So you’ve gone ahead and created your very own Twitter account. You’re hoping to spread the word of your work and boost traffic to your website, blog, and maybe even cash flow. A few days, some weeks, a couple of months… they all go by but nothing is really happening. What should you do? Write Twitter off as a failure? Chalk it up to a misfired experiment? Nah. I think there is an interesting dynamic when you first create your Twitter account and the time shortly thereafter. That is to say, there are some noticeable phases or progressions that one goes through as they try to establish themselves as a resource for other photographers. I’ve gone through these phases in my attempt to be viewed as a credible HDR photography resource and I’m sure that everyone else has gone through similar paths to get to where they are.
Along the way of wading through your own Twitterverse field, you pick up slivers of ideas that either jive well or don’t. The key to navigating through this field is two-fold: the first revolves around how well you can actually pick up on these slivers and the second revolves around how effectively you deal with and manage them.
So, this is my attempt to share some of the practices that I religiously follow and wholly attribute to getting to where I am now and to how I have been able to meet, and shoot with, some of the most talented, fantastic, and generally great people in the industry.
Content Is King
Before you find your sea legs in the vast ocean of Twitter, you’ll want to make sure you have some content you can provide. The content is what will lend credence in establishing yourself as a reputable and reliable resource. In my case, the content that I offer every day revolves around my experiences with learning and shooting HDR photography. I have several years worth of brackets that I’ve taken on my journey to mastering HDR. The quality ranges from god-awful to not bad. But, I make it readily and consistently available to anyone who is kind enough to spend their time viewing it.
On top of that, I try to share the content of knowledge. I had the pleasure of recently meeting and chatting with the venerable Selina Maitreya, who was so open about sharing her experiences, her knowledge, and her trade. My good ol’ buddy, Jack Hollingsworth, says it best with ‘It takes a village’. If you are trying to thrive in a community-based media outlet, it is paramount to help others and, in turn, help yourself.
Use Hashtags Effectively & To Your Benefit
Twitter incorporates a very novel way of searching for trending/popular subject matter by adding a Hashtag (the # symbol) before a word (or single-worded phrase). Doing so renders that word searchable and, when used effectively, can really increase how wide your net is once cast. Most of my tweets have something to do with HDR photography. So, I usually tag #HDR in line with my message so that it will appear to anyone who is searching for the term ‘HDR’. My friend, Scott Wyden, once told me that the tag #Photog is one of the most popular search terms on Twitter and attributes it to a bump in clickthrus to his website.
A word of caution, though, with overusing Hashtags (this is something that I am certainly guilty of). Remember, you have 140 characters to work with. Hashtags eat this counter up and when someone attempts to ReTweet (RT) your message, you do run the risk of overextending their message beyond 140 characters. This can turn some people off from helping to spread your information. So, when composing your message, try to put some foresight into making it easy for others to share your words.
Respond To Queries
One of the most natural and expected reactions of being seen as a resource of any kind is that people will generally seek out your advice. They’ll ask questions, solicit your opinion, or just point you to something that they think may be of interest to you. What it boils down to is that people are taking the time to ask for your thoughts. The best thing you can do is to actually respond. You can do it publicly via Twitter or privately via a Direct Message or email. The key is to promote your accessibility. Two photographers who sincerely impress me with their response rates are David Nightingale and Trey Ratcliff. For as busy and as popular as these guys are, I can’t recall a time when either of them did not respond to a message that I had sent them. This goes a long way with me and makes it a joy to promote their work wherever and whenever I can. It’s how the game is played, friends.
I cannot tell you how many photographers I’ve reached out to for their opinions or thoughts only to never hear a word back. I’m most disappointed with those photographers out there who solicit help from the general public only to ignore even sending a ‘Thank you’ to those who offer that help (more on that a little later). The result for me in these situations is a general, and unfortunate, lack of interest in that photographer.
Now, I totally and fully understand that we are all busy in life. I am not necessarily advocating that you should be responding within minutes of a query. But, by taking 30 seconds to reply back with something as basic as ‘Thanks for your comment. I’m crazy busy at the moment but will do my best to get back to you in a few days‘, will go a long way with your followers. Just do your best to actually follow up with those of whom you commit to doing so.
Maintain A Consistent ‘Voice’
The best way to build your brand, your fan base, and your reputation, really, is by maintaining a clear and consistent voice. By voice, I am referring to the general tone, subject matter, and vernacular that you use in your tweets. Some people take it very lax with what they say and how they say it. Others have a more structured code that they use when they are speaking their minds. There is no right or wrong here, there is just your brand. One surefire disruption in how you are perceived is if you present yourself as one type of person and erratically offer up a different side… sort of like a Jekyll/Hyde.
