The Photo Playbook
…contains a series of chats with experts across marketing, media and online, that seeks to help businesses make the best decisions with photography.
Today’s chat is with Megan Davis who is a total boss when it comes to Social Media:
Click play above to listen to the conversation.
Below, are our top takeaway tips on how photography fits with social media.
Read on below for the full interview transcript.
Meet Megan Davis from Spendlove and Lamb, a storytelling and social media consultancy, talks about how to use photography effectively in social media.
Tip #1 The purpose of social media is to create relationships. Stories act as a framework to hold us together, they form cultures and movements.
Tip #2 Good stories are simple stories. If your story is simple and concise it is easy to remember and to repeat.
Tip #3 We are hardwired to look for things that interest us – reading takes time, but an image pops out right away.
Tip #4 If people get to know you, understand how you work, see where you work, how things are produced, how your values are executed… all of that helps build a story about who you are which helps build trust and credibility.
Tip #5 Images that show a sense of humour, story or progress (like before-and-afters) work well.
Tip #6 There’s a place for stock, just carefully chosen and not too much.
Tip #7 Make sure your photo is in focus and that you have what you want in the photo composed within the frame. If you can ‘yes’ to both of the before mentioned, then it’s probably ok to post.
Tip #8 There are many free tools online via a Google search and Apps for your smart phone that you can use to retouch photos.
Tip #9 Photographers that have an understanding about social is preferable because of the formatting requirements for each platform.
Tip #10 Create a simple style guide that describes your company colours, fonts and preferred image style using Pinterest.
Tell us about Spendlove and Lamb, Megan:
My business is focused on social media and storytelling. A lot of people understand the importance of social media, they put out content, but often find that nothing happens or they aren’t getting the interaction they want. When I handle social for a business I ensure we create narratives that are executed via the various social media platforms. We look for the right stories to tell the right people to create connections. Additionally I also teach storytelling.
Can you tell us more about storytelling with relation to social?
Social media is a place to build relationships – it’s ‘social’ media, stressing the ‘social’. When you think about how you build relationships, it’s through stories. I’ll use a story about falling in love, because (hopefully) we can all relate to it. You meet someone, you think they are really cool, you meet for a drink, you sit down, then you share stories with one another and you’re listening to each other. Eventually you will come to one of those stories and it will stop you, and you’ll think, ‘that’s my story too’. When this happens, there’s an instant connection. In the love context it’s amplified. But that’s what happens in everyday life.
If you want make a story really powerful, you take information and connect it to a universal theme or message about being alive on this planet. It’s an automatic connection point. If you’re talking about seeing a guy, everyone loves a good love story, they hope it’s going to go well. That in itself is something everyone can identify with.
Stories are a framework that hold us together. They create cultures, movements and relationships. We are programed for story because that’s how we form everything in our lives – families, communities, businesses, religion… You go to the right person with the right story and they say, ‘yep, I’m in’.
We create cultures really quickly, look at kids. Two little kids will meet each other and they’ll create their own little culture they’ll make up their own language in five minutes because they’ve figured out they can do that at a micro level. We’re hardwired for it.
In the context of business, who needs to consider photography as a part of the social storytelling conversation?
Everyone – it’s extremely important to back up what you’re saying with an image. We are hardwired to look for things that interest us. Reading is hard, but seeing an image pops out right away. You don’t have to read. You can see the image, stop, yes I like that, what does that say…ok.
Are there stats that support that?
Yes, if you’re not using images, you won’t get much traction on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Images (and video) mean everything. Don’t ever put up a post without an image. There are some like Twitter where it doesn’t matter as much, but posts with images still do better.
Where would photography be required?
Pretty much on every level. Profile pictures, banners, posts for Twitter and Facebook. Instagram goes without saying, because that’s all it is. For photos with people in them, strong eye contact with the camera has a lot of impact. With food, there are backgrounds that are very fashionable at the moment, for example marble or using the colour blue. Fashion shots are really about the mood, images with a compressed dynamic range are very popular at the moment.
Banners and profile pictures are fixed, what advice do you have for those?
It’s individualized to the business, but don’t use too much text. Just show the reader through the image what they need to know about you. Let’s say you’re a vet, if you had a photo montage of different animals sitting on a bench with medical things around them. Right away, I know it’s a vet, I don’t have to read that. I can see it.
Why is this simplicity important in social?
Good stories are simple stories. That way the listener can remember the story and tell someone else about it. Less is more. More impact with less.
It sort of goes against logic, that you might think you need to tell people everything.
