Today, I want to look at the world of social media, and Twitter marketing in particular, as it relates to you, the professional photographer.
Social media is huge these days, as we all know (unless you’ve spent the last decade under a rock), and social should obviously be a big part of any photographer’s marketing plan.
But are you getting the best out of it?
For photographers, most of the information and talk out there seems to be focused on how to use Facebook – understandable, given it’s the largest and most active social network out there.
But what about Twitter?
How useful are these 140-character marketing tweets, and should you be using Twitter for marketing in your photography business?
In fact, a photographer asked me just the other day if I recommended Twitter as a marketing tool, and whether or not she should spend much effort on it.
I’m sure this question is on a lot of photographers’ minds, so I thought we could take a closer look at Twitter and how professional photographers can benefit from it, together with some ideas on how to improve your chances of success.
At the end, I’ll also give you a super-special top-secret hashtag you can add to your tweets to get my attention and help me share your content.
So grab yourself a coffee (or tea, or whatever suits your mood) and let’s jump in…
Twitter Marketing For The Professional Photographer
Not sure if Twitter marketing is right for your photography business, or how to use Twitter effectively? Here are some essential tips for you...
Putting Social First In Your Twitter Marketing
The first thing to remember is Twitter is a social network, just like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Pinterest.
And the key word here is “social”.
Marketers (including photographers trying to get more eyeballs on their photography) seem to have forgotten the meaning of the word “social” in their never-ending search for more attention wherever they can get it.
But social networks are not about clamoring for attention or constantly broadcasting endless self-promotion because the most desirable form of attention – the kind you actually want – is earned, not created.
I’m sure you know at least a couple of people who desperately seek attention in the real world through all kinds of shenanigans, and it’s more of a turn-off and a nuisance than anything else, right?
Any idiot can attract attention – just watch the evening news to see examples of that every day – but the kind of attention you want is based more on the power of influence and a sense of kinship than on producing sensationalist content.
The same applies in the online world of social networking, except it’s much easier for people to ignore you or sever their connection with you if they grow tired of endless attempts at self-promotion.
I wish I could recall where I first saw this, but I read an article the other week that said something to the effect that marketers had finally confessed to mucking up social media for everyone else because they neglected to take the time to understand it before jumping in with both feet and flinging their marketing messages around left and right.
That’s quite an admission from the world of Mad Men but, in their partial defense, I can understand them getting it all wrong. Like everyone else, I’m sure they fell prey to the alluring idea of “just how hard can this be?”
For some reason we all looked at social media marketing and intuitively thought we already knew how to use it for marketing.
But then, one of the best things about social media is its apparent ease of use, while the worst thing about social media is its apparent ease of use.
After all, who needs instructions for something so instinctual and simple as talking to other people?
To marketers, social media must have seemed like a dream come true, and like shooting fish in a barrel. I bet they never expected the fish to start shooting back, though 🙂
Twitter, of course, became just as much of a victim of its own simplicity as the other networks, perhaps even more so because how much real damage can you cause in 140 characters?
As it turns out, more than we imagined.
Just ask the likes of US Airways (who famously tweeted a picture deemed not safe for work), McDonald’s (whose attempts at launching a new mascot online backfired in spectacular fashion), and many of the celebrities who’ve tripped and fallen into a pit of snakes following ill-conceived tweets. Even the Twitter CEO himself managed to mess up at least once by sending a public tweet that was originally intended to be a direct message!
Can Professional Photographers Benefit From Twitter Marketing?
So can professional photographers put those 140 characters to good use in their marketing and see a return on using Twitter for their business?
Until recently, I was on the fence about Twitter as a marketing tool, having experimented with it for several years with somewhat inconclusive results.
Sure, I managed to attract over 40,000 followers, but most of those turned out to be, shall we say, undesirable from my own marketing perspective.
In the end, I got fed up with talking to thin air so I set up a new account (@NigelMerrick) and am focusing a lot more on the quality of connections than on the quantity – so far, it’s working out much better.
But this is about you, not me, so how can you get the best from Twitter?
First, the Twitter of today is quite different to what it was a few short years ago.
