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If you wonder why nobody sees your social media posts, it isn't because you're doing something wrong. It's because social media promotion is a rigged game.
Social media sites are rich with people who have the potential to like what you're doing. It's very tempting to want to promote your photos or business on social media.
Why Promoting on Social Media Sites is a Hard Nut to Crack
If you're just sharing things with friends, then you're probably in good shape. Social media sites want you to contribute to their environment, since that keeps other users on their environment.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram don't create content for us to consume. Instead, they build an infrastructure so you'll give them content for free. It's incredibly clever.
However, that desire to grow your audience or have people visit the site where you share your photos probably leaves you feeling frustrated. Why do some people seem to have a large following while others don't?
Success on social media is a tough business.
It takes a considerable amount of effort to develop new material to post on social media daily, if not multiple times per day. Even with automation tools that post on your behalf, it's still a lot of work.
Inevitably, all of that work only benefits the social media site. You see, their only goal is to keep users on the social media site.
Nobody Sees Your Social Media Posts Because Your Followers Aren't Your Followers
Years ago, anyone who followed you on social media would see everything you posted. Then we started hearing about changes to the algorithm. They told us these changes were to show you the things that were most interesting to you.
That's true in a manner of speaking, but it's not honest.
Social media sites show you things that are likely to keep you on their social media site. As a contributor, they want you to post photos, videos, text or anything else that users can consume on the social media platform.
The one thing they don't want you to do is post something that will take a user away from their platform.
That's where the algorithm comes into play. Post a photo or graphic and most of your followers will see it. When you post something with a link to a web site elsewhere on the Internet, then the social media algorithm severely restricts how many of your followers will see that post.
That's because social media sites don't want your followers leaving their site. After all, your followers on social media aren't your followers. They belong to the social media platform.Your followers on social media aren't your followers. They belong to the social media platform.Click To Tweet
Buying Ads on Social Media
If you create posts on social media that have links, most of your followers won't see them. However, you'll likely see a note from the social media platform telling you that you can boost the number of people who see your message by paying for an ad.
Here's the deal. If you take visitors away from social media, it's a potential revenue loss for the social media platform. Buying ads offsets that revenue loss.
Facebook and other sites exist to earn revenue. One report I read claimed that Facebook earned about $8 Billion per quarter from digital advertisements.
Now take a closer look at some of the posts you see on Facebook or other social media sites. Notice how many times you see the word “Sponsored” under the person's name. Those are paid ads on Facebook because they want or need to reach you.
For some, sponsored posts help build business. Others claim it's a waste of money. They're probably both right, because every situation is different.
If you aren't buying ads, it's not a surprise that nobody sees your social media posts. The algorithms give preference to those who pay to play. It's a business.
Where Do You Want to Engage Your Visitors?
If you want to have an audience, there is really only one place to do it. You need to have your own web site on your own domain. A web site of your own allows you to make your own rules. When visitors comment on your web site, other visitors can also benefit from the discussion.
Comments on different social media platforms don't get shared with each other. So that really great piece of advice that someone shared doesn't reach through to everyone else.
As we discussed, posts you share on social media likely won't reach much of your audience for them to see. Yet offering an email list means you can share your message with people who decided to allow you into their inbox any time you want. As long as you're useful, interesting or entertaining, they get to see what you have to share.
Social media is a nice tool to meet people. With any luck, you can invite them back to your home web site to have a real conversation. On social media, they're more likely to be distracted by the latest meme.
How to Make the Most of Facebook
You can engage a lot of people on Facebook in discussion groups related to photography or other topics. Don't spam those groups. You're likely to find some visitors to your web site if you help others and answer questions.
Either create your own page or post as an individual user. If you want to bring people back to your site, you need to know a few things.
1: Target a specific topic, like portrait photography.
2: You get more viewers of your posts if you don't share links.
3: You can post a graphic with the URL for people to type. Facebook will show it to more people without the URL.
