How I’m building a life as a photographer on LinkedIn
Life as a photographer fuses creative expression with entrepreneurial hustle – and LinkedIn is a great place to make it happen
September 15, 2017
In my non-B2B marketing life, I’m a concert photographer. It’s something I’m very passionate about – and it’s the fusion of creative expression with the adrenaline of the hustle that fires me up. Life as a photographer, and especially a photographer booking gigs and trying to secure a place in the sharp-shouldered pit at the front of the stage, isn’t just a case of taking beautiful shots. It’s an exercise in building a brand and a proposition, showcasing your work and using every spare moment to reach out to the prospects and contacts you need to cultivate. It’s artistic life in the raw.
And that makes it a profession that’s ideally suited to LinkedInIn my work for LinkedIn I spend a lot of time thinking about how content-led engagement drives results in B2B marketing. It struck me that in my life as a photographer, I’m doing something very similar. It proves how versatile a marketing platform LinkedIn can be.
Here are some of the tactics and techniques that I’ve been using to build a reputation as a photographer on LinkedIn – and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. They are approaches I’d recommend to anybody engaged in any form of creative, entrepreneurial endeavour. Don’t just use LinkedIn as a platform to reach out to the connections you need: make it a canvas to show what you can do creatively as well.
Put passion into your profile
It starts with your LinkedIn profile – of course it does. Any aspect of life where you want to build your reputation and credibility should be reflected in the way you describe yourself on your profile page. One of the biggest mistakes that we still see people make on LinkedIn is to reduce themselves down to a job title, or a list of responsibilities. Your LinkedIn headline and summary are your opportunity to communicate what makes you tick, what defines you as an individual. They’re an opportunity to tell your story in your own distinct way. On my LinkedIn profile page, I made sure to include my identity as a photographer in my headline, alongside my identity as a B2B marketer. Why? Because that’s a genuine reflection of who I am and what I love. I use my summary as an opportunity to tell my own story, including how these different parts of my life relate to one another.
If you’re building a reputation as a photographer alongside your day job, then this is an approach I’d recommend as well. If you’re focusing on photography exclusively, then use the space to give audiences a deeper sense of why it drives your passion, and what your particular interests are, not just the technical skills you have. You’re an artist – and this is your opportunity to show you have a voice.
Make artistic use of space
The same principle applies when it comes to the visual side of the LinkedIn profile. Visitors will form an opinion of you as a photographer based on the use you make of the two most prominent visual spaces on that page: your background photo and your profile picture.
Let’s deal with the background photo first – because it’s the most obvious and impactful creative canvas of the two. This is the landscape banner image that sits behind your profile picture at the top of the page. If you don’t upload a picture to make use of this space, then LinkedIn substitutes a blue background with lots of connected lines. It’s an inoffensive enough image – but if you visit any creative person’s profile and find yourself looking at it, then you know something’s wrong.
As a photographer, the onus is on you to fill a space like this in a meaningful way. I actually change my background image on a fairly regular basis, using it as a shop window for my life as a photographer and the shots I’m most proud of. At the moment, I’m using a composite image of myself in action in the photographer’s pit at a gig – with some transparencies that I’ve played around with. It’s a chance to be playful and to try new things.
What about the profile picture? Is there an opportunity for creativity here as well? One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever seen on profile shots is to choose a picture of yourself that shows how you’d like to dress and appear at work. If your work is photography that gives you real scope to be yourself whilst still appearing professional. My advice is not to go overly creative but to still express yourself. Use your eyes to make contact with the person reading your page – that’s still the best way to form an immediate connection.
Showcase your best work
Summaries, headlines, profile pictures and background photos are the basics – the hygiene factors, if you like. Once you’ve taken care of those, you need a strategy for showcasing and amplifying your work. The Media section of your profile is a natural place to start. I use it to showcase the shots I’m most proud of, with a link back to my music photography blog, www.rocknrollcocktail.com. This makes sure anyone exploring my profile page has access to examples of my work – and can find more of them. Use the Publications section to flag up where your work has appeared so far: magazines, other people’s blogs, concert reviews. It will help to bring out your growing standing in the industry and show your shots in context.
I'm also using LinkedIn to drive awareness and pledges to the Kickstarter campaign for my upcoming book on concert photography called Down in Front: A Story from the Back of the Crowd to the Front of the Stage. I'm using everything from profile updates, to the publishing platform, and even using the native video app to update the pledgers and how the process is coming along during the campaign.
Feed your fanbase
To take things to the next level on LinkedIn though, you need to start publishing your work in the feed rather than just on your profile page. I post regular updates about my photography alongside my B2B marketing content: quick snaps of tickets for the gigs I’m shooting that night, so that people know what I’m up to; links to work I’ve published or rock stars I’ve interviewed for my blog; and of course, the shots that I’m most proud of. I try to include a sense of the story behind each image to help people relate to it – and make it more shareable.
Regular updates establish you a visible player in the feed of your connections. They turn your network into a more active fanbase, engaging with what you do. As a photographer, dealing in captivating imagery, you have a huge advantage in gaining your connections’ attention – and in amplifying your content. Whenever somebody likes or shares your images, they will amplify the reach across their own networks, increasing awareness. And of course, making sure that you stay front-of-mind with people you know is vital for unlocking opportunities.
LinkedIn provides a very useful set of metrics for tracking engagement with your content in the feed, and exploring how your network responds to different types of updates. This is great, because it gives you a clearer idea of which content engages the most relevant people.
Earlier this year, I shared a picture I took of Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden leaping across the stage at a gig in Dublin. It was a spectacular shot – and I knew it would drive great engagement. I was right: the shot was viewed over 6,000 times and drew lots of positive comments and likes. However, it was even more interesting to see where those likes and comments came from. I could identify which types of people were showing most interest, and where they were based, which is very useful when you’re trying to build your brand as a photographer and book gigs in a specific city.
The LinkedIn metrics also confirmed that my network was helping to amplify my content for me. Most of my views actually came from second-degree connections: people I wasn’t connected to directly who are now much more aware of what I do thanks to that Iron Maiden shot.
Sponsor content to reach a wider audience
Your existing network can be a great marketing asset. However, if you’re looking to grow your work as a photographer, you might need to extend your reach and expose other influential people to what you can do. Choose a range of different images (including any that are already driving engagement with your existing network) and use them as updates in a Sponsored Content campaign. Through the LinkedIn Campaign Manager self-serve platform, you can choose a relevant audience (in my case it would be musicians, relevant magazine publisher and concert promoters), and set a budget so that you’re always in control of how much you spend and how fast you spend it. You can then use the Campaign Manager analytics tool to track which members of your target audience are most responsive. You’ll find a great set of tips in my colleague Martina Cianfrocca’s recent post on Campaign Manager Hacks.
There you have it: six steps for building your brand and your business as a photographer on LinkedIn. Most will require no investment apart from your time – however, if you’re ready to invest some budget in taking life as a photographer to the next level, then LinkedIn has everything you need to make it happen. It’s a platform where people engage with content, your pictures included. However, it’s also a platform where creative-minded people make decisions about who they trust and who they want to work with. As a photographer, that’s exactly where you need to be.