In addition to the normal 140-character text-based tweet, we can also tweet content-rich images, as well as videos and other content. Yes, we’ve been able to do this for a long time, but the subtle difference we see today is in the way those tweets are presented in a much more visible and accessible way in people’s timelines.
Folks are also getting the hang of the conversational side of Twitter, and I believe the signal-to-noise ratio has finally improved enough to make this a more worthwhile place for photographers to be present and active.
But will you get clients directly by using Twitter for business?
No, probably not, since all social media networks are about making connections instead of direct sales. Getting clients directly from social media, including Facebook, has never been the main goal of social marketing.
It’s all about connecting with people who matter to you and your ideal photography clients, and then building long-term productive relationships so they do become clients at some point further down the road.
Now that’s something you can do with Twitter!
Optimizing Your Twitter Profile
It all starts with your Twitter profile, and there are some things you should do to make sure you’re putting your best face forward.
Literally, starting with your actual face, of course!
Like all social media profiles, it’s important to have a professional-looking profile photograph – one where people can clearly see all of your face, not just the half poking out from behind your camera! Where on Earth photographers got the idea from to ruin a perfectly good profile headshot by sticking a camera body and lens in front of their face is beyond me.
It has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve seen, and is a great form of anti-marketing!
Your prospects are interested in YOU, not a face with the words Canon or Nikon in lieu of a forehead. They want to see your actual eyes, not the mechanical eye of your biggest lens.
Honestly, I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this to working photographers, but a professional headshot of yourself is way more effective than a selfie taken with your iPhone, or an obviously-cropped group photo from your vacation.
Sadly, I see too many so-called professional photographers with profile photos that look, well, unprofessional.
I know you can do better than that, right?
It should go without saying, too, that all your social media profiles should be consistent, with the same headshot and blurb wherever you can.
On Twitter, of course, there’s not a whole lot of space to write a lengthy bio, so make the best use of it by communicating your essential message, which you can think of as the boiled down and concentrated version of who you are, how you help your photography clients, and why you do what you do.
You also have space for a link to your website, but most people default to using their home page.
Don’t do that!
Instead, create a landing page dedicated to your Twitter visitors where you can talk with them in a personalized way that makes them feel at home and in the right place.
And don’t forget your profile header image. Not only can you use your photography to great effect here, you can also superimpose text onto your image to convey a strong marketing message and expand on what you couldn’t fit into your bio.
The Twitter Marketing Bandwagon: Follow You, Follow Me
At the risk of showing my age, the rock band Genesis, in their 1978 song “Follow You, Follow Me”, sounded an awful lot like a premonition of the world of Twitter long before the Internet ever came along!
Unfortunately, most Twitter users are under the mistaken impression that the number of followers is more important than the value of those followers, and they get all hung up over how many followers they have, or whether or not someone follows them back if they follow them to begin with.
It’s the old “clamoring for attention” problem all over again, combined with the crippling belief that numbers matter most.
But there’s a much better way.
First, seek out and follow your ideal clients.
There are various ways you can find them on Twitter:
- By using Twitter’s advanced search to find people in your service area.
- By searching for specific words or hashtags that might indicate a need or interest in your chosen specialty.
- By searching for the hashtags related to your service area.
- You can also save your Twitter searches and use them again later.
Having found your ideal clients on Twitter, take a look at who they follow to identify people or businesses who might be influential to your audience, who you can also follow.
Next, find and follow the Twitter accounts of other local businesses who also serve your ideal clients, along with the appropriate people who follow those businesses.
There’s also another useful, but often overlooked, group of people to connect with who are active on Twitter, and these are the media people from your local TV and radio stations, and newspapers.
It’s amazing how many of the anchors and reporters on your local news station, for example, are present and heavily-engaged on Twitter, so get to know them.
By now, you have a good start on the people to follow, and it might be a good idea to organize those into Twitter lists, which will make it a lot easier to see at a glance who’s tweeting content you might want to share on your stream.
How To Get More Twitter Followers
Obviously, you also want people to follow you, otherwise no one will ever see any of your tweets, right?
You’re going to feel a bit lonely following 1000 people with no one following you back, so what can you do?
