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5 Ways Photographers Can Build a Strong Online Following through Social Media

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… by Eric Kim

Nowadays, almost anyone can be a photographer. With falling prices for DSLR’s and other cameras, everybody and their uncle bob can take impressive photos. Not only that, but there is a plethora of sites for photography such as photo blogs, Flickr, and Facebook. To say the least, it is very difficult to set yourself apart from other photographers let alone build a strong online following.

I faced this problem when I started shooting photography. I wanted to share my photographs with the world, so I created a website and hosted my photos—expecting everybody to come to me. As Ray Liotta famously said in the film Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” However, in the digital age, this is no longer the case. I grew more and more disappointed as time passed and I didn’t get nearly as many pageviews and comments on my site as I dreamed. It took a lot of asking around, personal experience, and trial and error before I figured out my fatal flaws in my attempts to build an online community for photography.

In this post, I will share with you my personal successful methods to build a strong online following through social media.

Create friends:
Social networks online work very similarly to those offline. If you want consistent views/comments on your photography, you need to have friends and a network. You cannot expect other people to give you feedback if you don’t give feedback to others. And in order to have friends online, it takes hard work and time. Comment on the works of others, and also communicate with them through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and blogs.

 
Think about it, who are the best friends—the ones that always talk about themselves or those who want to hear your input and suggestions as well? Relationships are always a two-way street.

 

Promote the work of others:
Nowadays everybody wants to be a star. However the problem with this is that nobody likes blatant self-promoters. Rather than trying vigorously to promote your own work, focus more on others and the community. If you have a blog, feature other photographers. This has many strengths. First of all, you will build a stronger connection with other people—who might mention your generosity to their own online networks. And ultimately by highlighting the work of other photographers, your work will be better known as well. And most of all, it feels great to help others through building an online community.

 

Ask for the input of others:
On my Facebook fan page, I always try to spur discussions by asking the input of others. Instead of simply showing your work and telling people to check it out, ask them what they think about your photos. Ask them what they like and possibly what could use improvement.

 
Create discussions by asking people’s opinion about certain topics. For example, you can ask: “What do you prefer, color or black and white?” This is a topic that many people have a strong opinion on, and creating a lively debate is often good.

 

Be consistent:
Although it is not necessary that you post new photographs or blog posts everyday, it is important that you are consistent. For example, if you regularly post three times a week (Monday, Wed, and Friday) and suddenly you quit posting for a week or two, all of the people who check out your site will no longer be interested and never come back.

 
Although it is difficult to be consistent with photography, you cannot rely on inspiration alone. As Chuck Close famously said, “Inspiration is for amateurs, and the rest of us just show up and get to work.” There will be days where you won’t want to go out and shoot or upload your work. However being consistent is crucial.

 

Stand out:
There are millions of photographers out there—what differentiates you from the rest of them? This can be accomplished by several ways:

  • Stick to a genre of photography: Keep your portfolio consistent by only showing photos of either nature, portraits, or urban images. A cluttered portfolio looks unprofessional and you won’t be very memorable.
  • Define your style: Don’t make your images look like everybody else’s. Either choose a radical type of post-processing or show your color through your writing.
  • Be controversial: It is not good to always be wishy-washy in what you believe in. If you think that film is awesome and digital sucks, vocalize that. If you think that film is played out and just for hipsters, say the same. Controversy always attracts attention and will make you much better known.

So what tips do you have to build a strong online presence through social media? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!

Eric Kim is an international street photographer based in Los Angeles. He has traveled all around the world, shooting photography in places such as Paris, London, Prague, Venice, and Seoul. Furthermore, he recently taught a street photography workshop in Beirut, Lebanon and currently runs a popular street photography blog as well. You can see his work here and also follow him on Facebook, Flickr, or Twitter.

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  • Lindsay Dianne

    These are great tips. Social media is an amazing way to create buzz, but you have to engage instead of just shouting your marketing at people.
    Thanks for this post!

  • Trudy

    The only part that I disagree with is being controversial for the sake of attention. Attention hunting just for attention is annoying and most people tire of the overly argumentative photographer.

    I do agree with promoting others and having a sense of style evident in your work that also connects the work. This rocks. I love to view and share others’ work.

    Nice post.

  • Chris Franklin

    Thanks for these great tips. I’ve been running my blog for about 8 months, and must admit that there are a few of these things you mention that I need to work on. Personally I’ve been generating most of my traffic through making friends with other photographers with online presence. As an amateur I’m not too keen at this stage to focus on just one genre, but I do agree with the benefits you highlight relating to that.

    One thing I do find a little frustrating at the moment is that, although I ask for it, I rarely get any constructive criticism on my blog. It’s almost as if people are afraid to sound bashful, and would rather keep silent than give criticism.

  • Lonnie Dawkins

    Good post. You’re right about social media. I am learning that it has to be artfully used. It is a lot of work but the rewards are sweet.

  • David

    Excellent post, Eric! I’ve had a SmugMug account for a while now, and recently added a Facebook page and Flickr galleries as well. Still early stage with FB and Flickr, and it’s very interesting to see the early stages of organic growth with both of those efforts.

    I think your points are right on the money. Thanks for the tips.

    Dave

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Kamm-Photography/47100713070
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidkamm/

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