You don’t need to tell people everything. You just need to give them enough so they get it. Then they can say, OK, this is a book keeper, got it. Now, what else do I need to know?
With a collection of moments, do you recommend one story per feed, or would you put them all together in a gallery?
Galleries are fantastic for things like events that have stages because the photos explain what happened like the food, people who attended posing or if there was music. People want to know who was there – we are very nosy animals. That’s what Facebook was built on. If you don’t have video you can put together photo carousels where you have a call to action at the end. You can do slideshows now on a Facebook page. If you’re in a hospitality business, like a café, maybe every week you have a new range of cakes, so you’d show a slideshow of the new cakes. Or, you could do funny stuff, for example a barista. You see his perfect coffees, or show humorous shots of ones he’s messed up.
Isn’t it seen as unprofessional to be making mistakes?
We all make mistakes and it’s not like they are serving the coffee to anyone. It could be like a blooper reel. It’s actually putting you in a good light because it shows the perfectionism, you wouldn’t serve a less than perfect coffee. Anything that shows a sense of humour, story or progress works well. People love before-and-afters. In the Barista example, you’re showing the first coffee and then the last coffee.
Not everyone can afford a professional photographer, so what do you suggest?
If you engage a professional, get them to do a lot of work. Think about what you have going on for the next 2-3 months and plan out with the photographer in detail what you want. Understand what is the important thing in the shot? If you’re photographing a bottle of wine, don’t just sit the bottle down and say, shoot the bottle. Say what’s important about it and then they will be able to make suggestions to capture it as best that they can. Photographers that have an understanding about social is preferable. For example if you’re creating visuals for Facebook, or Instagram where certain layouts are required for presentation, then they can shoot for that. There are lots of templates that you can use for layouts for the different platforms. There are many free tools online and apps for your smart phone you can use to retouch photos. You can even put type on top and add logos. All these tools are easily found, just Google it.
‘Authenticity’ is a word we are hearing a lot of now, what’s your take on that?
Being authentic is about being true to your values and being able to back that up in a number of ways. If you’re a sustainable fashion label and produce ethically, you want to have imagery that shows that. You’d show the people who make the garments. You can introduce them by name, anything that humanizes and backs up what you say you’re doing. In fashion we are really used to seeing high resolution, highly Photoshopped, high quality glossy images of women wearing clothes. What we rarely see is the behind-the-scenes process. If you’re a small operator, and producing a product, having a very identifiable presence within that is what’s going on will help sell you. If people can get to know you, understand how you work, see where you work, how things are produced, how your values are executed… all of that helps build a story about who you are which helps build trust and credibility.
How does stock photography fit?
I still use a lot of stock imagery and they are good when you’re illustrating a point. You’ve got to be really careful about where you use them. Let’s say, there’s a jogging track through a park that a lot of people love. Let’s say they are doing construction there so you can’t shoot it and your old photos of it are outdated. You could get an image of someone jogging, or running on a track, and say ‘such and such park is being revamped’. There’s a place for stock, just carefully chosen and not too much.
How can a business make their visual communication consistent?
When you’re creating a visual language for a business, ensure the images are in line with the rest of how the content feels. For example you might use high key (light and bright) all the time, so you wouldn’t suddenly use a dark and moody picture, as that would then look out of place. You could have a really simple style guide that describes your company colours, fonts and preferred image style. Create a Pinterest board so you can get an overall helicopter view of the palette you like to play with. Then whether you use stock, your smart phone or a photographer, there’s consistency in the look and feel across all of them.
Some people may hold themselves back from adding images to their posts because they think they can’t take a photo. What do you think about that?
I would say don’t hold back. Make sure your photo is in focus and that you have what you want in the photo composed within the frame. If you have a ‘yes’ on both, then it’s probably ok to post. You touch the screen for the thing you want sharp in the photo. If it’s a high end product, get a professional to shoot it. If it’s something casual like a community day and there’s a bunch of kids running around just take the photos and put them in the newsletter because that’s enough to tell the story of what happened that day.
What’s your take-home nugget of advice Megan when it comes to using photography in social media?
People will forgive anything as long as you don’t waste their time. You can have a low quality photo, but if you’ve imparted something of value or told a good story, they will forgive you. Have a good story, use a photo to accompany it, don’t worry about the quality, do what’s authentic for you and be consistent.
How can readers find you?
You can come to my website at Spendlove and Lamb www.spendloveandlamb.com. I’m easily found everywhere on social under Spendlove and Lamb.