Fortunately, many of the people you followed will follow you back, and you’re also going to attract followers simply by being on Twitter to begin with.
Many of those people will be random folks outside your target audience, and some of them will undoubtedly be the uneducated marketing spammer-types, but you can safely block them, forget about them, and move on if they become too much of a problem.
The people you do want to follow you are your ideal photography clients, other businesses in your area, and local influencers – namely, the people you already purposely followed.
But how can you get these people to follow you back without making a nuisance of yourself?
It’s not easy, but it is simple, and certainly no big secret.
The key is to build a relationship with them where you become seen as a valuable and helpful resource, and therefore someone worth following.
After all, if you only ever tweet about what you had to eat for lunch, no one will care too much, unless you happen to be Gordon Ramsey or Anthony Bourdain.
So here’s what I would suggest you do:
Be on the lookout for interesting and valuable content being tweeted by the people you want to have a mutual following relationship with. Then reply to those tweets, retweet and share their content, ask intelligent questions, and show a genuine interest in what they have to say.
If you do this consistently, some of those people will follow you back, and may even share your content in the future.
It’s important to understand this does take time, and involves patience and more than a bit of trial and error, but when it comes to building relationships on social media it’s very much a case of “give first, ask later”.
You can (and obviously should) also tweet about things you know your target clients are interested in. Because your tweets are accessible to everyone on Twitter, not just your followers, you can add hashtags to your tweets based on your location and topic to catch the attention of people who are searching Twitter for those things.
What And When To Tweet
Having started to build your Twitter network, you’re going to want to start sending out tweets, but what should you tweet about and when is the best time?
Here are some suggestions for the types of tweet you can send out:
- Links to your own content, such as blog posts and resource articles…
- Individual photos or videos…
- Inspirational and motivational quotes – these work well, especially if you create a graphic with the text of the quote on top of an image…
- You can ask your audience questions to get them to reply and engage with you…
- Tweets with your general observations of life, thoughts, and musings about photography…
- You should also tweet and share other people’s content, which your audience might find interesting and valuable…
- News items, especially those from your town or city, make interesting discussion topics…
- Also, be on the lookout for powerful human-interest stories that tap into people’s emotions…
As you can see, there’s no shortage of ideas, and you should easily be able to come up with useful content for tweets to keep your audience happy and engaged.
But what about timing?
Despite the many articles you’ll see around the Internet, there’s no hard and fast rule about when the best time to tweet is, and all of those articles boil down to one simple principle, which is to tweet when your target clients are most active.
Pretty obvious, right?
To make this a lot easier, the Buffer social media tool has a handy scheduling system that can automatically create a posting schedule based on the most active times of day for your Twitter followers.
One thing worth mentioning here is the average life-span of a tweet is quite short – about 17 minutes at the last count.
Unlike Facebook, where the visibility of your updates is determined by a complex algorithm, Twitter streams are more like a gushing hosepipe, and people will see your tweets go by only if they happen to be logged in and viewing their home feed around the time you posted your tweet.
However, unlike Facebook, it’s totally acceptable to post multiple tweets for the same piece of content, for example your latest blog post, over an extended period of time and at different times of day.
So, for example, you might post an initial tweet when you publish a blog post, and then a different tweet to the same post a few hours later, followed by more over the next few days. You’ll want to make each of your tweets unique by varying the text, but repeating your tweets makes it far more likely that more people will visit your blog posts.
Getting Your Own Content Shared By Others
One of the biggest problems for photographers and other content creators is getting their visitors to share their posts and articles on social media.
It’s apparently not enough to post a blog article and then expect every visitor to be so excited by it that they just have to share it with their friends and followers – on average, you might expect to see only around 1-5% of your readers to share your posts if left to their own devices.
So what can you do?
First, you have to make sure the content is easily shareable and optimized for the different social networks. Because there’s no standardization between Facebook, Twitter, and the other networks on things like image sizes and space allowed for text, this causes some logistical problems.
Fortunately, we have something called Open-Graph meta data to help make this go a little more smoothly.
Specifying the proper open-graph meta data for your blog posts is important, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.
