Taken from the front row at the BSC Runway event where I was one of the judges for the student design competition last month.
Clark Dever is an Event Photographer and Web Strategist in Buffalo, NY. In addition to his background in photography and web development; Clark is also long time proponent, consultant, and educator in the area of social media marketing. An ASMP recommended speaker, Clark is currently developing a new speaking program that will educate photographers unfamiliar with the use of social media as a viable channel for marketing their work. Clark is also one of the co-creators of 12 Hours in a City a travel documentary which used social media extensively to support, organize, and market the event.
LC: What are the best social media channels for photographers to leverage?
CD: The best social media channels for photographers to leverage are the one’s that contain their niche audience. Social Media marketing is about finding the .001% (if you’re lucky) of internet users that absolutely adore what you do. I can guarantee you that they are out there, I can also guarantee that they are on facebook and twitter. However, if your niche is an active sub-culture or a myopic specialization in the main stream; chances are that it has it’s own forums, social networking sites, and region of the blogosphere. Search for them and you will find them. If you don’t find them a )Search Smarter or b) Create the community site and they will find you.
LC: Outside of Facebook and Twitter are their any social media outlets specifically created for creative professionals which provide a more appropriate access point for them to reach industry buyers and editors?
CD: This is more your specialty Luke, so I’d love to hear your reply. I tend to work with non industry people and hyper-targeted niches. I’ve heard good things about sites like Behance Network and I still believe in the use of traditional tools like Direct Mail (Agency Access), representation through stock sites, and traditional agents. The market is undergoing a paradigm shift but that shift is benefiting the smaller non-traditional players most of all. The old school players are still utilizing the traditional channels, if you can play head to head with established professionals, there’s nothing wrong with playing in those channels as well as the Social Media world. I view uncertainty and change as an opportunity, so that is why I dove straight in to that most turbulent section of the photography market.
LC: I would recommend, much like you that photographers seek out their specific niches. Some general sites I can recommend that photographers look into include Behance, Lexsposure, linkedin, and altpick, Many of the sourcebook sites will also allow you to create networking profiles on their sites. For more specific networking, pay attention to the communities your clients are leveraging, eg, graphic design forums and blogs for commercial shooters, fashion blogs, magazine sites, and sites about publishing for fashion and portrait photographers. etc. Research your market carefully and, like Clark says, either penetrate or create a place for them to come together.
LC: Should photographers focus more on building general fan bases with a lot of viewers? or should they strive for a more focused approach in which they specifically strive to build social connections with their purchasing base and potential clients?
CD: I think photographers should focus on creating the best images they can and publishing them as frequently as possible, through as many channels as is feasible, with as much meta data as they are capable of embedding. The beauty of the internet is the power of search, if you are a content producer and take the time to give people a clear path back to your outposts (facebook/twitter/blog/etc) they will find you. I personally target the general populace of my geographic area (Buffalo, NY) and then I target the fans and followers of the individuals I shoot. I try and cross promote my photography with my subjects and their organizations/businesses whenever possible. The more commonalities you can appear to have with your audience, the more they will relate to you. As a photographer, you are sharing your vision. Letting people see the world vicariously through your eyes. The “closer” they feel to you, the more they will appreciate your work and feel socially obligated to promote your success.
LC: How can photographers better target their social media activities to build their fan base in appropriate markets?
CD: Keyword and Market Research, find out where your potential fans live and how they talk/search. The exploit the common vernacular in the places they meet.
LC: What are your top 3 do’s and Top 3 Don’ts for photographers who are beginning to leverage social networking?
•Love your Fans
•Publish as much of your work as you can that represents your level of quality
•Respond publicly to negative feedback
•Be a douche
•Worry too much about images being stolen, if you published them on-line; they’re already gone. We live in a remix culture, it’s not going to change. Learn to thrive on it and appreciate other people’s creativity. Anything you publish on the web is pretty much; CC (http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/) BY (if you’re lucky) SA (By default) NC (if you catch them, they are in your country, and you registered your copyright) – Whether you agree to it or not.
LC: Do you see social media ever usurping traditional direct marketing efforts as a sole point of contact for buyers and artists, or should creative professionals be building a well rounded range of marketing channels encompassing traditional methods with newer social media techniques?
CD: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s always smart to cast the widest net possible. Do whatever you have the time and desire to do. I think it’s possible to participate in traditional commercial models, hyper-targeted to individual clients, through social media, through stock, and through micro-stock; all simultaneously if you’re workflow is honed well enough and your interest is there. They are all different revenue streams that you can pretty easily take full advantage of. It’s just a matter of differentiating what-work-you-publish-where and perhaps utilizing different identities so you don’t dilute your brand on the top end of the market.
Read past quick questions with smart people interviews:
David Buck – President of Crowly Webb & Associates