4: Another trick is to try putting the URL in the first comment of your post.
How to Make the Most of Instagram
Much like Facebook or other social media sites, it's best to create an account dedicated to a specific topic if you want to gather followers. Create the best photos you can and share them regularly.
People used to find followers using a plethora of hashtags, but that isn't as effective as it used to be. In fact, it seems that Instagram has a shadow ban on users who abuse the number of hashtags per post, or use the same ones all the time.
Social media sites don't like it when someone figures out how to game the system, so they change the rules.
Write something in the caption and title that describes your photo. Use three or four hashtags. Make great photos.
You only get one live URL with Instagram that lives in your bio. Don't waste it. Use it to promote something that will get users to click and, hopefully, subscribe to your email list.
Again, I use Creative Portraits to entice people to visit my site. I give something and in return, I get access to people who are interested in what I have to share.
It's not about the number of followers. It's about finding the audience that wants to engage with you.
How to Make the Most of Twitter
I'll be honest, I'm not good at Twitter. No matter what I've tried, it is the lowest performing social media platform when it comes to converting users on Twitter to visitors to my web site.
On the other hand, Lee loves Twitter and it's where she prefers to engage on social media. Granted, she gets more engagement on Facebook, but she prefers using Twitter. It's fast, in and out.
Maybe that's why it converts so poorly.
You can find Twitter chats on almost any topic. Lee likes #runchat for her endurance running audience.
My experience is somewhat mixed based upon the topic. For photography, Twitter doesn't do very well. On the other hand, our @orlandolocal account has over 8500 users and seems to steadily grow. Most of those folks just don't visit the site, though.
How to Make the Most of Pinterest
Pinterest is different than most social media sites. It's more of a search engine than a social media platform. People go to Pinterest to find things that interest them.
Since I started taking my Pinterest account seriously a couple of months ago, I've watched it become the second largest source of traffic, after Google search.
Like other social media sites, you have to feed the monster. If you want to get shown to more users, you have to post on a regular basis. Fortunately, that's pretty easy.
I create a Pinterest graphic for every post and share it to specific boards – some mine, some are group boards managed by others. I also have boards where I curate posts on different photography topics.
About once a week, I go on a pinning spree to find interesting new pins for each board. Then I use a service called TailWind to schedule the release of those pins, about three per day for each board. That keeps my account active, despite the fact that I'm only on it once per week.
How to Get People to See Your Social Media Posts
There are three things I've learned about getting more attention on social media.
1: You have to constantly feed the monster by regularly contributing to the platform.
2: You have to pay to play.
3: Even with automation, it's very time consuming to manage social media accounts.
If you don't want to pay for advertisements (and I wouldn't blame you), then you end up paying for automation tools to share your posts.
One of the better tools I discovered is SmarterQueue. It allows you to create categories for post types, assign them to a calendar, and then share the posts to various social media platforms. You can create evergreen posts that don't have time sensitive material and keep re-posting them as your queue rotates.
William: Before we start talking about why nobody is seeing your social media posts, I want to let you know that show notes are going to be available at williambeem.com/episode94 And you can get a transcript of the show there for free.
There are links to subscribe to the podcast there or at photoflunky.com, which has a player for this episode and all of our other shows.
Also, a reminder to get our copy of my free ebook It’s called Creative Portraits and it’s about the emotional and creative side of portrait photography, rather than the technical things. So it’s not so much about lighting; it’s about who the people are, what message you’re trying to tell and some of the composition and some of the elements that you want to put in the portrait photos as well. Go to that site. You’ll see a couple of samples of pages that are in the book even before you get it and of course, like I said, it’s free. Just go to williambeem.com/freebook
Alright, so why is nobody really seeing your social media posts? You got something out there, you want to share it, you want people to see it on social media and click on a link and go to whatever it is that you linked to make them happy and yet you look back and maybe on Facebook it says, well 12 people saw this.
