Dismantle the Sharing Dilemma

Tip 35 for Better Shoots by Heidi Rondak

The Post-Production 101

PART B.3: Dismantle the Sharing Dilemma

Social Media platforms are secret weapons for advertising your products effectively. The apps are opened by billions of people every day and you can place your ads with them in a way that will touch the perfect audience if you manage to target it correctly. Furthermore, ads on social media can be designed in a variety of ways from classic banners to branded content, dropped in feeds, stories, or popping up on the edges of the users’ browsers. And don’t forget the fact that their performance is constantly tracked and it can, therefore, be analysed more precisely than e.g. a printed campaign. This is giving you the chance to optimise your strategies from time to time and reach more people. All the latter being said, you can probably imagine that obtaining a photo license for social media use is crucial for it represents an important sector in the marketing of your products. On the other hand, due to the fast-paced nature of these platforms, the easy access to content in general, and the habit of sharing posts rapidly, photography for social media isn’t always cherished as much as it would deserve it. Unfortunately, when this is the case, it’s at the expense of the photographic team who worked for the creation of the images.

Social Media as a Usage

If you’ve read the last tip article your awareness of the need for licenses and buyouts might have increased already, and maybe it’s including a better understanding of social media usage too. The truth is when an image or video is shared – even by private users – the copyright holder must be asked for their permission. In theory. While, practically, this is rarely done and „sharing is caring“ is an established thought around digital networks, in the case of commissioned images as opposed to personal works, the artist is entitled to compensation that considers the possibility of images going viral or reaching a large number of people through sponsored posts. Of course, suggesting that a photographer may profit from their works being seen by many rather than a few is valid and, in fact, true for artistic and editorial works, however, it’s important to also remember that in case of commercial use it’s unusual to buy the images out cheaply and keep crediting the copyright holder in return. Eventually, you certainly prefer to add more information about your product and how it can be purchased instead of confusing your audience with a list of names who created the images. This being said, a buyout for social media usage should take your strategy into consideration which you’ll need to communicate in time, so you can get a well-spelled out license. Based on the list of media that you provide, the range and duration of active posting, the type of content you plan to release, and the number of photos and shares there will be your photographer can calculate an appropriate price for this kind of use. Otherwise, if the usage for social media is not specified in a license agreement posting, sharing, or regramming the images is simply not allowed.

Which Platforms are Considered Social Media?

In Tip No. 2, I’ve already touched on the topic of advertising on social media and deciding on which platforms prior to the shoot. This isn’t only important for negotiating the buyout but also for finding the ideal formats and the right imagery for your target group. Nevertheless, if you’ve possibly watched “The Social Dilemma” by Jeff Orlowski you might already know that social platforms collect a lot of information about their users in order to optimise the placement of your ads individually. This is what you pay for, in fact. So, when it comes to licensing photo material, it is important to be equally aware of your consumers’ behaviour and, if you will, choose the right platforms in respect thereof.

For fashion, as is known, Instagram plays a major role due to the high number of fashion influencers who are mainly active there. Besides, Instagram has added many options for branded content and product placements that can be purchased more easily than they used to be. Considering the fact that Instagram is still very focused on images, this platform can be a powerful spreader which is, furthermore, mostly used by people aged between 18 and 34 years (source: statista.com). Depending on your product range, this age group might be particularly interesting as they are likely to shop clothes online more than older generations.

When it comes to the slightly older generation of 34–44-year-olds, plus an overlap with the previous age group, Facebook is king, also offering the option of creating branded groups, events, etc. Besides, on this platform, text is more visible which is giving your campaign another level for communication. The bad news is that the youngest ones have turned their backs on Facebook meaning that you will have to fish for their attention on TikTok and Snapchat instead. Though, these platforms demand different types of images, namely the moving sort of.

Another platform for video advertisement is, obviously, YouTube. According to statista.com, in the U.S., nearly all generations use YouTube with only a slight decrease towards the older ones. Another interesting aspect of this platform is the fact that your advertisement slips into suitable content which the users themselves search to watch, while on other platforms, people are mainly showered with what their feeds show them, even if this is suitably curated through algorithms.

Coming back to photographs, there are plenty of other platforms, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Tinder, and basically all free and established apps. As you can imagine, however, an ad for tinder should probably be designed differently than an ad on LinkedIn, although, according to statista.com, the most active age groups are similar. In the end, it’s up to you to detect which income classes shall buy your products, at which time of day they do it and in which mood they are, when they do. By defining this you can decide on which social media platforms your products should be available and which sort of images, videos, or other material is needed for this purpose. And ultimately, this analysis helps your photographic team to grasp the dimensions of your future campaign, respectively the spread of their commissioned work and, accordingly, the prices for their buyouts.

What are Social Media Campaigns After All?

To help you estimate the form of your future campaigns better, the following paragraphs are a rough overview of the possibilities given on social media. Certainly, all of them will sound familiar to you – in the end, they are what you see every day when using the platforms yourself. However, looking at them in the context of your own marketing can disclose new perspectives and chances for your brand.

