Friends, Fans and Followers

The Internet is an invaluable tool for sharing your images, with countless ways to engage your fan base, drum up client interest and get instant feedback on new photos or commentary on works in progress. Getting your photography noticed is another matter, however. Social media provides photographers with new and simple ways to reach an audience. The best part? Most of them do so free of charge.

With online galleries and, in some cases, direct marketing opportunities, there are certain advantages that seem tailor-made for photographers. Another important advantage to social networks is that they’re often ranked higher than other sites by search engines like Google, giving you a leg up on search-engine optimization that provides direct traffic to your profile.

Social media won’t often produce direct income, but it can work in other ways to get you jobs and ultimately more revenue. That being said, most social media sites and templates are similar in nature and basic structure.

To drive traffic to your site, just as you would with your own website, you’ll need to tag photos with relevant information about the subject matter of your photo—tags like portraiture, fashion and the name of models or the people who have worked on the images, including your own name.

Social media also gives photographers a way to engage their audience. Regular updates are important for bringing traffic in and bringing visitors back. At the same time, there’s a flood of information on the web, and you don’t want to annoy your followers with constant updates that they don’t find relevant. Finding a nice mix of consistent updates that don’t overwhelm will come down to trial and error; there’s not a perfect science to it.

Internet tastes are also fickle, and a home website is still incredibly important to maintain because it gives photographers a consistent base that can serve as the center for all of these different portals to the web. Many of these services are complimentary, but it’s important to realize that you have a finite amount of time, and while the shotgun approach of using all of these may work for photographers who like to sit in front of the computer all day, it’s sometimes best to focus on one area in the social media arena and to excel at it. BLOGGING
Blogging is a great way for photographers to participate in the World Wide Web, and many popular photographer/bloggers like to use their sites to showcase their work while also discussing the nuts and bolts of their photography.

The good news? Setting up a blog can be as easy as signing up for a free account at popular blogging host sites like Blogger (also referred to as Blogspot), Tumblr (an easy-to-use image blog format) or WordPress (which provides the most options). The bad news? Setting up a blog is as easy as signing up for a free account, which translates to a very crowded market.

The keys to blogging and being heard above all the other voices out there is to be dedicated to the time involved behind blogging and at the same time post original imagery or generate interesting commentary about an area of photography that other photographers haven’t oversaturated. One important point: Once you start, you need to maintain a regular flow of posts—the following you attract will wander away if you don’t give them a reason to keep coming back.

All of these sites provide templates that allow you to customize your blog, and you often can match it to the overall aesthetics of your own site for seamless integration. Many photographers who blog use their blogging site as their principal website, too. Blog platforms make it easy for photographers to add content and update the look of the site without needing web-design skills. Consistent updating also assists in search-engine optimization. More active sites will rate higher than static ones. Blogs include the most sophisticated traffic analysis, usually through Google Analytics.

With more than 500 million active users, Facebook is the most popular social media site on the web and offers powerful marketing possibilities. Facebook gives photographers a personal profile that includes basic image galleries, free image hosting and free access to the pages of friends and fans. The site also includes Facebook Pages for a more professional profile, which allows you to set yourself or your studio up as a business on the site. (You’ll also need a regular profile to manage a business profile.)

Facebook is unique in that the company has access to its users’ personal information and data, and using the focused ads on the site is a great way to gain direct access to a client or fan base that’s likely to fit your demographic. Prices start at as little as a dollar, and you can set up a budget to work that limits spending by day or by lifetime. FLICKR
Flickr is one of the most popular photo-sharing sites in the world, and while technically it’s not a social media site, there just isn’t a more active online community of photographers anywhere online.

With a variety of ways to share your images, you can submit shots and receive detailed feedback and notes from other users. Flickr is an incredible resource for tips, tricks and new techniques, and Groups can be set up to be centered on any amount of themes or subject matter. Flickr connects to Facebook and Twitter, and allows embedding on blogging platforms, and you can upload images directly from a variety of popular image-management software like Apple Aperture, iPhoto, Picasa and Windows Live Gallery.

A basic Flickr account is free, but photographers should upgrade to a Flickr Pro account for just under $25 a year, which gives them unlimited uploads, storage, and sets and collections, as well as statistics for tracking your account and page views. You can use a Flickr Pro account to host the images that appear on your own site, as well, which saves on bandwidth and could potentially cut hosting costs.

Flickr is so popular that some businesses are using it as a stock sales site, as well, but be sure to protect your images with proper licensing and fees if you’re approached to sell an image.

Twitter’s advantage is its speed and ease of use. With its 140-character-or-less post limits, the site is king of direct communication to a select few or a large crowd. The service more or less works in the same way that a text message does, only the text goes out globally to whoever is following you on the site, which could range into the thousands.

Just as with blogging, you can choose to center your tweets on a specific area of photography or just talk about your work (and your life) in general. For images, you can upload your shots via intertwined services like TwitPic or yfrog. VIMEO AND YOUTUBE
With the advent of still cameras that offer HD video capabilities over the last few years, video channels like Vimeo and YouTube have taken on a new importance to photographers who are making the jump to video. Even if not working in the motion-picture space, a YouTube or Vimeo channel can still be used for slideshow-style videos of your portfolio or just to share videos that you find interesting, which can bring viewers back to your work.

In general, Vimeo is more respected for the quality of video and playback that it offers, with a free Basic account or a Plus account with much higher limitations on video uploading and embedding for just under $10 a month or $60 a year. YouTube is still champion when it comes to traffic, though, and the site has recently adopted HD

viewing capabilities. Both sites offer embedding for adding video to blogging sites and your own personal website, which is particularly advantageous for photographers who have to pay for the bandwidth that large HD videos consume.

Getting into the nuts and bolts of each of these topics requires a full article, if not a complete book, to fully explore, so this is a general primer to give you the advantages and disadvantages of each approach. You may find that one or another will appeal to you the most, or a combination will give you the “online presence” that you’d like.

If you prefer to use some of these services in tandem, there are a variety of applications that can help you to synchronize your accounts, like Blackbird Pie, which will publish your Twitter tweets on your blog or website, or Twitterfeed, which will feed blog posts to Twitter. Twitter even has a Facebook app.

For smartphone users, many social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and blogging sites like Posterous, Tumblr and WordPress, provide applications for uploading images. The Plixi application allows you to upload images to both Facebook and Twitter accounts via a single interface, as well as MySpace, LinkedIn and Foursquare.

It can be awkward at first when you’re new to the party, but applications like these make it easier to jump in and join the conversation.