How To Make Money With Photos

There are so many components to making money through marketing photographs of products, services, and experiences online. Here is some clear guidance on how to think about photos and how they fit in to the marketing activities you execute for your business or organization.

Why engagement matters

Your job is to reach as many people as possible with your material. On social media individual posts are being shown to around 15% of followers. That is a really small percentage. So, the important goal here is to reach that 15% and above.

To do this on social media you have to influence a critical formula that determines reach. This is not exactly how each platform does it, but it is extremely close to accurate across all platforms.

The most important factors is really one level more complex that this. Here are the critical factors:

  1. Popularity of your posts (measured at the account level by interactions)
  2. Post performance (measured by interactions)
  3. Estimated interest (viewer specific intelligence)
  4. Format preference (viewer specific)
  5. Recency (how long it has been since the post was created)

Important takeaways from this list:

  • Do not buy fake followers. Fake followers result in poor interaction which prevents post reach from reaching its potential.
  • Share images and videos, they perform much better and people prefer to look at them

"To really make reach as good as possible the best return on investment is to share really great photos"

How to find inspiring and creative photos

The best performing photos are created by users that are showing some sort of experience where your product is placed. These are the images that get the most interaction on social media and so as a brand, you want to create these. Contrast user created images with product images, which show just the product on a white background. People really don't want to interact with product photos.

A lawn sprinkler company shouldn't share photos of their latest sprinkler, they should share photos of amazing lawns, gardens, and landscapes with the sprinkler doing its thing in the picture. Or, kids playing in that sprinkler. The product image is boring and no one wants to see it.

So now there is a challenge, how do you get user photos that are worth using? Here are the best sources:

  • Your customers
  • Your own "staged" user photos

Product Image Example

User Photo Example

You do not want to steal images from other places because that is illegal and one day that will catch up with you and expose the business to significant risk.

How to navigate the legal side of user generated content

The most important thing to do is to get permission to use a photo. There are two sets of permission that you need:

  1. Copyright release
  2. Model release
  3. Logo release

Copyrights are held by the photographers and so getting permission from the photographer to use the photo is a necessary step.

If there are human models in the photos then you want a separate authorization from each of them to use the photo.

If there is a corporate logo in the image, you need permission from that company.

With these in hand there is essentially zero risk to the company from using the photo in marketing.

Now you're thinking that this is a lot of work... but it isn't. There are some great sources for user generated photos that are affordable and come with a full set of licenses on each image. We recommend you scope out: Twenty20 as a retail solution. You can also use free platforms like Unsplash and Pixabay but these are generally not going to show your specific product.

There is another solution as well, reach out to people who post an image of your product on social media and ask them for permission to use the photo. When people give their permission, you're then in the clear to use it on marketing materials.

Another great way is to engage people directly asking them to provide images with a hashtag, by tagging a social account, or uploading an image directly, for example:

  • Store signage
  • Website upload capability
  • Instagram profile description guidance

How to monetize images in marketing channels

Now the key is to take these great user photos and experience photos and use them in marketing. Millennials would really rather buy an experience over an item and so these user photos are critical to your ability to sell to millennials. Millennials don't want to be marketed to... they want to consume an experience... and they don't care whether it comes from their friends, brand fans, or the brand, as long as it is authentic user-style photos.

So, once you have these images you have many places where you can share it:

  1. Social
  2. Blog posts
  3. In store
  4. eCommerce Product Pages
  5. Email Marketing
  6. Ads
  7. Influencers

One of our favorite ways to use these photos is to put them alongside standard product images on ecommerce product pages. These should be directly on the product pages and over time, there should be more user photos than product photos... remember, Millennials want the experience and user photos drive this connection between a product and an experience.

You can also work these in to social feeds, blog posts, and wherever else you're marketing.