Disrupting the Status Quo

by | Mar 31, 2015 | Bulletin Magazine

ASMP’s Revamped Social Media Channels

Have you checked out ASMP’s Facebook or Twitter feeds recently? If not, you’ll find that the formerly broadcast-oriented and ASMP-centric channels have been revamped with a new, more interactive approach.

To get the skinny on all the enhancements, we asked ASMP’s communications chair, Luke Copping, to respond to a few questions about ASMP’s social media presence. This is the complete Q&A that was used as raw material for a short article in the ASMP Bulletin’s print issue.



ASMP: You’ve been a driving force in the recent reanimation of ASMP’s social media channels. Please give us some backstory. What’s the general timeframe for this initiative, and what’s been your role in the process?

Luke Copping: The major changes have really kicked off in the past two months. Under the leadership of ASMP’s new Executive Director, Tom Kennedy, the communications committee saw this time of transition as a wonderful opportunity to experiment and disrupt our own status quo a bit. The biggest change is that we’ve brought all of our social media communications in house — to be managed by the committee and member volunteers. We think this situation, which allows photographers to talk with and provide content they identify as important to other photographers and to communicate in a much more genuine and meaningful way, will pay huge dividends over time, as our social media platforms become central parts of the ASMP community. Previously, our social media channels had been very broadcast-oriented and very ASMP-centric — we talked a lot about ourselves. Now we want to talk about the industry, about the evolving culture of image making, about our amazing members and about the new ways people are using imagery to communicate — be it in a personal, artistic, commercial or journalistic arena (as these areas are constantly blending and overlapping).

ASMP: Who are the principal parties involved in posting content to ASMP’s social media channels?

LC: We have a communications committee made up of members of the staff, national, board, and member volunteers. Each of our key channels has a coordinator running it. Jenna Close coordinates our Facebook initiatives, while Michael Weschler is the primary force behind the revitalization of our Twitter feed. I provide content for both channels but am primarily responsible for developing overall strategy and coordinating committee activities.

ASMP: Is there a procedure in place for sharing the workload of posting to social media? How has this changed with this new initiative?

LC: Yes, we make extensive use of Facebook’s scheduling features to plan out content days in advance, so it can be reviewed and tweaked by the committee and platform coordinators. We are mindful to bump more timely articles and pressing advocacy matters to the front of the queue, but otherwise we try to provide from four to five Facebook posts a day. We often have member volunteers send us items of interest that they find online. We also pay close attention to industry and general business blogs and news to try and keep members up to date. Overall we want a visitor to find something useful every time they visit the page — even if that ultimately means sending them to another site or channel. We want to put the focus on user benefit and experience.

Twitter is a little more freeform and conversational. We do try to maintain a steady source of helpful news, but we also find it important to interact with our members, industry news outlets, and other organizations to be part of the larger overall dialogue about the use and importance of images in our global culture. It’s also a great place for us to spread the word about the accomplishments and important projects that our members are working on from time to time.

ASMP: What are ASMP’s primary social media channels? Are there channels that are only used occasionally or for posting specific content?

LC: Our two main channels are Facebook and Twitter — we find that, in terms of getting important information out there to photographers, these are the most effective. We often post helpful articles and use these platforms to make members aware of important issues of ongoing industry advocacy.

ASMP: What kinds of analytics are in place to track reach and effectiveness of posts and audience growth? How often are these analytics consulted?

LC: We’re tracking our analytics through the tools provided by each platform, and we’ve seen a significant (and expectation-exceeding) improvement in our overall reach and engagement since the changes we made in late February. However, we’re wary not to let numbers be our only guide here, as false metrics can throw off your perception of how well a change like this is going. For example, our two main channels both had a high (and growing) number of followers prior to the changes we’re now implementing; however, our indicators of engagement (comments, reposts, ongoing conversations with participants, responsiveness to member inquiries and positive anecdotal feedback) were way down. In the past two months we’ve been able to increase improvements — both quantitative and qualitative — across the board.

