Watch The Birdie: Why and How Photographers Should Use Twitter
The birdie has been aiding photographers for over a century. As you probably know, early photographers would hold a toy bird above the camera to gain a subject’s (especially a young one’s) attention. It worked so well that even decades later when the prop became obsolete, people would continue to use the coined phrase to make photographees look at their lens. Honestly, even I still use it.
Nowadays, the birdie is here once again to support photographers, but in a whole new way. Reincarnating as Twitter, it can actually help you get more jobs, increase exposure for your photography website, grow your network and boost your branding efforts. Yes, you can now kill that many birds with one social network. But, bear in mind that the Twitter-sphere has its own set of rules. Break them, and your posts will never be able to fly. Luckily, we have gathered all the tips you need to make the most out of Twitter as a photographer. Buckle up, and prepare for takeoff:
Why Twitter, why photographers
There are quite a few benefits that are unique to Twitter as a social platform. First and foremost, unlike Facebook and Instagram, a good tweet (especially with a great photo) has huge potential to catch on and spread like wildfire. Twitter’s RT’s (retweets) occur so much more in comparison to Facebook’s ‘share’ option. Why? Because Facebook uses algorithms that strongly restrict the exposure of non-paid posts - only a fraction of your followers are exposed to your “organic” updates. Whereas on Twitter, any of your followers who are online at that very moment will see your update.
With the right timing, a captivating concept and a sound choice of hashtags, your photo can be seen by thousands, if not millions of Twitter followers. All tweets are equal, you just need to know what to post and when (but we’ll get to that in a sec).
Twitter’s audience is another reason to embrace the fast-paced platform. Active Twitter users are often not that present on other social networks - meaning there’s a brand new audience outside of Facebook and Instagram that you can promote yourself to. News outlets, media agencies, journalists, bloggers, various professionals of all kinds - Twitter dwellers live in a world of their own, and you definitely want to be part of it.
A few other reasons why the platform is great for photographers:
Twitter is not the most obvious choice for photographers, which gives you a competitive advantage if you decide to invade it.
The challenges to brave
As a creative person, you probably know that challenges are necessary to keep that creativity muscle in shape. When you start using Twitter, there are a few curveballs you’ll be facing (with courage, of course):
The character limit. Up until recently, tweets were restricted to 140 characters only, which was extremely limiting, especially when it comes to image-based posts. Adding a photo and, say, a link to your website could take a whole third of the already short tweet. That doesn’t leave a lot of opportunities to tell a story, engage, inspire or simply interact properly. Luckily, in a recent dramatic change, Twitter enlarged the character limit to 280.
Networking takes time. Unlike Facebook, where you mostly follow people you know in real life (you know, that life beyond the computer screen), Twitter is all about building a community of followers who benefit from each other. Favoriting and retweeting others often is bound to get you noticed and retweeted in return. The fruits of networking are sweet, but the tree might take some time to grow.
Acting in real time. Twitter is all about being present, here and now. To make the most of it, you need to tweet at least three times per day on average. The more relevant and up-to-date your content is - the better. By no means do we expect you to dedicate the entire day to coming up with life-changing tweets about photography. But it would be useful to take a couple of ultrashort breaks during the day to tweet directly from your phone.
Who to follow, and how
Photographers you admire, potential clients, photography magazines and blogs, image editing software companies, photography gear and image editing software companies - we say yes to all. Following accounts that genuinely interest you is crucial to developing a good content strategy of your own. It’s not all about the hotshots: paying attention to other colleagues and visual artists, especially in your area, is important for building beneficial online relationships. Don’t forget your first and foremost target audience: potential clients. If you specialize in food photography - follow local culinary establishments. Concert photography your thing? You should follow venues, PR agencies and the accounts of established brands. You get the idea - whoever might be interested in your photography, needs to be on that “following” list you plan to engage with.
Following accounts that genuinely interest you is crucial to developing a good content strategy of your own.
That’s not to say you should follow every single account you see. You need to work towards a reasonable followers/following ratio, one that will make your account attractive to people who are considering giving you a follow.
What to say, and how
Did we get halfway through the article without mentioning that Twitter is a microblogging platform? Yes, we did. Microblogging means sharing short, frequent posts with your followers. Aside from being short, there's one general rule to follow: be true to yourself, but don’t make it all about yourself. Just like in real life, speaking only about your photography will turn people away. You need to provide a value that will make people click that ‘follow’ button. Share interesting materials about photography, other people’s work that you admire, creative ideas, inspirational tips, and carefully blend in tweets of your own work.
Aside from being short, there's one general rule to follow: be true to yourself, but don’t make it all about yourself.
1. Sharing is caring
Invest some energy in the beginning to find helpful photography related content sources. The more time you put in selecting the best pieces of content to share, the more value it will bring to your followers. Providing links to topics that you’re passionate about, will not only turn you into someone worth following; it will slowly but surely position you as an authority in the Twitter world.
