Social Media is now endemic to our culture and used effectively can be a powerful tool to drive business. However, with the sheer number of means to connect, figuring out the best way to allocate your time can be daunting. Currently 32% of the population worldwide uses the internet which translates to 2.5 billion individuals. In the United States 82% of the population uses the internet.
Typical questions I receive from photographers I consult with include:
• What is the best way to use social media to connect with clients?
• How should I disseminate content on social media, and what is appropriate?
• How often should I update my postings, how much is too much?
• Does social media really generate business, or is it a waste of valuable time and energy?
• Should I only post to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter or should I also use Vine, Google +, and include Tumblr and Behance?
• As a professional should I embrace or avoid Instagram?
• How can I improve my SEO, through social media?
Below, is a biased opinion on the pros and cons of the ten most relevant social media networks for photographers, as well as a few tips for maximizing your time and effort.
• The largest social network, with over one billion subscribers worldwide.
• Almost everyone has a profile, so it is easy to find your contacts.
• The mobile app gives you "push" notifications when there is an update from your contacts.
• People are more likely to take the advice/recommendation of a trusted friend than the advice of a stranger. Referrals on Facebook by your clients are GOLDEN.
• Your fan page can be branded with your logo and relevant business information.
• Facebook is continually changing its' privacy rules and settings regarding posted, copyrighted images, this opens you to infringement, which is next to impossible to track.
• Getting friends to like your "fan page" can be a challenge.
Many photographers opt to pay to promote via their fan page. Payment guarantees that your content will post not only your fans, but also to a broader targeted audience. This is an effective way to promote your posts to a captive audience, who is, presumably, interested in your content.
Personal Pages are weighted higher in indexing, if you post to your personal page it will be seen by more people than the followers on your fan page, unless you pay to promote it. Using your personal page to promote your work can be problematic if you upload any “incriminating” images/content, so it is advisable not to promote your personal page to clients.
• Very quick means of communication. 140 characters or less.
• There is no built in filter, so unlike Facebook, everything you post is seen by all those that follow you.
• Easy to use and navigate.
• Not a good resource for generating assignments. Twitter is a very quick read without resonance.
• Moves too fast and most people don’t monitor their Twitter accounts the way they do Facebook.
• Lots of “noise” makes it hard to leave an impression, unless you are a celebrity.
In order to optimize the benefits of Twitter you will need to use hashtags. Hashtags are used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. Hashtags are used are to categorize messages in a “noisy” environment. The hashtag symbol # can be used before a relevant keyword or phrase (no spaces) in your tweets in order to to show up in a general Twitter search. Use relevant hashtags that would also be used by others. Obscure hashtags will not generate traffic.
Clicking on a hash tagged word in any message will display all the other tweets marked with that keyword. Hashtags can be placed anywhere in your tweet, beginning, middle or end.
Popular hashtagged words are considered “trending”. Using a hashtag on a public account enables anyone doing a search with that hashtag to find your tweet. Do not over hashstag a tweet and do not spam with hashtags. Recommended best practice is to use a maximum of two hashtags per tweet. You can also utilize @ to give mention to yourself or others, @johnberthot. Etc…
One of the goals of having a Twitter account is to gain followers. One of the best ways to do this is to follow other people, with the hope that they will, in turn, follow you. As a general rule, follow those people who would also be interested in what you have to say, and will in turn follow you
A free Twitter management website, www.tweepi.com, assists in managing your Twitter account. This website allow you to "un-follow" people not following you, as well as, follow people that those you follow also follow...confusing I know. It will be clear once you you view the website.
No professionals, that I am aware of, view this as a revenue generator or resource for building a viable client base. In addition to the pirating of images, clients do not use this as a resource for finding professionals. The interface has become outdated, and Yahoo is no longer a relevant search engine. It was surpassed by Google many years ago. Some photographers claim to make print sales from Flickr, but prices are so low, I don’t believe it is worth the upload time, and pirating is a major concern.
