(Before you read too much, this post is mainly about Twitter, but I’ll throw a few things in there about Facebook towards the end)
Whenever I mention Twitter to people, most of them don’t get it. And honestly, I understand their confusion. Let’s say you are an average person, you join Twitter because it’s all the rage, but you really have no friends on there, you have no goal for what you are going to do with Twitter and you end up never going back after the first week. Sure, you followed @The_Real_Shaq, @JimmyFallon and the greatest of all, @ConanOBrien, but what is that going to do for you?
There is one thing I like about Twitter that has nothing to do with networking, building relationships or growing your business: News. If you have zero idea what Twitter is about, but love being up to date on what’s going on, Twitter is pretty much the fastest way to get your news these days. I could use it for nothing but that and be happy.
Enough about that, let’s talk about the subject at hand: Making Twitter work for YOU.
Three things to help you get going on Twitter.
One of the things I learned later on in my Twitter/Social Media/Photography life was to maintain a consistent appearance across all the platforms you use. This comes mainly in the form of the avatar you use on these sites…like Twitter, Flickr, Red Bubble, Gravatar, WordPress, etc. Choose an avatar you want, preferably of yourself so people will recognize you, and then make sure you use it everywhere. The only exception would be Facebook, where it’s definitely more of a friends/family type of environment.
It’s almost like a mini-brand identifying you across multiple locations.
Another important first step is your Twitter name. If you are a photographer, your name is likely to be the most important means of recognition. The more known you become for your photography, the more popular your name may become and the more people will search for it online. If your Twitter name is “IloveFotos”…well, people wont find you too easily. And you definitely wont look as professional.
So the bottom line: If you can, use your name. Mine is: Twitter.com/MikeOlbinski.
There are a ton of Twitter applications out there, but the one I use is Tweetdeck. You can have multiple columns that display the lists you have setup in Twitter (we’ll talk more about lists a little later). This way you filter the people you are following by however you want to group them and avoid missing important tweets. Plus it updates automatically, pops up little alerts and makes the use of Twitter soooo much easier and a lot of fun.
Laying the Groundwork
I don’t want to get too much into the basics of how Twitter works, because there are plenty of tutorials out there about that. But essentially….you follow other people, read what they have to say, interact with them and send out your own updates. When you want to use Twitter for business and marketing purposes, it’s not a bad idea to plan ahead on how you want to organize the people you follow.
One of the newest and greatest additions to Twitter are their Lists. Before lists were a native tool to Twitter, your timeline was a jumbled mess of everyone you followed. Not a great way to filter the people you really care about.
With lists, you organize people you follow into groups. Some people go into great detail with this…I keep mine a little more simple:
1. Friends and Family
3. News and Other
I think they are pretty self-explanatory. Almost all of my close friends are on Twitter and a few family members, so putting them into their own list keeps me from missing important things that happen. The third group for me is almost like that annoying ticker at the bottom of CNN. It’s a constant update on world, sports and weather. Like I said above, I tend to know more about what’s going on “right now” than if I didn’t have Twitter.
The third one, obviously, is the real subject of this blog post. Those people that are key to your business, to networking and to the development of your craft…you throw into this group. Sure, I’m writing about photography here, but this should work for anything you do…provided your field has an active Twitter presence.
Get Down to Work
Now it’s time to make it all work for you. Please note, this isn’t the only way to put Twitter into action, it’s just how I did it!
I do a lot of HDR photography so I started looking for some of the more popular Twitter folk who do what I do. That’s the key here:
Step 1. Find people to follow who share your interests (photography, knitting, scrapbooking, etc).
You also want to look for people who use Twitter the same way I want you to: Interaction.
It’s amazing to me how many people get on Twitter, send out tons of updates, expect people to click on links or read they stuff, but never reciprocate. They just don’t get it. Unless you are a celebrity or someone insanely popular and can get away with that, it just wont work in the long run. The magic of Twitter to me is the ability to have a direct interaction with someone else:
Step 2. Find people who like to interact on Twitter
This next part is the meat of what we’re talking about in this article. Now that you’ve found some people who share your interests and love to interact, it’s time for you to meet them, talk to them, help them and build relationships.
