I’ve spent several days trying to figure out how to boil down social media from a buyer’s perspective to 400 words. In the past I’ve talked on various subjects from the frustration that photographers have with copyright and decreasing fees for image rights to marketing strategies on social and new avenues for revenue via social for photographers. I don’t think any of those things are really what we should be talking about.
Social Media isn’t just another place to post your work and market your business. It’s not simply a way to connect with friends or family and share your personal stories. Social Media, hand in hand with mobile, have fundamentally changed the way we produce, consume and distribute content. What that means is that now, understanding social media, is no different than understanding media.
We, as photography professionals have to understand that our role within the industry is changing. In order to be successful in this world of new media, be it social, digital, mobile, virtual reality or something we haven’t discovered yet, we need to do more than figure out how to market our existing services to these platforms. It’s helpful to understand the bigger role visuals play in the media.
In publishing, photos have almost always been there to support the story. The job of the image has been to pull the reader into the story and/or support the text. With so many things floating around the social mediasphere publishers started to look at social to find stories. In a world where everyone is connected all the time, regardless of where you are, one of the only things that transcends language are images. Trending photos, like the migrant boy on the beach, become important images that help change the way we see the world. You also have stories built out of photos that are less serious, trends people participate in or stories built out of a single event and posted to social. The signifigance is that all of these stories are built from images and they’ve been consumed through social media. In fact, some have actually stemmed from social media.
In 2013 there was an eye-opening image comparison between the 2003 introduction of Pope Benedict and the 2013 election of Pope Francis. Unlike in the past, the photos became the entire story and the words were simply there to support the image.
So, what does this mean for photography professionals? It means that the world is communicating visually. Yes, there are cameras everywhere. Yes, clients are looking for a different style of photography to help tell their stories. And yes, people aren’t paying as much as they did 10 years ago for a photo shoot. As publishers and advertisers try to figure out how to navigate this world where we’re no longer just pushing content to users but instead pushing AND pulling content, we need to consider the publishers’, advertisers’ and audiences’ needs a bit more. There are no quick or easy answers. Visuals are becoming more important than ever before and our job as photo professionals is to be experts in that language.