Social Media Engagement and Influence for Photographers

More musings to share about marketing for photographers as I write more chapters of the book Marketing for Photographers (a work in progress).

“Social Media marketing is all about engagement”

You’ll hear these words over and over until you’re blue in the face. It’s obvious isn’t it? The clue is in the phrase “SOCIAL media”. Many articles are written on the subject as if it’s a revelation, without really giving any practical advice on how to become more engaged online, or how to find out what content attracts the most engagement from others.

To start with, before I get all conversational and start telling stories, here’s a brief list of useful tips. Some of these you have probably read somewhere, and hopefully, some new ideas. They form sound, practical advice, and if nothing else, will act as a reminder for those who are already ahead in the social media engagement arena.

Preparing for Brighton Pride

Preparing for Brighton Pride – click to purchase image

  1. Pick vibrant and relevant communities to join on Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn and contribute your own material as well as joining in the conversations posted by others in the group.
  2. Stay focused on your niche or profession, people will want to follow and engage with you because you are an expert in a particular area.
  3. Monitor your brand or your name; there are various tools that will do this for you. If someone mentions you, try and respond.
  4. Regularly respond to comments on your own pages, you don’t have to be tied to your computer, just drop by and respond when you can.
  5. If someone comments on your work or shares your work then thank them regularly. This can be tricky if you get popular.
    Depending on how many followers you have, you may not be able to do this for every share or comment. Even a quick like of a Google+ or Facebook comment is better than nothing, it acknowledges the people who respond to your work. (I know there are many people who regularly like and comment on my work and don’t get a response, I’m sorry, I’m working on it, sometimes I make a mental note of the regulars and give them an occasional personal thank you in the comments)
  6. Ask lots of questions when you are sharing your own content and when you find interesting content or comments from others.
  7. Do seek out the influencers that inspire you and try and strike up conversations. You can do this by saying something thoughtful on their posts or asking them intelligent questions.

A great way to get someone’s attention is to read all you can about them, find out what makes them tick, then write your own spin on the subject inviting them to comment or asking them for a quote before you publish. The more you find out the better, remember you are trying to establish real relationships, the more you have in common the better, the more personal your approach the better. We are not talking bunny boiler here, but if someone has just posted about an amazing holiday, you could bring that into the conversation. If they have a grievance about something that you share, it can provide a good way to connect.

You can connect with me on Google+ Facebook Instagram Twitter Flickr and LinkedIn


Story from Marketeer Extraordinaire Dave Trott

Here’s a story that I love. I heard it from creative marketer Dave Trott famous for many memorable TV ad campaigns over the last few decades. My older UK friends might remember  “‘Ello Tosh, got a Toshiba?” or “Ariston and on and on” or “Lipsmackin’ thirstquenchin’ acetastin’ motivatin’ goodbuzzin’ cooltalkin’ highwalkin’ fastlivin’ evergivin’ coolfizzin’ Pepsi”. Younger readers might wonder what the hell I’m on about. Anyway here is one of the stories he told when I heard him speak. It has stuck in my mind and at the time I thought about how relevant it was to social and digital marketing today.

Football manager Don Revie (Leeds 1961–1974, later England manager) knew the importance of engaging with influencers. Instead of focusing on the opposing team before a match he would focus on the referee. Not only that, he would get all of his team to do the same. He always knew the refs name, as did all of the team players, the refs wife’s name, his kids names, where he had been on holiday and anything else that was specific and personal to the ref. In passing they would drop these references into conversation. The result – In one season his team received 80% of the referee’s decisions on penalties and the like in their favour.  Considering their nickname at the time was ‘dirty Leeds’ that was quite impressive.

I am not advocating ignoring your less influential followers, in fact less followed individuals that love what you do can be your best advocates, so respond and talk to anyone who does you the honour of looking at, sharing and commenting on your work. I am saying though, that the more time you put into customising your engagements when approaching more influential people the more like you are to get noticed and shared with their impressive following.

If you are trying to sell anything, your work, your ideas or your brand, it stands to reason the more popular the type of content you produce the more likely it is that people will engage with it.

I think you need to strike a balance between what you love to produce and what consumers might pay for. My most popular images are not my favourite ones but they help to build up an audience that may later turn into customers who may want to buy my books, workshops or images.

