I love being on Twitter and I’m often asked, “Why be on Twitter? What is the big deal? What’s the advantage anyway?”
If you’re a photographer and have been thinking of getting on Twitter but are not convinced why you should, as an independent photographer, I’m sharing the advantages that I see – innumerable but can primarily be qualified as the following ( for now ) :
I get to show my photographs to whoever wants to see. Literally. I upload photographs from my latest client assignments, photos of the latest prints on my online store and other mobile phone photographs of travel / food / beauty and so many selfies. I’m sharing “me”. It gives an introduction like no other. I don’t have to necessarily meet someone face-to-face for them to “know” me. ( I must clarify that there’s nothing quite like meeting someone in person though. I prefer to put a face to a Twitter Handle and the Twitter experience is then a whole lot more engaging. ) But if you’re looking to share your life and work with people you might never actually meet in real life ( I wish for Dorothy’s shoes ), then Twitter is a great substitute. I follow and am followed by people from all across the planet. I doubt any one of those people would have known anything about me otherwise.
As photographers, we owe it to our work to allow it to reach viewers who would otherwise never be exposed to it. If you are not on Twitter, these people are unlikely to ever see your work and everyone is a potential client.
Being on Twitter provides marketing & advertising reach by way of “word-of-twitter” ( instead of “word-of-mouth” ) that money can’t buy.
I don’t have advertising or marketing budgets to spend actual money. Instead, I spend my time and one of the best places to do this is Twitter. ( It helps if you have a great blog or regularly-updated portfolio website to begin with. ) Whenever I photograph a new assignment, I talk about it on Twitter. Some people share my Tweets further and that’s the best advertising. Clients ReTweet links to stories I do about them on my blog and my blog gets more traffic. A competing client in the same industry will see the story and want something similar for their product and just like that, I have a new client. ( I must warn you though that this will not happen overnight. Twitter, like your portfolio, needs time-investment. ) But if you are not on Twitter at all, this is a whole segment of people you are not even making an attempt to appeal to.
Marketing for the Client
Being on Twitter not only provides exposure to the photographer’s work but also to the clients who hire that photographer.
This is an often overlooked advantage. And supports the below “Comfort With Selling” point. Whenever I share my photography assignments on my blog and on Twitter, I am also sharing my client’s name and latest products and services. This is also a form of advertising by Word-Of-Twitter. A win-win situation for my clients and me, which further adds to the advantages of hiring me as opposed to hiring a photographer who is not using Twitter.
Comfort With Selling ( this is my weakest argument, maybe I’m not articulating it well )
Being on Twitter also implies comfort with “selling”, which in itself is a credibility-builder with clients.
As a photographer, clients hire me not just for my skill with image-making but also for a variety of other reasons, one of which is how well I understand the client’s goal. And one of those goals is “selling”. Just like I’m selling my service via my blog / Twitter, etc. my clients are hiring me to be able to sell their products and services better. While they understand that my work is great, when I point them to or engage with them on Twitter, my clients also feel that I am comfortable with selling and understand the subtleties that today’s customer base expects. They might not articulate it in so many words, but this “skill” is a confidence builder as well because it implies that when I shoot for them, I am keeping the “selling” angle in mind. What is more likely to appeal to my client’s customers etc.
( Twitter is part of new-age online media that requires a different level of skill than traditional media and many clients struggle with the newness. As a photographer, if I am able to assure them of my comfort with this medium, clients also gain more confidence in me as a service-provider in general. It’s like keeping yourself updated with the latest selling techniques. )
Being on Twitter, to me, also means I am open to being professional even though everyone around me is losing their head. At the end of the day, clients are people too and people like working with other people who have a decent, balanced head on their shoulders. If they follow you on Twitter and observe your interactions on the platform, they can draw conclusions about what kind of person you are and whether they would like to work with that kind of person. ( I realize this has disadvantages too because if you are lying through your tweets, when someone meets you in person, they will see through the façade immediately. And when a client does hire you, you are going to have to meet them in person. ) For me, Twitter is a great platform to convey my professionalism and no-nonsense work ethic without having to meet people in person, at first.
Connecting With Other Photographers & Sharing Your Pain
I don’t do this often but whenever I’ve done it, it’s made me feel like I’m not alone. No one else in my family is a photographer and it is impossible to have a conversation with any of them without watching their eyes glaze over within seconds and they continue to pretend to listen just so I don’t slap them senseless. ( Kidding. ) While the family is kind, the online interaction with a fellow-photographer half-way across the world, is something else. In fact, I’ve received more support from photographers half-way across the world via Twitter than I have from photographers I’ve met in person here in India.
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( Let’s not forget the awesome image-uploading features that Twitter’s been coming up with. You can upload four images to a tweet now, which is like manna from heaven for me. And the profile page header is another great place for you to show off your work as a photographer. But these are technical features that come and go. The point of the above was to share the other, more meaningful advantages that I see. )
Indeed, these are only some of the innumerable advantages. You have to find what works for you and then make it work for you. While the above are geared more towards photographers and how they can use the platform, the same advantages apply to a variety of other professions.
Considering the proliferation of platforms online, one has to pick their “battles” wisely. I recommend signing up on the ones you hear the most about – from your friends / co-workers / family and then spending time on each to figure out which ones you’re most comfortable with. Because, at the end of the day, if you are not comfortable with a platform, your communication on it will feel awkward and those who connect with you on these platform will know it. I’m most comfortable with Twitter personally as well as professionally and my second favourite is Instagram. I know people who prefer Facebook or Instagram or some other platform over Twitter and that’s alright. The advantages each platform offers are suited to a certain profile of people and you are like to find like-minded people regardless of platform.
For me, I love Twitter because I get to engage with like-minded people who don’t necessarily agree with everything I have to say. I’ve grown as a person because of the time I’ve spent on the platform regardless of the “Are you the first Indian on Twitter?” debate. ( Which shouldn’t even be a debate because till Twitter provides a data-backed answer, we’re all just wasting breath. )