Wednesday, 19 December 2012

What "Social Media" websites should photographers use to grow their business


As I mentioned yesterday I am going to go back to my roots… social media for the remainder of 2012. While I am a full time photographer now, my past life saw me working in the digital realm for some large multi national and national companies. Social Media has always played a huge role in my professional life, and I now see how it can help photographers promote themselves in whatever geo-location or to any demographic they want to target.

So let’s start this series of blog posts with “What Social Networks Are Out There?”

Social networking was never designed to be a professional advertising solution, but even in the early days of MySpace photographers could be found building contacts for viral marketing. Since then this trend has only grown, and social networking has turned into an extremely valuable resource if used correctly.

When it comes to the sheer number of social networks that a photographer has access to, the number can be some what intimidating. Do you know which networks you should be focusing on? So let’s do a break down of each of the major networks out there, look at their positive and negative attributes and decide which “Network” is good at offering the many different types of photographers.
 

FACEBOOK
User Base:
950+ Million Users
The Positives:

Facebook is the largest social network in the world in terms of users
More than likely your friends, family and co-workers are already on the network and it is a destination to stay in touch.
Facebook is working hard to improve its mobile applications and will no doubt be launching some new apps in the coming years
“Subscriptions” solved the limitation problem with only being able to have 5,000 Facebook friends.



The Negatives:

The vast majority of users are there to stay connected with their friends, family and co-workers. They are not to purchase products or engage with people they don’t know.
This “Me Time, stay in touch with friends”, small group mentality makes it difficult to build a following if you are a photographer trying to network. If you think I am wrong, try to start a Photography Fan Page and find out for yourself just how long it takes to build a following for the average photographer
Facebook still has a problem with Image compression (meaning their system compress your image in ways that may make your photograph look worse than it actually is). Recent updates to the image quality in photo galleries has improved, but no where near the quality of Google+
Facebook has a public perception issue when it comes to privacy… Have you seen the posts by people claiming ownership of their images? BTW… they are not worth the time it took to write them.
We have a “love/hate” relationship with the social network.
Facebook’s IPO has dropped over half of its value since it went public because of a lack of investor confidence… declining stock price means less monetary returns… and investors want a return, or they sell, or the company has to cut back somewhere.
Overall Interest in Facebook has dropped and users are remaining on the network simple because that is where their friends and family are.

Summary

If you are a photographer that shoots portrait, event or local sports photography than you will have a higher chance of finding clients on Facebook than most of the other networks. If you shoot travel, adventure sports or nature photography, you have better outlets on other networks to try to make print sales or noticed. If you run workshops, your clientele are generally not going to come from Facebook… most of your network will be friends, family and other photographers. As for finding photographic inspiration, education or a photo community to connect with, Facebook falls short. Flickr, Google+ and 500px will offer you a more robust community if you are looking for those things.
 
TWITTER

User Base: 517 million twitter accounts, although only about half are actually active users

The Positives:


Simplistic form of communication, every “tweet” is limited to only 140 characters...the same as a text message.
Instant communication gives you access to directly connect with other individuals and companies in the blink of an eye
News has been found to be “breaking” on twitter before anywhere else because of the instantaneous ability to get your message to millions
There are no NOISE filters, which means everything you post is visible, but competing with all other content on Twitter
The use of Hashtags (#keyword) allows for easy search results to find the tweets you want, and for users to find your tweets easier

The Negatives:

You are limited to 140 characters per “Tweet”
Twitter is polarized within its user base. Most either absolutely love it or have no clue what to do with it. There is very minimal middle ground here.
Looking at a twitter feed can be intimidating because content is flying at you very fast
Only half of the users with accounts are active
Of the 3 most popular social networks, it has the least amount of users (Facebook, Google+ and Twitter)

Summary:

Twitter is a phenomenal tool to instantly connect with individuals and companies around the world. While its fast pace and constant flow of content will be a put off the many, the fact the news is beginning to break on twitter before anywhere else online is a great example of the value of the network for spreading content and information.

Will you sell prints or find new wedding clients? NOPE…although it is not impossible. I look at Twitter as the worlds quickest communication tool to communicate with others directly, speak to a business about a problem or easily share the content I am publishing on my website… “This just in”, “Read my new blog post on social media”, etc… It’s a calling card, awareness tool for most photographers.
 
GOOGLE+

User Base: 336 million active users
The Positives:

Google+ is the social layer for ALL things Google, it is not just a social network
Great User Interface. Your images will look beautiful
Solid privacy controls
A thriving Photography Community has established itself on the network
Google+ Hangouts (Free video conferencing with up to 10 people from anywhere in the world)
Google employees are very receptive to feedback to improve the user experience.
The mobile experience is absolutely fluid
All public content is indexed for Google search, a huge bonus to be found through user searches of the largest search engien in the world.
Being active on Google+ increases your chance of improving your standing in search results (I will explain more in a later post on indesation of content for higher search result exposure)
Google+ users have the highest amount of customer satisfaction among social networks
Google just purchased NIK SOFTWARE. What this means for Google+ and Android, we don’t know just yet…. But stay tuned, this could get interesting.