Instagram can be a time waster, if you are not careful. If you do want to use Instagram, and are a professional photographer, it is most advantageous to post your best quality work and assignments that you want to showcase. Avoid the use of filters. They are generic and overused by most people. Rarely do they improve a weak image, especially if you are a professional.
I am not aware of any clients searching for talent on Instagram. But it may be attracting the attention of more decision makers, but only if they follow you and you post high quality imagery. It is, of course, possible to follow lots of people without actually posting yourself and create an account that is not linked to your professional identity, but in my opinion this is not the most useful social media tool for driving new business.
• An effective resource for finding inspiration and creating “mood boards” for clients, in addition to generating inspiration for test shoots, you are organizing.
• Pinterest is useful for finding ads for companies/brands you would be interested in shooting for.
• Easy to navigate interface.
• You can generate traffic back to your site, provided you include an ACTIVE LINK to your website in the "pin"
• By focusing on trending topics you can increase the likelihood that your image will be "repined" thus driving traffic back to your site. You will thereby increase the likelihood of getting hired, as well as, indirectly increasing your Google ranking.
• Include all your relevant business information in your profile along with your logo, profile picture and business name.
• Link your Facebook and Twitter accounts in Pinterest's account settings.
• Use a business profile and not your personal page, so you can accurately monitor your analytics.
• Do not pin images that are not Pinterest quality, ie: too small, too large, blurry etc.
• Add a "pin" description by using appropriate keywords, and hashtags, as well as links to your other social media, blog and website and mix up your content so it does not get boring and repetitious.
• Include an active Pinterest logo on your website and blog, as a reminder for people who visit your website to "pin" your content.
No real cons other than over-pinning or pinning content that is not relevant to your brand or business. This is a public forum, please keep this in the forefront of your mind. If you only use Pinterest to create mood boards and would like them to remain private, adjust your privacy settings accordingly.
• Only purely professional social network.
• The best social media network to connect with clients, without being overly familiar, as well as a place for other professionals to recommend you, across multiple categories.
• Ability to post resume, and specific relevant business skills that can be easily viewed and recommended by your peers.
• Easy way to organize your professional contacts, and stay current on their employment.
• Ability to link in with Twitter to promote content across platforms without re-posting.
• An abundance of networking groups to join and engage which enables you to connect with a range of professionals, with the purpose of obtaining advice and feedback. Most groups are open, but if not you will usually be approved, provided you meet the group guidelines and criteria. Once accepted, do not spam your offerings or services, or you will be banned from commenting and participating in the group.
• Typically not monitored as closely as Facebook, thus content does not get shared as often.
• Not a forum for creating a dialog, unless you are in a networking group.
• Updates and content need to be considered closely to ensure professional relevancy.
When you view a LinkedIn profile the individual you viewed is aware that you have viewed them. Avoid using LinkedIn to randomly to connect with people that you have never met.
• Purely visual medium. Images look great on Tumblr.
• Posts are often shared and re-blogged thus driving traffic to your website.
• Photography gets the most of attention on Tumblr.
• Once you gain "followers", your updates will always show up in their newsfeed.
• Effective way to showcase new images and ideas.
• Tumblr can function as a blog without a Wordpress plug-in. There are a variety of templates in which to create your blog format.
• Tumblr does not naturally encourage engagement. You must enable the reply feature, obtaining a Disqus account assists with this.
• It is necessary to add meta-data to your posts via Lightroom along with a brief subject text to enable random searching, this can be time consuming and repetitive.
• Pirating is a problem, so it is best to include watermarks/digimarks.
• It is possible to post work in progress, and include revisions.
• You can include music, graphics, and illustration, and obtain advice from "followers".
• Easy to share content within your other social networks.
• Similar to Facebook but the “like” option is termed “appreciate”, this familiarity encourages "sharing".
• Easy to upload images directly from Lightroom.
• The "Pro-Site" allows you to build a portfolio with a unique URL. Templates are provided and are customizable, this is free if you meet certain predetermined criteria.
