By Deb Pang Davis

In the movie, “Field of Dreams,” Kevin Costner’s character is told, “If you build it, they will come.”  In today’s world waiting for that kind of magic just doesn’t work. Merely building your website, having a blog and creating compelling images and stories isn’t enough.  

If you don’t tell them, they won’t come. 

Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest, Google Plus—whew. It’s enough to make you dizzy and hard to know where to focus your efforts.  The key, according to Bernadette Jiwa, is answering this question: “Where are your customers?”

During the branding process you researched and discovered your audience’s “watering holes.”  Many of these watering holes include social media networks where your audience regularly “checks-in” to talk with each other or lurk to find out what’s going on. 

Social media networks are very much like small town coffee shops or diners where locals would stop by as they went about their daily business.  You can drop in on your audience’s conversations and contribute something valuable or simply say hello.

A Brief Guide to Social Networking Tools


Facebook is arguably the dominant social media platform.  You connect with people through Facebook profile pages (personal, business or groups) and status updates that can include comments, links, questions, images, video, etc.  A wide variety of dedicated Facebook apps allow you to share your “likes,” music preferences, games scores, websites, media stories and more.  However, access to your information and content is managed by privacy settings and who you allow or “Friend” into your network.

A Few Facebook Tips

  • Create a business page and don’t use it for personal status updates. Keep your audience in mind. Be professional but also be yourself.
  • Stay engaged with your followers. Ask questions, share links to stories, photos, and posts by other people.
  • Tag people you mention in your posts to increase and encourage conversation.  
  • Customize your page and add links to your portfolio and any other online profile pages.
  • Be careful about uploading high-quality images directly to Facebook.  Their terms of service (TOS) are risky for photographers. Try to link back to your image in your online galleries or shop.
  • Be cautious about spending the $7.00 (at the time of this writing) to “promote” a status.  An attempt to increase your “Edgerank” (Facebook’s algorithm) can backfire since your promoted posts get sent to fans AND friends of fans.  Your non-fans may not be so happy.


Twitter, like many other social networks, allows you to share great content: links, status updates, images, video, etc., but what makes Twitter unique? You can connect with people in real-time using 140 character (or less) “tweets”. This can be a great way to hold Twitter “meetups” and mini stories in the form of “conversational” timelines.

Twitter moves fast, but don’t let that intimidate you. For the lowdown on Twitter language, check out this cheat sheet from Mashable: The Complete Guide to Twitter Lingo.

A Few Twitter Tips

  • Start and follow conversations. Join in when and where you feel comfortable but definitely engage, otherwise no one will know you are present.
  • Use verbs for your tweet headlines.
  • Drive people back to your website or blog. Share recent or topical blog posts, a new photo, ask a question, or ask followers to help you make a decision. Get people involved and if you ask for help, say thank you.
  • Maximize the 140 character limit by using a URL shortener such as
  • Use hashtags (#keyword) to expand the scope or your reach but don’t go overboard.
  • Sign up for apps like Hootsuite, Buffer, TweetDeck, Echofon or Twitterific to help manage your tweets and your other social media accounts. 
  • Avoid tweeting too much at once. For your followers, it can appear to be too “automatic” and super tacky.

Google Plus

According to Wikipedia, Google Plus now ranks as the second largest social network (since January 2013). It puts a Google twist and integration on features found in other social media platforms.  The Circles and Communities features increase your ability to deliver messages tailored to specific audiences.  Hangouts, an ad hoc conferencing feature, let’s you create text or video chats with other Google Plus members.  You can even live-stream events with Hangouts On Air (photo shoot or how-to demo anyone?).  


Vimeo allows you to share your motion stories with other like-minded creatives.  Compared to YouTube, Vimeo is perceived to have more professional, high-quality content.  You won’t find as many goofy cat videos on Vimeo that are widespread on YouTube.  And Vimeo offers an ad-free platform to present your work.  You can also embed and share your stories on your website or blog with a few customization options.  If you are looking for high caliber feedback and wish to connect with a community with filmmakers and animators, Vimeo is the place to be seen.

A Few Vimeo Tips

  • Include links to your website, social profiles and a recent picture of yourself in your profile.  
  • Create a motion reel. It’s is a good way for people to get a quick taste of who you are and what you do.  
  • Include your name and logo at the beginning or end (“bumpers”) of your videos so when they are embedded and shared your video retains attribution to your brand. 


It may be the “unsexy social network” but if you want to connect at a more professional and mindful level, a LinkedIn account is a must-have. 

LinkedIn is a great place to research companies and people. The concept is similar to “Kevin Bacon and six degrees of separation.”  Each connection brings you that much closer to another connection.  Who do you need to know to help get that special someone to view your work or help you close the deal? 

A Few LinkedIn Tips

  • Take the time to write a complete profile. LinkedIN makes it easy to tell you if your profile is complete with a progress bar. 
  • Set up a custom URL.
  • Endorse people but make sure you know they have the skills you endorse. Think about how your endorsement affects their profile. Avoid endorsing skills willy-nilly.
  • Ask for recommendations from present and former colleagues, clients but give them help by asking them specific questions about what it is/was like to work with you or the results from a job or project. The more specific a recommendation that positively reflects you as a person and the quality of your work, the better impression you leave for people who don’t know you.
  • Give recommendations but do so honestly and to the same standard you would in making a job reference. You will be judged by the recommendations you make.
  • Join LinkedIn groups where your potential clients hang out. Listen, share ideas and be helpful. If you have an interest in working with an organization join or request to join their groups. Remember: be in front of your audience.
  • Don’t auto-post from Twitter or Facebook to LinkedIn.  It can look and be perceived as tacky. People are on many platforms these days so be cautious about how often you replicate your content. 
  • Share updates that are polished and share content that is more business-oriented. Keep your personal promotion to a minimum but do share and celebrate the occasional “big win.”


