How To Use Twitter To Promote Your Photography Business
Let me at the outset say that I was an early adopter of Twitter. That also makes me an one of the early skeptics. I recall signing up for the free social media networking service and then walking away for months. I didn’t know what it was or how to use it. And like most of you on the fence today, I felt it was a sheer waste of my time.
I have come full circle to believing that Twitter, which still remains only a tool, is one of the most indispensable channels for me to market my Connecticut-based documentary wedding photography or portrait photography businesses.
If you are undecided, like I found myself just about two years ago, consider the following as a mini-primer on what to expect and how to get involved for your business:
I use Twitter as a listening post. I lurk when I have nothing new or useful to add to the conversations that race through my Twitter feed. But there are nuggets for all of us to mine, if you are patient. I have seen links to free e-books, specials on Photoshop actions or prints. I have even won a few products like the PocketWizard 801-150 Flex Transceiver TT5 Bundle With 801-140 Mini TT1 Transmitter Bundle for Canon DSLR and books about marketing and sales.
Lauren Lim, a photographer friend of mine in Canada, responded to me through Twitter saying, “They can follow vendors they work with, and keep up to date with sales, new products, and communicate any issues!” Her Twitter id is: @robnlauren
For a photographer like me who enjoys learning about new products or techniques, Twitter has been a real boon. Every day when I fire up TweetDeck, a service that connects me to my Twitter account in an easily accessible interface, I look for topics that I am most interested in, photography, marketing, SEO, India, blogging, workshops, Photoshop actions and Lightroom news. And Twitter has never failed to deliver the most relevant and useful information for me.
Listening leads to sharing. When you hear from someone with a question and you know the answer, you’ve got to take the next logical step.
Just as much as I like to listen, I like to share. I have a good collection of blogs that I peruse every day. When I find something of interest to me in my feeds, I usually mention it, with a link to the original article. A link alone in Twitter doesn’t have the same cache that a short description and a link does. People generally want to know what they are clicking on, especially with a slew of issues with spam and locked out accounts on Twitter. Offer as much info as you can to make it interesting for your audience to click on the link.
The ability to “ReTweet” or essentially forward the information you have just learned on to your followers is the act of “RT’ing” It’s a very powerful way to get messages to go viral. Not every Tweet needs to be of that caliber and to a large extent which one is or isn’t “retweetable” is not entirely in one’s hands. But asking politely almost always helps.
So, for example if you find a great resource for photoshop actions and you want to share it with your buddies who follow you, write this Tweet out:
“Found a great resource for Photoshop actions. Check out: MCP Actions (http://www.mcpactions.com). Please RT!”
That’s it. Now, someone in your follow list (and don’t worry too much that you don’t have many followers; I’ll get to that topic towards the end of this post) may be intrigued by your Tweet, may respect your opinion and check the link out and see that indeed MCP Actions rock (hey, they do!). They will likely forward your Tweet on by “retweeting” it. And on it goes from one person to the next. What’s great is that at least initially, the first few “retweets” will contain your Twitter account name (also called “a handle”). The more your posts on Twitter get shared or passed on, the more likely you are going to find yourself with more followers.
Believe me, the adage, “Givers, get” is so very true. The opportunities to take part in workshops, receiving books or products to review, having the ability to call some of this industry’s leaders and talk shop or even just hang out with them, have all been a real blessing. And I do credit Twitter for opening those doors for me.
Being genuine, or authentic, goes a long way. The same goes for being helpful. If someone asks an open ended question and you have an answer, jump in and respond. Sarcasm has a place too, but don’t play that card too often. Being funny is always a good thing, though I try and keep my banter directed to what people have written or responded to already. I have found Twitter to be a mostly tolerant arena, but I have been asked to tone my political views down from time to time. Think of Twitter as being a cocktail party and how you would want to be heard. Would you say something that rejects your presence there? No? Then follow the same guidelines and do a gut check before saying anything that you might later regret. Having said that, if you do err, apologize. Egos have really no place in a venue that is almost always about sharing good information.
Making an impression from the get-go is very important. Obviously how you conduct yourself or the tone of your message makes an impression, but a more immediate approach is using a great headshot portrait of yourself … consistently across different social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Yes, it is tempting to show off your pet dog or a logo that spells out your business name, but in my opinion none of those tactics work as well as a human face peering right back. Allow your eyes to connect with your audience. Make your avatar sing. Pixelated images are no excuse. Find an image of yourself in your archive that you like or have a friend photograph you for this specific use.
If you are posting comments on other blogs, you may want to consider using the free Gravatar service. What Gravatar allows you to do is to submit one image of yourself that you would like to use consistently across multiple websites/forums. Whenever I sign into a site to comment, a Gravatar plugin installed by the site’s owner pulls my image automatically and places it next to my comment. Again, if you are trying to connect with your audience remember to use a consistent portrait of yourself across the Internet. This kind of branding is priceless.
The other less obvious way for you to connect with your audience right away is to have a complete profile description. While you get to play with 140 characters in Twitter, your profile description can be as long as 160 characters. It can be challenging to say a lot about yourself within that space, but brevity is better than being long winded (the only exception may be this long post). I have seen photographers not fill it out at all, some who fill it with what they think is funny and some that are so serious you have to wonder what makes them attractive. Check out my bio, “Documentary wedding & portrait photographer in Connecticut. Trained in photojournalism. Love blogging but not jogging. Listen to NPR, Jazz, Reggae, Blues.” It may not be perfect but its a start. And I reserve the right to change it up from time to time, as should you. My suggestion is to let your audience know what kind of work you do, where you are located and a little bit about your hobbies. Don’t be afraid to talk yourself up. That’s what marketing is about.