• Behance is specifically geared and targeted to creative individuals.
• An online community for creative professionals; Behance.net, facilitates networking.
• Relatively small number of members at only 1 million in comparison to Facebook’s 1 billion members.
• Awkward interface.
• Anyone can post a portfolio, so quality is often lacking.
Developed by Twitter, Vine is a video app that it is used to create a 6-second animated GIF with an audio background. Vine utilizes the iphone/android camera and microphone to record video clips that can be linked to Twitter and Facebook.
Vine is still in its infancy and thus mostly used by amateurs. It may prove useful to photographers in the future but currently it is not worth engaging in, unless you have strong video component to your website. It is hard to make an impression in six seconds.
In order to use this social media tool effectively it is important to be cognizant of certain fundamentals.
• Google + is still fairly new and as such is not widely used or understood. All content is indexed through a Google search so it will increase your ranking through approval by the Google "bots".
To best utilize Google + do the following:
• Set up a business page and and categorize your business. Provide your location...VERY important for Google places and to raise your "SERP" (search engine results page), include your website URL.
• Do not overuse keywords, this is an old marketing trick that the Google 'bots" are well aware of. Use semantics and input data in paragraph format, not comma separated keywords.
• Segment people you "follow", and write client specific targeted updates and send them out to targeted groups.
• Circles are meant to target your your posts and target specific clients. Don't overuse or abuse them.
• As on Facebook, Google uses algorithms to allocate what are posts are seen in your circles and newsfeed. The built in email option will ensure your posts reach the circles you want to reach.
• Join "communities" to connect with your clients.
• Ensure your website, landing pages, and blog posts have a Google + 1 button.
Do not be overly solicitous in your posts and only include information about yourself and your business. Social media experts suggest using the 80/20 rule. In other words, 80% of your posts should not be self-referential and only 20% of posts about you and your business. By using this formula you will remain relevant and encourage others to join your “circles”
Images look great on Google +, upload high quality images.
GENERAL SOCIAL MEDIA ETIQUETTE:
Fortunately, due to the abundance of social media outlets, there are now companies that will manage your content and publish them across multiple platforms. Hootsuite is one of the more popular options. Hootsuite has various subscriber levels depending on the degree of social media management you desire.
Avoid viewing and using social media as a way to gloat, or as popularity contest. Humility and relevance are keys to success. Followers do not equal paying clients.
Social media is best used for building connections and relationships long term. Results are not immediate. Social media is excellent for brand building. Share and engage without expecting an immediate return. Engage viewers and "followers" with inspiring content.
With an abundance of content online, originality, and content relevancy are key factors to gain "followers" and maintain interest.
Try to avoid making your posts, comments and updates strictly about you or your business. Share others accolades, and ideas that inspire you.
Prevailing social media manners dictate that one be respectful and appreciative of others' opinions and ideas. As the saying goes, if you don’t have anything good or constructive to say, don’t say anything at all. Negative, antagonistic tweets, texts, and opinions cannot be retracted, and live on forever.
John Berthot has over 20 years of experience in photography. He began his career after acquiring his MFA in photography from The School of Visual Arts. He then went on to become a sales manager at Photonica, a boutique stock agency. From there he worked as a sales director at Magnum Photos, and as an agent for Utopia, and Stockland Martel. Based in New York City, he founded Focus Consulting Services in 2010 to meet the ever increasing needs of photographers looking to obtain assistance with the business of photography. He has extensive experience editing portfolios for both the advertising and editorial markets, establishing effective marketing strategies and facilitating estimating and negotiating of assignments for photographers worldwide. He takes a pragmatic approach in helping photographers, at all different career levels, succeed in this highly competitive industry and has experience in all genres of photography. In addition to participating in portfolio reviews for the APA, ASMP, Powerhouse, PhotoExpo, and Palm Springs Photo festivals he has led many in person seminars and podcasts. Please click this link for a complimentary 30 minute consultation.