It’s an interesting thought. Do photographers really still need a website today? Is it possible to survive on social media alone? After recently cutting out a bunch of old social media platforms from his life, photographer Ed Verosky has been thinking long and hard about this question. Should he kill or keep pursuing his website?
As Ed says in this video he recently posted, cultural shifts happen rapidly. The way people use the Internet changes all the time. We’ve seen the mass exodus from one social platform to another over and over again. But are people even going to photographer’s websites when they can see a living portfolio on services like Instagram?
Before social media, the website was the main thing. It was how anybody found you online. Anywhere else you existed online, whether it be in forums, or anywhere else, the goal was to drive traffic to your own website. Ed thinks that this may have changed today.
Since the rise of sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, your own company website may seem to have taken a bit of a back seat. Traffic may be much lower than it used to be, because people can find the information elsewhere now. And despite the soul-crushing algorithms Facebook pages and Instagram use now, they’re still very popular platforms to engage with potential clients and customers.
Social media has also become much faster and cheaper to maintain than your own website. Want to update your “Instagram portfolio” with a new photo? Just post it, write your fancy description, and it gets announced to some of your followers. But if you post often enough, you’ll reach a big enough audience, and you’re reasonably confident that they’re already interested in your work because they follow you.
When you update a portfolio on a website, there’s no fanfare, no big announcements, it just exists. People won’t generally come back to view your updates because they don’t know when they happen. Perhaps, if you have a blog, they’ll keep coming back to read new content, but that’s a lot more work than a simple post on Facebook or Instagram.
So, is the website still the best way to “sell” yourself to potential clients? Ed’s website has now basically become a directory for his online content in other locations, such as YouTube and to sell premium tutorials in his own store.
Ultimately, your owns website is till the one part of the web where you get 100% control. The look, feel, feature set, content, layout, everything. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube all have their own templates into which your content fits. And they can (and regularly do) easily change the game with little-to-no notice to make it more difficult for photographers and other businesses to reach their target market (unless you pay-to-play).
For me, I’ve been on a lot of social media sites over the years. Some died (What’s up, MySpace?), others I tried for a relatively brief moment before deciding they’re a waste of my time (Hi, Google+), and I’ve stuck with a few for a number of years (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, etc). I’ve recently considered leaving some of those, too, though. But my own websites have stuck with me through all of it. And I can’t see them going away – at least, not all of them.
Most of my clients over the years haven’t found me through one of my websites, they’ve found me through social media. To me, social media is just marketing. Those clients still almost always came to my websites. To see a curated list of my favourite work in a portfolio, not just an impossible to search running feed, and to find answers to questions they might have had but didn’t want or know how to ask.
The only thing that really became obsolete on my website is the contact form. To the point where I ended up removing it entirely. Now it’s a link to message me on my Facebook page. People were mostly making initial contact through my page anyway, so why not just put everything through that so it’s all organised together?
I’m about to go through a complete overhaul of all my social media and websites. I need to consolidate. Which websites to keep and which ones to get rid of will weigh heavily in my thoughts over the coming weeks now that my focus has shifted primarily toward work on DIYP and creating YouTube content.
I don’t think there’s really a right or wrong answer to the question. I think it’s going to depend entirely on the individual. How they want to run their business and who their target market is will play a huge factor. A commercial event photographer, for example, is going to need to target their market in a very different way to a newborn photographer, for example.
There are many photographers out there making a great living without a website. They find all the business they need through social media. There are others also doing very well who only have a website and no social media. Then there are obviously those succeeding with both, and there are quite a few still managing fine with no online presence at all.
So, obviously, there isn’t just one path. But for me, I still get a lot of traffic through my own websites. They still lead to clients.