Hey Photographers! Facebook Changed Again (and this time, they want you to pay)


It’s happened. Facebook, aka the free marketing platform we have come to know and love, now wants businesses and organizations to pay to engage with their own fans and followers. If you’ve noticed your reach and “likes” declining lately, you’re not alone.

Back in December, the company acknowledged that the reach per post — in other words, how many of your followers see your post in their News Feeds — has declined. Various studies have confirmed this, one showing a drop in reach from 12% of all followers to 6% over the course of 4 months. And, another blog is reporting that reach will decline to just 1% of your total followers eventually.

With the number of friends and pages that each person follows having increased dramatically, they chalk it up to competition and the need for greater relevance. Of the average of 1,500 possible stories (or posts) that are available to show to each person, Facebook selects 300 to post in your News Feed per day. They do this using an algorithm that’s based on clicks, timeliness of the post and a variety of other factors. In essence, your post has a 20% chance of being shown to any one of your fans — less if it’s not what Facebook considers “relevant.”

So, what does this all mean for you? At PhotoShelter, we’ve continuously recommended that photographers use Facebook ‘pages’ rather than their personal profiles to promote themselves. And, it’s true that there are still advantages to using pages, including analytics to gauge your return on investment (ROI) and targeted (read: paid) advertising potential. We even have a guide to help you figure it all out. Now more than ever, though, may be the time to re-evaluate your overall social media strategy.

Here’s some tips to get in front of this trend:

1) Be more relevant. Because Facebook uses an algorithm, what the platform considers relevant will always be changing. Not helpful. But, there are some basic guidelines to follow here. First is to know your audience and talk like they do. Post what they like (follow some of them on Facebook to see what kinds of topics, brands and news items they like). If you’re a wedding photographer who also does corporate work, don’t post about both. More than likely you have two different target audiences for your types of work, and sending mixed messages to Facebook’s algorithm will not work in your favor.

Facebook also knows that people like to interact with current/timely articles and announcements. Wonder why you always see birth photos in your feed even from those who you haven’t seen (even on Facebook) in ages? Or, how you learn about the Super Bowl come February even if you’re not a football fan? Connecting your posts to current affairs, even things like #TBT (throw back Thursday) is a signal to Facebook that people might engage more with your content.

Whatever you do, don’t spam your feed. That means posting all day long in the hopes that one of your many posts gets in front of each of your fans. Facebook has caught on to that. They’ve also caught on to “like-baiting” posts such as memes that state “click Like” right on the image or in the status text.


2) Lean on your personal profile for a while. We’ve talked to a few photographers who have reverted back to using their personal profile to post information about their photography and generally see more “likes” and “shares” this way. While you can’t see statistics-wise the reach you’re getting, you can get a sense for whether it’s doing better by posting the same content on your company page (just don’t do this too frequently). You can bet, however, that Facebook will get keen on this strategy and adjust their algorithms accordingly in the not-so-distant future.

3) Experiment with paying to boost posts. The nice thing about advertising on Facebook is that it’s cost effective. “Boosting” posts means you’re paying to reach more people. You can choose whether to do this for people who already follow you (and their friends) or people you choose through targeting. You can spend as low as $5 at a time, and Facebook will tell you approximately what kind of reach you’ll get. Be careful here, though, as some brands (FStoppers for one) have reported an increase in spam via comments and likes when paying to boost posts. This could be because the boosted post is reaching not only your fans/followers, but also your follower’s “friends” who may not be part of your target audience.

4) Look to other platforms. Sure, Facebook is still relevant. If for no other reason than the fact that it has over 1.3 billion users. It’s good for SEO (Google combs Facebook pages) as well. But, it’s not the only game in town. Twitter, for one, has become a lot more visual and photographer-friendly with the introduction of Twitter Cards. Now, you can see images and videos directly in your feed. You can find people who are interested in your work by following relevant hashtags (e.g. #naturephotography) and build a following by interacting with them directly. Instagram is another great platform to engage your fans and followers and works similarly in terms of finding and interacting with people.

As with most marketing tactics, there’s no silver bullet here. The good news is that there are so many more ways to promote your work and get found now than there were ten, or even five, years ago. So many places to get found, especially for photographers, but never enough time to focus everywhere, in fact. What you can do is stay on top of the trends, stop resisting changing your ways and experiment, experiment, experiment. And, don’t forget to watch your metrics. It’s more than likely that you’ll find it’s a combination of things that work. Just don’t stand still!

About the author: Amy Fitzgibbons is the Director of Marketing at the photography website provider PhotoShelter. This post was originally published here.

  • MrRocking

    Paid boosting of posts via facebook generates the same non-engaged traffic as does buying likes from known click farming nations.

  • kingde

    I know people who have noticed the pattern MrRocking talks about

  • bob cooley

    There’s no such thing as a free lunch…

  • Adam Cross

    because Facebook use click farms, too :’)

  • Black Light Shoots

    Business is business.

  • S2N

    This is why it (Fb and social media) should only be one part of your marketing strategy.

