You 2.0 – Photographers and Twitter.

In Freelance and Business, Marketing, Self-Promotion, Web/Tech by David13 Comments


If you’ve been around these bloggy parts for even a few weeks you’ll know that I’ve been wrestling with the whole 2.0 world. The social networking world which these days revolves around Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, etc. At times this wrestling has been more like a death match and more than once I’ve been left gasping for air and ready to give in. I haven’t because I think it’s worth the trouble to figure this stuff out.

Right now I am up to my neck in social networking, affiliate accounts, and things like AmazonConnect. My book comes out in 6 weeks and I want to get things in place to really do a proper job of promoting it. So I have a reason for all this frantic social networking stuff. But so do many of you.

Social networking, Web 2.0, whatever you call it, is nothing more than a set of tools. For some of you it’s a set of toys and you’re content to litter the information superhighway with details about your cat or your breakfast. I guess that’s ok, too. But the business applications for these tools are immense if you (1) use them with intent and (2) use them well. Not easy.

So, let’s talk Twitter. I use it because it can be whatever you want it to be. It can be a chat room, a newswire, a polling service, a micro-blog. It can be a tool to connect you to more people faster, and give you opportunities to go deeper. But it’s not magic. You gotta learn to use it. Here’s what I’ve learned after a couple weeks of living and breathing this stuff.

1. Be Relevant. For the love of all things good, PLEASE ask yourself this one question before tweeting: Who Cares? Seriously. If the answer is limited to you and your cat, keep it to yourself. If you’re micro-blogging as a professional then stupid tweets about absolutely nothing will only dilute the way I think about you. Perception is reality and if you’re Twittering makes you look vapid and silly, sorry, you’ve just become vapid and silly.

2. Know Your Audience. Who are you talking to? Professional photographers? Amateurs? All photographers? This guides what you say and how you say it.

3. Be Yourself. But be a carefully edited version of yourself. What you say on the Twittersphere and the rest of the internet ripples a long way. You can’t control where it goes or how it gets used, only what you say. So be mindful. Careers have crashed and burned.

4. Be Community-Minded. If you are looking to be a leader within a community you have to interact with, and serve, that community. Web 2.0 is fueled by reciprocity. For every person that follows you, follow them (unless numbers don’t matter to you). For every tweet you throw out to the Twittersphere, comment or respond to another. Re-Tweet.

5. Know The Limits And Move Past Them. Twitter can only do so much. It’s like an internet dating site. You find the girl, you chat with the girl, but if you don’t graduate from the online service to a face-to-face encounter, y’ain’t dating. Twitter is great for meeting and chatting, but you can’t live life at 140 characters all the time. Don’t be afraid to take it further. I’ve already had coffee with folks I’ve met on Twitter, in fact I have one tomorrow morning. And the more conversations you have, the more opportunities you find.

6. Get a Reader, like TweetDeck, to make heads or tails of Twitter and keep your head above water. What it took me a while to understand is that Twitter is a reciprocal numbers thing. If part of your goal is more followers, then you need to follow more people. But no one can keep track of all this noise, so Tweetdeck allows you to create columns for favourites, and groups. So I’ve got one just for photography in which I place the folks who generate actual content. Keeps me sane. Not everyone wants numbers, but I’m experimenting with something so that’s part of my goal. Tweetdeck allows me to do that and remain sane. Without Tweetdeck I’d have jumped ship.

7. Repeat The Tweet. I don’t do this, but probably should. If you want your tweets to reach the most peeps (what the heck kind of language is this new technology encouraging?) then you need to repeat your tweets a few times a day. I guess I’m I just don’t care that much because this seems like too much work. But if you’ve got something important to say repeat it, and ask people to RT.

8. Remember Your Purpose. If your purpose is to direct people to your blog, then do that – intentionally point people to new posts, but consider this: if you come off as too self-promotional, as more of a taker than a giver, the community to which you appeal is likely to be smaller than if you also point to great related content on other blogs. If your purpose is just to make a name for yourself then the usual rules of celebrity management/leverage apply, but here’s another: be a fan, not just a celebrity. The more you point people to others, the more valuable you are to others. People like folks who are givers.

