Let me ask you, is most of your marketing centred around social media?

I’m seeing so many photographers devoting hours of every day to posting on Instagram. But, I’m concerned that many of them are focusing on social media without giving enough thought to their wider strategy and on how they are going to convert their social media fans into customers.

Yes, Instagram is the perfect platform for photographers.

It attracts people who also appreciate beautiful images and some of these may be considering investing in professional photography services, like yours. So, it absolutely makes sense to have a presence on there.

But, while getting visible online is important, I don’t believe that social media is where you should be focusing the majority of your marketing efforts.

Instead, one of the things I’d urge you to prioritise over social media is building an email list.

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Email marketing for photographers: Should it be more of a priority in your business?

In this article, I’ll be encouraging you to consider email marketing as a key focus in your photography business. I’ll also be debunking some common email marketing myths.

So, if you’re a photographer who invests a lot of time into social media but you only have either a small or inactive email list, or you don’t have an email list at all, then keep reading.

By disproving some of the common misconceptions about email marketing, I hope to convince you that it’s a marketing tactic that’s well worth your time and attention. In fact, I believe it should actually be one of the main priorities in your business. Yes, even over and above social media!

Email marketing for photographers

Seven email marketing myths debunked: Photographers, take note!

Myth Number 1: Email marketing is dead

Email marketing is far from dead in the age of social media.

It may be less sexy than Instagram, but email marketing continues to be an extremely effective way of promoting and selling products and services.

In fact, 80% of marketers have reported an increase in email engagement over the past 12 months, according to HubSpot (2020), and 91% of people say they want to hear from companies that they do business with via email.

Email marketing is alive and kicking and is not going anywhere anytime soon.

So, while we all dip into social media several times a day, most of us also check our emails regularly. Social media has not replaced email, and it’s not anticipated that it will.

Instagram feed shown on mobile phone

Myth Number 2: You can reach more people on social than via email

The question of reach does depend on how many people you have on your email marketing list, but I still believe that there is a compelling case for email marketing whatever the size of your list.

Remember, social media platforms typically only show your posts to around 2% of your total following unless you boost them or pay to advertise. I’m no mathematician, but even I know that that means you’ll need a following of around 1000 people to have your posts seen by just 20!

Even with just a fraction of that number on your email list, say 250 people, and presuming the average open rate applies of around 20%, you could potentially get your message seen by around 50 people, which is more than double that of the reach on social with an audience four times the size!

So, I hope you can see that by taking the time to create an email and sending it out to your list, you could potentially generate far more visibility for you and your photography business than by posting on social media.

This, in turn, could help to drive more traffic to your photography website, boost enquiries and lead to more sales, making it an incredibly effective way to reach more of your ideal photography clients.

Related reading: How to attract more of your ideal photography clients

Free digital marketing tools

Myth Number 3: Your audience is overwhelmed by emails and doesn’t want to receive more from you

Even if you actively ignore a large majority of the marketing emails you receive, it doesn’t mean that your potential clients will. So, don’t make the mistake of thinking that your customers and potential customers won’t want to hear from you via email.

You are not your customer!

If someone has subscribed to receive news and information from your photography business, then they have expressed an interest in hearing from you. Rather than your emails being annoying to your subscribers (and if they are, they can always unsubscribe), you’re actively doing them a disservice if you don’t keep in touch.

So, if you have any reservations about using email marketing to keep people on your email list in the loop about your photography business, remember that they want to know what you’re up to!

Myth Number 4: Social media marketing is the best place to build a community around your business

While building an online community around your business is important, social media is not the only or the best place to do this, necessarily.

Yes, it can be satisfying to see that you have hundreds, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of followers on your social media accounts. We can tell ourselves that we are building an online community, a fan base of potential customers, which will bode well for the future of our businesses.

But, likes and follow counts on social media are simply ‘vanity’ metrics.

These numbers don’t have any bearing on how successful you are or will be. Sadly, even if you’ve accrued a large following on social media, this will not necessarily correlate with the growth of your business. You could have millions of followers on social media but, in real life, have a business that’s on its knees!

So, don’t feel threatened by the numbers of people following your competitors’ social media accounts – they may have lots of followers, but they may not be people who will ever pay for their photography services. And, don’t tell yourself that social media is the best or only place to build community. Email can be a great way to build a community and a truly engaged audience too!

