[tweetmeme]About the author: Stephanie Weber directs communications, among other responsibilities, at DigiLabs Pro and regularly engages with colleagues and customers on its blog, Facebook and Twitter feeds.
It seems social networking is on the lips of the young and old, professional and student, casual observers and fast-track hipsters. By all accounts, social networks help all of us stay connected with current events and topics of conversation while also helping businesses market their wares.
Yet a surprising number of professional photographers still ask us at DigiLabs Pro “Is social networking really worth it?” Our answer is a resounding, “ABSOLUTELY.”
WHY DO IT
Here are some of the reasons why photographers should engage in social networking:
- It’s social: You’re missing the party if you don’t interact with customers or peers online. Facebook in February 2010 announced its number of users had ballooned to 400 million, making it the second only to Google as the most visited site on the Web. A few months later, Twitter shared that it has more than 105 million registered users. It hasn’t reached its peak yet as both of those figures are growing daily.
- It’s live: Business marketing consultant John Jantsch likens the ROI of social networking to that of attending live professional networking events. “You don’t measure participation based on direct sales, you measure success based on identifying one potential strategic partner, acquiring one actionable bit of advice, or striking up a conversation or two that may eventually lead to developing a new customer,” he says. Many marketers also consider it a form of word-of-mouth advertisement, with real customers referring or introducing friends and family to various businesses.
- It’s a network: Social networking enables you to easily stay in touch with a broad friend or customer base at regular intervals. Staying involved in your contacts’ lives will not only increase the potential for future interactions or business dealings but can also become a great source for valuable referrals.
- It’s cheap: Engaging in social networks, by virtue of being online, are some of the most cost-effective marketing programs you can do for your photo business. It only costs you your time. And, anyone, photo novice or veteran, can jump into the social media conversation within minutes.
- It boosts your rankings in web searches: For organic searches (search engine optimization, or SEO), linking and relevancy is king. The more people talking about you in social networks, the more relevant you are to the search engines.
HOW TO DO IT
Convinced of social media’s value, but aren’t sure where to start looking for other visually-minded folks like yourself? Here are some ideas to bring social networking into focus:
- Know that Facebook and Twitter are not the only games in town. Check out these alternatives or search for a NING site by topic of interest. You’re likely familiar with Flickr for photo sharing and You Tube for video sharing, but you can also use these sites to share comments with others to start new conversations.
- Comment or post on your friends’, acquaintances’ and clients’ Facebook pages or tweets. Don’t spam them; that is a sure way to turn them off as potential connections. Instead, make relevant comments or complement them on the activities going on in their lives. Make sure the content is relevant and timely.
- Stay active in online community forums such as at Photo.net, DigitalWeddingForum.com or PopPhoto.com. This will increase your exposure and keep you up-to-date with what is going on in the industry while also gaining access to unfiltered feedback of everyday photographers.
- It is a careful balance of personal and professional, but above all, be yourself. Creating a personal relationship is vital for a photographer whose interest and job is to capture someone’s most personal and intimate moments.
- Keep your updates fresh and interesting by posting and updating them often. This will help with gaining loyal followers, friends and fans.
- Check out social media guru Chris Brogan’s “Best Advice About Social Networking.” Among his pearls of wisdom are: be friendly and inclusive, seek to be helpful always and say thank you often. (Great advice for life in general, isn’t it?)
BEST BLOGGING PRACTICES
Perhaps interacting on established social networks is not your thing. You can easily share your own thoughts on photography and images via your own blog. The Internet is filled with guides for getting started blogging, including helpful tips from Microsoft and Google. When you blog, think about how you can improve your organic search rankings by infusing your writings with relevant keywords you want your readers to associate with you (i.e., “photojournalism,” “nature photography,” etc.) and link those keywords back to your site.
Another element of interaction can arise if you comment on other shooters’ blogs. Most blogs have a form for you to share your own thoughts on their posts. Keep in mind, it won’t help with your organic search listings as many blogging systems have “no follow” tags, but your relevant comments could help drive word of mouth.
You can link to particularly thought-provoking pieces by sharing them on your Twitter, Facebook or other feeds. Some of our favorite photographer-bloggers, including Ben Chrisman, Erin Henssion and Jasmine Star among many others, really infuse their posts with their unique personalities while discussing the special subjects or conditions in which they’ve been taking pictures recently.
CONNECT THE SOCIAL DOTS
No matter which avenue you chose, make sure your networking activities are connected. When you post a new blog, make sure to tweet about it and post it on your Facebook. If you are a hobbyist, you’ll find you’ll naturally make more connections if folks have more avenues to connect with you. If you are a business, add your Facebook, Twitter and blog links, to your email marketing activities and to your website to help boost incremental sales and new referrals.
As a photographer, you can only benefit from the ideas and referrals sure to come your way from engaging with your peers and potential clients.