By Eileen Fritsch
At PhotoPlus Expo today, I attended a fabulous session entitled The Twitter Revolution: Changing the Photographic World 140 Characters at a Time. It was a panel discussion, in which Jack Hollingsworth, Seshu Badrinath, Taylor Davidson, Jim Goldstein, and Rosh Sillars talked about why Twitter is such a powerful marketing tool for photographers and how it has changed the ways they think about branding and self-promotion. (I know this topic isn’t directly related to printing, but knowing how to connect to customers in different markets is important for photographers who want to get the most revenue from their wide-format inkjet printers.)
Hollingsworth noted that pro photographers can attract Twitter followers like rock stars because so many people are fascinated with photography. But he cautioned that you shouldn’t join the Twitter conversation” until you have a clear strategy in mind for what you’d like to accomplish. When you write your bio for your Twitter account, word it carefully so you’ll attract the type of followers you want. Consider your bio like a unique selling proposition, in which you define what makes you different.
Here are some other tips the panelists provided:
Twitter isn’t what you think it is. It’s not a time-sucking tool for mindless chatter, but rather a new media platform. If you like being on top of the latest news, trends, and ideas, tune into Twitter. It’s actually an enormous, searchable database, through which you are showing other people who you are. It’s also a database through which you can learn a great deal about what’s happening in the world and new markets you want to enter. As with any database, you can control what type of information you’d like to extract and use. For example, if you are an architectural photographer and want to learn more about how about architects think and what’s important to them, you can use search tools to find and follow architects on Twitter. (Then, when you see an opportunity to offer some advice and introduce yourself, you can do so.)
Use Twitter as a soft marketing tool to get referrals. Before you even get around to showing a client your work, you can use Twitter to let someone know who you are and how you think. Once you establish credibility, trust, and rapport, potential clients will invite you to show you them your work. But don’t overmarket and use Twitter simply to promote yourself. The more helpful you are to others and the more good information you provide, the more you’ll get noticed and trusted. One reason Twitter is so popular is because it humanizes communications and provides an escape from a world in which we’re constantly bombarded with marketing messages.
Twitter creates an intimacy that doesn’t exist in direct mail. And it can be far more productive than making multiple phone calls to multiple prospects. Some photo buyers in the seminar audience said that they hate being interrupted during the day by phone calls from photographers and vendors. But since they’re toiling away at their computers anyway, they don’t mind interacting with photography pros through Twitter.
Use your real name instead of some sort of funky made-up name, because your name is your brand. Then, make sure that every tweet reflects how you want to be known. With social networking, a brand isn’t what you say about yourself, but what others say about you. Would you rather be known for continually making comments that are snide, hyper-promotional or self involved? Or would you rather earn a reputation as an expert who is helpful and generous with their knowledge?
You’re creating opportunities for the right people to find you. Even if you only have a few followers, you can potentially reach millions of people if your tweets are remarkable enough to be re-tweeted again and again. Plus, hashtags make it easy for non-followers to find your comments through searches. Major corporations and media organizations are following Twitter to find new sources of information and expertise about various topics.
In effect, Twitter provides a platform through which you can connect with lots of other people and subtly give them reasons to buy from you. It allows your work to reach people who should know what you’re doing. One of the panelists observed that great work spreads better, faster, and cheaper than great marketing. But that doesn’t mean you should be posting your images on Twitter, because Twitter is actually more about your personality than your portfolio.
I have lots more to report from PhotoPlus Expo, including news from HP, Canon and Epson and some interesting new suppliers of print-finishing services and equipment. I’ll be writing a complete wrap-up in the next issue of LexJet’s In Focus newsletter.