But you can promote it so hundreds of people see it.
Lee: Yeah, I think Facebook is the one that frustrates me the most because they are playing such a big game with it. And this is nothing new. This is not exclusive to Facebook but I have noticed it particularly because to my great frustration, I seem to have a growing audience on Facebook and those are really my engaged followers. If I could have picked anywhere else for them to be, I would have done so because I find Facebook very time consuming compared to Twitter and Instagram and also not particularly rewarding. I think the rules there and the little games that you are susceptible to playing at the hands of Facebook are superfluous.
William: Well Facebook and other social media sites are constantly changing their algorithms. In other words they are constantly tweaking and playing and doing little experiments. What happens if we change this, who will see this, how will people react …? But what you’ve got to remember is Facebook wants its users, whether you think they are your audience or engaged or not, they belong to Facebook. And they want to keep them on Facebook as long as they can.
And in order to do that, they change what they will show to people who may be following your page or following your profile based upon what’s in it.
If you put a link in there, something that will take people off of Facebook, they are not going to show that to many people at all.
Lee: It’s quite incredible that you’ve got to pay for people to see it. If you’re doing it on your personal account there is no way to see the insights, but they are quite blatant about it and I think the thing that amuses me the most is every day, whatever post I put up, I start getting these little notifications:
This post is performing 90 percent better than any other posts ….
And I think, really? Every day? It was only up there for five minutes and nobody’s seen it yet. Because you haven’t shown it to anyone yet, but for so much money you can boost ….
I just thought they must think I have Fool written all across my face.
William: What they want to do is they want to sell ads and they are trying to say you can reach more people if you just give $5 ….
Lee: OK but here’s the rub. I’ve never bitten to pay for an ad. Facebook has got some way of tracking this so every time I post a link, the audience reach is fewer and fewer people. But if I put in something random that has no external link in it, all of a sudden I’ve got a reach that covers hundreds of people and it has got that bad now.
I do a daily blog post, which I’m doing right now. It’s not forever but it started off where I would have a reach of maybe 150 people on the first day and now the most recent one two days ago reached 12. So I reposted it and I put the link into the first comment and just stated so in the post. All of a sudden within a couple of hours a few hundred people had seen it. People said they had no idea this was there. They didn’t see it.
William: And that’s the problem. Facebook doesn’t want to help you take an audience from Facebook to your site. You may have a page. They want you to engage with people on the page, but they also show you why you shouldn’t do that. And that’s because Facebook will change the rules and the audience belongs to Facebook. Not to you. So they are basically … you’re building your site on someone else’s land. And they can change the rules for access to the land at any time. Their audience is not your audience. You can’t individually target them and contact them with a message. You may have something helpful. Like you said, there are people who reached back to you and said, I had no idea this was here. Facebook is not showing you if you put a link in there. They want to sell ads. So in other words they say if you want to put a link in this, you are going to give us money. It’s almost like I’m probably going to get some blowback for saying this, but it’s almost like a crack dealer. First few are free or something like that just to get you hooked. They will show it to a few hundred people. This is great! Then after a while the numbers start dwindling down. You want more? You gotta pay.
Lee: And look I’m not actually against paying for an ad. When the time is right or if I feel it’s going to serve me well. I am also not against paying for one as an experiment. But this is not the time for me and if I’m going to do it, I don’t choose to do it right now. I’m not suggesting that I will never do it or that I have a problem with it.
William; Well, here’s the real question. Where do you want to engage your audience?
Lee: I want them on my website. I actually prefer, when I post an article, I want the comments on the website; on the blog. Not on the Facebook page.
William: Now here’s the thing for a lot of photographers. They don’t necessarily all have a blog. They are not necessarily trying to run a business. A lot of people do or else we wouldn’t be talking about it, but not everybody has a blog and they are just putting things out there on social media. So if you are out there as a photographer and you’re putting a photo up to share just for the sake of sharing, I don’t think that you are running into quite the same issue as what we are talking about here.