The Negatives:

Google+ still has a negative public image. The words “ghost town” are used when describing the network by tech journalists. – I think this is because of lack of knowledge and ignorance of the product myself.
Your friends, family and co-workers will most likely not be on G+, but lots of photographers are.
Google is still very young when it comes to understanding digital social dynamics. Google has yet to release the API which allows users to post to Google+ from other applications… but hang in there, it will be coming.
Google+ is NOT Facebook, which means that new users sometimes have a hard time getting their feet wet because they try to treat it like its Facebook… take your time and learn it.

Summary:

Google+ is a great network if you are looking for inspiration, education, a photo community or if you are a photo educator. In its current form, you will find it more challenging to book clients if you are a portrait, wedding, event or local sports photographer. Its structure and feature set are geared towards promoting engagement and giving plenty of opportunities to connect with other photographers and photography centred companies, especially with the Google+ Hangout feature. However its biggest draw for photographers will be that Google indexes all public posts to be searchable in their search engine, which equates to over 64% of all search online. The bottom line, if you are active on Google+, you have the potential to drastically affect your own search results… and your profits.
 
500PX
 
User Base: No exact # of users, but a very conservative estimate was over 90k unique visitors a month on average

The Positives:

500px, like Flickr, is an Interest network where the sole purpose is to share beautiful photographs
It is a phenomenal place to find photographic inspiration on nay topic
Images look beautiful on the network
500px relies on crowd sourcing for ranking images, which effects how visible an image is. The higher the rating, the better chance the image will be seen by others
You can now sell prints through 500px (via “Awesome” or “Plus” Membership only)
You can use 500px as your Portfolio/Website (via “Awesome” Membership only)

The Negatives:

The rating system can be “gamed”, allowing you to rate a photo negatively. Get enough negative votes and your image will drop its rating fast
The user base for 500px is fairly small in comparison to the other social networks
In selling your prints on 500px, you can not set your own prices.
The quality of images visible on 500px on average is far greater than flickr. This can cause new photographers to feel intimidated
500px is very popular in Europe and the EU has a more open stance towards sexuality. Thus there seems to be more nude (tasteful) photography than other photo specific networks.

Summary:

500px is a great network to share your best images and look for inspiration from some other artists. Would I use the network to sell prints? NO...especially since I can not set the price. But for a photographer that is just starting out, paying for an “Awesome” account and using 500px to host a somewhat custom website/portfolio is certainly not a bad idea to get started. At the end of the day, having another location to host your images on the Internet like 500px doesn’t hurt you one bit.

FLICKR
User Base: 80 million unique visitor’s world wide

The Positives:

Flickr is an “Interest Network”, which means that its focus is purely on sharing images
Almost 5 million photos are uploaded to flickr every day Your images receive very little image compression once uploaded to Flickr, which means they look closer to the same image viewed on your computer than other social networks
You can licence images to Getty straight from Flickr
I know many photographers that make plenty of print sales from being active on Flickr

The Negatives:

Yahoo as a company is struggling to stay relevant in the modern day internet era
The interaction on Flickr is not very exciting or personal
The look of Flickr itself is VERY outdated
Most Professionals are not as excited about Flickr as they once were. The comments are repetitive, the feedback isn’t honest (for the most part) and the advice you need to learn is just not going to happen on flickr.

Summary:

If you are looking to licence images or try to make print sales, Flickr might be a good choice for you. However because of its outdated look and fairly stagnant forms of interaction, the network itself has lost its luster for many photographers, myself included.

LINKEDIN
 




User Base: 175 million users

The Positives:

The only major social network for Professionals
You can apply to find a new job from Linkedin
Your profile can consist of your resume, events, photos, products, etc
You can easily write and receive the online equivalent of “letters of recommendation” from other professionals you are connected with on the network.
There is a newsfeed section where you can post relevant information, stories etc that are seen by everyone that is a connection.
Stats can tell you how many people have viewed your profile as well as how many times your profile has appeared in search results within Linked in

The Negatives:

Many people think that those on Linkedin are only there to look for jobs
The different types of interaction possible on Linkedin are less than Google+ or Facebook
There are not to many photographers on Linkedin

Summary:

Linked in is the social network for you to maintain and grow professional relationships with other individuals around the globe. As a photographer and entrepreneur, I have found it useful to reach out and connect with PR & Marketing firms, tourism boards and photography related companies to find ways to collaborate on projects.

