Companies in this space include Google, Facebook, Yahoo, SmugMug, Zenfolio, PhotoShelter and 500px. The evolutionary tree of these services has split between companies that: 1) emphasize interaction in a social-networking setting where images are shared and reshared within an independent ecosystem (Google+ and Facebook); 2) emphasize interaction in a Web 2.0 photo forum setting where images can be shared to outside social networks (Flickr, 500px, Instagram); and 3) emphasize focus on business sites for portfolio display and/or e-commerce (SmugMug, Zenfolio, PhotoShelter). Competition between these companies has been fierce, creating great online solutions, with new features being added regularly.
Needs And Business GoalsWhen thinking about ways to increase the exposure of one's photography online, it's an incredibly helpful first step to think about and identify your business needs and goals. (See "First Steps" in my article "Social-Media Marketing Essentials" in the October 2012 issue of DPP, www.digitalphotopro.com/business/social-media-marketing-essentials.html). As it pertains to gaining online exposure, carefully consider:
a) When and why is gaining exposure important to your business?
b) How much time can you devote to pursuing this goal?
c) How might you convert your exposure to benefit your business?
Without these questions answered, you'll likely burn time, negatively impact your online brand, negatively impact your photographic work and sour your attitude toward a variety of great online resources.
It's incredibly important to differentiate between internal needs and external goals. We may all want to be known for our work, but to have a viable business to keep doing what we love, we should have concrete business goals. For some, this may be a subtle difference, but they're quite different. The goal of using increased exposure to boost sales of a body of work is very different than wanting to be famous for environmental photography. One is a step to the other, and being aware of this difference will enable you to maximize the benefit of a variety of social tools and websites.
ExpectationsWhen looking for greater exposure, keep your expectations grounded. At the heart of it all, you should focus on building out a core fanbase and leveraging the following that you already have. Increased exposure always begins with the audience you have, no matter how big or small. This point can't be repeated enough, so leverage your existing audience and go from there one step at a time.
Before diving in to share your work on any social-media or photo-sharing site, it's important to read their Terms of Service to evaluate what permissions you're granting and what impact, if any, you're allowing in relation to the copyrights you hold. For more on this topic, I recommend reading my article "How I Evaluate Terms of Service for Social Media Web Sites," www.jmg-galleries.com/blog/2011/07/08/how-i-evaluate-terms-of-service-for-social-media-web-sites-google/.
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