Social Networking Websites: A Waste of Time for Photographers, or a Smart Investment?
Popular Social Networking Methods: Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, AIM, blogging, podcasts, LinkedIn, Ning, Plaxo, Pownce, StumbleUpon, online forums, etc…
Are these worth the time if you are trying to market your photography? It depends on what your business plan is. If you use the internet to generate leads for your business, then some of them might be worth your time if you have a clear idea for who you plan to reach. If your website is just there to remind existing clients that you are there then social networking sites might be a waste of time for you other than say a blog and an RSS feed.
They are mostly promotional tools for me, otherwise I wouldn’t bother wasting more time on the computer with them. The newest fad that I like, are widgets. These cool looking “online ads” are bits of code that these social media sites allow you to paste your info onto blogs and any other online sources.
Online Forums: the most obvious benefit to these is to network with your peers. A side benefit to this is that the photographers that you develop relationships with can end up in a link trade which helps with search engine rankings. Also, these are people that you can swap insights with, image critiques, and good company to go shooting with. I regularly participate on the Nature Photographers Network because these are people whom I consider to be my peers. Photo.net is also a great source for general information though I don’t actively participate on that site. A good idea to employ with these sites is to include your URL’s in your signature as a promotional tool for your website every time that you comment in addition to being link juice. I would also recommend spending some time on the photo business forums which are listed under the links on the right. I won’t elaborate on Flickr right now because I have serious reservations about the overall culture of that site.
Twitter: Many people use this to “tweet” every detail of their personal lives, but I try to minimize that in favor of promoting my photography activities. I have some photographers on my follow list on Twitter so it’s a good word of mouth PR outlet. Twitter is pretty mainstream with the web 2.0 crowd so it is definitely worth investigating. Even art buyers follow photographers on Twitter so it’s an easy way to provide updates on what you’re doing professionally. Another cool thing about Twitter is the widget that you can put on your blog to help your readers keep up to date with you.
Facebook is another source where you can add your RSS feeds and mass-email people on your friends list. Almost everyone uses Facebook these days so if you have the right contacts then it could be worth your time. Beware that it is easy to get sucked into time-waste mode on this site with all the games and stuff you can add to your private profile. I’m guilty of it.
Digg is primarily for driving large numbers of traffic to web articles. This is probably the least targeted method of web marketing for professional photographers but if enough people link to your article then it could drive up your search engine rankings. I personally spend very little time on here because I think these are just for short-term popularity boosts rather than long-term brand building. More geared toward breaking news stories because the controversial stuff is what tends to get Digged.
These are just a couple of the well-known online networking sites and there are new ones everyday. The key is to not get sucked into every little detail where you lose track of the ultimate goal: promoting your brand and networking with your professional peers. The two social networking methods where I feel that I get the most bang for my buck is blogging and the online forums. The others, I could probably live without. Remember the most important website for your business is your own. Invest the most energy there.