Move Forward With Social Media

It could be said that half the battle for photographers, beyond taking a great photo, is finding a way for people to see that great photo. The ability to find online exposure of your work has evolved from photo forum websites to photo-sharing sites and now social-networking sites. At each step of this evolution, it has become easier to have one’s work found and shared, but also to be displayed in a more stylistic and engaging way. Another benefit of this evolution is that it has become less of a requirement for photographers to be technically adept at web coding, freeing them to focus just on their photographic efforts and providing a simple path to upload images online. Online solutions enabling photographers to increase their productivity have opened the door to finding greater exposure more easily, but which solutions have the greatest potential to help pros?

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 Goals

When 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.

Expectations

When 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/.


Tips And Tricks

While each social-media and photo-sharing website is unique unto itself, to get the most exposure, there are common factors that can influence how your photo fares, including:

Activity. How many comments, shares, likes, favorites, etc., you receive in the first 2 to 24 hours is often highly weighted when it comes to gaining visibility.

Frequency. Submitting photos regularly, whether daily or weekly, will keep your audience checking in and increase the odds your images are liked and/or shared.

Timing. Each site has a peak time when users are most active. Track your submissions and determine a time that your audience appears to be most active.

Sharing & Privacy Permissions. It may seem obvious, but if your intention is to gain greater exposure, be sure your sharing settings are on, and/or set your privacy settings appropriately.

Image Size. As social-media and photo-sharing sites enhance their page designs, larger images are being supported. Be sure to submit images that are easy to view, yet allow you to navigate copyright/piracy concerns.

Descriptions And Tags. Always include image descriptions, and tag your images with relevant keywords to help others find your images through search.

Watermarking. To avoid future pitfalls of copyright infringement, watermarking your images is key. This is particularly important since not every website will preserve embedded metadata in your images upon submission.

Self-Promotion. Provide a link to your web page in your description or watermark to provide viewers an easy way to find more of your work and/or information about your services.

Productivity Tools: So Many Sites, So Little Time
Which site is the one to take part in? The answer is, "It depends." The way I’ve covered my bases is to take part in many sites, and I use productivity tools to minimize the work. Excellent tools exist that allow you to submit an image and its details simultaneously to several different websites. One site that acts as a master submission page is Fotost.at. As an added bonus, Fotost.at allows you to monitor key metrics such as views, comments, likes and favorites—and there’s even a Fotost.at Lightroom plug-in. IFTTT.com (If This Then That) takes a different tack by allowing you to log in to multiple websites and services and then apply "recipes" to automate certain activities. To make things easy, users share their "recipes," so creating a custom recipe is an exception to the rule. For example, IFTTT makes it possible to automate submitting Instagram photos to Flickr or submitting Flickr photos to 500px. There’s no harm in using these
types of tools for image submissions, but in the process of using them, don’t lose sight of the most important activity: interacting with your followers on each site.

Jim Goldstein is a professional outdoor and travel photographer, and VP of Marketing at BorrowLenses.com. Find him at JMG-Galleries.com/blog, Twitter (@jimgoldstein), Facebook (facebook.com/jmggalleries) and Google+ (plus.google.com/+JimGoldstein).

Websites Compared

Google+ Site Type: Social Networking
Cost: Free
Storage Limit: Unlimited for standard size images (2048 pixels on the longest edge), while full-size images count against the Google Drive storage quota of 5 GB
Mechanisms For Maximum Exposure:
a) "What’s Hot and Recommended" (plus.google.com/explore) displays well-matched content into individual users’ streams based on their interests, posting history and more.
b) Community pages allow sharing of images with people of a common interest vs. an individual following.
Sharing:
a) Internal to Google+ only or via email. One can utilize third-party plug-ins to reach additional outside social-media networks.
Benefits:
a) Google+ isn’t the largest social-media website, but its search engine is. Search engine optimization (SEO) will be increasingly impacted by Google+ activity, especially with the advent of "authorship" attributes that now tie your Google profile to your content that Google displays in
search results.
b) Google+ has been adopted quickly by photographers and photography fans, thanks to its ease of use and attention to details.
Drawbacks:
a) It’s yet another site to manage.
b) It supports business pages, but limits their interaction with others.
c) It’s unclear what the true adoption rate is.

