I was actively engaging with others in Instagram I might have got a few more followers in the short term but this tailed off.
What is the future of social media?
More and more people walking around staring at their phones checking their status for tweets, like, comments, thumbs-ups.
Just kidding but you know what I mean….
And for me?
Doing the bare minimum I guess so I am still in the game but without spending any time/ money.
My own internet presence is my first, second and third priorities.
One big problem with any social media platforms
You do not own the space, You have no control over the platform. When you post a photo you are assigning rights to the owner of the platform that you might not be happy with. There is no come back to this as we have all accepted the terms and conditions by merely being on each of these platforms.
And for photographers that means signing away control of images posted to social media.
And now for the real problem
Any social media platform could disappear tomorrow. And there is nothing that any of us can do about it. Think of The platforms that have fallen by the wayside
MySpace – remember that?
So what is the point of social media for photographers?
You have probably gathered by now that I am clearly not the person so answer this question. Please tell me what I am missing. I have never got any work from social media, and have no interest in it. In terms of photographers, I am told that Instagram is the go to social media platform. As it is not a big drain on my time I will stick with it – thankfully I always have plenty of content that I can put on Instagram.
That is the beauty of being a photographer – there is never a shortage of stuff to post.
I think we photographers should spend more time on the content on our own websites and blogs, things that we have ownership and control of. Maybe I have got this all wrong? Please let me know what I should be doing that will benefit my photography business in tangible ways.
And please don’t take what I have written about too seriously. I just wanted to ask a question and see what people thought – I am expecting lots of negative comments, but hopefully some positive feedback as well (please).
Please let me know how I can use social media better in my photography business – this is a genuine shout out for sensible, practical advice.
Let me know what you love and hate about social media. And if you think I am talking nonsense let me know – I can take it!
And keep no working on your own websites – whatever we might think of social media our websites are our online shops – very important and as far as I am concerned the most important piece of this complex online jigsaw.
Thanks for reading this article, and I look forward to receving your comments.