Last month I did a photography related social media marketing contest. The idea was simple -- if you helped my photo get a lot of views, I'd win an iPad 3 -- and I'd give you my iPad 2. Summary: Thanks to everyone who participated! The results? Posting a link on social media is not enough to stand out in the great sea of distraction. There wasn't a well-connected maven who was able to tip the scales in my favor. A $5 promotion drove much more traffic to the contest than any individual. Let's take a look at the results:
Blog: I wrote a post about the contest, and did a follow-up post with a YouTube video [680 views].
Marketing Lesson: My blog archive gets a lot of traffic from search. Creating a contest graphic that appeared on all of the pages of my site would have given me thousands more views during the contest. Review the analytics, and then put the important content where the traffic is. A simple idea that a lot of major websites get wrong.
Pinterest: The image got pinned, and I drove traffic to the image on Pinterest from other sites [600 real views].
Marketing Experiment: Using a site called fiverr.com, I paid $5 and got 2,648 likes on the Pinterest contest image. While most of these likes weren't real, I was interested to see if the large number of likes would help bexpose the image to more people. This didn't work for me, but another contest participant ended up selling a few prints using this technique.
Twitter: I rarely look at Twitter and I'm still puzzled that it exists. That being said, two nice folks with a fair amount of followers tweeted about the contest [view halloo?].
Marketing Lesson: Analytics are much more important than your number of followers. The potential audience was over 1500 people, but the analytics show that almost nobody is paying attention on Twitter.
Facebook: I have a fan page with 485 likes, which theoretically gives me access to 320,000 friends of fans. If you've got something to sell, a fan page is much more powerful than a personal page because the analytics help you understand what resonates with your audience [1600 views].
Marketing Tool: On average, only 25% of fans see one of my Facebook posts. I did a $5 promotion for the contest, and got 1255 views. Over 1000 extra people saw the post for 5 bucks. If you're selling something, that's cheap advertising. A standard Facebook ad would be more targeted, but also much more expensive.
An Unsettling Question: The Facebook posts after the promotion had less views than normal. Is Facebook's EdgeRank algorithm artificially limiting my post views to encourage me to pay again?
YouTube: The Adams marketing video was done as a proof of concept to show photographers that getting attention for your images isn't as easy as posting a link. Comedy helps. Video helps. Maybe I should have included a cat photo [75 views].
Flickr: I haven't been active on Flickr in a while, but have maintained an account to interact with photography workshop participants. The contest image only got 100 views, but there were 17 favorites and 8 comments -- a pretty high level of engagement [100 views].
Tumblr: I'd been enjoying a few Tumblr blogs in my feedreader. The contest encouraged me to sign up, and now I'm a bit addicted. Tumblr strips things down to what counts -- pictures, pictures, and more pictures.
Epiphanies Through Comparison and Selection: Mashing up my own night work with the huge mix of photography on Tumblr is the most artistically stimulating thing that's happened to me in a long time. Blowing up genre definitions and seeing fine art photos in a larger, more diverse sea of images can be revelatory. More on this topic soon. In the mean time, have a look at the Rye Fur Tumblr.
Conclusion: Is $5 Really More Powerful Than Your Friends?
If you're not a professional photographer, your core audience typically consists of your family, friends, and fellow photographers. Promotional tools are just a way to help expand your audience by spreading the news to friends of friends. Depending on how many extroverts are in your social circles, you may be able to get the word out by calling in a favor once in a while. If you've got a print sale, open studio, or an event to promote, you may want to consider reserving a little bit of budget for online promotions. It's cheaper than sending out postcards.
If you've got questions, comments, or other ideas for promoting your photos on social media, I'd love to hear about them!