  • Chris Petersen

    And can hurt your overall reach on all future posts:

  • ADWheeler

    What’s Facebook? Is it like MySpace? Dead?

  • Waqas

    My 136k page doesn’t reach more than 2000 users approx, and engages just 80-120 avg people per post. I’ve realized that paying at facebook is total waste of resources. One of my friend has been boosting posts. And its give temporary boost for a couple of days max and no conversion at all.. So I’ve not soon be starting G+ as major.

  • Waqas

    No, its not free. After all we the users are keeping the facebook interesting with photos, videos and fun we make of each other. Instead facebook should be thankful for their billions of earning.

  • bob cooley

    It’s free for you to use. They charge you nothing to promote yourself on their servers. So yeah, for its members – free.

  • ADWheeler

    Like hell it’s free, it’s a rip-off. I spent nearly $1500 in advertising on FB last year and the returns were abysmal. I had over 3K fans on my biz page and about 1500 on my personal page. After finding out about click and like farms…and that these “fans” were nothing more than filler and my REAL PURCHASING fans were not seeing 95% of my content, I have deleted my work completely from FB and focused on G+, Flickr, 500px, Twitter, and Tumblr. In return, my FB referrals have skyrocketed since. Like without that scam is MUCH more profitable.

    Side note Mr. Cooley, you win the internet world speed record for the fastest contradictory post/reply post.

  • ADWheeler

    And out of that 80-120, you are lucky if 5% of them are REAL fans. Dump it man…there is much life without FB. Plus, the new twitter…is pretty much an exact copy, without the content blocking.

  • Zos Xavius

    Thanks for posting this. I never succumbed to giving facebook money to boost posts because a few friends tried it and they never really reached their own audience anyways. Its good to read about other people not having any real return. You’ve convinced me to reactivate my 500px and flickr accounts. I restarted my tumblr, but really activity was low. Part of my problem is that I don’t have much time to upload to a million different sites all day, so unfortunately tumblr gets blasted with a bunch of pictures all at once which people probably hate. I need to figure out a way to have tumblr space that out for me.

  • bob cooley

    No one forced you to spend on advertising. You could have just as easily used the platform for free, and as you found out, reaped the same benefits.

  • Adrian S

    My best suggestion is to not pay for any likes, that needs to grow natural. Buying likes generates non-engaged, regardless if you use legitimate Facebook like ads of click farms. As far as I heard click farms click on all ads to avoid detection. So it’s not necessary Facebook’s fault for getting you “bad” likes.

    If you want some exposure, then use post boosts on a very small targeted area.

  • hdc77494

    The only way around this that I know of is to create and admin a facebook group. The groups I’m a part of, may controlled by photography vendors, show every post and every comment daily. So far, it’s still free, and a great way to engage with your fans or followers.

  • theawefultruth

    Everyone should go watch the Southpark Episode “You have 0 Friends” and then go delete your now useless privacy stealing ASSBOOK account. I did it a year ago and things actually picked way up for me as I wasn’t wasting time with this idiotic nonsense. Nobody needs this stupid waste of time.

  • David Liang


  • David Liang

    No, before facebook where else could you share interesting photos, videos, and fun you make of each other? Myspace? Friendster? Neither of those were as functional nor as widely adopted as Facebook is now, and neither of those figured out how to monetize and became irrelevant. Facebook is adjusting and it’s unfortunate the use we’ve been used to has changed, but be honest, none of us open our pockets to have a personal page, in that usage context it is absolutely free. That you contribute to the network is a function of the network not a payment for use.

  • theawefultruth

    Except for all the data and privacy they steal from you. What’s the cost of that? I can’t believe so many people got duped into using the VIRUS KNOW AS FACEBOOK.

  • David Liang

    It’s called personal responsibility. Such things are well known if you still click “Accept” to the user agreement then you’ve understood what it entails. That facebook makes money from data users have agreed to offer, is how they provide their network for personal pages at no MONETARY cost to the user ie. FREE

  • theawefultruth

    Soon AD. Very soon. Hats of to you!

  • bob cooley

    That’s like blaming the cat for eating the food you put in it’s dish. Facebook has exactly the amount of data that you submit to them. In my case, its the info about my professional life, little more – the same info can be found on any search of the web or the telephone book.

    They aren’t stealing data if you willingly gave it to them. If you think FB is a virus, you should probably unplug your computer right now; because unless you interface the net through the TOR network, your browser stores a lot more info and distributes it than FB ever will…

  • bigbob

    Yes I know, I can’t believe the idiots that gave all their personal information to these freaks. FB is a virus, and quickly becoming a diagnosed mental disorder.

  • Josh – Creep Machine

    I think the best idea is to leave Facebook. I am not opposed to paying for ads, but the way in which Facebook is conducting this model, is sketchy at best. You pay for ads, get click farm (fake) profiles, it messes with your engagement, so you pay to boost posts and that hurts you further. Take a look at this video that went viral, explaining it all:

  • Ilkka

    This is the ‘problem’. People are relying on a listed company whose only purpose really is to maximize its profits to its shareholders. It could not care less about your needs to promote yourself and it will change its business model and rules as it wishes whenever it thinks it will help increase it’s profits. It is not your friend who has your best interests at heart. People should realize that.

