Most people think of Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc.) as only a channel of chatter amplifying noise of millions of people or just a “fun” activity for those with too much idle time. Social Media in fact provides a means to reach a pinpoint audience in ways never before possible. As a photographer who has been sharing his work online since web browsers could first display images I’ve seen the Internet evolve both in good and bad ways. Social Media represents one of the most positive points of the Internets on going evolution.
You say you have a a web site or share your photography on forums and that’s just fine by you? Let me share with you why Social Media platforms, particularly Twitter, are something to be embraced by photographers rather than discounted as pure distraction. Think you can handle the truth!?
What is the difference between Social Media and static web sites or photo forums?
In simplest terms static web sites are bully pulpits. You put out material for people to take or leave. It’s a one way stream of communication. Photo forums aren’t much better, but there is a way for people to leave feedback through comments. The downside to both is that interacting with those that contact you are limited; to carry on a meaningful interaction you have to regularly check back to a forum or hope someone contacts you separately through your web site. Social Media sites on the other hand foster greater interactivity not just between you and others, but between everyone viewing your content.
Here in lies the fundamental shift in online content creation and publishing. Online content, namely your photographs and/or writing, is now more about community than the individual. Social Media isn’t just about posting something online, its about talking about what you’re posting with others.
Talking vs. Posting
If there’s a photo forum more than likely I have an account on it. From Photo Alley back in the late 90’s to Flickr I’ve been there and met great photographers. I’ve made contact with great people over the years in these forums and continue to interact with them to this day. As mentioned photo forums do have some degree of conversation, but in general they default to someone posting content who then walks away from the content. If you’re lucky people comment and a limited conversation takes place, but with a very narrow focus. The process takes time either due to busy schedules or the sites lack of ability to notify you. Conversation is dependent on others remembering to revisit your forum post. In the end due to the crude nature of forum software response time varies and most people move on merely posting content.
The interesting thing about Social Media and how to get the most out of it is to change ones mindset from merely posting content, but to talking to your target audience about your content. This might seem like splitting hairs, but I can assure you there is a meaningful difference. Posting is a take it or leave it proposition. Talking is knowing that there is a second half to the equation that will hold your audiences attention longer and even enable them to spread word about your work, thoughts and perspectives. The second half to the equation…
Listening… the Missing Link
While the Internet makes it incredibly easy to share and publish content online its an empty proposition to do this alone. In the past photographers or any web site author only looked to metrics reports to see how many times their web site had been visited… in essence their only window to viewer feedback. If you’ve been online for any amount of time you’ll remember web site page counters were the rage. This was a web publishers only means for the longest time to give readers feedback to the popularity of their web content.
Web metrics filled a need for site feedback very poorly. Page views and hits painted a very shallow view of how your site visitors valued your writing and/or photographs. These days Social Media sites and applications provide a granular means of feedback. Unlike photo forums, Social Media sites and applications can easily be cross-referenced interweaving discussions and introducing disparate audience members to each other spurring added interaction… in the end keeping people interacting with not just your writing and photos longer, but interacting with you. This interaction of course being…
The 3 C’s – Conversation, Community and Collaboration
Web visitors interacting with each other and you creates a more dynamic interaction and creates a more robust conversation. If you want to be successful online the key is in fostering conversation and even community. Unlike the late 1990’s and even early 2000’s Social Media services and sites have sprung up lowering the bar for photographers to create larger spaces to converse with those taking interest in their work. The more conversation taking place the more likely a community forms. It’s up to the individual if they keep that community with in the space of Social Media services or host their own community using one of many Social Media applications. The advanced use these platforms to build collaborations with other photographers and their communities. It is this later stage that can exponentially increase exposure and traffic to your photography.
Conversation and the 3 C’s provide more than interaction, they build a connection. Connections foster closer relationships and trust. Relationships and trust foster viewer/reader advocacy extending your reach to others that reside in the network of your viewers. If you’re lucky enough to have 100 people that follow your writing and/or photography and they each have 100 friends you’re increasing your odds of introducing thousands of new people to your work. The ability to reach newer audiences on this scale makes Social Media a marketing tool to pay close attention to.
But Wait There’s More!
Tomorrow we’ll peek under the hood of a well oiled machine and I’ll share with you what powers productive use of Social Media from a photographers perspective namely RSS and I’ll share with you why I think Twitter is a Social Media lynch pin to success.
Read Part II The Birds and the Bees of Social Media Connectivity
You’ve found my blog, but you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg… follow me on Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed.I also invite you to listen and subscribe to my podcast “EXIF and Beyond” featuring photographer interviews and the chronicles of creating some of my photography
[tags]Photography, Social Media, Marketing, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr[/tags]