It's harder and harder to justify time spent on Facebook - and what I am doing instead!
I like Facebook, generally speaking - I really do. It’s a great idea. Being able to connect with like-minded photographers from around the world has been one of my favorite things about it. How else could I meet and interact with people who share common interests? It’s brilliant. And the fact that I can easily connect with them online, and then actually meet them in person when I travel? Absolutely love that.
And of course, it’s allowed me to connect with casual consumers of my work - some have become customers as well, and that’s all been great. Even if someone isn’t a customer, it’s still great to get feedback and interact with folks around the world that have some sort of interest in my photography.
However, I am growing weary of the day-to-day grind of posting and sharing my work there. It takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of effort. And mostly, it’s about ego. Of course I want people to like my photos, but posting online is more about getting them to “like” my photos. And the payback is dubious, at best. I wrote a long article about all that here, if you would like to read it.
And by the way, spending my limited free time there just mindlessly surfing destroys my creativity. Absolutely cuts it into shreds. And that sucks, because I want to create. I have a TON of things I want to do, learn, and create - and being on Facebook is not helping me get them done.
Facebook has changed for the worse (but this isn't exactly news to any photographer!)
These days, you see a lot of complaints about Facebook, and I think they are valid. It has changed. It’s no longer a pure experience for me. I used to log on and know that I would see great pictures from photographers that I follow from around the world, or catch up on their adventures via “behind the scenes” mobile phone posts. Or maybe someone would share articles about photography, or tutorials, or reviews...all of that is welcome, and interesting to me. It’s good content, in my opinion.
But now Facebook feels like a giant advertisement, with some stupid game invites thrown in for fun. Well, none of that is fun. I have to search harder to find the folks whose posts I want to see, while being bombarded with a bunch of crap that I am not even remotely interested in. It’s tiring. (And I realize some folks will feel that way about seeing my posts. It’s ok.)
Couple that with the fact that FB decides what I should see, and it makes it worse. Not to mention that they keep getting it wrong. I don’t give a shit about a cat video, or someone’s political rant. I really don’t care. It’s fine for people to share that stuff - it’s one of the beautiful freedoms of the internet - but I am just not interested in seeing it.
What could possibly make FB’s “sophisticated algorithm” think I have any interest in that stuff? I can’t imagine anything I have EVER clicked on - anywhere on any bit of the internet - that would give Facebook the impression that that stuff is one of my interests. Look at the Fan Pages I have liked, Facebook, and use that to serve me content. Please??? I think it’s pretty clear what I like. (Hint: travel and photography.)
You know what else I want to see? I just would like to see all my friends’ posts in chronological order. Then I can decide what I want to direct my attention towards. It’s exhausting to have stuff bubble up to the top of my feed that has been there before, just because it got a new comment, or one of my friends liked it - or for no discernible reasons whatsoever.
Driving traffic to the blog
And even though Facebook is the largest social media site in terms of referrals to my blog (which in the big picture is where I want people to end up), the total percentage of my traffic from FB to my blog is pretty minimal - about 2.5% thus far this calendar year (2014). Starting from January 1, 2013, it’s even less. In other words, it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I get better results from the search engines - by a large margin (over 70% of my visitors arrive via search). If I was running a business with limited resources, I would drop that “advertising channel” known as Facebook immediately in favor of something with a better return.
Facebook Fan Pages take a beating
I also have a page on FB dedicated to my photography. In the old days, it was fun to have a page and I worked hard to grow it. It now sits somewhere around 4500 Likes, which was a lot of work to get to, frankly. I spent a lot of time building it up. Too much time, as it turns out.
Sadly, FB has throttled the reach of all pages and as such a very small percentage of those who have “Liked” my page actually get to see my posts. That’s frustrating. And honestly, I am on the fence about what to do with the page. It’s a full day’s work - every single darn day - to drive engagement on the page and to keep the interaction level high. I don’t have time for that, and frankly I am not interested in spending my time on that. I have much more productive things to do.
Lately I have backed off from the daily posts there. They just don’t reach people anymore, and I am not going to pay FB for a “Promoted Post”. This isn’t a business for me, per se, but a life’s passion. I’m not technically selling anything (yes you can buy prints, but I’m not actively pushing it), so paying FB to get me back to my original fan base is a ridiculous idea. Not going to happen.