  • bob cooley

    I agree, but I’d say its only half the problem – the other half is people not understanding that they get what they pay for – and if they are paying nothing, they shouldn’t be surprised when the ‘free’ service they use changes the way they do things down the road, and that they really owe the folks they’ve given free services to nothing.

  • bob cooley

    …said the troll hiding from under his ‘guest’ account…

  • D.G. Brown

    From the other side, as just a normal user of Facebook, this really pisses me off. I ‘like’ musicians, festivals, shows, movies, etc so that I can follow them all and get important info about upcoming things without having to check one-by-one. The problem is that big marketers like TV shows and movies end up being 100% of whatever shows up in my feed and I’ve missed several events I would have really liked to go to because those pages went completely silent (even though I found they had been posting regularly for months).

    At least from my own experience, it seems that Facebook’s algorithm for determining what to show is simple. $$$ -> Show updates, No $$$ -> Hidden forever

    And yes, I can ‘unlike’ the TV shows and movies, but I care about those as well, just not 100%-of-everything-I-see care about them :-P

  • Michael Houwer

    This is why I use RSS, that way I don’t miss any posts. My advice is cut out the middle man (facebook)

  • Tyler

    It’s free to use, but facebook also promotes businesses to advertise on it’s site to get more likes. When you pay facebook for that service (to get more likes so your business is promoted to more people), and what you get in return is “fake” likes from the ads facebook runs, that’s when it’s a problem:

  • Timothy Burgin

    I consider most of the above to be bad advise. This issue on FB will only get worse and paying them to boost posts only incentivizes them to continue this BS. You are better off spending your $$ on a great website with a updated blog with RSS and a great email newsletter.

  • Nellie Nelson

    What CHOICE are we left with when Google and FB have bought up nearly everything? I won’t be paying them to show my pictures – they should be paying me!

  • aaron vesiontwo

    Google+ is the future. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • 7Tune

    You’re an absolute idiot if you pay to promote ANYTHING on Facebook. Whether they say it or not, Facebook like farms exist both legitimately and illegitimately in third world countries. Paying Facebook for ANYTHING is a mistake. Do NOT listen to this pages advice in suggesting you poison yourselves and your brand/page/efforts by paying facebook a single cent.

    Watch this video and learn what the author of this stupid piece doesn’t understand.

    Then, when you’re done with that, watch this.

    The person who wrote this article is nothing more than a clueless simpleton regurgitating well rehearsed nuggets of advice who clearly doesn’t understand anything more than the basics to Social Media Relevance 101…

  • tim

    Google + will be just like Facebook eventually. look what they did to YouTube.

  • Korios

    3) No, no, no, you do not reward facebook by paying to promote posts or pages. The more facebook is rewarded the more it relies on “promoted posts”, which will eventually render the entire platform a paying platform – all the while with the ads intact. Facebook is either a “free” ad-based platform or a paid platform. They can’t have it both ways and rewarding that is telling them they are doing OK, encouraging them to further increase the incentives for paid posts..

  • Korios

    Even Milton Friedman would agree that being forced to watch advertisements while eating does not make the lunch free. They make money out of you directly. Now imagine being forced to watch ads while eating AND being required to pay full price for your lunch. That is precisely what an ad flooded facebook and at the same time paying to promote posts above the non paying users is.

  • Korios

    Facebook never revealed, at first, that it was selling that data to advertisers. Even if you agreed to facebook collecting your data nowhere in any TOS was it stated that you had to agree to them selling that data to advertisers without your knowledge. Editing the TOS to indicate that after you are caught with your fingers in the honey is not exactly the most professional conduct, is it?

  • bob cooley

    Not sure how this is germane to my reply at all.

    I never mention anything about the TOS…

    My comment was entirely about what was and is still a free service and how they are now making changes to they way they handle certain pages (what used to be free advertising for their users and making it a pay model). Loss-leaderrs are pretty much SOP in the business world.

  • bob cooley

    Well first, my point is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. So you are merely restating what I already said.

    However, no one is actually forced to watch advertising.

    You can:

    1) Choose to not use their service.

    2) use FireFox, Chrome or Safari and simply add the (free) plug-in “AdBlock Plus” – I haven’t seen an ad on FB in years; it blocks pretty much all of them.

    3) Create your own marketing website, and spend a fortune on using traditional marketing methods to get traffic to visit.

    You are under no obligation to use Facebook, and they have every right to charge whatever they want for the use of the site. It’s not public property, its a for-profit company. It’s your choice whether you want to use their services or not, whatever their profit model.

  • A.D.Wheeler

    Um, FB committed fraud… period. No one forces you to do ANYTHING in life. But a criminal, is a criminal.