Lee Yeah you’re probably going to be OK. But I think you are going to have fewer people see it on a page – because they see a page as a business regardless of whether you link externally. But you will still get a much better reach if you are just posting without external links. So yes, if you’ve got a page where you are sharing your stuff, it is going to show up less than what it is on your personal profile. So I’d say if you have lots of friends on your friends list, go for it and just cross post and share it on there as well. But this is a problem that is particularly bad with external links.
William: I think for photographers there are a couple of different types of people. Some want to use social media to bring people back to their website and I’m one of those folks and you are as well. other people just want to build an audience. They want to see that their photographs are loved and they will go to various other social media sites or photo sharing sites and if they get a lot of likes or a lot of hearts or whatever they use on a particular site, that makes them happy.
Lee: Don’t click me; tell me. I want the people not the clicks- not the little likes and hearts and pluses and whatever else.
William: Well, that’s kind of why I want to bring people back to the website. That’s where I’ve got my message. If I’m going to share my photos I can have much better quality on my website than I can on Facebook. Facebook is really going to trash your photos.
One little tip. If you want to have a higher quality image show up on Facebook don’t upload a jpeg, upload a png because it won’t compress that.
If you are trying to bring people back to your audience, you’ve got to come across this a different way. You don’t necessarily put a link up there or even in the comments. \You just want to put it in the graphic to tell people “come here.”
Lee: Which I’ve actually done now in my header post. And I want to just update it to give a slightly different way to get to what I’m doing currently, instead of just to the general site, but yes, I’ve actually put it in my cover photo now. I’ve got the url written in there.
William: And then you’ll reach a wider audience just by showing it that way. They can’t just click it. They’ve got to go type it in.
Lee: Because you’re not able to copy and paste either.
William: But if the goal is to have more people see it, that’s the way you do it.
Lee: Yeah, and I am going to backtrack a little bit. There is a reason why I want people to comment on the blog and not on Facebook or Twitter. I’m not saying I don’t want the comments there, but I don’t want it instead of … I think the substantial comments and questions, I prefer on my blog because people are coming into the blog from different places. So somebody who is reading the blog and came in from Twitter is not seeing the comments on Facebook. So people’s comments and questions and answers and their input in the comments section is actually really valuable to other people.
And I often when I’m researching something, go through the comments and see who has had similar questions. Who has been trouble shooting something similar or had some input or something interesting. It is helpful to everyone. It helps my readers more when people have all their comments where everybody is coming in, not just the bus they took to get there.
William: That’s one of the things I look for when I’ve got a problem. Usually I’m searching for something, I go to a website and I don’t only want to see what is in the article. I want to see what comments people have because someone else may have solved the problem or maybe has another way of doing this or had a similar problem. I found some of my answers more in the comments than I have within the article in some cases.
There are tools out there to automate what you do and we’ve tried a number of these things. We’ve got Hootsuite and we use that a little bit. There are some automation tools. When I was using Co Schedule on my blog it would put out the posts automatically.
One that I found that seems to do this for much less money than the other tools is called Smarter Queue. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes.
Smarter Queue lets you put up a schedule and reuse the posts that you’ve made. So in other words, if you’ve got a blog full of posts or you have got a number of photos that you want to put up, it has a calendar schedule and then you can put up there different categories, like this is going to be a technical tutorial … this one is going to be an opinion piece, this one might be self promotion … Whatever the categories are that you want to put up there. And then you can schedule Facebook and Twitter and I think they’ve got a few other types of social media posts. And they go up there automatically.
I got some engagement from using this. I got traffic from Facebook that I wasn’t getting before. But I don’t know that having that traffic come in necessarily did any benefits.
Lee: I know what you mean. It’s kind of hard to tell unless you get a noticeable spike.