Facebook Site Type: Social Networking
Cost: Free
Storage Limit: Unlimited
Mechanisms For Maximum Exposure:
a) Good, old-fashioned regular engagement with fans to help build an audience over time.
b) Schedule your posts to reach your audience at the most optimal time to reach the most people.
c) Take part in high-profile group pages to help extend the reach of your work to others.
d) Facebook allows users to promote their posts at a cost. This is an option when introducing yourself or your work is important enough to spend some hard-earned money.
e) Facebook ads, which allow you to promote your business through paid advertisements.
Sharing:
a) Natively, Facebook users can share to either a personal timeline or a fan page. Outside of Facebook, it’s possible to share content through other sites and services that take advantage of Facebook’s Open Graph API.
Benefits:
a) It’s the largest social-media website.
b) Facebook’s popularity has translated to a wide adoption of its "Like/Share" button that populates millions, if not billions, of web pages.
Drawbacks:
a) Facebook continues to battle privacy- and copyright-wary users as their terms of use change, which happens frequently and are more aggressive than other social-media websites.
b) Shared content may not catch as many eyes if the page it originates on doesn’t fully take advantage of Facebook’s Open Graph meta tags.


Websites Compared

Flickr Site Type: Photo Sharing and Image/Video Hosting
Cost: Free
Storage Limit: 1 TB
Mechanisms For Maximum Exposure:
a) Have an image Explored by Flickr. Flickr Explore is an algorithm that factors in a variety of items (number of comments, favorites, etc.) to determine popular Flickr photos daily.
b) Build a regular following with regular activity (posting/commenting).
c) Enable Flickr-sharing permissions for others to share your work.
Sharing:
a) Sharing occurs by submitting your images to Flickr groups.
b) Fans can peruse your "Favorited" images to discover other new images.
c) External sharing is facilitated with a share link on each image to be sent via email, external social-media sites and an embed code.
Benefits:
a) Image sharing is incredibly easy.
b) Flickr gained additional popularity with members and non-members alike because their search leveraged image-tagging (i.e., keywording). Flickr remains one of the easiest and most commonly used platforms to search for images.
c) New and improved layout, and support of higher-resolution images.
d) Allows metrics to track image popularity, traffic and sources of use if embedded.
Drawbacks:
a) Adding images to groups was always a little awkward and initially unintuitive. Now, it’s more intuitive, but still, manually finding and adding images to an endless number of groups specific to a topic or group is time-consuming.
b) No e-commerce capabilities.

500px Site Type: Photo Community
Cost: $25 and $75 accounts
Storage Limit: Up to about 3 TB of storage and 10 GB of data transfer per month for premium accounts
Mechanisms For Maximum Exposure:
a) Have an image selected as an Editor’s Pick, which are manually chosen by 500px staff based on a variety of factors, but it’s safe to bet prior popularity is a key factor.
b) Build a regular following with regular activity (posting/commenting).
Sharing:
a) As with Flickr, sharing is done less directly by Liking or Favoriting an image so people can peruse images curated by those they follow.
b) External sharing is facilitated with buttons on each image to be sent via email, external social-media sites and an embed code.
Benefits:
a) Regular updates with a dedication to design.
b) New, improved layout and support of higher-resolution images.
c) Site metrics allows you to monitor site activity for your photos.
d) e-commerce is possible for print sales.
Drawbacks:
a) Beyond systematic designations of images as Fresh, Upcoming and Popular, there’s no active way for photographers to pursue increased exposure within the community.
The result is that many members will leave comments asking for you to view/comment on their images.
b) Inability to set your own prices for images sold.
c) Print quality is assumed to be good with no opportunity to review.


Websites Compared

Instagram Site Type: Social Networking and Photo/Video Sharing
Cost: Free
Storage Limit: Unlimited
Mechanisms For Maximum Exposure:
a) Build a regular following with regular activity (posting and commenting).
b) Get featured in the Explore section as a popular photo. You likely need a high-frequency and quantity of Likes for your image.
c) Be lucky enough to be featured as a Recommended User.
Sharing:
a) Sharing is done less directly by Liking an image. People can peruse images curated by those they follow.
Benefits:
a) Easy to capture an image with one’s cell phone camera or upload an image saved to a mobile device.
b) Cross-platform compatibility for iOS and Android users.
c) New web interface to Comment and Like photos.
Drawbacks:
a) Not able to upload photos from the new web interface.
b) No ability to share images within the network beyond your following.

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