I think I am learning a couple things about to use social media more effectively. I'm still not going to be raking in the pennies for many years to come, but it's good to learn a bit.
The first site that I have learned more about is about Flickr. Primarily, that it's not enough to just post your photos and walk away, you have to actively promote them…to the point where you feel like a complete egotistical douche by posting them in as many groups as you can. I have seen the photos with the big number of favorites and they are in about 100 groups each. Now, I try to look for groups that the photos I admire are also in and join those groups and then post my pictures there. That has helped get them a lot more exposure than they were getting before (basically none). I'm still not getting the 99+ likes and whatever happens to get you into the hallowed gates of Flickr explore.
However, I have also figured out that you have to have an image in that top panel of the group when people go to it otherwise they are really unlikely to see it. People are posting their own photos in these groups, dozens a night, and so are looking at those on the first screen to grab a couple of favorites and then running over to the next group. So, even if a group lets you post 5 or 6 at a time, don't. Instead, post one at a time because once you've posted a photo to that group, you can't post it again and once it's off that first screen it is basically buried. So, you want to add slowly so that you can keep your posting in line with your photo production and consistently have something that hits the top of the screen (or at least is doing that as many times per day or per week or per month as you can.) I am now focusing on one photo per day and trying to find as many groups for one particular photo as I can and then the next day moving on to the next image. It makes it a bit easier to manage and lets me see the results in a more comparable way. It takes a lot of time and I'm still not sure how worth it it is other than it makes me feel slightly less crushed by my professional rejections.
I have been using Twitter again (@hrozmendoz) despite the fact that I really don't know how to lookout for success other than the number of people following me (please, stalk me!) although what that translates into, I do not know. I seem to get the highest boosts in followers when I post things about cats. Especially fat cats, and I mean both especially when I post about fat cats, and when the cats themselves are especially fat. So, there's the data I've gathered on that so far. I have 34 followers most of which I have gotten by following other people which oddly enough seems the best way to grow that list. Other than posting fat can pictures - oh, and the smart ass comments I have made in reply to the bizarre flood of Huffington Post headlines I get. Again, I think it's a matter of shameless self promotion - imagine what Richard Avedon could have done with Twitter.
Through Twitter (aha, here's how it works…) I found a website called 500px which is kind of like Flickr except a bit more exclusive (i.e. snobby and it charges for some of its services). There is a free account which lets me upload 20 images a month and it does seem to do a very good job of generating views without having to go through all of the groups nonsense present on Flickr. There seem to be a lot less snapshots and a lot more photography. It also lets me know how many people are looking at my photo in relation to those who like the photo and then for 3 of my pictures which have made it above the 75% mark, it puts them on a special page where people can see the 'up and coming' or 'popular' works which gets them a lot more views. I've probably had nearly the same number of views in the last two days on my 500px page than I have over the last year on Flickr.
All-in-all, it's a lot of work, continuous networking, following people so they will follow you, blogging about it (check), and just trying to shove your images under everybody's nose. What I can't figure out is how to know which places are the best way to allocate my time so that I'm not spreading my work too thinly, dividing my audience between places and so losing whatever power there might have been in numbers, and not driving people crazy with multiple posts. I did finally figure out how to disconnect my Twitter and Facebook accounts so that people wouldn't be getting every photo thought that crosses my mind and repeated across platforms. I'm trying to make sure that my Photogirafika Facebook page is the one that is the center of all photo news since I figure people who liked that page are more likely to care about that side of things.
One thing I have been very impressed with is the enormous amount of really good photography that is being created. Of course, there are even more enormous amounts of mediocre and terrible work being created too and I'm not talking about the family snapshot, those are fine, I mean people who are producing works of photography but just aren't doing it particularly well. This must mean that it's a part of mainstream culture, like singing or acting. Then everybody thinks they can do it a bit, I mean you rarely see poor sword swallowing performances or mediocre cat juggling, but that's because people don't think of those things as being part of the everyday experience. It's kind of wonderful that photography has become so much of the way that we think of and communicate about the world.
I do like to keep in mind the words of Charles Bukowski though, when God crossed his legs and said:
"I see where I have made plenty of poetsbut not so very muchpoetry."