Banners & Pop ups

We’ve seen them all: banners are placed on the top, the bottom, and the sides of many websites we visit. Facebook currently has a little sidebar on the right hand showing you products that you’ve browsed two days in advance, sometimes blowing your Christmas presents to your beloved ones, only because you’re using the same WIFI network. On some pages, preferably newspapers & Co., banners pop up all of a sudden and block your view of the content that you actually want to see. The same happens in YouTube videos. Although we ignore those banners most of the time, or we click the little cross to close them, unconsciously, our brains receive the message. Did you ever come up with a random word, wondering where you picked it up and then searching the whole screen for it only to find it in one of the advertisements after a decent amount of time? This is proof of how much we actually take in ads that are showing on the edges of our screens. Furthermore, the altering trend of still versus moving elements in the banners keep competing for our attention. While the moving versions, which are currently “in”, are taking advantage of the fact that we sense movement more quickly on the periphery of our field of view (which is our Neanderthal brain watching out for hidden dangers | source: scientificamerican.com), still ads rely on their aesthetics, noticeable contrasts and colours, the position of the banner and the very reversion of the trend from moving to still. Pop-up windows, on the other hand, can be viewed as moving objects too but also do they, obviously, impose themselves on the viewers’ central fields of view which are more sensitive to details. And even though both banners and pop-ups only catch a fraction of a second in people’s attention, they do their work on more profound levels, especially if they are seen multiple times. Looked at in that light, if you plan to keep up a campaign for a while, this can trigger sales because it will remember potential buyers of your products over and over and create a subconscious familiarity until they realise they have a desire to buy them.

Sponsored Posts & Stories

Your campaign photos appearing between posts and stories of “real” people suggests that you are part of your users’ lives. When products sneak into spaces like newsfeeds and storylines they naturally get more attention because there, usually, the content of the profiles that someone follows is showcased. I’m sure I’m not the only one in the fashion industry finding myself liking almost only the advertisement posts when scrolling through my Instagram feed and noticing this much later. Because I am used to seeing fashion photos, sponsored posts from this branch look perfectly authentic in the middle of other posts I see. This way, your advertisement has the potential to really catch my eye. When it comes to other target groups, of course, your imagery needs to look another certain way. But the point is that, on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., posts and stories coming from brands can get more active attention and even lead users to direct buying decisions. The basis for this is a proper analysis of your target group and definition thereof in order to have your ad placed in the right feeds, namely the ones of users who could be willing to take action and buy your brand’s products.

Branded Content

Creative content that is sponsored by a brand is another marketing action that qualifies for more authenticity and requires thorough preparation and communication. With this kind of post, you prove that you understand the interests of your consumers and care for their entertainment. Complying with this, you prepare posts around a certain topic and build in your products in an unflashy way – or even more altruistic – you don’t place any products at all but show your logo at the end. In the case of the latter, your brand embodies a generous patron in the service of the arts, culture, or people’s well-being. This is powerful because it creates trust by suggesting a certain lifestyle that is narrated closer and more credibly to the customers than an ordinary advertisement. However, branded content in the mainstream is, mostly, only effective when done by big brands that are well-known because their high budgets ensure equally high quality, and even with low-key name-dropping recognition is a sure thing. To give you an example, imagine an interview with a successful runner circulating the internet along with an epic video and photographs of her – you’ll see a little NIKE logo or (hash)tag at the end but no product is specifically highlighted. Nevertheless, you’ll certainly remember the sponsor of this post very easily.

When it comes to smaller labels, though, the efficacy of branded content depends on the audience and niche you are addressing – if you’ve established an active community that is likely to engage with more „indie“ branded content, in fact, this strategy can offer a great opportunity to reinforce your relationship with them. If you’re rather new, however, you’ll probably need to grow a dedicated audience first by advertising and promoting your brand’s name more loudly.

Another option for both small and big brands – even combined – is represented by brand collaborations producing content together. By communicating common values and visions you create a larger cosmos in which your target groups mingle to a new dimension of buying power, especially, when different product types are presented. Thus, how about, for your next Christmas marketing, you team up with some other brands to develop a strong social marketing plan and concept, split the cost, and shine together?

Influencer Marketing & User-generated Content

The idea behind influencer marketing is likewise authenticity and to thrill your target group with real personalities who have a direct line to the consumers. This can happen in the form of bloggers or social media stars promoting your products, or campaigning with them as models. Another option is branded content with an influencer as the protagonist. Howsoever, the person’s outreach is yours and you might win over their fans for yourself. In this case, it is important to get a license that is tailored for posts that are going viral with the help of your chosen influencer.

As opposed to that, when you bank on user-generated content, you are betting on a quantity of posts that are all e.g. using a specific hashtag. In this case, usually, users take images, or videos with your product or they speak out about a certain topic that you also stand for as a patron. Obviously, for this, you don’t need a photo team, however, this marketing strategy might be expensive nonetheless, depending on the reward you offer the users who are willing to praise your products and values. To develop further thoughts on this, if you prefer high-quality imagery but still want to be in touch with your consumers you can, for instance, create a campaign with people like you and me in front of the camera. This way, you swing aboard a train that’s moving towards more body positivity and diversity anyway. Either way, by choosing a lifelike setting you help to deconstruct existing norms and show the bigger picture which could be, to give you a simple example, showing material from behind the scenes of a shoot in a story, or YouTube video. As casual and random as this may sound, doing so can be part of a strategy that makes your brand more approachable to your customers.

Last but not least it’s a must to say that all kind of advertisement, not only on social media, needs to be highlighted as such. Of course, it might be in your interest to suggest content that looks deceptively real to your target groups and as you could read in this article, there are many ways to just do that. However, in most countries, ads are classified as misleading if there’s no indication stating that it’s a case of advertisement. And this is illegal. 

To bring it to the full circle and finally talk about copyright laws again, from the viewpoint of a photographer who shot your campaign photos, properly labeled advertisements are a better indicator of your intentions regarding the photographic material. So when they’re making use of their right to claim full disclosure as they can in Germany, as described in the last article, comparing the actual use and the license agreement is made easier by your correct label as “sponsored post”, “advertisement”, or just “ad”.


If you enjoyed reading this article, or you found it helpful in one way or another, I would love to know (reach out)! You are also welcome to support my work and writing by donating whichever amount this is worth to you. I will thank you with lots of telepathic love and more interesting journal entries. Cheers!

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