9. Extend Your Brand. If I go to your Twitter page will I find your logo? Do you have a great avatar? Your web 2.0 activities are marketing activities, little chances to say Here’s Who I Am! The usual rules apply – be creative, consistent, and congruent with your brand and core values.

10. Please Control Yourself. You need to update Twitter a dozen times every hour? Seriously? Do you know that makes me want to poke my eye out with a fork? Remember tip #1 – Be Relevant – but please, be relevant IN MODERATION. The more you say the less impact each thing you say will have. More signal, less noise. Please.

Got a great tip for using Twitter as a photographer? Comments are open.


  1. I guess it’s time to take this plunge. Thanks for testing the waters (and not finding sharks).

  2. I think the power of twitter is combining your personal life with your professional life. people like to read personal things, but it shouldn’t outweigh the relevant information.

    If you Twitter some personal stuff, people get to know you a little, and are more likely to pay attention to what you say.

    That said, I don’t use Twitter as a marketing tool (yet?), but I try to combine some personal stuff with interesting links and such.

  3. You tweeted a question about the 5 photographers people would follow if they only got to choose 5. Did you get responses? I didn’t see any. Is that because I don’t follow the people you do, they didn’t @reply, I just missed them, or no one replied?

  4. David,
    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been struggling with Twitter over the past few weeks as well. I’m doing more lurking there than Tweeting but slowly getting a handle on what I’d like, or should, be Tweeting about.

  5. Hey there are reasons why I “follow” you, David. Great stuff here as I am also on Twitter and these tips will help me be more purposeful. Thx!

  6. Thank you for #10!
    People I know are tweeting more than a dozen times an hour, and that really takes away from my ability to gain pertinent information!
    I think that Facebook would probably work better as a marketing tool, simply because it has a larger user base and you can do more with it (photos, videos, blog, magically update blog posts, etc). On the other hand, I see Twitter as a space more for personal information, because it is smaller and you are limited to that 140 characters each time.
    Seeing full grown adults pop into the social networking scene is great though. For a long time it was just the angsty teenagers talking about how they were going to “stick it to the man,” and showing photos from their drunken party the night before. Getting real people into the networking sphere makes it better for everyone (and easier to ignore those angsty teenagers!)
    …not that I have anything against angsty teenagers

  7. Thanks for this! These reasons have comfirmed my decision not to join twitter right now. I don’t have time to use it with purpose and I don’t need another place online to share stories of cats (not that I have any but I’d totally talk about them if I had one).

  8. I’m using Twitter now as purely social/friends/family, but I’d like to use it professionally also…would it be better to have a separate Twitter profile for the professional stuff, or is that defeating the attraction/intent of social networking?

  9. Author

    Dave – Great question. I think it depends on how comfortable you are combining the two and how interesting your personal life is to your market. I’m a big fan of integrity and that means my personal life and my professional life are integrated. But I won’t blog or twitter about my cats or my wife or the personal details of my friends’ lives. In part because nobody cares. In part because I think it would make me look flakey. And as far as twitter goes, your followers could see the replies left to you by friends and the ones you leave for friends. Seems too much to keep an eye on.

    No harm in creating two accounts. I don’t do it because I don’t twitter personally. But I used to have a personal blog as well as this one and I kept them very seperate.

  10. Someone talk to me about stamina. 3 weeks ago I had this web 2.0 business wrapped around my finger. Now, I can barely find time for one measly Tweat!! Is there any hope for backsliders like me??

  11. Great post – in fact, I’m going to Tweet about it! I’ve been using Twitter for about a year now, and think your 10 are right on target. #4 is probably the biggest if you want to use it to grow your business. Re-tweeting works well as you can grow your followers list rapidly, and can find a lot of great new people that way.

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