This is Aaron Hockley's third guest blog post. Aaron is a professional photographer and writer who tweets too much and blogs a few times each week. His professional work finds him working with businesses for events, publicity, and editorial work; he also creates abstract and travel photos for leisure. In addition to photography for clients Aaron often works with other photographers to help them understand and refine their online and social media presence. Read Aaron's first blog post here. And, his second post here.
How's your social media life today?
Have you Tweeted? Pinned? Instagrammed?
What about LinkedIn? Facebook? Flickr?
Feeling overwhelmed? You're not alone. There are a lot of social networks and social media outlets that compete for our time as photographers. One could probably easily fill an eight-hour workday with nothing but online social media activities. That wouldn't leave time for actually making or editing any photos!
How do you decide where to spend your effort with social networking? I think you can make those decisions based on three factors, and one of them is a bit of a cheat.
1) Where Are Your Clients (or Fans)?
When we look at social media marketing or social networking from the aspect of trying to grow one's photography business, the online world is no different than the offline world. If you're engaged in offline advertising, mailers, networking, or other marketing efforts, you're (hopefully) targeting your audience. If you're trying to sell your senior portrait services, you're targeting high school juniors and seniors rather than sending a mass-mailer to everyone in your city. The same principles should apply online.
Identify your ideal clients. We already mentioned high school seniors if that's what you do. If you photograph weddings, you're looking for brides and can make some generalizations about their age and, depending on your positioning, income levels. How many wedding planning boards are there on Pinterest? Thousands? Millions? If I shot weddings I'd be all over that. Do you make fine art landscape images? Odds are that you know something about your typical buyer. If you're a commercial shooter, you probably want to connect with marketing folks, agencies, art directors, and the like.
Figure out where those clients live online. For high school seniors, right now the buzz is that Twitter and Instagram are the most popular networks. Corporate types are found on LinkedIn and increasingly on Twitter. If you want to find brides, Facebook is a good place to be and to connect with others in that segment. I'm seeing a fair amount of discussion on Google+ that involves folks willing to buy fine art prints and books.
2) Where Are Industry Connections?
Building relationships with clients (both existing and potential) is one aspect of social networking, but the other big area that can benefit photographers is connecting with industry professionals. Developing connections with other photographers, manufacturers of photo equipment, and vendor partners can have various benefits to your photography. In some cases, “it's who you know” can lead to referrals. Perhaps getting to know other industry folks can lead to publicity or an “in” with a gear manufacturer. Maybe you just want to bounce ideas or problems off of someone who has been in a similar situation.
Right now, I'm making the most connections with other photographers and industry folks on Google+.
3) Do You Just Want to Have Fun?
If your purpose in social networking is purely to have fun, then heck, do whatever you want … but don't complain that you're not getting business results if you're not making social media choices based on business criteria.
So … Where Do You Go?
There's not a single right answer. I've given you some ideas above, but ultimately you need to look at your business and figure out what makes sense for you. You don't have to be everywhere, on every social media channel. You can't be everywhere. It's okay to ignore a social network that isn't relevant for your business or area of interest. Trying to reach retail photographer customers? They're not likely to book you via LinkedIn. You probably won't pick up a corporate job via your Instagram images. Look at what you do, where you want to be, and where your clients and partners are hanging out. Be there, and don't feel bad about about ignoring other places.