With 12 years invested in connecting on social media, first on Twitter and Instagram, then Pinterest and Medium, I’ve learned a few things about engaging online. It’s not that I’ve got it all figured out. The rules keep changing, and each platform is a bit different.
First, let’s sync on the benefits for photographers.
- FEEDBACK. A second set of eyes always helps.
- SUPPORT. Motivational back-up is huge, especially when you need it most.
- IDEAS. How-to guidance and inspiration are powerful from a network perspective.
- ENERGY. Nothing like a group of talented, global friends to fuel action.
When it comes to gaining the long-term benefits, a couple of areas could use focus. Let’s take a look through the lens of connected photographers.
- WILLINGNESS. Not everyone wants to engage, especially creatives/photographers. This can’t be forced or negotiated. Find those who have an interest in connecting.
- TIME. Free time has grown increasingly scarce. Pandemics and changing work demands have changed our daily routines to the point where work and personal time are hard to separate. Social time can be squeezed out.
- AVAILABILITY. I’ve found time slices helpful, 10 minutes at the edges of other activities to browse, connect, and explore.
- TIME ZONES. Global reach is a powerful/exciting aspect of social media, but time zones make it hard to connect in real time. First, let the conversation happen slowly, day over day. Don’t expect a quick response if it’s after midnight on the other end. But you can also engage at times that others are around. The Timebuddy app is a great tool for knowing what time it is in other parts of the world.
- PLACE. In a virtual world, the place is the platform. Photographers should look at focusing on 2 of these at a minimum, and probably no more than 3, to keep some focus:
- Twitter. Ideal for conversation and initial engagement. If you’re just starting, start here.
- Instagram. Less engaging, but good for portfolios, and sharing your favorites.
- Pinterest. Difficult to engage creators, but a great stream of content for ideas and inspiration.
- Blog (e.g., WordPress – don’t look, you’re on WordPress now!). A personal web space to call home, to create the experience unique to showcase you and your work.
- Facebook. Lots and lots of people. It’s not for me, but maybe for others.
- COMMON GROUND. Overlooked but essential, the best friend groups share a common bond. For photography, it can be a style (e.g. b&w), a category (e.g., nature, portrait, street/lifestyle, fashion), a format (e.g., film, macro, NFT), or even a vibe or mindset (e.g., edgy, tech, newbies, mentoring). While creatives/photographers are likely to resist boundaries and categories, putting focus early here will help create friend groups w/ staying power. Without it, many will drift in and out of conversations, and lose touch. On Twitter, hashtags have often been the rallying point for a group with a common topic/interest.
- RESPECT. Connections will want you to respect personal and community boundaries, such as language (e.g., avoiding excessive f-bombs), repeat asks for time/advice, honoring NSFW limits, not pushing/selling product. In short, there need to be some general rules of engagement. This can be difficult to ferret out, but it’s key.
- TRUST. It takes time to build trust, but a bias for trust (or benefit of the doubt) can allow new friendships to grow more quickly. Being authentic (not hiding behind a persona) is key if engagement is a goal. Be yourself. Have a conversation. What’s going on for you that others might want to know?
- GIVE TO GET. Social interaction and relationships are 2-way streets. Social media is no different. Invest time in the work/challenges of others, and they’ll return the favor, often in ways you hadn’t expected.
- POSITIVE ENERGY. Don’t rant, it kills the buzz.
- COMMITMENT. If you’re going to engage, stay with it. New groups benefit from knowing “who’s in.”
If you look carefully, virtually all of these 9 factors transcend social. They apply just as well to all your relationships, but also networking in bars, tennis clubs, even conferences. The only factor unique to social media may be time zone’s, due to social’s virtual nature and global reach.
There are MANY talented artists, creatives and photographers online, and the numbers keep climbing. It’s incredibly easy to lose track of them. Some focus on the items above should help with that.
Let me know if I missed anything, or if you see it differently.
And of course, let’s connect !
Chris | AmberwoodMedia | Charlotte NC US