The Yoast SEO plugin, for example, is great for this if your photography website is built with WordPress.
When you create a blog post or page, you’ll see a social tab in the Yoast SEO section where you can tell Twitter and the other social networks which image to use on social postings, and the text to go with it.
The next step is to make it easy for people to share!
This is as simple as making sure you place clear and obvious social sharing buttons at strategic locations in your content, usually at the top and bottom of the page, but don’t overwhelm people with too many choices! Stick to the top 3 or 4 networks your audience use most, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
In some cases, you can also create incentives for people to share your blog posts.
For example, if you post about a recent portrait session you could encourage the people to help their friends share your post by offering them a bounty of some kind if they reach a certain number of tweets, Facebook shares, or comments.
You can also embed what have come to be known as Tweetables in your actual content.
Tweetables are attractively-formatted blocks of text, conveniently built as pre-filled tweets, which your users can then tweet out at the click of a button.
They’ve have been shown to have a definite positive effect on increasing the spread of your content because they’re easy for people to use, and don’t get in the way of them consuming the content.
You can see also examples of these in action right here in this article.
If you’re a WordPress user, there’s a handy plugin – Social Warfare – which makes doing this a snap because the formatting and styling is all taken care of for you. It’s well worth the small investment in the convenience alone—highly recommended!
And it takes care of all your social sharing needs at the same time, all in one plugin.
Increase Engagement With Twitter Feedback Loops
One neat tactic you can use to increase the engagement of your blog posts, for example, is to create what I call a feedback loop.
As far as I know there’s no official name for this, so we’ll stick with “feedback loop” for now, because that’s exactly what this simple but little-used idea does.
Essentially, the goal is to give people a way they can easily spread your content on Twitter, as well as to encourage a dialogue with you through mentions, comments, and retweets.
Here’s what you do if you’re using WordPress.
Create and publish your blog post, photography article, or other piece of content on your website, just as you normally would.
When published, share the link to the post on Twitter, together with an interesting title or message.
Next, go to your Twitter account in your web browser, and find your tweet in your timeline (obviously, it will be at or near the top of your stream of tweets). In the tweet header, you’ll see your name and Twitter handle with a time or date at the end of the line, which is actually a link.
Click the link and you’ll see your tweet presented on its own.
Copy the URL for your tweet from the browser address bar, head back to your content piece, and edit the post or page you shared. You can then paste the link you copied into your content wherever you want it to appear.
WordPress will automatically convert the URL you inserted into an embedded tweet, which your readers can then use to follow you, retweet to their own followers, or reply to you.
As an example, here’s the feedback Tweet for this post:
Your Guide To Twitter Marketing For The Professional Photographer http://t.co/dXXXcIREd6
— Nigel Merrick (@NigelMerrick) September 28, 2015
This can be a useful alternative to allowing comments on your blog, which often don’t have any tangible benefit and create problems with spam, and you can do the same kind of thing with posts from your Facebook page as well.
Twitter Marketing Is All About Relationships
The basic intent with these ideas for Twitter marketing is to create and nurture relationships with your target audience and the people who influence them.
With repeated exposure and interaction over time, they will get to know, like, and trust you. At some point they’re going to take up your lead-magnet, identifying themselves to you as potential leads you can then follow up with and ultimately turn into clients.
Here are the main takeaways for today:
- Remember to put social first and foremost in your Twitter marketing…
- Twitter is a great tool for building relationships with other businesses, other photographers, and your ideal photography clients, but it’s not the place to get clients directly – it’s not a broadcasting or sales platform…
- Your profile should be optimized for your audience and you should have a good-quality profile photo where people can properly see you…
- When it comes to Twitter followers, the quality is far more important than the quantity, and it’s unnecessary to go on a following rampage in the hopes of building a bigger audience. Just go after the people who matter to you and your business, and it will grow from there.
- Don’t just tweet about your blog posts and articles from your photography website. Share thoughts, quotes, questions, other people’s content, and human-interest stories to fully engage the people who follow you.
- Make sure your content is easily shareable by your readers, and get creative about ways to increase the sharing activity on your blog posts and other articles.