In the age of Instagram, everyone with a Facebook account and an iPhone thinks they’re a photographer. If you’re a professional photographer using social media for self-promotion, you will have to work a bit harder and smarter to differentiate yourself.
Here are a few ways to get the most out of your social media experience:
Facebook is by far the most popular social networking site on the Internet. As a result, it can be a photographer’s best friend or worst enemy.
Facebook can sometimes make you too accessible. It’s important to keep your brand separate from your personal Facebook page; no client or business contact wants to read about your pet schnauzer. A lot of people already undervalue the cost of professional photography, so if potential Facebook clients begin to consider you a friend, they might be less willing to pay full price for your services.
Be sure to post your best work frequently. If you post great work people will share it with others. But if you post all your work, all the time, people may unlike your page or consider your posts spam.
Facebook’s tagging feature is a helpful way to avoid over-posting. When a client posts work you’ve done for them, be sure to tag yourself. Not only will this provide potential clients with an immediate means of contacting you, it also posts the photo to your page, without you having to post it yourself. If someone likes or comments on one of your photos it shows up on their timeline, exposing your photo to everyone on their friend list.
Replying to comments and likes is a good way to keep people engaged in your work. If you notice your photos aren’t receiving likes it may be time reevaluate the kind of content you’re posting.
While Twitter started out as a just a simple way to send short bursts of text, it’s evolved into a vibrant social network where you can easily share photos and video.
Twitter is a useful way to promote your photography because it gives you access to a huge variety of people. Anytime someone clicks on your Twitter profile the very first thing they’ll see is your picture, a brief bio, and a link. Since Twitter lends itself to browsing profiles, this can lead to a lot more people seeing your portfolio. Professionals, influencers, and brand representatives are often more likely to follow someone on Twitter than add or follow them on Facebook.
Most people consider posting a retweet to be pretty low-stakes. While people on Facebook will debate whether or not to share a photo on their page, on Twitter if someone likes it they just have to click one button to send your picture to everyone who follows them. Retweeting other artists you like is a good policy as they might respond in kind, but you want to be judicious about it.
One downside to Twitter is that people have to click to see your photos, so they won’t automatically show up on their timeline. This is why it’s important for your profile picture and background image to reflect your work. While followers have the ability to click the link to your photo and see all the other photos you’ve tweeted, Twitter’s built-in image gallery is not very eye-catching or user-friendly. A way to get around this is by posting links to individual pages in your online portfolio. If someone retweets your post it will allow others to discover your entire body of work.
Twitter moves quickly. This can be a good and bad thing. One one hand, it’s incredibly unlikely that your post will still be on anyone’s feed within an hour of you posting it. On the other, you can post a lot more without people complaining about you clogging their feed. On Facebook, if you post one picture per hour, people will get annoyed quickly. On Twitter it won’t even faze them.
Finally, there are a number of useful third-party clients, such as CoTweet, HootSuite, and SocialBro, which can help manage your tweets, recommend people to follow, and even notify you of the best time to post.
Though it was originally derided as a haven for hipsters posting pictures of things they ate, Tumblr has joined the mainstream to become an extremely popular destination for both blogging and image sharing.
A lot image-sharing sites tend to use pictures without linking to the source, but that happens far less frequently on Tumblr due to a key feature: the re-blog button. If someone likes a photograph you’ve taken, they have the option of re-blogging it to their followers. Once it’s been re-blogged, it provides a link back to your own Tumblr, which will let people view both your contact information and other photos you’ve taken.
Tumblr also allows you to add descriptive tags to your posts. This means that if you tag the contents of your photo (“fashion,” “nature,” “sports,” etc), your image will pop up in searches regardless of whether or not it’s been re-blogged.
Pinterest is the fastest-growing social media site on the web right now. It’s like a more visual version of Tumblr, since it has no integrated blogging platform.
In many ways, Pinterest is an online dream board. If someone likes a picture, video or link, they can pin it to their board for their friends to see. Their friends then have the option to like or re-pin that picture. Of course, all those pictures can be linked back directly to your portfolio.
It’s worth noting that Pinterest is geared towards women, who comprise 83% of its users. Currently, the most popular category on Pinterest is weddings. While some people use it to plan their dream wedding, a lot of people are using it as a part of their planning process.
For photographers, Pinterest has one main advantage over Tumblr: Tumblr uses a timeline, so once a certain number of posts is reached your picture is pushed off the main page. On Pinterest, once a picture has been pinned to a board it stays there until it’s removed, giving more people the opportunity to see it.
Launched in 2004, Flickr remains one of the most popular photo-sharing sites on the Internet. While it is primarily used for simple hosting, Flickr does have some built-in components that can be used to promote your work. For example, it allows people to leave comments and create albums of photos they like, while linking back to your page.
Flickr gives you the option of releasing your images under a variety of common usage licenses, or as “All rights reserved.” It even includes the option of selling your work as stock photography through Getty Images. As a result, many bloggers use Flickr to find images to accompany their posts. While there are some unscrupulous types who won’t necessarily link back to your work, established bloggers know better. A shot used on a popular blog can lead to a lot more people noticing you.
Flickr also includes a number of privacy controls. So if you’re working on a photo for someone, but would like their input before you publish it, you can restrict it to their eyes only rather than posting it work publicly. You can also prevent people from downloading your images, an option often employed by professional photographers who choose Flickr as a platform.
A common joke is that, despite its popularity, no one really uses Google+. While they have over 100 million users, the average user spends approximately three minutes per month on Google’s social network. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be used to promote your work, especially with its recent, more visually pleasing redesign.
Google+ allows you to add people to different “circles,” which are categories of people or interests. By adding interesting and talented photographers to your photography circle, you can see one another’s work, trade tips, and receive valuable feedback. If you’re looking for some great people to add, this link can help get you started.
Because it’s owned by Google, chances are your account will show up near the top of Google’s results if someone is searches for your name. Inundating your Google+ timeline with examples of your work means that people will eventually see it and, hopefully, start to follow your posts. They may serve as a nice diversion for all the techy discourse currently dominating the service.
StumbleUpon is a bit different from the other services on this list, because it isn’t a website in the traditional sense; it’s every website.
StumbleUpon is a toolbar at the top of your browser window that will lead you to different websites, pictures, and videos that you can then like or dislike. Based on your votes, StumbleUpon will recommend links tailored to your specific interests.
StumbleUpon is addictive, but it's not immediately obvious how to use it for self-promotion. First, you have to submit your work. Once you’ve signed in, click on Profile. This is located underneath the link to change your settings (or you can just click here).
From here it’s very straightforward. You can link to individual images or your entire portfolio, with an option to assign them to categories of your choosing.
Unless your picture is of a cute animal, your best bet is to choose the Photography category, since more people follow that than specific subcategories. You can also add your subcategories to the tag area. After that, your portfolio does all the work for you; the more people who like your work, the more other people will be directed to it.
LinkedIn might not be an efficient vehicle for getting your portfolio out there, but it can definitely help you to get more paid work. LinkedIn allows people to see your credentials as well as your business connections, which helps photographers differentiate themselves from hobbyists.
The authority conveyed by a complete, well thought-out LinkedIn profile will give people that much more reason to acknowledge the value of your work.
The options for self-promotion through social media might seem overwhelming, but remember that no one can appreciate your work if they can’t discover it.
Many of these services (like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr) have built-in apps that allow you to sync all of your accounts, letting you post on multiple platforms at once. Alternatively, you can tailor each post to suit the tone of the individual platform. Experiment to see which avenues work best for you, or try to juggle them all.
Either way, the result will be more exposure — and more potential clients — for the work you’ve done.