My blog post “Photography Mentors, Choose Them Wisely” has been published on Black Star Rising.
I found this Fast Company article titled, Mayhem on Madison Avenue, to be a fascinating read. As a former ad industry creative, this really came as no surprise to me as I had realized that most of the creatives at the ad agency I worked several years ago had no idea about digital much less had experience with blogging, SEO, social media, etc… Such was the case at the other places I worked at following that agency. The sad part was that no one figured their career path might be going extinct. Well that day is has already arrived according to this article.
The article cites agencies struggling to price work in the digital era because clients want more work but are willing to pay less for the work. Various business models have popped up in the meantime including crowd-sourcing ad creative. The “race to the bottom” if you will. Ten years ago when all media spend was limited to print, broadcast and radio it was easy to work in the industry because reaching people was rather formulaic and several large holding companies owned all the advertising spend. No longer. There are a million different ways to reach the consumer now and for the consumer to receive content. “Competition” is popping up in all sorts of places that never existed previously.
Sound familiar? Yes. The photography industry has already been heading down this path for ten years now as you already know. You can literally swap out the words ad agency for Getty / Corbis and photographers and write the same story.
Having only been a photographer during the internet-era, however, I feel there has never been a more exciting time to be a creative person because of all these reasons. My photography website for example reaches tens of thousands of visitors per month and I have about 1,000 more people that I reach on a daily basis via the social media sites I’m on. Had the internet not been around when I started photography, I probably never would have even bothered to try sharing my work much less talk about it because what audience would I have – family, local camera club, a stock photo agent, and a few clients? There’s not a lot of people where I live that are into outdoors and the type of photography I do.
Had this been 15 years ago, I’d probably have a few photos hanging on display in the local library, setting up a booth at weekend farmer’s markets and art fairs, be on the phone all day cold-calling and maybe consider running some print ads in advertising award annuals with no guarantee of success but a lot of money out of my pocket. But this is 2010 and here are two sites I have had an opportunity to be featured on in the past week:
Pro Nature Photographer – a website about the business of nature photography written by long-time industry vet, Charlie Borland.
The Rogue’s Gallery – an art website for current and former ad industry professionals curated by Steffan Postaer (ad god and creator of the Altoids ad campaign).
Who knows if I’ll get any direct benefit from getting my work on these sites but I know who reads these sites and those are the types of people I’m looking to reach. When you simplify the new technology down to that level, basic marketing principles have not changed at all. It is actually easier than ever to reach people and obtain any sort of metric you could imagine that was never available previously. You can cut it up so many different ways from checking referrer sites in your web analytics and tying that to geographic data, to seeing who comments on the sites, to which organic search terms people found your site via the search engines, to seeing Quantcast demographic info about any site out there. Any webmaster in the world can create a media kit and sell to advertisers now. You could create a media kit so detailed that it would bore even the most anal media buyer. This is powerful stuff at our disposal.
Social media has become a very popular method to promote business. The benefit of using social media networks is when you do-it-yourself it does not cost a lot of money for your promotions. So where do your start? Following are five methods to help you develop your marketing campaign on social media networks.
1. Blogging: Blogs are very easy to create and can be as effective as a website. Several platforms offer free blogs. Two of the most popular are WordPress and Blogger. Both offer plenty of plugins and themes that will make your blog unique to your business and will help you promote it. Simply post interesting content on a weekly schedule and you will begin to gain readership. Ultimately, your business will become an information resource for your customers.
2. Create a Facebook Fan Page: A Facebook fan page offers readers a friendly explanation of what your business specialty is. Setting one up is a simple process and you should post fresh content daily. Images help attract readership so you could post some of your recent photos or a series of them on your page. Social networks like Facebook are people oriented so the more you can keep your business message personalized, the better.
3. Create a Slide Show: Create a slideshow of the photographs that represent your business and upload them to Scribd and SlideShare. Be sure your blog and Facebook URL’s are posted with your slideshows so prospective customers can find your sites. Fresh slideshows will help drive customers to your sites.