2. Photograph. Mention. Repeat
Another great technique to get noticed is mentioning others, be it a personal account or a brand. Let’s say you took part in a photoshoot for a client and used a Canon camera. If your post mentions the client, the model, and Canon - all their followers who are online at that moment will be exposed to your tweet! If someone with a large following retweets you, your utmost wish will come true - new followers are bound to follow. Of course, this needs to be done within strict reason:
Use only your absolute best work. It all comes down to your photography.
Don’t overuse mentioning, you don’t want to spam or look like you’re desperate for attention.
It might take a while for the big brands to spot you, but be sure that if your photography is good, they’ll notice you sooner than later. Since many photographers try to swim with the big fish, it might be a good idea to go for a company of a smaller scale, like a specific editing software, a photo printing lab, or even a tripod manufacturer. Mentioning their twitter account in a praising post along with a captivating image is never a bad idea. Getting seen by brands holds many opportunities for you to empower each other. While you can honestly share your love for their product, they can share that love with their followers, feature, promote and even sponsor you by letting you try new gear.
Landscape photographer and Wix User Albert Dros beautifully captured the concept of mentioning photography-related brands:
3. More content ideas
Feel like you’re out of tweets? Here’s a mix of ideas for a rainy day:
Engage with your followers and ask to provide a caption for an interesting image.
Ask for feedback on a recent image you shot or edited.
Share a very last minute deal for your photography services (did someone say “value for your followers”?).
Retweet the brands and photographers you follow and admire.
Share a teaser for a project you’re working on.
Ask followers to guess the location of an image.
Encourage your followers to fill in a blank, for example: This #photo reminds me of _____.
Share a photo of a photography-related product you’re really happy with.
Try an inspiring photography quote that will brighten any feed that’s in need of a boost.
4. Timing is everything
Whatever you choose to post, make sure to do so during beak hours. This is not a typo. Having a quick look at your Twitter account’s Analytics to see when your followers are most present is never a bad idea. Based on your findings, you can define time slots during the day that will be dedicated to quick tweets.
5. #Hashtag, my friend
If you’re using hashtags on Instagram (and we hope you are), you probably know that hashtags are like keywords, which people use to find relevant information. The Twitter bird feeds on hashtags too, but quite differently. First, you don’t want to spend the character limit on unlegible text that the eye tends to skip automatically. Meaning, you simply cannot afford using many hashtags. Cap your use to 3-4 hashtags tops, and make sure they serve their purpose directly (#BabiesOfInstagram will have to stay on Instagram). Popular photo-related hashtags include: #photography, #photo, #foto, #photog, #landscape, #travel, #people, #wildlife, #art and more. Secondly, hashtags give you the opportunity to fly, and fly high. Twitter is all about the here and now, and it’s users are constantly searching for content that turns into trending hashtags. If you manage to “highjack” a trending hashtag with a “nailed it” post, thousands of people might be exposed to it.
Cap your use to 3-4 hashtags tops, and make sure they serve their purpose directly.
How to discover trending hashtags? On your very own feed. Twitter displays a tailored selection of the most relevant hashtags, based on your location and who you follow. There are other ways to discover trending hashtags too. The secret is to create a quick (but high-quality) post, based on a hot subject. Here are some important tips to keep in mind:
Check what people are posting, to make sure you tackle the subject the best way possible.
Never post on a political or controversial topic. Debates of this kind (and there will be debates) can harm your marketing efforts.
A trending hashtag with a lower amount of posts might work to your advantage. Ideally, you want to snag the opportunity before the hashtag picks up speed.
Try to be smart and clever, use only impeccable photos, and don’t forget to add the hashtag to your post :).
6. Look back from time to time
Just like your photography skills, marketing on social media is all about improvement. In order to make the most out of it, you need to learn from your previous efforts. Check Twitter Analytics from time to time, and try to answer these questions: Who are your followers? Where do they live? What are their interests? When do your tweets get the most impressions, likes, retweets? Keeping track of these parameters will help you revamp your tweeting techniques.
Let’s sum it up
We don’t want anyone to fly over the cuckoo’s nest - so here’s a quick and handy summary of everything you need to know in order to fly like a bird and reign the Twitter kingdom:
Try to tweet often, at least once a day.
Act in real time.Don’t be afraid to use smartphone photos, but make sure to optimize them.
Follow the right people and brands. Did anyone say potential clients?
Keep a reasonable following/followers ratio.Keep it positive. No political or controversial posts.
Be human, but don’t share things that are too personal.
Provide value, don’t just make it about you.
Curate great photography-related content.
Engage with your followers, reply to mentions, thank for retweets.
Retweet and favorite others.
Mention others, but don’t be pushy.
Share the love for photography gear and software you enjoy using.
Hop on trending hashtags. The right ones.
Twitter is not a turkey, don’t stuff it with hashtags.
USE ONLY YOUR BEST WORK. Analyze your performance and improve your Tweeting strategy.
Be patient. Your efforts will pay off eventually.
By Julia Ronen
Creative Content Developer for Wix Expert Communities