Our goal is not to grow the mere mass of our followers, but to provide a useful platform for the ones we already have. We want a platform where members can come for business tips and creative inspiration, where they can start a conversation and be answered by the organization and their peers. Where they can find out about and participate in our latest advocacy efforts — a platform that provides a value beyond just letting members know about changes to membership benefits.

ASMP: You’ve started an ongoing Q&A series called Questions with a Pro that’s exclusively posted to ASMP social media channels. When did this start and what’s the frequency?

LC: This brief Q&A post, which features anywhere from two to four questions with exciting photographers from various specialties, is posted once a week (usually on Fridays). The topics range from business to creativity to outside influence, and we try to include a question in each batch that’s aimed specifically at helping emerging photographers. We’ve featured Q&A’s with people like Joe McNally, John Keatley and George Kamper so far, and we have future installments with photographers like Amanda Mustard (a recent PDN 30 winner), Doug Menuez and David Burnett slated for the next few weeks. Anyone with questions to ask or a Pro to suggest is invited to e-mail ideas to asmp@vpassociations.com.

ASMP: Do you think this kind of ongoing, scheduled outreach will be more effective in growing ASMP’s social media audience than repurposed or one off posts?

LC: I wouldn’t say that our goal is to grow our audience — it’s rather to provide and share content that our existing audience finds indispensable to their creative and business lives. Growth should be a positive side effect of a well-managed community-oriented social media program like the one that we’re attempting to foster here.

When you focus on just growth — just inflating those numbers with little regard to what you are doing after you acquire a follower — you can lose sight of the fact that this platform is about serving the industry and providing benefit. You might grow your numbers under that mindset, but are you really providing a useful benefit?

ASMP: You have a pretty active social media presence for your own photography business. Please briefly describe the effect this has had for your business and career, both in the short term and over time.

LC: Social Media has been an invaluable tool for me, but not in the way you might assume. I’m not terribly concerned with acquiring followers or building an enormous audience. I’m much more focused on building a small audience who finds a lot of relevance and personal connection in what I do. I don’t like my streams to be cluttered with a lot of marketing jargon and business speak that people today find absolutely unreadable. Instead I try to foster a community that is passionate about what I do, and they in turn become one of my best assets.

For example, while I photograph animals for advertising campaigns and editorial stories, I also do a lot of work with my local animal shelter creating adoption portraits for their in-need pit bulls. These portraits often go incredibly viral online, as my fans, dog lovers, adoption advocates and others help me get the word out about these animals. And while it may seem like that wouldn’t be the sort of thing to get me commercial work, you have to realize that in the online world everything overlaps eventually. There have been many art directors and editors who have hired me for corporate work because they initially saw someone sharing these adoption images.

The thing you have to keep in mind is to be genuine about what you do online. Don’t think of it as a marketing ploy or strategy; instead do and say things because you believe in them. When I post about the animals, I never make it about me, because I want it to be about these in-need dogs. I apply these same strategies to the stories of the entrepreneurs I work with to create marketing and PR images. It’s really boring to get on social media and talk about how the shoot went great and how delicious the sandwiches were, when I have these engaging, interesting and very human stories right in front of me. One of the best rules I ever learned in the social media world is that people don’t care as much about what you write as they care what you write about what they write.

ASMP: Do you have any go-to resources that you tap when searching for content for ASMP posts?

LC: I have a really dense Feedly stream that I’m constantly adding to. It’s nice to have one tool to sort all the blogs I read. Naturally we keep up with the major industry publications and blogs. But we also make sure to pay attention to posts from the worlds of design, film, tech-culture, architecture, music, law and more. If you focus only on the photography world, the information you find can be kind of homogeneous. It might view problems from only one perspective — but by paying attention to these parallel fields, you can start to see where the conversations we’re having about the importance of imagery fit into the world at a cultural, rather than just an industry level.

ASMP welcomes member volunteers to assist with its social media channels. For details, e-mail copping@asmp.org.