To pin or not to pin: the social media debate heats up the photography industry
When Pinterest first arrived on the social media circuit it appeared to provide a natural supplement to the wedding photography industry, through a unique way to share and catalog images as well as market them and boost online presence. On paper, Pinterest seems like the perfect tool for the established wedding photographer. With it, prospective brides and grooms are able to find inspiration, “pinning” their ideas together. From color schemes and flowers to location ideas and dress designs, Pinterest became a veritable hive of inspiration and the unsung hero across the platform was the photographer.
Pinterest is a social media platform which is primarily based around displaying and sharing pictures and photographs. Each user can “Pin” images they like and gather them into customized collections. For example, a user may create a “board” and name it “traditional wedding ideas” and pin a few images to it, complete with titles and descriptions. Boards can be open or private, and can be followed by anyone, with each image or “Pin” gathering “likes” in a similar fashion to Facebook.
The majority of Pinterest users are female and are aged between 25 and 44 so in terms of target audience, Pinterest fits the bill perfectly for wedding photographers. However, wedding photographers have a great deal more to consider than simply sharing their images – they need to make a living too. How does Pinterest shape up in terms of conversion to leads? What about copyright issues? Is Pinterest really worth it for the budding or experienced wedding photographer and their business? We’ll get to this shortly, but first we need to consider the aesthetic and creative benefits of Pinterest, if any.
A tip for using Pinterest with brides
As a wedding photographer, one great way to use Pinterest is to create a shared board specifically for each of your brides. By sharing your Pinterest account in this way it will essentially provide a vision board for your client and allow her to amass a collection photos that give her ideas for her wedding pictures. You can then view those photos to get a notion of what she is looking for when it comes to details and unique thoughts. Not only is this a great way to get her to follow your boards but she’ll likely share this board with her friends and thereby promote your business and potentially generate more leads.
How does Pinterest influence the creative process?
If you do decide to employ Pinterest in this fashion, here are a few words of caution. As any professional photographer knows, more goes into “taking a picture” than most people realize. It’s not just a simple case of point and click or getting the lighting correct. One of these often overlooked elements is that of spontaneity. In order for a photographer to flourish, artistic license and freedom are his best friends. Some of the most wonderful photographs are a blend of skill, readiness and the ability to capture that climactic moment. One of the challenges photographers face when using Pinterest is maintaining this creative freedom. Brides-to-be most commonly use Pinterest to look at other wedding photos and draw their inspiration from them. Unfortunately, some brides take it to the extreme and want to recreate the photos they see down to the final detail or even with the expressions on the subjects’ faces. These pictures, like so many great photographs, are often situational and informed by circumstance – if a bride was to latch onto certain photographs it could potentially limit the photographer, put undue pressure on the big day and stifle the creative process.
If you do decide to use Pinterest, make sure your clients are aware it’s a tool for ideas and not a blueprint for their album. Make sure your clients understand that often the best photographs are original, natural and, in the case of wedding photographs, specific and meaningful to the couple. Some might argue that Pinterest is not a source of inspiration at all, but a set of perfect and completed works of art which people want to recreate. Before using Pinterest, ask yourself if you feel it will truly inspire creativity or hinder your originality.
How can Pinterest drive leads?
Pinterest certainly gets a great deal of daily traffic and has an excellent Google PageRank (the score given by Google which indicates influence and its likelihood to appear in search results). It’s also worth noting that a whopping 86% of visitors to the site are female and the largest group of them are in the 25-34 age bracket. So the ten million strong audience is an ideal target, but what do they use Pinterest for?
Pinterest, like all social media sites, is a medium for self expression. People Pin and Re-Pin things which they aspire to or strive for, or things which reflect their personality. From a business perspective, this provides an excellent marketing tool and can capture some heavy traffic to your site through clicks and referrals. But how does this influence sales?
While Pinterest is a good marketing tool for physical products, it has proven less useful for those offering a service (such as a wedding photographer) in terms of sales conversions. So spending a great deal of time marketing your wedding photography business on Pinterest may not be worthwhile if you’re looking purely for sales and leads.
However, the SEO (search engine optimization) benefits of Pinterest are invaluable to a business, especially if your page rank is not where you want it to be. The traffic and “page authority” gained from site referrals and click-throughs will lead to an improved ranking in search engine results. This alone can help your business boom, particularly for geographically based businesses like wedding photography.
It’s worth mentioning that all social media sites take time and effort to maintain – Pinterest perhaps more than most. While the SEO benefits of a site like Pinterest are undoubtedly valuable, a ‘dead site’ which isn’t updated and left to go stale will do more harm than good for your business. Think of social media sites as planted seeds – you must take time to nurture the account for it grow into something others will see as having value and thereby worth following or subscribing to.
Of course, one of the main concerns surrounding the use of Pinterest for a medium like photography is that of copyright infringement (we’ll visit this in a moment), but the traffic generated could potentially offset any minor infringements in terms of benefit.
On the whole, if you’re a budding wedding photographer looking for a greater online presence, then Pinterest can be a valuable tool but if you’re solely looking to gather leads and close deals, it may not produce the results you’re looking for.
Image copyrighting and Pinterest
Pinterest actually specifies in its usage policy that users should not pin photos which they do not own the rights to, however this is largely ignored by the vast majority of users. This basically means that any image you share on Pinterest is up for grabs and there’s little you can do about it. When YouTube started gaining a large following it ran into similar problems and it’s still an issue to this day – YouTube will remove any video violating copyright laws upon complaint, and Pinterest will do the same – but things can quickly get out of your control. Most photographers will get around this by watermarking their images, but this will also diminish its “sharing value” among collectors and pinners. The main laws pertaining to this kind of issue are the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the law of Fair Use, although sites like Pinterest reside in an enormous grey area. Your images will be shared, probably without your consent, so it’s imperative that you weigh up the pros and cons mentioned here and decided whether or not it’s worth it to you.
The bottom line about Pinterest
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a higher page rank and some traffic then it’s perhaps worth taking a dive into Pinterest. It’s important, however, not to share everything up front – think of using Pinterest as you would any other social media site (like Facebook or Twitter), and leave “breadcrumbs” for people to give them a reason to click through to your site. Once they’ve done that, even if they don’t make an inquiry, they’re improving the visibility and “domain authority” of your site. On the other hand, if you have an accomplished website, Pinterest may not be worth the hassle it takes to maintain. View Pinterest, not as a gallery for your work or a market area for sales, but for what it actually is – a social media site.