With the rising popularity of digital technology, social media has become a tempting platform for photographers to promote their talents online. Disseminated by Facebook, Instagram on smart phones, tablets and home computers, photography today thrives online. Even though the effectiveness of a social media platform totally depends on every photographer's goals and objectives, it definitely has proven to be a valuable medium for promoting many businesses.
For background, I am a Canadian Photographer with a passion for taking photographs of unique subjects like abandoned buildings, storm drains and from the rooftops of buildings in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal - this is known to some as Urban Exploring. I also do traditional photography, but my specialty is abandoned places.
Since launching my Facebook page in 2012 and following after with other platforms my following has grown to over 40,000 people, at the time that I am delivering this blog.
Through my images, I portray stories to people interested in appreciating forgotten and abandoned places, unique cityscapes and places that are generally off-limits to the general public.
In this blog, I would like to share how these networks have individually helped me gain exposure among the global social media audience. This topic is not new and in no way am I the first to write on this subject, I do however wish to share my learnings with those who are interested in the topic and perhaps my subject matter, or young photographers who are looking to build an audience.
Embracing an Ever Growing Platform and Audience
Being a mostly hobby photographer, I have leveraged this constructive marketing tool to place my work in close proximity with my target audience. From Google+ and Flickr to Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Ello and more - I have easily managed to bond with photographers and like minded people located in different parts of the world. This has allowed me to present my photography and subject matter to a great deal of different types of audiences all with different ways of engaging with the work. It is important to note however, that social media profiles should only be a launching point with bite sized bits of content that will direct users to your website to consume more of what you have to offer.
With these points in mind, listed below are some of the common platforms that I have used to connect my photography with people and what I find to be the differences between them all.
Believe it or not, posting a photograph on Instagram has definitely much more eternal feel than any other social media platform. Capturing a successful snapshot for Instagram entails effective planning that can successfully catch attention of the audience. While I no longer use the Instagram square format - when I did, I enjoyed finding the right photograph that I could recompose to that format.
The Instagram square format gives a photographer a chance to recompose an existing shot a second time - not all photos work in this format, so it was a welcome challenge to curate the right shots for the feed. I will often post the same photo that I post on other sites to Instagram, but I also use it to post mobile shots, behind the scenes photos that I take while exploring, or other shots that I decide to take just for the Instagram crowd.
Of all the social media platforms I use, I find that Instagram has the most engagement amongst followers and users. Through the use of a selection of relevant hashtags and mentions of other profiles that often offer a follower feature, you can gain increased exposure if a profile moderator likes your photo enough to share it. Sometimes profiles of companies (Nikon cameras, Sigma lenses, Canadian Geographic Magazine etc) will take notice and share your work.
At the end of the day, I truly feel that right now if you are a young photographer looking to get online exposure, Instagram is currently the best route.
In the present age, Facebook conveniently bridges the gap between conventional and modern photography. The fun of sharing photographs on Facebook is that it garners massive response from friends and followers. Reading the comments from followers, whether other photographers or simply interested followers gives a good indication of what they like to see more of or less of, while at the end of the day I will post what images I enjoy, it is always fun to watch the responses. For instance, one of my recent posts featuring a stuffed Winnie the Pooh was liked by 450 people, where a photo of an old rusty locker room was only liked by 50.
But never mind the likes and shares, what's also interesting about Facebook is the demographics, a high percentage of my Facebook followers are women between the ages 35 and 65, women also represent 78% of all engagement on my page.
As a Social Photographer, working with and getting to know other pages with similar content can also be a great promotional tool. Given the subject matter, my photos are often shared by other pages with a focus on the paranormal - this always comes with a large increase in page followers and also website traffic.
Twitter accounts have become a rage amongst businesses that have both personality and a brand name. As these audiences are easily reachable, this medium is used more for developing long term relationships with customers than merely consuming one-off transactions. All that said and to be frank - for the purposes of my work, I have no idea what the Twitter end-game is.
Every so often I will gain a handful of followers, I was surprised recently to wake up and see a notification that "Siriously Susan" the voice of Siri followed me, useless information - but still fun nonetheless. When I post to twitter and include more than one photo, I find the engagement to be somewhat higher than when I only share one photo - not sure why that is.
My experience with Twitter as a photographer is that it is a very quick serve platform with very little engagement, I will continue to utilize this platform but our days together may be numbered.
The platform is mainly designed to allow users to upload and share high-resolution photographs, without any disruptions in the image quality. I also use Google Plus because I feel it might provide some SEO value to my website, www.freaktography.ca.
As a rule, I always add a link back to my website in the write up whenever I post a photo, seeing that a very high percentage of my website visitors come from Google I can only hope it helps with my ranking on Google.
Since this is Yahoo's real-time photo repository, which is used by millions of photographers to showcase their talent, I have always received constructive feedback from the followers.
If as a photographer you enjoy seeing your work used in various news outlets, Flickr is a great way to have your photos used. Simply research the best Creative Commons licences, title and tag your photos properly and if you are lucky your images might start appearing alongside online news articles with credit back to you. This is great until you wish to start making money, at which point - change your CC license so they can no longer be used!
Now this is one of the fun sites from where my creations have received maximum attention. It's a vibrant community, full of interesting artists that are keen on networking with people of similar tastes and ideas. I have shared over 359 photographs on this social media network, which has caught attention of 3000+ followers. What I love about this network is, you'll only find quality work with most productive and encouraging feedbacks.
The Ello community is highly engaged, but it's very small - many artists jumped on the Ello bandwagon at first and quickly their accounts were abandoned and left for dead - however those who stuck around have reaped the rewards from the others who stuck around.
At the end of the day, there is no other platform that makes a vertically oriented photograph look so good - the image quality and full screen viewing on Ello is it's best feature.
Reddit - the website that can be your best friend and your worst enemy at the same time. Reddit users are touchy and sensitive, but they are also loving and respectful, their feedback is harsh and abrasive but it's also constructive and kind.
I will never understand the Reddit community, but they have brought me a great deal of exposure and website traffic. By using a system of upvotes and down votes in "subreddits" that focus on individual topics or subjects, this community will quickly decide if they collectively like what you have to offer. If they like your work (on that day), you are rewarded with hundreds of upvotes and great comments, and if they REALLY like you, you find your work on the front page of Reddit where many thousands of more people will see and engage with your work. On the flipside if they don't like you - watch out because when they comment - they are not kind, but that is one of my favourite things about Reddit - is reading just how far they will take things.
There are so many other social media sites that can be utilized and with the recent news of Instagram starting to curate the content you see via algorythm and not chronologically people may begin flocking to other platforms such as Snapchat and/or any other new platforms that are launching.
With all that there is available online for photographers to share their work with other photographers or curious followers or prospective clients my experience tells me that you need a website, a Facebook page and an Instagram account at the very least if you want to promote yourself and start building a following.
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