You can’t avoid them. Photography Facebook communities are everywhere now. Most photographers belong to at least one. You don’t even get a choice – people just add you to groups, and before you know it your newsfeed is just one long stream of photography chatter. And, let’s face it, the quality varies!
Becoming an active member of a great Facebook group can be a fantastic source of inspiration, support, motivation and friendship. It can be a wonderful, life-enhancing experience. I have met true, like-minded friends via these groups over the years.
I used to be a member of a zillion Facebook groups. I tried to engage with all of them before realizing that I was losing weeks of my life interacting with stuff that didn’t really add any value to my photography, or to my life in general. So, I made the decision to cull the groups that I didn’t get much from, and just removed myself without a second thought.
Out of the groups that remained, I chose just three in which to be active. These were the groups I felt strongly connected to. I had become a core member of each and truly enjoyed the people and the chats.
This left a small number of groups in which I decided to become a silent member. I didn’t feel a bond with the group, but I was still getting value from the content. Yes, in some groups, I am one of the lurkers.
I don’t contribute. I might click Like occasionally if I see something wonderful, but I don’t post, but I am not alone. In larger Facebook groups the majority of members are silent. However, you are looking and reading, this doesn’t make you any less important. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I am admin for a fabulous Facebook group of learning photographers, and I often get private messages of thanks from members who have never once contributed to a thread. These lurkers are actually very important to me. I know they are quietly consuming the content in the background.
But there is another type of member. They attempt to engage but others don’t respond. They post sporadically in different groups, get dejected, and sometimes even defensive when their posts do not get the engagement that other active members enjoy. No one commented. No one even pressed Like.
Some will grump in silence and decide never to post there again. Some are a little noisier about it…
It is human nature to feel this way. If we go to the effort of putting ourselves out there, then of course we hope for a positive response. When we don’t get one, we feel disappointed, or even rejected. They may think:
- They are cliquey.
- They are unfriendly.
- They have not accepted me.
Sometimes stuff just gets missed. People are busy, posts get buried – that’s life. However, often the reason for the lack of response (or maybe the negative response) is much more to do with you than you might want to believe.
Let’s say you have found a photography Facebook group that you like. It just ‘fits’. You feel an affinity with the other members, the ethos of the group works for you and the content is pitched at your level. Maybe you have just joined or maybe you have been lurking for a while and now you would like to enter the fold.
How do you go about doing that? Especially in a well established group?
I have seen many newbies join Facebook groups and become much-loved members within a few weeks. However, I have also seen others try, only to crash and burn. Here is what I have learned from those who manage to succeed.
1. Take your time. Don’t ask for something straight away.
I see this all the time. A newbie’s first ever post is asking for something from the other members. It might be a request for critique, or a question about a challenge they are having.
Asking for something at this point is not ideal. The other members don’t know you. They don’t feel compelled to help you yet. Not because they don’t like you, but because you haven’t given them a reason to want to help you.
So how do you make people want to help you?
2. Introduce yourself (but your life story isn’t necessary).
Tell everyone who you are, that you are glad to be there, and that you’re looking forward to getting involved. Don’t post an image. Don’t ask for anything at all.
Keep it short and sweet. No one wants to read a random stranger’s autobiography on their newsfeed, however interesting you may think it is.
3. Give of yourself and watch it come back.
If you don’t take the time to respond to others, why would you expect them to respond to you?
Find images you genuinely like and compliment the photographer, or ask them a question about how they achieved it. Photographers love to be congratulated on their work and they enjoy talking about how it was created.
If there was a question posted that you know the answer to, then take some time to craft a response.
If you can identify with a challenge someone else is having, say so. Empathize. The person on the receiving end of your time will be grateful, and they will remember.
4. Engage selectively.
Don’t misinterpret number three above. I am not saying that you should hop onto every thread gushing about everyone’s images, answer every question, and agree with every statement. People-pleasers never win. Not only would other members see right through this, but you would also have no time left in the day for anything else.
Engage with posts which add value to the group and ignore the nonsense (there will be some). Be present in interesting discussions, and frame your responses with respect and intelligence.
You will be remembered.
5. Reach out to like-minded individuals.
We live in a new world. A world where it is actually possible to have good friends you have never met in person. Making friends online can be similar to making friends the traditional way, in that we gravitate towards those we have something in common with.
Look for those people in the group. Maybe they have a similar style to you, or they seem to get your dry sense of humour. Perhaps, like you, they love to geek out on equipment specifications, or they are struggling with the same issues that you are.
Connect with them within the group at first (in a non-stalker way) then later send them a friend request.
6. When posting or commenting, consider motive, wording and tone.
So let’s say you have done everything in numbers 1-6 above. Now your fellow members are much more likely to respond positively to you! They have seen your name pop up for some time now, alongside your considered comments. Maybe they have even been on the receiving end of some of your genuine praise.
They still have to feel inclined to engage with you though. Your motive, wording and tone will all contribute to whether other members interact positively with you.
That, however, is a whole other article…
Do you belong to a Facebook photography group? What makes you decide whether to become a part of that group, whether to remain a lurker or whether to leave?