The following is a guest post from the former managing editor of Facebook, Dan Fletcher:
The toughest part for me in putting my photography on social media was hitting share the first time.
I’m a journalist, so I’ve long had no problem blasting my friends and subscribers with any little piece I published. But photography was different — something that comes from personal passion is usually a bit more sensitive, feedback-wise, than a professional pursuit. With writing, if something was wrong in a piece or I got a negative comment back, it was easy enough to blame the editor or the assignment. But photos, for better or worse, were all mine, the product of tooling around with lenses and Lightroom in the little bit of spare time I had after work.
Once I became comfortable with the idea of sharing some of the photos that were stashed away on my hard drive, I found I got a great deal out of sharing. It’s helped me connect to photographers in the industry, gather feedback on my work and, weirdly enough, reconnect with friends I had lost touch with, many of whom have an interest in photography that I had previously never discovered.
There’s a right way to share, however. I’ve managed social media feeds at TIME, Bloomberg and eventually at Facebook itself, so I’ve developed a strong sense of social media etiquette. If you’re wanting to share more of your own photography online, here are three tips to keep in mind. And while they’re written for Facebook specifically, the spirit of them applies wherever you might share.
Be your own editor
At Facebook, I learned the term “feed bomber.” It’s the person who posts a dozen times each day, happily usurping your newsfeed through his or her mass of updates.
As a photographer, you really want to avoid being that person. Twitter’s norm is a higher volume, but posts have a longer shelf life in Facebook’s news feed. Many of your friends might just be seeing your post from the morning for the first time when they get off work. Even top pros on Facebook like Thomas Hawk generally aren’t posting more than three or four shots a day. Less can be more.
This applies to albums, too. There’s nothing worse than seeing a dozen photos of the Empire State building in someone’s vacation album, each taken from a slightly different angle. Think quality, not quantity – try and pare down to the few photographs that you’re the most proud of, and be comfortable leaving the rest on the cutting-room floor. It’s a useful exercise that’ll get you to think more critically about your own photography, and you’ll see a boost in likes and shares from your thankful friends and followers.
Know your audience
I know that my mom’s really going to care about shots of my sister’s college graduation, but will anyone else? It’s doubtful.
Facebook has an audience selector that makes it really easy to publish different photos to different groups of people. In the composer box — the place you write a status update — there’s a toggle to choose the audience for that post. (You can learn more about it the Facebook help center.) By default, you should see a few different options — public, which means anyone who finds your timeline can see it, and friends, which means that you must be connected on Facebook. You can make this even more granular, though, by creating a friend list. Say you only want to share with other photographers, so you can gather more specific feedback. Create a friends list called “Photographers” and it becomes available as an option in the audience selector.
I generally only post a single photo a day publicly, and I try and choose something that will be interesting to the broadest audience possible. And when it’s something more personal — or something I know only a few people will care about — I use the audience selector to limit its reach.
Actually be social
That is the point of social media, after all. This experience is much more rewarding if you turn it into a dialogue with your audience. One of my favorite photographers to follow on Facebook is San Francisco’s Toby Harriman. Toby’s a tremendously talented landscape photographer, but what I enjoy most is how generous he is with his knowledge. Alongside each photo he posts, he also shares the details behind the shot — the location, shutter, aperture and any software he uses in post-processing. And he’s responsive, too — ask a question and he’ll generally respond in the comments on each post.
While Toby sells prints, the majority of his posts aren’t a sales pitch. Lots of times he’s sharing just for sharing’s sake. It’s the same approach that large news brands take on Facebook, too. If every post from TIME Magazine were pressuring you to subscribe, you’d get sick of following them pretty quickly. But when that subscription link comes after ten really powerful articles, you’re likely much more inclined to click.
Personality, whether as an individual or a brand, is always something that’s rewarded on social media, particularly if its genuine. Take the time to give your followers a sense of your own approach to photography — it’ll help you to build your audience, and you’ll connect with some interesting people along the way.