Yesterday I took the plunge and joined 500px.com and uploaded some of my landscape photos. 500px is a great resource with lots of talented photographers. I have visited the site before and some of the photographs are breathtaking and inspiring (except for all that nudity that seems to dominate the site – had to turn it off from my profile). While uploading images, I realized that I have not updated my Google+ photos either, so I decided to do that as well. Then, somebody contacted me through my long forgotten Flickr account, asking a photography question. All this is happening while I am trying to simultaneously update my Twitter and Facebook accounts. And I won’t even go into talking about all the YouTube, Pinterest, Myspace, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Reddit, StumbleUpon and LiveJournal requests and comments that keep pouring into my email address.
I get it, Social Media is taking over the world. We interact with it every day, be it through our phones, computers and other devices. We hear about it on TV, radio, advertising and local paper news. Heck, even president Obama has a Facebook page! But with all these popular sites popping up left and right, it seems to get harder for us photographers and business owners to keep track of them all. You focus on one and lose potential customers in another. Focus on them all and you could be wasting a lot of your time just trying to keep up! I “unfriended” everyone (no offense if you were among them) except my old friends and family in Facebook and even then my main feed is overloaded with fresh content every minute. I once spent a couple of hours just looking through what my friends and family posted on Facebook and I realized that social media sites are designed to keep us in and waste our time. There is a reason why Facebook’s IPO has been all over the news. They generate so much traffic, that they are taking over search engine giants like Google and Yahoo, who have been dominating the Internet traffic by a huge margin for many years.
So what do we do? How do we keep up with all the social media interaction, while trying to simultaneously manage a tough business? You cannot ignore social media. Everyone is using it and believe it or not, but some photographers get most of their clients from sites like Facebook and Twitter. Wedding photographers start out by interacting with past and current clients, who eventually lead them to future clients – friends and family that stumbled upon their pictures in their social media profiles. Hence, considering how gargantuan these social media platforms have gotten, you have to learn how to use them effectively for your business. Or your competitors will. However, you have to be smart about how you spend your time online. Do you need to be on all social media platforms and photography websites for your business? Definitely no. It would be a huge waste of your precious time. Here are some tips on getting started with social media for your business:
- Before you start evaluating which platform to use, define a time limit for your social media interaction. Think of social media as a strategic tool for your business that should be used in moderation. Whether you like it or not, you most likely will have your friends and family connected to your account. Try to limit those personal interactions and avoid looking at news feeds – they will only distract you. I rarely spend more than 30-45 minutes per day on all social media sites combined.
- Start out with one platform – I recommend Facebook, since it is the biggest. Plus, you probably already have a Facebook account anyway. Learn how to create and customize your business page that will be representing you. Do not go after every social media site you can find. It is better to have 1000 connections on one social media site, then to have 100 connections on 10 different sites.
- Once you build your Facebook page, start promoting it via your blog/website and use various widgets and gadgets to show your fans and possibly even your latest feeds. People like it when they know that you are active and engaged with your fans.
- Add social media share buttons to your website, so that your visitors could help promote your content.
- Create a nice-looking portfolio with your best images on Facebook. Afterall, your future clients will be looking at it!
- Stick to discussing your business and promoting your existing and new blog posts. Never discuss politics / religion and definitely avoid criticizing another person, especially if he/she is a photographer. The world is small, word gets around fast.
- If anyone asks a question, do your best to respond as soon as you can. A potential client might reach out to you and others at the same time, so it never hurts to be among the first to respond.
- Once you have a solid base of followers/fans and you know well how to get around in Facebook, evaluate Twitter and Google+ for expanding your reach.
- Connect your mobile device (iPhone/Android) to social media sites, especially when you travel and you have limited access to the Internet. You never know when your potential clients could contact you.
- Add social media interaction to your photography workflow. Once Lola and I post content on our sites, we immediately share it on Facebook and Twitter – the process has become a part of our daily workflow.
- If you would like to get some real feedback on your photographs from your peers, pick one platform like Flickr or 500px and upload your best work. Don’t be afraid of criticism and don’t get discouraged if you do not get any feedback. As long as you are putting enough effort to improve your photography, you will get better – it is just a matter of time.
I am probably forgetting many other things here, so I will update this post with more info later this week. More to come!