 If you are a semi pro or hobbyists that enjoys photography on the side of your normal profession, than I recommend maintaining a profile on the network. In the very least you can connect to any number of photography related “groups” to connect with other photographers to talk “shop”.
 
INSTAGRAM

User Base: 80+ million users

The Positives:

Fastest growing mobile photography network today
Simple to use, all images maintain the square look and you only have a small handful of filters to apple to an uploaded image
It is FUN! It is nice to have a social network for photographers that isn’t professional and serious all the time
You can post your Instagram photos directly to Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Flickr and Foursquare as your upload them to Instagram

The Negatives:

The square limitations to images being uploaded to Instagram can stifle some creativity
Certain Instagram filters are very popular, leading many images on the network to have the same look and feel.
Instagram is PURELY a mobile photo sharing network currently. Instagram.com is nothing more than a landing page directing you to the IOS and Android store to download the app. There are a few 3rd party websites that allow you to browse Instagram photos on a website, but no official support
You can NOT share an instagram photo directly to Google+, although this is not Instagram’s fault…it is Google’s… which may go back to my previous comment about staying tuned to what Google has in store for new products

Summary:

Instagram offers a great fun mobile photo sharing experience. It is fairly simplistic in nature, but many feel that is what makes Instagram so great. Most of its 80 million users are highly active on the network, allowing for a positive social experience for most. Professionally, I use Instagram to share images of my life, travels and family as well as behind the scenes photos of my adventures around the globe. It is a great dumping place for many of my cell phone images that I don’t care to share on my main Social Networks and for that reason I am a huge fan of Instagram.

PINTEREST

User Base: 23 million as of July (Comscore)

The Positives:

One of the fastest growing social networks today
1.7 billion page views a month
Simple to use. Create boards to organise your content.
The whole idea is for content to spread easily.
You can “pin” content from nearly any website
The demographics on the network are heavily in favour of women
Perfect for wedding, portrait photographers, photographers wanting to teach workshops

The Negatives:

Has a relatively small user base
Some photographers fear its abuse of supposed copyright infringement… but check the laws on where you live… its different in most countries.
It is not the best network for interaction
Lacks diversity in over all demographics of users

Summary:

Pinterest is the relatively new on the social media block. Because it is new, certain market segments are obsessed with it. While some photographers are worried about supposed copyright infringement, in the vast majority of cases this is a façade and you really need to do your own research. Most users do not upload content directly to Pinterest, instead they “Pin” content they find on other websites to their Pinterest boards. The thumbnail and connected hyperlink than live on that “pin” on your boards, allowing other users to follow it back to the original website.

This has potential to help drive traffic back to your own photography website if you leverage your time on Pinterest effectively. While I do not see Pinterest offering much in the way of increasing print sales but I am finding new contract work and education clients in aspiring photographers.

You have to be pretty active on Pinterest in order to drive enough traffic back to your website in order to see any true gains in the form of selling products and services. Because the demographics are so heavily swayed towards women, I know many wedding and portrait photographers that are making a killing using Pinterest as a way to meet new clients and connect with Wedding planners in order to secure future jobs. I also know a few photographers that find new clients through posting their images from around the world.
 
I am looking into Snapseed now... so no doubt I will be updating this blog in the coming months. Snapseed is a competitive product to Instagram. Snapseed, a Nik Software business (Now Google), was born out of one simple idea: What if we could take the digital innovations pioneered for photography professionals and bring them to everyone – all the millions of people around the world snapping photos with their phones and digital cameras?
Conclusion:

While I discussed the pros and cons of the top social media websites, the generation of business and networking, I did not address ancillary benefits of posting on a social network… and here is the silent “golden ticket” for growing your business online through social networks.

“The more you post on the sites that you are working, and if you are linking to your content, the more the chances you are of having your content for sale online seen.”

I receive more business because of the inbound links I post, than anything else. While I may not always be hard selling, I am always offering links to my products for sale… aka soft selling. You do not have to click-thru to my products for sale, but people do, and a small percentage buy, and the more traffic you refer, the more chances you have of acquiring a client.

So, whatever site you use, place links to relevant content, and ALWAYS have a link to something you are selling, even if its not “in their face”, give them the option to click through to your products or service.

I will go into this more on my post on how to use the social mediums in the coming days… there is a right way to post, and a wrong way to post…

Until then, go out and buy yourself a good Christmas gift, wrap it, and put it under the tree with a tag that says, “From Santa”
 
 
If you want to learn more about social media for photographers, you can attend my next seminar in 2013... to prebook your spot please visit this link... http://www.photographers-lounge.com/workshops/social-media-for-photographers/