4. Twitter: Twitter is a real-time social network tool and offers an excellent opportunity to Tweet about an event your business is sponsoring. Just be sure you do not over sell. Remember you are simply publishing information and should not use it as a sales tool.
5. Post Your Photos on Twitpic: Twitpic is an excellent tool that allows you to upload your photographs to Twitter directly. People respond to visuals and a photography business is a natural for Twitpic. Simply upload your pictures from your phone or camera. Your followers will click on them and be able to read what you have posted. The key is to use striking photos that represent your business or event.
You have probably heard the social media debate discussing whether it is right for all business. One camp says that social media is helping businesses across the globe while the other camp says it is a fad and not worth the effort. So what is the answer? I firmly believe that any business that has customers is “social” and should use social media networks for promotion.
I skimmed through an article in Photo District News (PDN) about Urban Outfiiters photography choices and the part that really caught my attention was a quote from their photo buyer recommending to photographers to stop wasting money on mailers and focus on web marketing. She specifically referred to blogging, Flickr, and social media because that is where she goes to find new photographers to photograph for her brand. She said she spends a lot of time seeking out new photography blogs so she knows who is out there shooting what.
From what I have read, these days there seems to be an equal mix of art buyers who say they still prefer traditional marketing methods versus those who actively seek out photography online via Google, Flickr, blogging, etc…. But in the coming years as a younger generation of art buyers gets into the workforce, we will probably see a majority swing to web 2.0 because younger demographics have grown up during the internet age and have less reservations about working with people they meet online.
Times are changing so fast culturally that it is only a matter of time before that day comes. It was just nine years ago that I had a college marketing professor state that no internet company had yet figured out a way to become profitable. Now, things that used to be taboo to talk about, such as online dating, have become a standard way to meet people. Photo buyers are people too and it is only natural that they consume social media just like anyone else. Photographers who haven’t yet accepted this cultural-shift or are too scared to jump into the web 2.0 world are kidding themselves. True, there may be some well-established photographers who can probably ride out the rest of their career without changing a thing but it is also no coincidence that there are a lot of pros who grumble about how good things used to be in the 80’s and 90’s.
Another way to look at web marketing is that it can open up a whole new world of opportunities. Within the traditional photo buying market, you have ad agencies / publishing companies / art galleries / etc… where you have every working and aspiring photographer targeting that same small niche of photo buyers. With the internet, anyone with an internet connection and a need for photos is a potential customer. Suddenly you go from competing in a crowded market where there are only several thousand potential customers to a market where you have tens of millions potential customers.
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.
Welcome to the Field Report: The Non-Glamorous Side of Photography. This “sub-blog” will compliment my regular blog, In The Field, by featuring weekly links from the photography industry that I think are worthwhile to read along with my digital imaging workflow, photo business-related news, and interviews with photographers / creative industry professionals that I respect. I have also written several articles about digital workflow, stock photography and internet marketing on my regular blog in the past, and will be migrating those to this blog for convenient access organized under the “Article Categories” section on the right column. Meanwhile, In the Field will continue to be a photography-based travelogue for my adventures.
One reason why I’m doing this is so that I can stay true to the original concept of In The Field, while expanding the type of content that I publish. Many of my readers are photographers – both professional photographers and hobbyists, so this sub-blog is directed toward that audience without having to bore the non-photographer readers of my blog.
The first blog post, “Stock Photo Agencies”, will be published at 8 a.m. Eastern Time / 5 a.m. Pacific Time on Monday, July 14th.
Upcoming articles include:
- Digital Photography Workflow: Have a Good Filing System
- Interesting Links 7-16-08
- Adding Music to Your Photo Slideshows on a Budget
- Photo Keywording Strategy
- Social Networking: A Waste of Time for Photographers, or a Smart Investment?
- Rights-Managed or Royalty-Free?
- Interviews with photographers, an advertising art director, and a startup photo company president
- Developing and Maintaining Your Photography Brand