As I said above, I found some solid Twitter folk that do HDR photography. I started following them. I read their blog posts, commented on their blogs, re-tweeted their tweets and slowly built relationships. And this is something that you need to WANT to do. I think people will know if you are being fake and just using them. I genuinely love to see other people’s HDR/Photography work and learn from them, get to know them and even meet them in some instances.
What happens next is pretty cool. Suddenly you’ve built a friendship with these other people and they start promoting YOUR work (obviously, if you suck, they may not, but that’s another story), reading your blog posts and even putting links to your website on their blogroll. This can lead to all kinds of things, but mainly your network will grow. From their Follow Fridays or Re-Tweets, you will find even more and more photogs out there that you want to follow. And new people will start to follow YOU based on your work being promoted by your network of photogs.
And above all, you should have fun with this part. You will build real friendships with some of these people and the interaction between you may move outside of the realm of photography. It could also lead to meet-ups with them in your town or if you happen to be visiting their neck of the woods. A photographer I found through Twitter wants to meet up later this month when he’s in town. Cool right?
Step 3. Build relationships and have fun!
There are lots of other, smaller ways to grow your photography business outside of just other photogs. Websites, like Photoshelter, have a Twitter account… MPix Photo Printing, HDR Spotting, etc. You need to look for Twitter accounts everywhere you find yourself.
I’ll share one example of what happened for me in this area. We love this local, non-chain restaurant called Joe’s Farm Grill. Part of the charm of this place besides it being just awesome, is that they use Twitter to help build relationships with their patrons and to promote themselves. They also INTERACT with their customers on Twitter. It’s amazing. We’ve gotten to know the managers and owners at this place because they know us through Twitter.
But the other day I posted a picture of a Ford GT that I took while at Joe’s. So the Tweet that I sent out to with the link to my blog post with the photo, also referenced @JoesFarmGrill. Well of course, they loved it and Re-Tweeted it. From that little Tweet from Joe’s, I snagged a few more followers. A couple were photogs, a couple were just fans of Joes who liked my photography.
One of those followers booked me for a photoshoot with his two kids.
Boom. Twitter pays off.
Step 4. Find those Twitter accounts for businesses that you frequently use
What about Facebook?
The simple way that I use Facebook is to link my Twitter status updates directly to Facebook so I only have to update it in one place. I filter out certain things, like Re-Tweets, Follow Fridays, etc, that I know people on Facebook don’t care about, but use it mainly to link to my photography. Linking them helps eliminate a lot of busy work. I also have a fan page on Facebook for my business, but I haven’t seen it do a whole lot for me yet and am still figuring it out.
The key here is your friends and family can be a great support system. I’ve sold prints to friends and done photoshoots for friends. This has led to referral business for me. It’s a great place to start. Now you definitely don’t want to inundate your friends with so much crap they just ignore you…but those that like your work will continue to follow you and tell their friends about you.
I also become friends with the photographers I meet on Twitter, Flickr, JPG Magazine, Red Bubble, etc.
Step 5. Link Twitter to Facebook to help promote your work
Those are five steps that I think will definitely get you going on Twitter. There may be more and better ones, but this is what has worked best for me so far. Things change and things evolve, so who knows what my Twitter world will look like in six months?
The End Result
After a few months of doing the work I outline above, you’ll be rocking. Be real with people, be genuine and this can work. Now, this doesn’t mean you are suddenly going to be rich and making bank. For me, it’s been far from it. My business is growing, my name may be getting out there a little more than it was before and the dollars are more than they were six months ago, but I have a long ways to go (notice I said dollars, not hundreds of dollars :p).
This is just the foundations for great things. If your work is awesome and people like it, your presence on Twitter will grow. People will start asking YOU questions and following YOU more than the other way around. You will become more of an authority on things and people will want to read what you have to say.
I mean, this blog post is kind of proof of that. I am not an authority on many things yet when it comes to photography, but I DO know what Twitter and my network of photog friends has done for me. And I find myself at a point where I feel I can pass this information on to those who are suddenly asking ME how I’ve gotten to this point.
I hope this helps some of you with getting started or even to the next level in your Twitter experience. If you have any of your own ideas, tips or tricks, please post them in the comments below!
If you want some recommendations on good photogs to follow right off the bat, visit my photography list and get started!