I know that the squirt of dopamine that you get from posting photos to every site is a rush. I do it too. I get high from a night out of great photography and all I want to do is show the world my images. I want EVERYONE to see them. I will hammer every. single. site. with my images. Then sit back and wonder why nobody is interacting.
The $1.80 Rule
Recently, I saw a post by Gary Vaynerchuck that got me thinking. Now, I will say that a lot of these so-called Social media “gurus” have a lot to say but not much of which is actually actionable unless you are a 20-something Coachella goddess or look like a male model. However, he made a point that got this 40-year-old bald photographer thinking. He brought up the idea of giving people your “2 cents” and then everyday investing $1.80 into instagram. Not real money but investing the time to like and comment on people’s images. Essentially, giving them your 2 cents or rather your thoughts.
This is similar to what Chase Jarvis talks about when he mentions “the other 50%” and how that is what a lot of creatives miss, myself included. So again, what does all this mean for the average photographer who isn’t island hopping with a group of bikini-clad influencers? It means that you have to put the work in. It means going through your feeds and looking at other photographers’ work, liking and commenting on it. Not just the big names but the others out there that are just like you.
If each comment is worth $0.02 then to hit that $1.80 you will need to comment about 90 times. At first this seems like a lot and in truth it sort of is. However, if you are smart about it then it sort of becomes a routine. Also, consider the fact that the people who are really making it in today’s world of “social photography” are the ones that ARE investing the time into their social media game. Now, they may have a team of people doing for them, but they are still putting that time in somehow.
Don’t Be Desperate
When I see people posting images EVERYWHERE and either not doing anything else or just giving the bare minimum is seems like a desperate attempt at getting attention. They are expecting people to flood their feed with compliments day after day but never reciprocate. If you are expecting me to invest my time or 2 cents into your work without giving anything in return, chances are that this approach will not get me to come back to your page or feed. This goes well beyond simply thanking me for the comment too. Take the time and pop into the person’s feed and see what they have.
Commenting is important. It encourages people and in return, they reciprocate by checking your stuff out, which is basically want you want, right? Just be genuine about it. Don’t spam, try being a part of the community. Better yet, try helping other photographers if they need it.
When I see people posting the same image to 10 different photo groups on facebook and then posting it on instagram, I don’t really feel the urge to comment. It’s like that guy at the party that goes on and on about the great trip he had but never checks to see if anyone is interest or stops to hear what other people have to say. Then you hear the same guy tell the same story to another group of people. Chances are that you are not going to be anymore interested in the story than the first time you heard it. I feel the same goes for photographers.
What To Do/ What I Did
Take some time and be a part of the community… without ramming your photos down people’s throats. Spend some time commenting and engaging others. Seems simple, right? It is but it does take some daily effort.
I set out to see what would happen if I invested my $1.80 into Instagram and really work on the “social” part of the “other 50%” of the game. It had some interesting results.
Each morning I would sit down and open up an app called “Flume” which allows me to post, comment, and like from my computer. This allowed me to greatly speed up my liking and commenting thanks to Keyboard shortcuts.
The interface also allows me to quickly scroll through my feed and like and comment very quickly. Not to mention that I can also upload via Flume as well. This means that I can comfortably invest that $1.80 without too much effort. I just choose the hashtags that I am interested and and start liking the photos that I like.
With regards to facebook, I am an admin for a number of photo clubs around South Korea where I have been based for the last 15 years or so. I have pushed for the old flickr style of “post 1, comment 1” rule for the groups. People are encouraged to post their photos but also comment on others as well. This was done for the most part because I saw a trend of people dumping photos in every group that they could. This included myself as I had a bad habit of doing this. However, slowing people down and getting them to look at other photos in the group had an interesting effect.
Let’s just say that Gary was right. By commenting on other photographer’s photos and investing my time there, it gave me a boost in engagement. Nothing too crazy but I did notice that it carried over to my photos even when I had not posted anything for a bit. Meaning, that typically you get that boost of engagement when you post a photo and it dies down after a day or so. That is why experts recommend posting everyday or multiple times a day.
When I invested my time into commenting more than I was posting, it was reciprocated onto my feed. Even accounts that I have followed for awhile but never engaged with came around. Comments on my photos increased and so did my followers.
Sadly, I forgot to run the numbers as I was doing this but I can say that I got a few more followers each day that I put the time in. For me, that is a good thing. If you are looking for more followers, then perhaps look into Trey Ratcliff’s new book. You will get an idea of how not to do things and what happens when you try and cheat the system.
For facebook, it was a double edged sword. The commenting brought one group back to life and effectively killed off another. The commenting allowed for one group to feel more comfortable and get to know one another. While in the other group, it stopped the posts all together. Truthfully, that already had been happening for a number of reasons. This was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The bottomline there is that you have to put the work into building a following through networking. If you want to work and get your name out there in the community then you will have to not just produce great content but be active in the areas that you want to be known in.
We live in an age where everyone can make a pretty picture. In my last post I talked about certain areas getting slammed with instagrammers. It happens in landscape photography. Someone sees your shot and then goes out there and takes a better one and you feel robbed.
The one thing that is harder to replicate is the effort put into building a network of friends, followers and colleagues. They can’t simply drive up and take your following. That takes time and effort and if you are willing to put the work into this it may pay off in the long run.
I say “may” as it won’t always work. I have failed many times at building communities. I have used my network to help get jobs for other photographers only to get nothing in return but a “thanks buddy!” as they get paid and never return the favour. That will happen. However, the harder you work the strong your network and following will be.
So if you are asking yourself why people are not commenting and liking your stuff, maybe ask yourself how much you are liking theirs? Invest the time.