A little while back I linked to a survey Jim M. Goldstein was conducting (here) to see how photographers are using Social Media. The results are in (here) and can be seen in this slide presentation:

We all now know the value of social media in strengthening a community or bringing together groups of people with similar interests but the big question hanging out there is always “can it bring me new business.” Certainly, it’s been proven that you can build your reputation as a very connected photographer online and garner assignments because of this and you can also sell products back into the community you’ve created, but what about your average professional photographer looking to add blogging, tweeting or facebook as a component to their overall marketing? This survey doesn’t seem to prove that it works (Jim says the potential is there), but I do think we are trending this way faster than we think, just not the way you might expect. It’s less about your connections buying something from you in the 1000 true fans model and more about them spreading the word about something you’re working on or buying into a product your been assigned to shoot.

Looking at it from a magazines perspective I think that hiring 20 photographers and writers each month who are each connected to 1000 people who might then each be connected to 100 people makes a lot of sense as a consideration in the hiring decision.

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  1. Rob, I dug deep into the data trying to pull out the direct impact from social media use to income, trying to decipher correlation and causation, and I’ll agree that the data doesn’t prove that it works. Not yet, at least.

    As you point out, we’re starting to see case studies: both Chase (@chasejarvis) and David (@pixelatedimage) are great examples. The key is to be present in one’s niche and community, not necessarily known by everyone.

    It would be interesting to look at the components of reported income from social media use (which the survey didn’t cover): are people making money from selling photographs (stock and prints), booking clients, selling other products?

    Bringing up the 1000 true fans model is a great point, especially in the context of a magazine: using photographers that are connected and have a vested interest to promote their work help promote the magazine.


  2. Rob, while I see the value of social media, I’m not certain I understand this comment:

    “Looking at it from a magazines perspective I think that hiring 20 photographers and writers each month who are each connected to 1000 people who might then each be connected to 100 people makes a lot of sense as a consideration in the hiring decision.”

    That’s kind of like assigning your next cover shoot to a photographer just because they happen to get invited to all the cool parties…

    P.S. I blog, Tweet, Facebook, Linkin, Plaxo, Stumbleupon and go to plenty of the cool parties just in case you’re right… ;-)

    • @Brian Smith,
      Note, that I said 1000 people not 10,000 which is certainly attainable for people who work at it for a bit and has nothing to do with a popularity contest.

      One of the problems magazines face is the newsstand is a terrible distribution system anymore. They need to figure out how to get the word out to the casual consumers. Those are the readers who used to buy a couple issues a year because a story that interested them was in that issue. How do you reach them now? Easy, work with someone who connected to them.

      Of course this works better when one of your specialties is something like cave photography and you’ve got a story in Smithsonian that you can tell all the cave people about.

      • @A Photo Editor, Rob, I take it all back. I just came back from the White House Correspondents Dinner and Vanity Fair Party, so all you PEs,
        please only hire photographers who roll the way I do…

  3. Around the time the survey, I spent a substantial amount of time on twitter. I saw a bit of increase traffic to my website but none that produced purchases. I have spent less time and tweeted the link to my website more often and have only two purchases as a result.

    I was hopeful for better results but I think that I will focus more of my time on traditional marketing and Blogging. I am going to balance twitter, FB, LI and the others to about 5-10% of my effort and time. The remainder of my marketing time with be in the traditional sense.

    I agree with evaluation that the use of social medial currently to market and boost sales is a bit too early. The one thing I have observed is people on twitter get blasted constantly with links to scams. Their trust when a link is presented even with some content is pretty low.

    The value of getting the word out through MLM is good if you can create the right perception while doing so. JMHO

  4. Interesting results and sort of backs up what I’ve found and what a couple of proper social marketing people told me (not just people who post on linkedin to say they are social marketing gurus.)

    Ive only made a few posts on twitter and to be honest Im taking the advice I was given about being draconian about who I allow and who I dont. I think this is backed up by the stats about the number of photographers (of all shades) who follow blogs and tweets and so on.

