Sunday, 28 February 2016

Facebook groups - antisocial behaviour

As much as many of us like to moan about Facebook and its limitations on organic reach, it's a useful tool for many photographers - whether just starting out or a seasoned professional. The limitations imposed on how your posts to your page are shared amongst the general public can easily be negated by spending 5 minutes manually sharing your beautiful new photo to a number of relevant groups - extending your audience beyond those who have been kind enough to like your page in the past.

The problem is, group owners and admins are increasingly banning such sharing, and I don't think I'm alone in thinking that this makes no sense and will be detrimental to everybody. These groups have been built on a successful formula of allowing everyone to post their photos - whether from expensive DSLRs, point and shoots or phone cameras. From professionals to amateurs to walkers who like a view. From those who get out once a year to those who are out every day. It's wonderful to see such a wide variety of photographs from all ages and abilities - and I know that seeing the photography of those better than me has inspired me plenty in the past and continues to do so. Whilst at the same time, the phone snaps of the random walkers remind me to revisit certain locations or show me new ones entirely - every single photograph shared in these groups has a value to me, no matter how subjectively good or bad.

So why have a few groups suddenly decided to ban posts shared from photographer's personal pages, under the guise of their 'no advertising' rules? There are a number of problems with this which I'll hopefully get to the bottom of (from my side, at least), but I'm sure I'll miss a few points - so I'd love this to be discussed further if you think you have anything to add.

Firstly, there is surely a distinction between advertising and using Facebook's own tools to share a photo. I don't doubt for a second that it's reasonable to not have people selling their wares on every group they can, that would really damage the social aspect of any group. But does sharing a post from a photography page really class as advertising? There's a huge difference between posting on a group and asking people to 'BUY THIS NOW' with a direct link to purchase and posting a relevant photograph that happens to be linked to the owner's page. The 'buy now' link takes you to a point of sale, the photo simply displays as any photo does on Facebook and it's then the reader's decision as to whether they then want to click on that little name in the top right corner to continue through to the photographer's page where things may or may not be for sale. I completely accept that I can't advertise workshops, prints or whatever else I might like so sell on public groups, that's fine, but to ban sharing posts of mine entirely seems to be throwing a rather beautiful baby out with the bathwater. I won't get any sales from sharing a simple photo, it's not commercial, it's just that a few likes is the minimum I can hope for for contributing to their group. Which moves nicely onto my next point...

The whole of Facebook is built, as you might expect, on social interactions and the inherent sharing between people. Who do group owners think they are that they can expect high quality imagery to bring more people to their little space on Facebook without giving anything in return? Facebook itself is a wonderful, natural social leveler. Posts that are worth seeing are promoted to the top of newsfeeds and those deemed a waste of time are demoted. They've got the system perfected as it matters so much to their advertising profits - so why do individual group owners feel the need to question the all knowing power of capitalism? As I mentioned before, many of these groups were grown on very relaxed rules where the pro's could contribute alongside the beginners - so why would the successful groups change that when they have grown so huge on such rules? It makes no sense. I've not even touched on the expense that many of us incur in taking photos yet either. Many of those with Facebook pages will have spent thousands of pounds on gear, will travel hundreds of miles every week and wait around in dark, cold landscapes just to have something worth sharing - and now the group owners are telling us that we can have nothing in return? A simple back link is hardly that much to ask for such an effort/expense.

Do the group owners really want to lose their most qualified and able contributors? It seems that way, but I can't understand why. In discussion with a couple of admins, the reasoning is that the 'pro's' were dominating the group - but have a look at any number of landscape groups and see if this is the case? It certainly doesn't seem so to me, and if by 'pro' you mean anyone with a page - then that's a misguided distinction in itself. 

By banning page shares from a group, you're ruining it for the photographers who have spent many hours and plenty of money on perfecting what they do, you're harming the chances of local artists succeeding, you're lessening the value of the group you're trying to do the best for and you're bypassing the whole point of social media.

Nobody wins.


  1. This may start slightly off topic, but bear with me.
    You get the vast populous who look at a pretty photo, and go "ooh pretty photo" and press like, and move on to the next photo. They don't care who made it, how or even why.
    Then you get the others who look at the pretty photo, press like and then go "This person made a lovely photo, what else have they done ?"
    They then will follow the social network chain and find other places where you share work and follow those too.
    I find my really good fans will find me on IG, DA, FB, FB Page.
    So in my (worthless probably) opinion to say you are 'advertising' yourself is true and false. Yes you are advertising, but whether it was you as a person or you as a photographic entity (FB Page) it really makes very little difference.
    The one hit likers will like, the curious will follow the chain...
    Not to mention advertising your business to other photographers isn't going to net you much income is it?
    What should be the real issue is people who share images, but are so securely locked down that 99% of people see "Attachment Unavailable". They are the bigger cancer.
    Keep up the good work mate.
    Footnote: I did oversimplify ... There are a few other types of people with differing strategies, but these two are the most common

    1. I think there's an intermediate follower - myself being one of them. I rarely go seeking out a photographer from something they share manually, physically searching for them, unless the photo is absolutely stunning. But if I quite like a photo I'll often click through to their page to see more of their work if the link is readily available. It's the chunk of people like me that miss out if you don't allow page shares. It's hard to quantify but I'm sure I must have got a good few hundred fans in this semi-organic way.

      But you're right, the joy of the Dales group (which this was motivated by) was that it was a lovely mix. Walkers with their phones right through to professionals - so even if just one workshop or a few calendars extra sell each year then that's great. Never gonna make your fortune on FB but it's nice to keep hold of people once they've noticed you.

      But yeah - I don't see the point in joining groups if you're going to do that. Again, it's a two way thing, if you want to see other folk's stuff you should be willing to share your own!

  2. I saw that coming with the group for a long time, the same thing happened with a FB group I used to follow of leeds photos. It's as though when a group reaches a certain size there is a tipping point and everything goes pear shaped.People with no artistic merit whatsoever become admins with the same mentality as jobworths, the power goes to their heads and thats it.The exact same thing happened on the leeds site and the first people to feel the wrath of these ''Party members'' are the very people who make the site popular,ie the ones who upload decent photos. A sneering tone is usually the beginning,people who by their comments show their total ignorance, we dont want photoshop, messed about photos,the sad thing is the total ignorance of what a digital photo is and what social networking in its best sense is all about.

    1. Yeah, it seems all the large Lake District groups are the same - I've just never joined them as a result. It's just a shame when they change the rules after having us all contribute and help them grow it for so long.

      Great video earlier btw, didn't get chance to like it as I got distracted by someone... but very nice, makes me want summer already!