Once you have subscribers to your emails, through email marketing you can take the conversation away from the noise of social media and nurture a relationship with your prospective customers over time.

By landing directly into the inboxes of your subscribers, and with the ability for them to reply to you directly, you can then start to develop a rapport with them and potentially build a strong connection – the know, like and trust factor. This will help to convert more of them from being ‘potentially interested’ into a paying customer and, perhaps, even a raving fan!

Promote your blog post with email marketing

Myth Number 5: An email list is not as valuable as a social media following  

Once you have the names and email addresses of people who have ‘opted in’ to receive your emails, that data is under your control. You effectively ‘own’ the list and it’s yours to use.

You have the right to communicate with those people via email unless they choose to opt-out, whereas, on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, you are not in control of the audience. You don’t automatically gain their contact information (unless you acquire it via an opt-in), so should these platforms shut down at any point in the future, you will lose access to your hard-earned social media audience.

Another reason why emails are in fact more valuable than social media followers is that when someone gives you their email address, they’re more invested in you than if they were simply a follower of your page on social media. They are more likely to convert into a customer further down the line because by sharing their email address with you, they have indicated they are interested in what you offer and have proactively opted to find out more about what you do. They are a ‘hotter’ lead for your photography business.

For these reasons, I’d argue that an email list is actually far more valuable to you as a small business owner than even a sizeable social media following.

Myth Number 6: It takes years to grow an email list that will generate leads and sales

Yes, growing an email list can take time, which is why it’s better to start now if you’ve not done so already. But don’t worry about slow growth because there are lots of things you can do to speed up the process and get hundreds of people on your email list relatively quickly.

For example, you can create a valuable ‘lead magnet’ or freebie to entice people to subscribe. If what you are offering is perceived to be worth them exchanging their email address in order to access it, you could find that your email list grows quickly.

So, spend time considering who your ideal photography client is and how you help them. Then, craft an enticing freebie that they would find valuable and that is relevant to your products and services – ideally, give them a flavour of what you do and of your approach to excite them and make them want to find out more.

Myth Number 7: In a post-GDPR world, managing an email list is too much hassle!  

Since GDPR came into force in May 2018, you – as a ‘data controller’ and/or ‘data processor’ – need to ensure that you store and handle personal data (i.e. people’s names and email addresses) in accordance with the GDPR regulations.

For example, you can only use the data for the purposes that you obtained explicit consent for, and you must ensure the data is kept secure and not shared with others.

But, realistically, the introduction of GDPR has not made it any more difficult to manage an email marketing list.

Presuming you’re capturing email address in a GDPR-compliant way, are only sending emails to those who have subscribed to them, and giving people an opportunity to opt-out if they wish (as platforms such as MailChimp allow you to do), then email marketing is no more complicated or any more hassle than before.

Promote your blog post in your email signature

Prioritise email marketing in your photography business

So, what I hoped to have convinced you of is the fact that while social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are brilliant free tools for getting yourself visible and for spreading the word about your services and what you do, they have their limitations and should not necessarily be prioritised over and above email marketing.

I urge you to recognise Instagram and Facebook for what they are – social platforms from where you can direct people to your website and email list. But, they are not the be-all and end-all of marketing.

Social media is merely a channel to raise awareness of yourself and your business online.

Your end-goal with social media marketing, and in fact any other marketing, should be to attract and encourage people over to your ‘owned’ channels – the spaces you own and control, such as your website and your email marketing list.

If you are doing little other than promoting your photography business on social media then I suggest you start or develop your email marketing activities as a priority from here on in.

The truth is unless you are strategically building your email list off the back of your social media audience already, you’re missing a trick. Don’t keep putting in the hours on social if you aren’t capturing the email addresses of your followers.

Instead, I’d recommend that you devote your energies on creating a compelling lead magnet to build your email list and then keep in touch with your subscribers regularly to keep top of mind.

Don’t abandon social. Just don’t focus completely on social.

And, when you do post on social media, be sure to include a call to action that inspires your followers to visit your website / download your freebie or get in touch.  This is the marketing activity that will help to drive revenue and grow your photography business.

Do you have an active email list, or do you need to get started with email marketing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.