I would also recommend that if you enjoy opining about any range of topics, do so intelligently and without the aim to offend. Unless, of course, that is your brand. 🙂
Always Follow The High Road
If there is one truth that I have come to accept, it is that you will have your detractors. I have come to expect this as I enveloped myself in as polarizing and galvanizing of a medium as HDR Photography. On one hand, I find myself fortunate to be a part of a subject matter that is so widely talked about these days, but on the other hand, it certainly brings out those who are not exactly tolerant of HDR… and they are more than happy to share their thoughts on the subject and on the quality (or, in their case, lack thereof) of your work.
I see these situations as a very clear presentation of a fork in the road. You can either retort and, in doing so, put yourself in a defensive posture or you can simply acknowledge them, respect their opinion and thank them for sharing it. I really, really do try to follow the latter trail. I know that it can often be very difficult to swallow the mouthful of razor blades that you may be primed to launch at your detractor(s) but trust me when I say that doing the opposite shows class, composure, and character. And I can promise you that others will pick up on that.
One of the most potent aspects of Twitter is its ability to disseminate information with blazing velocity and ultra-wide scope. The most effective way of doing this is by reTweeting a message, or taking someone’s Tweet and rebroadcasting it to your followers. They, in turn, can RT this message to their followers. The result can be viral.
However, as we commoditize what we share, an opportunity opens up to ‘how’ we do so. I have found a lot of success in taking the information that is shared by someone who I follow and applying my own editorial comment to it while still crediting the source via the RT. I love seeing someone RT my message and apply their own ‘take’ on what is being shared. It’s almost like re-personalizing the original message and it’s groovy. Editorializing a RT is also a way to circumvent the problem brought up in the previous section when too many hashtags bring you over 140 characters. You can prune the message to taste while still being virtuous in spreading the word.
Commit Random Acts of Selflessly Promoting Others
Sure, getting your name out there is a critical reason why you’re on Twitter. But there is something genuine and special when you randomly pick a photographer, be it a friend or total stranger whom you admire, and give their work or their website a shout out. I know that when I see others do that, I get a warm feeling in me and I’m sure that others do, as well. And know that you’re probably making someone’s day by sharing their work with your followers. I bet you’ll make at least one new contact by doing so and, if you believe in karma, you’ll be making a nice little deposit in that account.
One of the best ways to promote others is by utilizing the hashtag ‘#togsfollow’. It has a really great followership and can aid you in your attempt to spread the word of other photographers’ works.
Don’t Forget Your ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’
‘What’ you present truly goes hand-in-hand with ‘How’ you present it. There is no formula to this. It is an extension of how you wish to be perceived. People relate to certain personalities and it is a fool’s journey to think that you can appeal to every type. With that said, I was raised with the lesson that politeness and courtesy will always be safe horses to bet on.
I strive to present myself as a kind and approachable resource. I always do my best to say ‘Please’ when asking something of someone as well as give thanks to anyone who is kind enough to help me by either re-Tweeting (RT) one of my posts, adding me to a ‘Follow Friday’ (FF) list, or just saying something kind about me or my work. And, please believe me that this is totally genuine. I also make every effort to answer questions that are posed to me on Twitter and on my blog. I’m just another guy with a camera who loves HDR… no better than anyone else and if I have a piece of information that can help you out, I’ll be there to share it with you. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Through it all, I cannot express just how amazed and thankful I am at the responses and opportunities that have presented themselves through Twitter. I wish the same success to all of you and I hope that this post helps you achieve it. Thank you, everyone.
Brian Matiash is commercial architecture photographer, writer, and lover of all things social media. When he is not out photographing the ever-shifting trends of exterior and interior design, he is roaming around and exploring the city to capture the forgotten corners and loose ends that so often get overlooked. You can see daily offerings from these explorations on his blog.
Brian has spent the past several years learning and mastering the use of High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging to provide his photos with a level of realism not normally captured with conventional photography. He is the author of recurring HDR columns on CurrentPhotographer.com and ProPhotoResource.com , where he shares tips, tricks, and techniques to gain the most out of HDR photography. He is also an editor of HDR Spotting , the leading gallery/resource dedicated to showcasing HDR images. Brian’s HDR images have been published in a variety of news and magazine publications, as well as displayed in various art galleries in Boston, MA and New York, NY.
Here’s how you can share your tips, techniques and tutorials on CurrentPhotographer.com
*The Current Photographer website contains links to our affiliate partners. Purchasing products and services through these links helps support our efforts to bring you the quality information you love and there’s no additional cost to you.