How I got 1.7 million views on Unsplash by nourishing the souls of office workers
A while ago, I was sitting at home wondering, in what area I could have the greatest impact during an afternoon?
I ate a chickpea wrap and a Frosta meal. Few thoughts came. Then, with a sense of tremendous majesty, the idea crashed down on me like a giant wave.
The answer: Corporate powerpoints.
I would help those suffering from low-grade powerpoints. I would salve the needs of those who couldn't find high-quality photos for their presentations. And, in a way that Michelangelo failed to do, my images would grace team meetings and lunchtime commercial awareness talks.
People have now viewed my photos on Unsplash over 1.7 million times. This is quite crazy.
Here are my thoughts about why choosing a niche increases the quality that you can offer, and how you too might enrich the lives of the poor people working in large, preferably multi-national, corporations.
Getting 1.7 million views
Like I said, my paintbrush was the niche of corporate presentations. My aim was to bring joy to the office-bound by getting my photos in as many company powerpoints as possible.
People visit Unsplash to get photos for their projects. They want focused, high-quality, licence-free images. I would nourish their souls.
To begin the nourishment, I searched through my photos for high-grade images that would brighten someone's powerpoint presentation. I imagined that the person was presenting to sleep-deprived workers, before lunch, on a sunless winter day, in a big city, in a grey room with plastic plants. Perhaps the people in the room were even accountants.
So, the images needed to be simple, uncluttered, and with one main subject. They needed to grab the viewers' attention before they went for their fourth coffee of the day, or visited the toilet yet again to secretly check their phone.
This worked. The images have received over 1.7 million views, with hundreds of thousands of uses.
Besides many office presentations, I am delighted to see my photos being used by massage parlours and wellness centres. This is great continuity.
Have a coherent channel
This worked because I focused on a narrow niche. In particular, publishing multiple photos in the corporate powerpoint niche was effective. While a single image might become popular, having a portfolio in a niche makes them all more useful.
Publishing multiple products makes the value that you offer even clearer. Anyone looking at your products can see the common theme.
Because of this common theme, people can understand your products much more clearly. People can then decide more easily whether they want what you are offering.
This principle applies regardless of whether your product is a newsletter, marketing services, or a web5 cheese blockchain SaaS platform.
Why a narrow niche?
The tighter your niche, the clearer your value is to other people. If the package containing your content doesn't have a tight focus, you dilute your message.
Be 100% cat
Diluting your message reduces the value that you can provide to other people. Instead of giving 100% freshly-squeezed orange juice, you give the other person a mix of orange juice and pond water.
For example, if a person wants cat photos, why would they choose to visit site A which has few cat photos? The person would much rather visit site B containing 100% cat.
This applies to your blog, twitter page, or any other public content. For people to be able to engage easily with the value that you post, avoid diluting your content.
A Friend's Mixed Messaging
In contrast, having content with no clear theme or niche produces a mixed message.
One friend is an aspiring photographer. She has taken some nice photos, but her mixed messaging means that few people have seen her photos or follow her on social media.
She sends out mixed messages because her published photos lack a clear theme. For example, she shares photos of herself travelling, landscapes, portraits of friends, art, animals - any photo that someone might take with their phone as they go about their life.
This is way too broad. Someone who comes across her photos sees a haystack of different themes.
Put simply, the person visiting my friend's photography page sees a thematic mess. There are nice photos, but the lack of a tight theme between my friend's photos makes them conflict with each other. As I learnt first-hand from my Nan's demonstration, chicken and banana are tasty ingredients, but not in the same dish.
Avoid posting ski holiday pics
To use another example, I saw someone complaining on twitter today about how few people were buying his podcasting course.
Looking at his twitter and personal pages, his pages are the epitome of mixed message.
Thematically, it is like someone has grabbed tubes of paint and thrown them into a shredder. The result is an abstract expressionist mix of MMA fight interviews; links to his podcast course; videos of people stealing things in Los Angeles; faux-philosophy; and holiday pictures of him climbing a glacier with his girlfriend.
These parts of his life don't fit together cohesively for the online stranger looking at them. If he wants to grow his public profile, and wants to share this content, he should have a separate channel for each.
Mixing the different parts of what he is offering confuses anyone visiting his channel for the first time - his niche is missing.
Make your value easy to understand with a clear theme
Solution: narrow your niche.
Imagine if my photographer friend only shared analog camera photos of people's faces. As the "analog face woman", this tighter niche would immediately add clarity (and style) to her published photos.
By presenting her value clearly, someone visiting my friend's page could easily engage with her.
The friend could also make other channels with different niches. Perhaps creating a separate page for photos of llamas on french trams (See "Drunk french friends take llama called Serge on tram ride"). The key point is that each channel would concentrate on one theme.
My experiment in changing office workers' lives by giving them free powerpoint presentation images showed me the importance of having a clear theme.
Further notes for me:
- Make your message as clear as possible.
- One channel, one theme.
- Photos of brick walls are more popular than photos of butterflies.
Thanks to Charlie Colenutt, author of Reworking, for reading a draft of this article, and politely suggesting that I make it more fun.