William: One of the things about it is you’ve got to really feed the monster with social media. So this was putting out Twitter stuff five times a day. And because your Twitter audience is in and out. And something you post is going to be gone fairly soon.
It’s very rare that you see somebody who goes back a day or two and then likes a tweet that you put out.
Lee: It happens occasionally but usually not.
William: It happened with something I put out the other day but it’s rare. That’s why it surprised me that I saw it. Facebook you can’t really blast people on there but they aren’t necessarily seeing what you put out there, depending upon if there is a link in it or not. So we have kind of looked at this and we are questioning, are we really trying to go out there and target just anybody? I think the answer to that is no. I mean I’m looking for photographers for my social media posts and is that really who we want to target?
You kind of came back and said, “I don’t necessarily want to target other runners.” What you want to do is you want to develop sponsorships or ambassadorships.
Lee: On social media, yes. And I want to network and engage with other runners. It’s like my little friends hangout where we can help each other out. We built relationships. There are people and its growing. I’m connecting with more people and we are able to message each other privately, and say look, I just found this. Does this help you? I thought about you ….
To me, I really enjoy that. For me it’s all about the people. But as far as trying to gain followers, that’s what William means when he says I’m not trying to reach runners, I have kind of quit on social media trying to build up as many followers as I can. It was never really a primary goal in any event, but I’ve also just got the approach now that the people who are interested will come. I’m not trying to add any hashtags. I’m not trying any strategy.
I mean Instagram has just taken a big plunge for everyone. This is not the first time. Periodically every few months they change something and everyone’s reach just plummets and its happening again right now.
But I’m not going to flog a dead horse. This is not my business. It is a platform, I get to use it for free, I’ve met some amazing people and I like to keep in touch with them. A lot of us have gone on to other means of communication off the site, but it is very valuable and it’s a lot of fun; but not trying to build a business on Instagram!
William: No and I think that’s what we have really discovered. We put a lot of time and effort into social media as a means to engage an audience and the social media sites are continually changing the rules and an audience you build up has plummeted. Some of those people were probably just bots in the first place.
Lee: If I think one is, I usually just remove it as soon as I see it.
William: I do the same thing. But I’ve also realized you can put a lot of time and effort and energy into feeding social media and get very little, if any, reward back for what your true purpose is. I decided, you know what, I just don’t want to do that anymore. There are tools out there to help you manage social media, but you don’t make any money from that. You don’t bring people back to your website very often with that. When I get somebody who has seen something on social media that clicks a link, I’m very happy. And I’m going to leave it at that.
What I do now is kind of the advice I think a lot of people have shared before. You may want to have some kind of link in your profile that brings people back to something that will benefit them. So if you go to my Instagram which is wbeem you are going to see a link back to that free book that I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast. So that way people come back, they get a resource hopefully that benefits them and that also joins them on the email list. If they like what I have got on the email list, that’s how I can communicate with folks and that’s great. If they don’t like it, then they’ll unsubscribe.
But at least there I can engage with people in a way that social media isn’t going to do. They are going to get the email. Whether they click it and open it is a different matter but I have a much greater reach on the email list than I do on any of my social media platforms.
Lee: That’s true. And I think your email people have chosen to be there.
William: They have. Literally you’ve got to be there to say yes, I confirm this. I want to get this. And I’m happy when I see someone subscribe. I hope that they get a resource that they want. I want to keep adding to the resources that people have available to them. That’s why I’m working on all those little textures and things. I’m building a free resource library. But that is really where I’m going. Social media keeps changing the rules where they want money in order to show your message to somebody. And there is no guarantee that the people who see that message are necessarily interested in it.
Lee: That’s true.
William: So I’m almost feeling a bit of a downer. The one thing that I do like now is Pinterest.