So, what am I going to do about it?
That’s the question, isn’t it? In many ways we are all “stuck” with FB, since it is the largest site in the world. And truthfully, I don’t want to leave. There are a few things I like about it, such as being part of that global creative community. That’s a big deal to me. I enjoy being part of a community like that. These people are my friends, or at least some of them are. The rest I just admire.
But I can’t afford (nor do I want) to spend a lot of time on FB. It’s a major time-suck, and while some of it can be enjoyable, it isn’t productive. It doesn’t help me grow personally or professionally. It doesn’t help me get better at photography. And whether it helps me reach more people with my work is debatable.
On a recent vacation, in addition to spending time with family, you know what else I was able to do? Write, take photos, and process photos. I created a couple of new reviews on the blog, and wrote some other things that I am working on. I took a lot of photos, and I processed a lot as well. It was great not worrying about - or really even thinking about - posting images on Facebook. It was a bit of a vacation from the site, and it was absolutely liberating.
Since I have been back from the vacation, I have stuck with this plan of not being on FB too much, and I am still loving it. I’m posting about 3 things per week and that’s it (that’s a drop from my 5-6 posts per week in the past). And guess what? My productivity is staying up there. I am creating more new things for the blog, processing more photos, and taking even more. It’s like I got part of my life back. It’s awesome!
So, here’s what I am going to do about Facebook (and have been doing for a while):
1) Most posts go on my personal profile
I‘ve been doing this for months already and it sure makes things easier. In fact, most photographers that I know have concentrated their efforts on their personal profiles rather than a Fan Page. It’s way easier. I clung on to the Fan Page for a while, but as detailed above, I am not concentrating my efforts there going forward. I won’t delete it but will only post there occasionally. You never know what the future holds.
2) Fewer posts on FB
I used to post on FB just about every day. If I shared a photo from a blog post, and that post contained multiple photos (which most of mine do now), I would come back the next day (or later the same day) and share another photo from that post. But lately, I have been just sharing my favorite photo from any particular blog post. They are all on the blog and will stay there, so I assume if anyone wants to see them, they will come find them. If not, no worries.
Interestingly, it seems like when I only post a few photos per week on FB, they actually get more engagement per photo than when I posted nearly every day. Maybe since I am sharing less on FB, I am sharing better photos. Or maybe something else. I’m not sure, but obviously I am ok with it.
3) Less time spent on FB
Like I said above, it can be a major time drain, and I don’t have a lot of free time. You can call that unsocial (and maybe it is), but I prefer to work on my creativity and create content for the blog. That is time well spent, and it makes me feel better. This is a personal, creative journey for me, and time on Facebook does not make me creative. In fact, it sucks the creativity right out of me. Talk about a buzzkill! :-)
4) Just using my interest list on FB
I while ago, I created an “interest list” on FB which I call Photographic Awesomeness, and that’s what it’s all about. I added in a bunch of photographers whose work I admire, and so whenever they post something, it automatically gets included in the list. You can go click on the list, subscribe to it, and scroll through all these awesome photos. I plan to spend more time looking at that instead of my News Feed, because the feed is full of junk. That’s one way to purify my experience there. I get a pure “photo experience” on my interest list, because I only included great photographers. Pretty cool, right?
5) Experiment with other sites
I wrote last year about focusing on just the big sites (which includes FB of course), and while I think that is still sage advice, I do want to unwrap myself from FB a bit. So I have been spending a little time elsewhere, and I am enjoying it (See? I’m not totally anti-social LOL.).
There are a couple of other places where you can find me, and when I am there it’s a much cleaner experience. I look at things of interest and am not bombarded with any of the crap that I get on FB. Refreshing, actually. Generally, it’s Instagram, with a little sprinkling of Trover and Pinterest. A dash of Flickr, Google+ and Twitter.
But I will say that in the grand scheme of things, total activity for me on all social sites is dropping. At a whopping total of about 5% of my blog traffic, it makes sense not to spend too much time on it. I just get more out of it when I focus on creating. I truly believe that if you create enough interesting content, people will come your way, at some point. So that’s what I am spending my time on. And guess what? I feel better, I am happier and more creative, and more productive...and that’s what I am trying to do with my time on this Earth...create.