Purchased by Facebook in 2012, Instagram is currently the dominant dedicated image-sharing network.  Instagram can be a great way for photographers to show their work and gain new fans.  Many photographers have found sharing their images via Instagram increases Web site traffic and exposure.  

A Few Instagram Tips

  • Engage followers by liking and commenting on their images
  • Use topic hashtags (#ILoveWhereILive)  to increase discovery by people not currently following you.  
  • Ask clients if you can post samples of your work for them on your account and @ their account (if they have one).  Also, ask your clients if they have an Instagram or social media strategy you can contribute to.


All social networking tools have terms of service that might pose copyright, licensing, or usage concerns.  Read and understand the terms of service and make educated decisions based on that understanding.  Keep abreast of changes and adjust your use accordingly. 

The Alternatives

There are many other social networks including Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, EyeEm, VSCO, Behance, etc.  So while Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn might be more popular, consider alternatives especially if those sites better align with goals and protect your interests. 

Get in Front of Your Audience

Your interest in people and their passions can increase your discoverability. The more you engage, the more your brand becomes known. Create and share your compelling images, stories, and resources. Seek opportunities to build your brand wherever your audience gathers.  Find these places even on competitor sites and answer questions, like their posts, retweet, offer congratulations, and share their compelling images, stories, and resources. 

The Dynamic of Reciprocity 

According to Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media in his article, “It’s Not About You: The Truth About Social Media Marketing” he states, “The secret of promotion in the age of social media isn’t to promote you.  It’s to promote others.  Success comes when your success depends on the success of your customers, your suppliers, your end-users, and when you spend more time thinking about them than about yourself.  You can even promote your competitors.”

Promoting others may seem antithetical to building your audience and getting work but you are part of a larger, connected ecosystem.  It’s about building trust and credibility within your community.  Keep in mind that your audience includes the people who make up your industry.  How you treat others can have a direct impact on your brand.  Ideally, it isn’t about competition.

“What’s important is that I go beyond my own photography,” says Yunghi Kim. “Using social media, I try to educate and pass along what I know about the industry to other photographers, so that they are can make the best decision that they can.  I advocate basics like putting value to their work.  And I encourage my colleagues to do the same.”

“Twitter is a source of getting news and information,” says Kim.  “I like scrolling through tweets and I ‘favorite’ them so I can go back and read it later.  I like to hang out in the Twitter world more than other social media.  I use Facebook selectively for more important posts. I think if you post frivolously too often, people unsubscribe to your feed.  So, if I post, I make sure its poignant stuff.  I try to use it with balance by promoting myself, promoting others.  Use it to inform and educate others.”

A Few Social Media Don’ts Recap

  • Avoid being spammy: Don’t mass tweet a stream (5-to-10 or more in a row) or update your status on Facebook every 5 minutes.  
  • Again, don’t auto cross-post your status especially with LinkedIN.  Each environment has its rules of engagement.  Lurk a bit, observe, and do research. 
  • Don’t engage in heated conversation online.  Go offline to settle matters.
  • Don’t go on a rant.  Simple: It’s not pleasant.

As a base rule, keep your presence professional. Be yourself but mix up your more personal shares with professional and helpful content. Do your research, test your topics, and measure your efforts. Expect people to follow and then “unfollow” you.  The people and the number of people with whom you interact will change.

“Find the social media outlet that fits your style and workflow,” says Jasmine Defoore. “Don’t feel like you need to do it all.  If you enjoy posting snapshots on Tumblr, then focus on that.  If you like tweeting, then do that.  Facebook is generally the top referrer for site traffic so if you don’t have a particular preference, I would focus my energies there.”

But, how do you know what is working for you and how do you find the time?  There’s no magic formula but here are some ways to figure out which combination of platforms is right for you, how to measure your efforts and how to find the time:

  • Clarify your goals.  Social media goals can range from getting more eyeballs on your work, soliciting feedback, selling images or building a potential customer base.  Stay focused. 
  • Determine which social media platform best fits your needs: Where do you have the most fun?  What comes easily to you?
  • Schedule a brief time once a day and use tools such as HootSuite or Buffer to schedule your tweets so you can get other things done.
  • Turn on your notifications. If you choose to schedule tweets and status updates, make sure to turn on notifications either on your phone your computer (Growl) or both.
  • Clip and save ideas to share by using an app or a combination of apps such as Evernote, Pocket, Zite, Feedly or ReadKit to collect articles, links, websites, etc. so you have a pool of items ready to go.
  • Monitor your social traffic.  Learn how to useuse tools such as, Google Analytics, Twitter Counter, Topsy, Buffer, Hootsuite or Social Mention. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.  
  • Measure your influence by using Facebook Insights, Peer Index, Tweet Reach or Klout to see how your traffic is translating to influence.


Remember to focus on quality, not quantity.  Measure your results to guide future marketing decisions.  Be patient.  The “sales funnel” can be long so give it time.

Sources & Resources

Branding & Marketing Consultants



Books & Articles

About Deb Pang Davis

Deb Pang Davis by Mike DavisDeborah Pang Davis is an Assistant Professor in the Multimedia Photography & Design Department at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She teaches typography; web, tablet, print and motion design in addition to marketing and branding for undergraduate and graduate students. She continues to design print and interactive solutions for photographers and other right-brained entrepreneurs.