A photographer's guide to Twitter

You can get advice or promote your business by embracing this casual-yet-powerful social network

It took a while, but now I get it. Twitter--the deceptively casual social network that's based on messages that are no longer than 140 characters--has gone viral. And it could be a valuable tool in building your photography business or promoting your work.


And it's not because of messages like "I'm sitting at Starbucks enjoying my fourth Mocha Latte Americana" or "Man it's cold outside. I think I'll put on a coat." It's because people are asking for advice, engaging others with like interests, and by doing this, successfully promoting themselves.

Here's a powerful example of how the power of Twitter helped one photographer out of a jam. A few months ago, photographer Patty Hankins was surprised to learn that one of her copyrighted images was being used--without her permission--to illustrate an online article about a piece of software that removes watermarks from photographs! Hankins posted the link to the offending web page on Twitter ("tweeted") and asked what she should do.

Within minutes, she had dozens of responses. Following the advice she emailed a Millenium Copyright Act violation notice to the author, the owner of the hosting web site, and the web site's ISP. A few short hours after she discovered the illegal use of her photo, it was taken down.

This took place shortly after I started my Twitter account for the Adorama Learning Center, twitter.com/adoramalearn. The whole event played out before me, on my laptop, as I, er, was sipping a cappucino at the local coffeehouse (I never tweeted about that). I was amazed at how quickly the problem was presented, worked out, and resolved.

And so, I've been paying attention to Twitter, and so have many photographers, to their profit.

Here are ten tips for Newbie Tweeple (Tweeple: Twitter People).

1. When you set up an account, be sure to include an interesting headshot. This will accompany every Tweet (post) you make and help establish your identiy. Remember these will be sqare and very small, so keep it very simple.

Find your tweeple with Twitter Search or this indie site, Twitter Groups.

2. Find other photographers. Try Twitter Groups and search for Photography. Use Twitter's search tool and try different keywords such as "photo," "digital camera" or a specific camera model, and see who is posting relevant info.

3. Manage your tweets. Once you have hundreds of followers, you may feel overwhelmed by all the tweets. Fortunately, good tools are out there that let you organize tweets based on different categories that you can set. I like Tweet Deck and have categories for Replies, Photo-related tweets, Twitter marketing ideas, and general online marketing. Tweet Deck also offers several URL-shortening options and since a URL counts in the 140 characters in your message, this is important.

Tweet Deck is a good tool that organizes your tweets. If you're getting hundreds of tweets an hour, you can otherwise be overwhelmed!

4. Ask for advice. It could be a technical photographic issue, or something web-related. Make sure you're following people who could answer. You are very likely to get good answers.

5. Figure out when your audience's prime time is, and tweet then. This may take some trial and error, but if you're in New York, you shouldn't tweet at 4AM because by the time your most relevant tweeple are on Twitter, it'll get lost in the static of possibly hundreds of messages posted since.

6. Tell 'em what you're doing, but do it right. "I am sitting at a cafe having a cup 'o Joe" isn't interesting, but "I am sitting at a cafe having a cup 'o Joe before my big shoot with Heidi Klum" will grab peoples' attention and tell the world something about yourself. (Assuming, of course, Heidi is waiting for her close-up)

7. Two letters: RT. Encourage people to RT (Retweet) your messages. That way, what you're saying will be seen by more people, and you can pick up unexpected new followers and customers this way. And, of course, RT messages that you find interesting.

8. Engage in conversations. Be curteous and on topic. People will remember you.

9. Feed your tweeple: For longer posts, have a blog or web site you can point to. Use Twitter to tease and watch them flock to your site!

10. Offer a twitter exclusive. If you're a photographer and your twitter audience is locals, offer a discount on their next session or upcoming service. Announce it on Twitter, then follow up on other media if you like. Keep it a very limited-time offer. Publicize such specials as a benefit for people who follow you on Twitter.

My Favorite Twitterers

I've met some awesome people on Twitter. Here are some of my favorite photo-related followers and their web sites:

planetMitch: Mitch Aunger's web site, http://planet5d.com, boasts the most information on the Canon EOS 5D on the planet. There's even a Wiki.

ckijowskiphoto: Christopher Kijowski is a wedding photographer based in North Tonawanda, NY. His blog http://blog.christopherkijowskiphotography.com is engaging and subtly promotes his business.

imagist: George Lottermoser is a Wisconsin-based fine-art photographer uses Twitter for observations and advice, and uses his blog http://www.imagist.com/blog to promote his work.

orangephoto: Orange is an event, product, headhsot, fine art wedding and portrait studio from San Fransisco. They have announced promotions on Twitter, with links to their blog (http://pulp.orangephotography.com/blog) that, they say, have brought in business.

mackcamera: Mack Camera is reliable a repair center that covers warantee contracts. When you buy an extended service contract for your camera from Adorama, it's gonna be taken care of by Mack. I like them--they retweet almost every tweet I post.

silverph: very active photography enthusiast John Brian Silverio's enthusiasm for photography is catching. He works for the District Attorney's office but is constantly asking questions and willing to share what he knows. http://www.silverph.com/blog

danhavlik: Dan Havlik is a photography/technology journalist from New York. You can count on him to find something offbeat and photo-centric.

mwgray: This Twitterer describes himself as a "photographer, computer tech, jerk" but he's used Twitter to boost traffic to his site, http://www.lifeindigitalfilm.com/, which has a bunch of Adobe Lightroom and Camera Raw presets.

photowalklist: Photowalk List promotes its web site, which lists "photo walks" (group get-togethers for the purpose of walking around taking pictures) all over the world.

So...what are you doing? 


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