Twitter allows me to soft-sell my services and products. I can mention a link to my recently updated blog and send a bunch of people to check either a wedding or portrait session. The feedback on Twitter and the plea for “comments” usually garners quick results so that one can assess how useful your message has been. I would be a little wary of hyping your own business too much from the get go, though. It can get somewhat annoying to people and they may decide to “un-follow” you. If you do have a service, product or a “special” you want to mention, I suggest you spread it out throughout the day. A desktop program called HootSuite – http://hootsuite.com/ – can help you post those automatically at a time you designate. Pretty cool!
If you find yourself drawn to certain other products or services being offered through Twitter that you genuinely feel are useful to your business, by all means forward that information along to your followers. I do this routinely for camera bags, e-books that I find fascinating or yes, even Photoshop actions that I personally use in my studio. And sometimes, those are affiliate links, meaning, I draw a small commission on the sale of that goods or services. Just say so when Tweeting affiliate links, however. Full disclosure is always better than none.
Asking isn’t limited to only a sale or an announcement about your business. Ask when you don’t know and want to “crowd source” your hypothesis. I have asked about cameras, lighting, workshops and just about anything that I am curious about. It’s in essence an unstructured online forum where you don’t have to be a member, pay dues or know the party line. You are free to ask about anything that is on your mind and invariably someone out there has a response for you. It may not always be right or useful, but to my surprise I have found my queries to be both on the money and quite relevant.
In some respects, Twitter has been a great and FREE substitute for print advertisements which are incredibly difficult or even impossible to measure for your return on investment.
The traffic boost to my site alone makes the time spent on Twitter worthwhile. True, most of those who do visit may be other photographers but in this day and age of word-of-mouth, I suspect photographers who do appreciate my work and my personality are going to be open to telling their friends, family or even clients (if they are already booked, of course).
But it is ultimately this notion of relevance that will drive metrics for each of us. What is it that we are saying, to whom and how? Is what is being shared useful or relevant to our audience? I recommend reading Mahendra’s blog post addressing this very topic: “The Evolution From Numbers To Relevance”
While Google, Yahoo! and Bing reign supreme, Twitter’s near-constant flow of information means that it too is quite rich in content. I, however, find using the search function through Twitter a bit tedious, but do read this great article by John Jantsch, 7 Insanely Useful Ways To Search Twitter For Marketing, to get an idea of other approaches that might help your business directly.
Using TweetDeck, I can set up search categories that will capture conversations or Tweets and deliver them into the right column for my perusal. Take for example the term “wedding photographer.” If a bride or a wedding planner were to use that expression in one of their Tweets, I am quite likely to see it soon after it is published. I can then read and respond to them directly, offering to help first and then suggest they look at my website if they so desire later.
If you are starting out, like all of us at some point, you are likely to have very few followers. And, that is absolutely ok. Don’t feel like you are talking into an echo chamber when you are using Twitter. Start by posting what you deem to be useful information for yourself. As more and more people find out about your Twitter account, you are likely to see your numbers increase dramatically.
Do your part in adding your Twitter account to all your outgoing emails, preferably within your signature line. A simple line like this would suffice:
Follow me on Twitter – @PicSeshu
If you are on Facebook or any other social media network or forum, invite your colleagues to come over to Twitter and follow you. There are ways of sending your Tweets to Facebook, but the more active I got on Twitter, the more “spammy” my Facebook updates looked so I cut the cord and keep them separate.
To do your part and follow people you might be interested in, I suggest finding the top Twitter users who also happen to be photographers and joining their ranks. What you will find is that they are likely to retweet some of their followers. At that time, see if the retweeted message is of interest to you, then check the profile of the original Twitter user. If you find her or his other Tweets to be equally interesting, then join up and follow this new Twitter user. And so on. At this time I am following 3195 people and I have nearly 4500 followers.
Yes, timing is everything and finding the time to Tweet even more so of a challenge. As sole proprietors we wear multiple hats. So, time is at an all time premium. My friend Jack Hollingsworth (@PhotoJack) is a terrific photographer and a social media guru. He says he spends about an hour a day on Twitter. To some that may be just right. For some others, you may initially want to spend a greater deal of time getting settled in and then you could back off a bit and only chime in when you have some time on your hands.
Like all marketing, the return is never going to be immediate. What you want is organic growth in the number of people who are following you. Think of quality followers, those who will more than likely forward your Tweets on to their followers, to be more of an asset. While having thousands of followers may be tempting, resist the urge to automate that process.
Get involved more, seek to help and learn and share and you will be successful in the end. In my mind, at least, it’s one continuous marketing campaign. You could decide to take a break and come back to it and on Twitter all is not lost. You can easily regain your momentum and be up and running like usual within no time.
Set yourself an hour a day to explore and post on Twitter. Give it a month before casting judgment on the service. And if you should need any help, please let me know how I can be of service to you. I am just a Tweet away at @PicSeshu.
Seshu is a Connecticut based documentary wedding & portrait photographer. He accepts assignments, weddings, portraits or commercial projects around the world. Find Seshu here:
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