Networking has always been a key aspect of success in professional photography and visual art. Whether it’s schmoozing with gallery-owners and collectors, or meeting other photographers with whom to rub shoulders—people who are successful in the art world get around! That’s why social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are so important to emerging artists these days.
Not too long ago, there were those skeptics who thought the ‘Facebook fad’ would go the way of bellbottoms and 8-track tapes. Now it’s clear that social media sites are here to stay. Facebook has 700 million users and counting. The exciting part is that photographers and other artists are using social media to their advantage and the results are impressive. Artists use social media sites for six reasons: networking, inspiration, work, feedback, career and platform.
For an artist, besides your amazing talent, your network is your most important asset. Without a large number of people viewing and talking about your work, it can be difficult to gain notoriety. Think of the ‘big breaks’ you’ve had in your professional life−likely these have all been a direct result of your network of friends and professionals talking you up. Social media sites make cultivating and then expanding these professional relationships easier and faster. More than just meeting people, social media helps you carve out your own identity in front of others. Your online presence−social media, website, blog−helps people get a sense of who you are and ultimately brings people closer to you. Through your online presence, friends and galleries, curators and collectors come to appreciate your artistic approach and see that others are appreciative−even calling themselves your fans. You never know which acquaintance will prove to be a pivotal one.
Inspiration is a crucial element of your work. It’s what fuels your imagery and helps you see things differently. But how do you find the muse? The Internet can be a very inspiring place, if you know where to look. Social media sites do artists a great service by providing a steady stream of “Internet inspiration,” pre-sorted by the artists you favor.
After all this networking and inspiration, it’s a good bet that social media sites can help you get work. Whether it’s because you posted a link to a stunning image on Twitter, or because you friended someone on Facebook who was blown away by your shots, social media can be a way to generate new business. In the ‘old days’−and by that I mean, five years ago, you didn’t have a way to go direct to customers−you depended on publishers and directories to highlight your work. Now you can take matters in your own hands−and generate buzz by being a self-advocate. Just don’t sell too hard−let your pictures eloquently speak for you.
Another benefit of using social media is the artistic feedback it can provide. Photographers may post essays and open the floor for comments, or they might preview their work on a blog before seeking out a gallery showing. Getting feedback from friends, acquaintances and would-be mentors is a valuable by-product of being in the public eye. More and more, social media sites can be an aid to your career. Many enterprising photographers use social media sites to set up fan pages, forums and discussion groups. Some even offer critiques or technical lessons through social media. These activities establish you as a leader in your field. Although not everyone can be a leader, if you choose a niche that is specific enough you can gain a lot of followers or fans. With a solid fan base you can focus on pushing your career forward. In this way, social media is a stepping-stone to some permanent positions and teaching careers.
Quite simply, social media sites also provide you a platform to show work. This may sound obvious, but think of how much easier it is to show work now as opposed to 10 years ago! With all these platforms−Facebook, Flickr, etc.−your work gets seen by more and more people.
Ideally, your online presence should include three aspects: social media sites for networking and noti- fying people about your work, a blog or other plat- form in which you can present your work and your thoughts and a website through which people can come to know you more thoroughly. Social media is what connects you to the most people, through this portal you can nourish and sustain your pro- fessional network and, ultimately, your career.
Flickr & Other Photo-Sharing Sites
If you bring up Flickr with professional photographers, you might get some push back. They might say the site’s for amateurs. But seriously−if you are deliberate and discerning, it can be really helpful. With billions of photos, it’s not only a source of inspiration (if you look at the right shots) but also a method to meet other photographers (and buyers!) who profoundly share your interests. The fact of the matter is that buyers do go to Flickr for photographs and positioning yourself there can be a smart tactic. Also consider Picasa and SmugMug.com. Better to have your images widely visible on line, than to have them gathering virtual dust on your computer.
Facebook photo-sharing is also a useful tool for the professional photographer. As you network with friends and fans, your photos will speak highly of you. Whether it’s an old lost friend that needs a photographer for her upcoming wedding, or a fan who discovered one of your stunning images and wants to buy it on the spot, Facebook is a great way to get your work seen by people who might just become repeat buyers. And then there are the photo galleries in Facebook. It’s easy to upload images there−so let them speak well of your business! Did you know you can categorize your pictures in Facebook−it’s a great way to let people peruse your professional page by highlighting your specialty work. Here’s a tip: you know the five photos at the top of every fan page? You can ensure which images pop up there. Just “x-out” the ones that Facebook defaults to−and let the playlist settle on ones you are particularly proud of.
All of this social networking returns dividends as you gain new friends, fans….and maybe soon… more work.