There is so much talk these days about Instagram shadow bans, social media algorithms, and marketing. I remember when the social media trend was to talk about how Facebook is dying. Now we’re all talking about how Instagram is screwing us all over and all our hard work will be wasted. Like you, I’ve read a bunch of blog posts on these two topics. I’ve tried the different methods to try and boost engagement. I’ve fretted over it and let it keep me awake at night one too many times.

Here’s what I know about the world as it is today, right now, at this very moment. Social media is YOUNG. In a short amount of time, it’s changed the way we interact as human beings and market as business owners. And get this. It hasn’t just done that once; it’s done it over and over again as it grows. It’s an incredibly fast-growing tool. It’s constantly changing. Not only that, it’s dictating how we will interact with other humans in the future. For now though, just think of it like this. Facebook is a pre-teen. Instagram is learning it’s multiplication tables and still doing spelling bees. Snapchat hasn’t even started learning cursive yet (don’t get me started). They have big futures ahead of them and who knows how those will be.

Remember the days of tagging parties on Facebook? Our business pages would grow like crazy. Remember when everyone who liked your business page had to see the updates you put up? Remember when it was easy to get hundreds of likes on images and get found on Facebook? Yeah. I do too. Then there was all this talk about algorithms and now look at Facebook. Most of us aren’t getting the massive engagement we used to. In fact, social media has changed so fast that young millennials aren’t even using Facebook as their primary social media anymore. You guys, it’s nuts. I feel like all that hard work that went into building engagement on my business page was pretty much for nothing. What’s my business page doing for me now? Well, it’s just sitting there. If people happen to look at it, it’s there. But, I officially just automate it and put little to no effort into its engagement. If I did, I’d have to “pay to play.”

The marketing world has changed drastically in the past few years from when you decided to take your business to the next level and sometimes it seems impossible to keep up. So here’s the thing. With social media’s drastic impact on the marketing world for photographers, I’ve put together a few tips to help you get the most out of marketing and make sure you aren’t wasting time on methods that may not exist next year.

1. Put the most effort, time and money into marketing methods that you OWN. I know it’s easy to complain about Facebook’s algorithm and Instagram’s supposed “shadow-ban.” Here’s the reality though. They are allowed to do those things. We don’t own those companies, they’re businesses, and they do what they want. We need to be putting time, effort and money into marketing systems that we have full control over and not systems which can knock us out with one single algorithm change. You own things like your website, your SEO for that website, your blog, your email list.

2. Blogging is not dead. Far from it. It may look different than it used to, but it’s been here for roughly 20 years already, and it’s probably here to stay even though it may have subtle changes over time. I think long time bloggers like to say it’s dead because it is different than what it used to be. There’s no denying that. However, blogs are still a part of everyday internet use. Many popular websites are on blog systems, and you visit them every day (think Huffpost and Buzzfeed). The biggest change in blogging has come with content. As the world changes, so will the content. However, a blog is an excellent way to build your SEO (search engine optimization). The more content you post and write about, the easier it is to find you in search results, and I don’t think Google search is going anywhere anytime soon. They may change their algorithms, but at least blogging is something you own and can adapt to the changing times as you need to. My friend, Christine Tremoulet, who pretty much coined the term “WordPress” for the creators has been a long time blogger and still teaches about its success and importance in today’s marketing world. Check her out if you need more info!

3. SEO rocks your socks, and you can do it for free or very little investment. So not only can you put SEO into your blog posts, but you can also put it on your website. You can even optimize your Pinterest posts, so they’re better found in search results. Let’s not forget that Pinterest is not social and is, in fact, more of a search engine or discovery platform. Pinterest, blogging and my website are all places I work on building SEO so I can get found in various search engines. Don’t know what SEO is? Check out my friend, Get Found with Fuse. She has some awesome free online tools and lots of blog posts loaded with information on boosting your SEO.

4. If you must be on social media, automate it. While I don’t actively engage on my Facebook business page often, I do post there to have a consistent presence in case any stragglers still want to find me. However, it’s all automated. I don’t think Facebook marketing (if you’re not doing paid ads) is worth spending a ton of time on, so I automate it and let my robots create a consistent presence.

5. Build your email list. It’s something you can take with you wherever you go or whatever platform you end up. Let’s say Facebook completely dies one day. Like it’s just gone, and that’s the end of Facebook. Millions would obviously be devastated, because where would we keep in touch with all our cat memes? Though, if it was gone and you spent some quality time building an email list, then it would be easy for you to transfer those followers from Facebook to your email list and from your email list to whatever the latest and greatest social media is. An email list is something you own that goes with you wherever you go. If you’re not sure how to build one outside of creating a newsletter that just features your blog posts, consider having a free online class or ebook on what to wear to a session. Maybe write a guide that your clients could find useful and use it as a free incentive. If they sign up for your email list, then they get some useful, resourceful free download. In exchange, you get their email, and now you have access to directly market to them until they ask to remove their email from your list.

6. Don’t worry about being on ALL the social media platforms. Are you terrible at Twitter? Skip it. The only reason I have it is to see what ridiculous things a certain politician posts. You don’t need to be everywhere all the time. Pick the top two you find you love the most and then just focus on those. Don’t spread yourself thin by trying to have an active presence on all social media platforms.

7. Don’t let social media be your ONLY marketing. Get a website and use it as the center for your online presence, build out from there. If you made your marketing look like a bubble mind map thing (you know what I mean) your website would be the center with a big circle around it. From there, little lines would go off onto things like blogging or SEO and spread from there. Your social media would be smaller and on the very outside of your marketing mind map. I often see photographers using only social media for marketing, and they come into a Facebook group and talk about their struggles getting clients. Just remember that social media is the kind of scene nowadays where you have to pay to play, so it’s best to build a presence on your website first, which you control, and then outward from there.

When it comes to marketing, overall the most important thing you can do is try to look at the big picture and focus on marketing that is an effective use of your time and doesn’t detract from it. I hope these tips have helped you put some things in perspective for where and what to focus on most with your upcoming marketing efforts this year!

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Carrie Swails

I’m a serial entrepreneur. Owner at Photography Awesomesauce, Rock Your Weird and Made in the Lab and I photograph offbeat weddings. In other words, I’m crazy. I have a birthmark in my armpit, and am a terrible mathematician. What I lack in understanding of complex theories such as Pi (clearly a food item – apple is my favorite) and invisible numbers (if I can’t see them, why should I care?) I make up for in awesomesauce. I believe there is no right way to put the toilet paper on – I’m just happy it’s available. I believe there’s no such thing as a bad fortune in a fortune cookie. I believe we only live life once so we should wear costumes as often as possible. I believe wine is like the force – it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together. I howl with my basset hound every morning, call my brother to beat video game bosses for me, and love eating fried cheese.

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