A funny thought occurred to me as I was driving to the office this morning at 10:30am. (Don’t judge me, I was enjoying a lazy morning for once!) I realized that the majority of my current income is a direct result of being active on social media. How crazy is that?
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We live in an amazing time. It's possible to leverage your platforms and find amazing opportunities. Over the last year alone, I’ve been contacted by Vayner Media (yes, Gary V's media company!), worked on a social media holiday ad campaign for Coach, started working with Main Street Hub (who sends me paying gigs each month), and most recently, landed the role as Director of Marketing for Red Leaf Studios! (Have you heard of Tribe Archipelago, Tribe Red Leaf, or Tribe Photo Co.? That’s them!)
I share all of that not to brag, but to show you that opportunities are out there. I live in a small beach town in North Carolina. I don't consider myself an extraordinary photographer. But if there's one thing I believe really sets me apart, it's my willingness to connect with others and share my creative process. And I believe that's exactly why I am where I am today.
How much time do you spend on Facebook and Instagram?
Do me a favor. Take out your phone, go into your settings, and tell me what the top two apps you use the most are. For me, it’s Instagram and Facebook.
Most people might see that and think I’m the biggest time-waster on the planet. (Which, depending on the day, might not be inaccurate. 😅) But for the most part, I’m using these apps every day to implement a very specific strategy; a strategy that I’m about to share with you right now.
Step 1: Share your work.
Step 2: Engage your audience.
Step 3. Repeat.
Wait, that's it?
If you’re thinking to yourself, “that formula doesn’t seem that special,” YOU’RE RIGHT. It’s not special. It’s simple, and that’s why it works.
So where and how exactly should you be sharing your work? And what does “engage your audience” even mean? Glad you asked! Here are three practical steps that you can use today to boost your online presence and start getting noticed.
Tip #1: Find relevant Facebook groups.
Facebook communities are thriving with passionate and knowledgable members. Whatever niche you can think of, there’s probably a Facebook group for it. Take advantage of that! Since I shoot with a Fuji camera, I’m a member of several communities dedicated to Fuji photographers and camera enthusiasts. Shoot with Sony gear? There are groups for that! Live in a big city? (Or even a small town?) There’s probably a group for people who live in your part of the world. Join them, interact with the other members, and start sharing your work.
Tip #2: Use your captions wisely.
Look, I realize it’s popular to use one-word captions in an effort to look cool and trendy these days. (I can’t stand captions like “vibes” or “mood”, ughhhhh.) Think instead about how you can educate or entertain people in your caption. If you’re posting a photo you took, why not mention the settings you used? Maybe talk a little bit about how you got the shot. Write up a story about something that happened between takes. Your caption is an opportunity to draw your audience in and possibly teach them something new. Don’t take that opportunity for granted!
Tip #3: Respond to comments.
Okay, I might be kind of a hypocrite with this tip, because sometimes I’ll look on my Instagram or Facebook and see that I’ve missed responding to a half-dozen comments. But for the most part, I make an effort to respond to most comments people leave on my posts. It’s called social media for a reason. Leave feedback, participate in discussions, and compliment the people whose work you admire. This is exactly what led me to getting in touch with Tribe Red Leaf, which led to the amazing opportunity to become a part of their team.
Here's the bottom line: If you're a hobbyist with no intention of making money with your work, you really don't have to do any of the things outlined in this post. But if your dream is to create a sustainable business, you have to know how to build and leverage your influence. It is possible!
How are you currently building your social media presence? Have you found any paid opportunities through Instagram or Facebook? Share your experience in the comments!