And I really never understood how this worked before. I just started getting into it in the past few months. Pinterest is not so much about the social aspects. It is a search engine. And what I found is that one also takes work. In order to be found and discovered on Pinterest you have to still keep adding pins in there. And you’ve only got so many that come from your own website so you have got to be curating other people’s content so that your board is interesting and then have your boards up with your website up there or in our case, a podcast up there. So people look at that and like that. I’ve got one pin out there for a blog post about the best way to carry your tripod and that links to an amazon link. I only get 88c when somebody buys that little tripod strap, but it happens on a regular and consistent basis.
It’s because of pinterest. Every time I track it back somebody found this on Pinterest, they had a problem, they wanted to know the best way to carry their tripod around, the strap made sense to them and they bought it. It’s very simple. It’s engaging and I’m actually seeing my numbers in Pinterest grow to the point that it certainly surpassed Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everything else.
I’m not going to quit these other services because I do get a little bit of traffic from them. It’s kind of like picking up the scraps though.
Lee: I don’t have time for Pinterest. I really am so stretched to the limits right now. I don’t have time to add one more thing.
William: that’s what we’re finding out – both of us – we both got things to do, places to go, and you need to spend your time where it has the most impact and social media can be fun, it can be engaging, I like hanging out with my friends on occasion, but trying to use it and build it, you’ve got to come up with your graphics, you’ve got to make them just the right size, you’ve got to come up with something creative every time and then hope that brings the audience back to your site. People who go to Facebook don’t necessarily want to leave Facebook. They want to go there and hang out with their friends. So I don’t see that as a place that is really good for me to try and draw an audience back. It’s better than Twitter is for me. Twitter is at the bottom of the barrel for me.
Lee: I love Twitter. I find it so much more rewarding.
William: Some people do. I don’t engage well on Twitter and we have got the Orlando Local account. I’ve got thousands of followers there but I think it’s because of the name Orlando.
Lee: I just love Twitter because I don’t get stuck there. My time … I am juggling so many things right now and Twitter I can get in and get out. I see a Twitter notification, I can go in and five seconds flat I can respond, engage and the whole thing is over and we move on.
That connection is still there. The people remember but it doesn’t take a long time and then I just put in maybe 10 minutes three times a day to go in there and see the people I am following to catch up with them and make sure that I am engaging with them. Sometimes there is some great stuff there and I like to share it and retweet it. But that is really all that I need to do. It is so much easier. And I also found when I’m creating graphics I don’t have to redo one for Twitter. My blog posts headers have a 16:9 dimension graphic. And that just works fine for Twitter. So whereas I have to do a different thing for Facebook if I want to show something up there, I don’t have to do it for Twitter and it works for me.
Twitter … I love Twitter. It’s easy in and out and I don’t get stuck in long drawn out conversations. You say what you gotta say and you go.
William: One of the things I think that really works for social media though is to have a purpose. In other words, if you are going to be on Instagram as a portrait photographer, show portraits.
You don’t want to be showing your landscape, you don’t want to be showing your new puppy or whatever you’ve got. Those things are interesting but make another account for that. If you are going to use the social media site for photography purpose, make it about the genre of photography that you do and put up good stuff because there is a lot of mediocre photos up there. I try to do my best. Obviously my level of photography has changed over the years so every once in a while I’ll go back and look at a photo and say, “that doesn’t really represent what I can do now. I’ll go ahead and take it off.”
Then again I’ll occasionally put up a photo of my dog. But its a really nice photo of my dog.
Lee: That’s OK. That’s a portrait! Right?
William: It’s a portrait. Hey, she’s a blonde.
Alright so that is why people aren’t really paying attention to your social media anymore and why it is not bringing it back. The social media sites don’t want anyone to leave their social media site.
William: Thank you very much for joining us on the Photo Flunky Show. As I said, show notes will be available at williambeem.com/episode94
There’s going to be a transcript of the show there for free and we have links to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music and a few others. We’ll have a couple of links on here for you and hope you have a really nice day. We’ll see you again next week.