Chances are, you have a Facebook photography page to promote yourself as a professional photographer.
It seems like a page on Facebook is as essential as having a website these days, but the question is:
“Are Facebook pages losing their effectiveness as a marketing tool?”
More and more of the photographers I talk to these days in my coaching sessions tell me they feel as though their Facebook pages are just not performing as well as they did, or that they’re even considering reducing their marketing efforts on Facebook to focus on other strategies.
Recently, Facebook made this even more interesting, with the introduction of “promoted posts“.
Has this move toward further commercialization made our Facebook marketing better or worse?
What Are Facebook Promoted Posts?
Firstly, if you aren’t sure what promoted posts are, they’re essentially another form of Facebook advertising, except in a much simpler form than the normal ads we’re used to seeing.
Regular Facebook ads, as you probably know, appear in the right-hand column of the screen.
Promoted posts, on the other hand, now appear in our news feed, along with all the other posts from friends, and the pages we’re fans of, except that the word “sponsored” now appears beneath the post.
The ability to promote a post is available to the administrators of any page that has at least 400 fans, and the cost depends upon how many people you want the post to reach.
According to Facebook, the official word is that the introduction of promoted posts has in no way affected the normal distribution of non-promoted posts, although I’m sure there are many who would disagree with that, as there is some evidence to suggest that the reach of our posts has decreased since promoted posts were introduced.
Coincidentally, the promoted posts concept was made live at around the same time as Facebook’s IPO, which seems to suggest that it was done as a means to keep shareholders happy rather than to help page owners directly.
Why Do We Need To Pay For Fans To See Our Posts?
As you can imagine, this change (like every other change that Facebook implements) has drawn its fair share of controversy.
Many photography page owners are asking why we need to pay Facebook to show our posts to our fans?
After all, these people “liked” our page in order to see our updates, so why can’t Facebook just do that?
The answer is that not all of your fans saw all of your page updates, even before the introduction of promoted posts.
Whether or not a post appears in someone’s news feed depends on a lot of factors, all of which feed into Facebook’s “Edge Rank” algorithm. These factors include the degree of interaction each user already has with your page, the type of post (text, photo, video, link), the age of the post, how many shares, likes and comments it attracts etc.
With this in mind, it seems logical that Facebook should come up with a mechanism to charge us to essentially bypass the “Edge Rank” computations.
To Promote Or Not Promote? That’s The Question
As professional photographers, trying to engage and reach our target market, should we promote our posts?
This is a really interesting question, and the answer depends at least partly on the reason for wanting a particular post to reach your audience.
For example, it would be rather pointless promoting a post that doesn’t have a specific objective in mind. Posts that are just inspirational quotes or general observations probably wouldn’t be good candidates for promotion.
On the other hand, if you published a post that has an important goal, such as selling a product, highlighting a promotion, or trying to generate leads by sending them to a landing page, then this might be a good post to promote.
How much should we spend on it?
The cost of promoting posts to your photography page fans depends on how many you want to reach, and usually starts at around $5. There’s currently no way to specifically target which of your fans you want to reach, so you have no control over the demographic of the promotion itself.
Is There A Better Way?
Personally, I dislike the idea of paying to promote posts from my Facebook pages, not because I’m against the idea per se, but because it’s so untargeted.
Yes, it “targets” our existing fans, but then we don’t know which ones, exactly… I mean, what’s the point if most of the people who see the post couldn’t really care less about it anyway?
Then we have all those “other fans” – you know the ones I mean – those who are fans only for the spamming opportunities. Perhaps it’s time to go clean up that fan list and start banning the people you don’t want to be there…
And, here’s another great reason why a lot of photographers might really not benefit from paid post promotion… Remember all those times you posted in the photography groups and forums, suggesting that “we all like each other’s pages“?
Well, guess what? Now you can pay to promote your photography page posts to other photographers!
Let me know how that works out for you…
But, more importantly, in my opinion, I believe that paying to promote our posts is actually unnecessary if we’re doing our social media marketing job properly.
The reason why Facebook are able to offer this service at all is simply because most page owners, including us professional photographers, are just not engaging our audiences in the right way.
If more of our fans were actively engaged with us, then they would actually see more of our posts as a natural result of that engagement…
Time To Get Back To Social Media Marketing 101
So what can you do to eliminate the need to promote your posts by paying Facebook?
The answer to this is quite simple… Since we can only assume that Facebook are telling the truth when they tell us that the normal flow of posts to our fans’ news feeds remains unchanged, we can safely assume that traditional social media marketing tactics will be effective.
That means doing things like:
- Providing interesting, meaningful, and likeable content…
- Making our fans feel good…
- Give our fans material to share that will make them look good…
- Replying to all comments…
- Being proactive and reaching out to them first…
- Posting at the time of day they are most likely to be active…
- Generating discussion and (maybe) some controversy…
- Being genuine and authentic…
- Being active…
But what if your page has fallen into the doldrums?
Suppose you have more than 400 fans of your professional photography Facebook page, but hardly anyone is commenting, you get few “likes“, and not many “people talking about this“?
First of all, don’t panic!
This is by no means unusual… in fact, most of the fan pages on Facebook suffer from the same problem, but it’s not too hard to reverse the situation.
You could, for example, start posting a series of images, tips, or inspirational quotes, over the course of a few days, just to get things kick-started again. Don’t worry if there is no immediate response, just keep going, and you’ll start to see signs of life again.
Then you might post something you know you want everyone to see, so you could pay to promote that – again, this is just to try to bring back into the fold a lot of those people who have become disengaged from you…
A good idea for this type of post might be one that asks them to do something, such as:
- Answer a question…
- Post their reactions to a photo or video…
- Give their opinion on a polarizing topic…
- Post their own photo or video, perhaps as part of a contest…
- … and so on…
However, it’s important to reward them in some way if they interact with the promoted post, because you can lose them again just as easily! At the very least you should acknowledge all “likes” and comments, but I’m sure you get the idea.
A slightly more advanced tactic would be to use the idea of strategic posting to “seed” the engagement level on your photography Facebook page.
What do I mean by this exactly?
Let’s say you know you are going to offering a portrait special in a few days or a week’s time, and you’re concerned that not enough people may see the offer.
What you can do is plan a series of posts in advance that are designed to increase the level of engagement on the page, in preparation for the main event – kind of like a warm-up act.
I’ve used this tactic myself in the past to good effect, so I can definitely attest to its effectiveness.
The success of this type of approach depends a lot on forward thinking and planning, so bear that in mind for future promotions.
If you want to learn more about this and other marketing tactics, I’ll be talking more about this in the “connect” module of my forthcoming new “Auto-Focus Strategic Marketing” training program.
Conclusion – What Do You Think?
At the end of the day, I’m sure there’s a lot of negative sentiment about the idea of paying to promote our posts, but we need to take it for what it is: another potential marketing strategy that can be useful under the right conditions, but is not meant to be over-used.
Neither do I believe this is another sinister move on Facebook’s part to evolve towards a premium business model for companies – if that were to happen then I believe Facebook ads would lose what effectiveness they currently have.
What do you think of Facebook’s post promotion program? Have you used it? If so, what results did you see from it?
What other strategies do you have to eliminate the need for promoting posts?
Do share your thoughts and comments below…