Quick Questions With Smart People – Clark Dever: Photographer and Social Media Marketing Expert

Social media expert, photographer, and speaker Clark Dever

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?

Do:
•Participate
•Love your Fans
•Publish as much of your work as you can that represents your level of quality

Don’t:
•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.

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E-readers and Emerging Media.

Rob Haggart of at aphotoeditor.com has posted a listing of his predictions for what is in store for the photography and magazine industries in 2010, his list is based on a piece in Folio Magazine and Rob has included many of the original quotes. A few of the excerpts are quite interesting and serve to illustrate what changes may be in store for those who work in editorial and commercial photography. But there were two in particular from the original piece that got me thinking about how the new forms of media being developed may create radical changes in the magazine and editorial markets.

One hopeful breakthrough: the four color e-reader. It will be really helpful. Some of the big publications will probably get a few hundred thousand digital e-reader subscribers paying anywhere from $10 to $50. This will bring in anywhere from $3 million to $15 million in subscriber revenue. Unfortunately, some of those same magazines have seen their ad revs drop by $100 million. Get the picture.

–Keith Kelly, “Media Ink” columnist, New York Post

From the aesthetics and usability side of things I think that the new four color digital E-readers bound to be on their way in the coming months and years, like the Mag+ tablet, may open up a whole new realm of media for publishers and photographers to work within. Not just as an alternative to the traditional print magazine, but as we move towards a market of specialization it will provide an avenue for small niche and boutique publishers to create rich content that is easier to deliver and manage than the solutions currently available to them. There will naturally be some arguments and stumbling first steps in setting up an effective subscription and content delivery systems for these new media readers, but ultimately they may give rise to a whole new class of aesthetically minded and ultra specialized publications that will finally be able to monetize their content.

Even outside of the realm of the E-readers some  digital publications are starting to get notice. Available on the iPhone for example, is DRAMA magazine, a fashion and style publication that takes the form of a paid application in the iPhone App store. By tapping into the distribution channels made available by Apple and hopefully by the E-readers in the future, publishers will be able to focus on content while still having the opportunity to reach a dense audience provided they market their product correctly. Issues that this form of media will likely encounter include the slow adoption by advertisers of the new format;  the limited customer base for their product until these E-readers become more common; and the problem of a standardized format among competing readers while the technology is in its infancy. The question of a sales model also arises, will a prepaid subscription plan be the dominant model? or will the more open marketplace structure utilized in Apple’s App Store be more appropriate, allowing for easier impulse buys, content browsing, and the inclusion of more casual readers who may be resistant to subscription services. While the format will remain in its infancy for a period I do see it blossoming as it reachers maturity and as the consumer base for reader devices grows. It will be interesting to see where the manufacturers decide to go in terms of pricing the devices, whether a steep up front fee will be involved, or whether they will subsidize sales of the hardware to create a wider market for content driven revenue.

Only one or two magazines for most major vertical markets will survive.

There will be many changes at the top of editorial mastheads with more e-community management skills supplementing traditional journalistic skills for the winners.

Print will become richer, better paper will be used, graphics will improve, quality of content will improve and distribution/circulation numbers will drop.

–Don Pazour, CEO, Access Intelligence

I think this is partially true, while there may indeed be only one or two “big guns” left in any of the above mentioned markets, and they will indeed set the standard in terms of quality, content, and management, I do think that a major factor has been ignored in the above statement. There will be an emerging second class of specialized publications that up until this point have usually been distributed free or with limited success through services like Issuu or through print on demand services.  New distribution channels and media, such as the E-readers mentioned above, creates opportunities for these small publications to monetize and manage their distribution like never before, allowing growth in their market. While these individual titles will hardly cause concern for larger publishers, the sheer variety of titles available will ensure an initially small but growing and stable market of their own. A quality gap will naturally be created between these two realms of publishing though, the smaller digitally based publishers will put out good content as their base readership and advertising allows. And democratic/social feedback will help to drive readership depending on which model these publications are ultimately distributed under. Conversely, the larger magazines will begin to create truly epic publications in terms of production. As Pazour predicts above, there will be an improvement across the board in terms of content, packaging, and production, but these magazines will experience lower and more focused circulation rates. Those magazines that survive will become much more exclusive providers of high-end content in their niches. It will be interesting to see how publishers and advertisers react to this in terms of how advertising rates are affected by these new models in the coming years.