Lessons from Magnum Photographer Mark Power

Many photographers including me get disillusioned. The work that rocks their boat does not necessarily have a market. I was lucky enough to meet Magnum Photographer Mark Power last night. He said that after years of working for newspapers and magazines he was offered the position of Professor of Photography at the University of Brighton. In his first lecture he was talking to students about finding something that you love to photograph, something that gets you excited, then he released that he actually hadn’t done that himself for some time. He then went on to complete some amazing projects including the series The Shipping Forecast and 26 Different Endings (I’ll leave you to look them up). Although they have both been hugely successful projects resulting in sold-out books and international exhibitions, they both took him years, he did them for love and, in some respects, obsession.

If you are not as famous as Mark and you want to use digital marketing to increase your international exposure and attract new customers, I think you need to continue to take images for yourself and also publish images for a wider audience, the ones that will get shared, liked and commented on.

Insights from Editorial Photography expert Roger Tooth

I once met Roger Tooth, head of photography for the Guardian. He said that if you want a web page to go viral publish an image of a surfing dog or a panda. He was talking about images for online newspapers, and said it was called the ‘Panda Syndrome’ amongst picture editors, suggesting that images for online news sites were becoming more about hits than anything else.  Ironically a book with the same title is about society casting us into a preferred shape until we lose sight of our originality. As creative people, none of us want to loose our originality, that’s why we need a balance. If we want to sell to a global audience we need to be both original and creative, but we also need to attract a larger audience by publishing ‘popular’ content too.

This is my most shared post on Google+, sadly not my image, created by Jake Phoenix. Although created for another reason, it was used to illustrate the mass of people suddenly adding others to their circles before anyone really knew what Google+ was about. The image went viral, it was one of my first posts when invited to try the beta version.

Lemmings by Jake Phoenix

Lemmings by Jake Phoenix

You probably have a reasonable idea about which posts and images are your most popular, though some may surprise you. It’s quite interesting to have a look statistically at the posts that engage people the most.  There are lots of free tools you can use to do this and here I’ll list a few that I use.

Free Tools for finding out what’s hot and what’s not

Google Analytics

If you haven’t already done this then set up a Google Analytics account. It will require you to add a piece of code to every page in your site. It is quite sophisticated but you don’t have to be a genius to use it and you will probably not use all it’s features. It will allow you to see what the most popular content on your site is, how people found it and what they did next.

They now show Custom Social Media reports; you can use these to monitor how your social media activity drives traffic to your site. If you have E-commerce on your site you can set it up to find out which social media activities are actually converting into sales.

Social Share Buttons

If you add social share buttons to your web pages that have number counts showing, you get an instant view of how your content is doing, obviously the more shares and likes the better.


Klout will calculate your influence score based on their algorithm. It’s useful to work out which social networks are your most successful, and has a handy little indicator showing you which posts across all social media accounts are your most successful.

Archived Book

Take a look at this, only just discovered it and it’s quite interesting.

You can insert your own FBpage name into the URL for your own results, then toggle the last dropdown in the menu between most liked and most commented.

 Facebook Insights

For a quick check to see what’s been your most recently successful you could try Facebook Insights. It’s a button in the main menu at the top of your Facebook Page ‘See Insights’ (note – not your personal profile) it will tell you how many people the post reached, how many clicked on the link to your post, how many shared or liked it.

Circle Count

Circle Count is a very useful tool for looking at your Google+ activity. You can view profiles by country.  Unless you are a mega star you are unlikely to show up in the listings for world popularity, but if you do things right you could start to appear as one of the most followed in your country.

There is a Google chrome extension that lets you view the statistics for any Google+ profile straight in your browser.

The dashboard is really useful and will show you your most commented on, most shared and most plused posts. It shows you what shared circles you have been included in. It even tells you when your most popular posts were posted so you can post important announcements at the most popular time.


If you use Flickr you may be wondering where you go to find out what your most popular images are in their latest layout. You’ll find them by clicking the most unintuitive button in the world! See the three little dots, bottom right of your header, click that and select “popular”. You can then sort by most viewed, most liked and most commented.


This tuned into quite a long post so I’ll save the next bit until later. Next I’ll go through my most popular posts and images and use the information to reason why they became so popular. By doing this I’ll get to learn what works and what doesn’t and why. I’ll share my insights with you all and meantime you can do the same using the tools above to find out what works for your audience.

1 reply
  1. Kathryn Elsesser
    Kathryn Elsesser says:


    Thank you so much for offering such detailed and informative information. I find social media overwhelming and this article will certainly help with my muddled attempts at improving my visibility.


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