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Whether you run a family portrait studio or have a passion for underwater adventure photography like Muirfield CEO Tom Zaccagnino, marketing your brand is just as important as the images you capture. Gone are the days when you could drum up enough business by posting a few flyers around town. To attract your ideal customers, you need to target them where they spend the most time, which, for many demographics, is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Here are three strategies for launching a successful, multifaceted social media campaign without spending money on ads.

1. Post your photos.

The easiest way to attract customers is to show them your work. Sharing your photos regularly demonstrates you’re a working photographer who’s active in your community and passionate about your craft. To maximize engagement, every photo should include a call to action. If your followers like your work, they need to know where they can go to purchase or see more of it.

A call to action can be a simple tagline with your website and contact information but can also be more specific. Use an image from an upcoming gallery exhibit to advertise the event. Post photos from a recent photo shoot and provide a link where potential customers can book your services. Entice followers with samples of your nature photography and link to your online store where they can order high-quality prints.

To engage your audience, you need to share your photos on the platforms they’re most likely to use at the times they’re most likely to be online. Improve Photography recommends choosing three or four platforms and using scheduling apps to streamline the process. If, for example, you’re a wedding photographer targeting your largely female clientele on Pinterest, you might use an app like Tailgate to upload photos in bulk and plan a week’s worth of posts in one sitting. If you’re targeting a wider audience, you might use an app like Buffer to upload the same photos to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

If you’re promoting photography to a niche market, Instagram is the perfect platform. Use your feed as a portfolio to present your best work and create a cohesive, thematic vision of what you have to offer. Followers also respond positively to personal posts that offer a behind-the-scenes look into your creative process.

On Instagram, the captions and hashtags accompanying your photos drive engagement. Connect to your audience by posting open-ended questions. In addition to creating your own brand-specific hashtags, tag the location you were visiting, the subject of the photo, the equipment you used, and the client who hired you.

2.  Share your expertise.

Your photographs are not the only thing you have to offer. Another social media marketing strategy is to create content your followers would find interesting, entertaining, or useful. Let’s say you’re a WordPress blogger whose specialty is underwater photography. You might create a listicle about the top ten destinations for coral reef diving or write an article about the hazards of plastic pollution in our oceans.

You could post product reviews of waterproof cameras or diving equipment and earn a little extra cash through affiliate marketing. When Shark Week airs on the Discovery Channel, piggyback on the trend by interviewing a marine biologist who hired you to film Hammerheads or reposting an old photo essay about your first cage dive with the Great Whites of Guadalupe Island.

Not all photographers have such thrilling adventures to share, but those who specialize in portraits are best equipped to offer practical advice to a general audience. In addition to blogging, you might create a YouTube channel. Record a tutorial on no-sew baby costumes for Halloween or ways to put a fresh twist on family Christmas card photos. Create a humorous video about the trials of getting kids or pets to cooperate during photo shoots.

If you don’t have much video editing experience, you have plenty of other options. How-to materials are perfect for Slideshare presentations. Compiling and expanding your blog posts into an ebook or online magazine is an inexpensive way to demonstrate your authority as both a photographer and a curator.

3. Hire a professional.

Social media is a fast-paced environment requiring regular updates, prompt replies, and constant monitoring. Not everyone has the time to run a photography business and market it effectively at the same time. Therefore, hiring a social media manager or employing a service can be a smart investment.

social media manager will ensure that your photos and other content appear regularly and consistently across multiple platforms. Potential customers will frequently use Facebook and Twitter to inquire about your services while current customers often post complaints online for all of your followers to see. Having a designated employee monitor these channels will improve your chances of landing new photo gigs and resolve customer service issues in a timely manner.

Alternatively, you could outsource your social media engagement. Automated services like Social Gone Viral use smart filters to improve targeting, increase likes and followers, and form partnerships with sponsors. Hibu, a Facebook Marketing Partner, offers a comprehensive package of social media monitoring, website design, and search engine optimization, with additional options for digital advertising.

How have you harnessed the power of social media to boost your photography career? Share your strategies in the comments.

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