    Im not really trying to appeal to other photographers, I’ve no products to sell them, I’ve no real interest in photographers reading my blog as it isnt a photography blog per se. In fact I dont really market it directly at anyone and thats the problem. Im producing content rather than selling to anyone as at the minute I dont know who to sell to and who is buying, certainly no-one here in Northern Ireland will be listening to my ramblings but others in the US looking stock pictures of Ireland might, on the other hand they might not see what they are looking for and get in touch.
    Those are very big Ifs.

    I see loads of spam tweets and discussions about eating spam for dinner or standing at bus stops etc etc and as everyone else has said I see it as too early or indeed pointless to try and make money from it.
    As someone said to me once its like texting the world.

    Having said all that though I know a few people in other businesses who do make money through social networking. The distinction being through and not from. They produce good readable content and dont overtly try to sell people stuff and I’ve even dropped someone an email because of a blog post I read and hired them to do a job for me, even though it had nothing to do with the original post.

    I guess its like everything else, if you put the effort in, identify your market and put the time in then you will get rewards.

  5. Great post Rob. Goldstein has taken a good whack at understanding how Social Media MAY have a tangible return.

    Perhaps Jim will next examine what made some more successful than others. My bet says it’s great content in metered doses.


  6. I did not take Mr. Goldstein’s survey but I earned a substantial amount of money (greater than $10k) this past year from clients that I made connections with directly through twitter.

    For me, the key is not just using the tool from a purely serious, business minded position but to use it as a social gathering area, or a way to make friends with people in a casual way before presenting yourself to them as a potential hire. One of the things to remember is that most of the clients who are on twitter, are on it because they enjoy it – NOT because they feel like they need to be there.

    I suspect that those people who find it to be a waste of time, are also not engaging in what they see as the more mundane aspects of it – the “what I’m having for lunch” type stuff. The truth of the matter is that it has been the personal tweets, about my puppy, or jogging and even baseball that have landed me clients.

    Sure, I post every now and again that I’m shooting for such and such, or some things about photography – but I try to keep it at a minimum so that I’m not constantly trying to push myself on potential clients.

  7. This is sort of like online dating … people are making connections by sending messages. Where’s the link for blogging etiquette?

    I hear more of newspapers making reports about blogs. Especially, when the “Julie and Julia” movie came out on DVD. The blogs became more noticeable again.

    And with print dying out, I think blogs are replacing what people read / use normally.

  8. I suspect I use twitter like most photographers: The occasional “Why do they have to do construction outside my building on the one morning I can sleep in” nonsense that people seem to think other people care about… you know, to make people think “hey, that guy’s just like me” and makes you more human to whoever’s reading. Along with the occasional “In Los Angeles shooting George Clooney for the next cover of I’m Really Cool Magazine” so whoever may be reading will know I’m working and doing some cool stuff. And finally the “Just updated my blog!” announcement to let people know to check out my blog or website.

    Will this get me work? Who knows. Not likely. At least, not directly or because of any one thing I say. But the way I see it, any way people can find your website is a good thing and if a tweet or a retweet from someone else brings someone who’s never been to my website before there, that can’t be bad. You never know who’s out there looking.

    Right now I have 2475 twitter followers (don’t worry, I’m not bragging… I know its a useless achievement). I’d say 95% of them are other photographers and I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to hire me. But I do know of some AD’s/PE’s that I’ve worked with in the past who follow me… so if that keeps me in their mind, then all the better.

    Of course, I should also account for the fact that I usually say what I’m thinking even if its something I should keep to myself… so I can only imagine how many jobs I’ve lost for that reason.


    Here is Organirama (http://www.organirama.com).
    We are a group of “social photographer” specialized in collective portraits.

    We do not think to social media as a selling channel. Rather, we try to innovate the content to fit self-representation needs of social communities. Our clients are people based brands, organizations and events.

    Technology is part of our creative work and we spend a lot of energy to create new web formats (we call them “Crowded Rich Media”) able to keep all together (see for example our Social Stripe: http://snipurl.com/ts8wa).

    We’d like to recieve your feedback.

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