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Using Twitter to Find an Audience for Your Photos

Can words promote photos? by Harold Davis, June 2011


Column Series Intro | Using Email to Find an Audience | Harnessing the Power of Flickr | Using Twitter to Find an Audience for Your Photos

Figure 1 (intro photo above): A simple “tweet” using the AddThis Wordpress plugin led to thousands of page views for the story related to this image on my blog.

On the face of it, Twitter would not seem a particularly good vehicle for promoting photography. As you likely know, Twitter is a text-based system in which individual communications are limited to 140 characters. Many people use Twitter as a kind of blogging tool for the attention deficit generation—although, of course, Twitter is used for serious communication purposes as well. It’s reasonable to assume that there’s more than meets the eye when the United States government uses Twitter to promulgate important news, and when revolutionaries active in the Middle Eastern Renaissance use Twitter to communicate. Still, none of this stuff is visual—at best it is links to visual material such as your photos.

Obviously, Twitter is an important part of the new social media on the Internet. But how can it be used to help you find an audience for your photos? It turns out in many ways—but as I’ll explain later in this article only by accepting the community features of Twitter for what they are. I’ve interviewed some of the top Twitter users who work in photography. These practitioners of the art and craft of “tweeting” have literally hundreds of thousands of followers of their Twitter stream. Picking their brains means that I can help you to use the best practices with Twitter to find new audiences for your photos, and to increase the interest in your work among people who already know about it.

Backing up for a moment, in Finding an Audience for Your Photos I explained that the changes brought by the Internet era have altered the way photographers need to approach marketing their work. Creating an email list is an important tool for every photographer (see Using Email to Find an Audience). Rising to the top of the huge pool of imagery that Flickr provides is an important aspect of Internet marketing of photography, as I explained in Harnessing the Power of Flickr. Taking advantage of the features of Twitter to find a following, or to further engage those who are already interested in your work, is as important as these other approaches, and one of the single most important tools of Internet social media marketing.

Well-known Twitter contributor @SabrinaHenry, who tweets on her own behalf as well as maintaining the social media presence (as @CraftAndVision) for photography e-book publisher Craft and Vision [www.craftandvision.com]. She also promotes the Twitter feed of @RearCurtain, whose website [www.rearcurtain.com] focuses on storytelling in photography.

Sabrina puts the relationship between Twitter and the other social media this way: “I agree that Twitter should be part of an overall social media marketing strategy but I feel that each social media tool has a different audience and a different purpose although there is some overlap. While many people want to integrate their efforts by duplicating what they tweet on Facebook, I do not do this all the time. I do believe that you need to be consistent in your voice throughout your social media but it is not necessary to say the same thing on Twitter as you would on Facebook or on your blog. What I have found is that Twitter has been good in driving people to my blog [www.sabrinahenry.com] but the real conversation takes place on my blog rather than on Twitter.”

In other words, Twitter doesn’t work the same way for everybody, and you need to take some time to figure out what works best for your content and your social media strategy. With the tools I explain in this article, you should have what you need to build upon your strengths and use Twitter as an extremely important part of your social media strategy!

Using Twitter

If you already “tweet”—a neologism meaning to post a message on Twitter—then you probably understood the basics of Twitter quickly. If you are new to Twitter, you’ll find that the mechanics are simple—deceptively so.

Okay, so what happens when you open the Twitter website for the first time? Not much without an account. You can search Twitter posts—for example, Figure 2 partially shows the results of a search for panoramas—but that’s about it!

Figure 2: No matter what you search for on Twitter, there are sure to be plenty of posts.

As you scroll through the Twitter posts—each is limited as previously noted to 140 characters, which leads either to a clipped quality or a Zen-like simplicity, depending on what day you ask me—you’ll notice some special idioms involving Twitter posts.

There’s really nothing too complicated here:

  • Shortened URLs: Because of the requirement that Twitter posts be limited to 140 characters it makes sense to shorten hyperlinks, using one of the many services available for this purpose from Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others.
  • Hash tags(#): Hash tags are used to indicate the area of interest of the post, so people can find it by searching, for example, #panoramas. In other words, the hash symbol is used to mark keywords.
  • @Mentions: Twitter users are mentioned by their @ handles, for example, @Harold_Davis.
  • @Replies: This is a reply to a tweet.
  • Retweets (RT): Tweeting to one’s followers something that someone else has tweeted.

 

The rubber meets the road when you create a Twitter identification and logon. Your Twitter home page will look something like that shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: A sample Twitter home page.

The key features in the Twitter home page are the text box (labeled “What’s Happening?”) where you enter those pithy and wise 140-character tweets and the Timeline tab—which shows your tweets, retweets, and the tweets of anyone you are following.

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About the Author

Harold Davis is a photographer and author. His photographs have been widely published, exhibited, and collected. Many of his fine art photography posters are well known. Harold’s images have won a Silver Award in the International Aperture Awards 2008 competition, and inclusion in the 2009 North American Nature Photography Association Expressions Showcase.

Harold is the author of The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Post-Processing (Focal), Creative Composition: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Practical Artistry: Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers (O’Reilly Digital Media) and other books. Harold gives frequent digital photography workshops, many under the auspices of the Point Reyes National Seashore Association. More »


Text and photos ©2011 Harold Davis.

Article created June 2011

Readers' Comments


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Jeff Clow , June 18, 2011; 01:00 P.M.

Another very illuminating article, Harold.  I've just joined Twitter myself and found your suggestions very helpful.

 

 

Harold Davis , June 18, 2011; 01:26 P.M.

@Jeff---Thanks, always good to hear from you!

Maria Bostenaru , June 21, 2011; 02:48 A.M.

Hi Harold,

I made a twitter account a while ago, and a wordpress one as well, but to be honest I found no use of blogging this way. The only blog which I am updating is the one on researcherGate. I applied for one in Nature, but wasn't given. These are both scientists' communities.

I have a question about the AddThis button. I made facebook buttons on my project webpage, but it might be more interesting to have tweet, linkedin and so on buttons as well, since it is a frame based webpage and thus not easy to bookmark. Where can I get it if not with WordPress?

thanks

Maria

Harold Davis , June 21, 2011; 12:10 P.M.

@Maria Go to the AddThis website, http://www.addthis.com/

Very best wishes in photography,

Harold


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