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Expert Advice: Social Media and Creative Connections

Wednesday August 11th, 2010

There can be no question that today’s marketing universe is being transformed by social media like Facebook and Twitter. The business world is captivated by success stories like the one of Gary Vaynerchuck, who built an enormous fanbase through his determined use of Facebook, Twitter, podcasts and an answer-every-email policy. (According to The New Yorker, he gets 1,200 emails a day.)

Brian Solis, author of Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate and Measure Success in the New Web, says in an interview with Social Media Examiner that the biggest mistake any business can make is not blogging. He points to the way Starbucks and Dell use social media as examples of good internet marketing strategy.

But are social media being adopted by creatives and photographers? And if so, is the phenomenon making a difference?

The question is strangely difficult to answer. We sent out a few tweets over the course of about a week, asking our 900+ followers variations on a question about social media. The discussion, we regret to say, was less than lively.

As you can see, we had three responses from two people. Anthony Rhoades gives an interesting skeptical analysis of the situation—above all, social media seem to have produced a new opportunity for people to sell you something.

It’s possible that the role of social media is just now taking shape—after all, we’re in a field that deals with images rather than words. Photoshelter has just introduced a WordPress plugin that allows photographers to connect their Photoshelter galleries to their blogs in a streamlined workflow. And Behance has partnered with LinkedIn to allow artists and designers to post creative portfolios on their LinkedIn profiles.

Over at Conscientious, Joerg Colberg has issued a dissent with what he takes to be the oppressively “one-size-fits-all” idea that every photographer should have an active internet social life. He explains:

A few years back, every photographer was told that you needed to have a blog. Back then, people probably assumed that if they asked me whether you needed to have a blog I’d say “Yes”. In reality, my answer has always been somewhat different. I used to tell people – and I still do – that having a blog only makes sense if you have an idea about how to use it, about how to make it work for you.

I look at the websites of photographers and creatives every day, so I can appreciate the sentiment: if you’re going to have a blog, you need to know what to do with it. But for the same reason, I’ll have to disagree with the idea that you can just forget the whole blogging thing if you aren’t sure how to use the medium effectively. Let’s make a syllogism out of it:

1. You should only have a blog if you know how to make it work.
2. You must have a blog.
3. You must figure out a way to make a blog work.

A blog is now an essential section of any functioning website, which demonstrates that there is a real person behind the website who does real stuff. (It’s nearly as important as an “About” page, which I’m amazed to find is lacking on many websites.)

If gorillas can play chess, we can find a way to make blogs work. (Photo by James Quantz Jr/Charlotte)

Admittedly, the rest of social media is slightly different. There’s certainly no cost to having Facebook and Twitter accounts, and they can potentially increase awareness, but it doesn’t seem necessary or possible for everyone to be fully engaged with them.

On the other hand, those in the creative fields who are active in social media will set themselves apart and perpetually contribute to an unofficial online portfolio—photography and design are in so many ways fundamentally about communication.

One photographer, Kareem Black, is a major advocate of this perspective on social networking. He describes why it’s a natural part of what he does in an interview posted by Ahmed Klink:

I’m trying to reach everybody. Because everyone knows every one. The world is becoming much smaller. I was doing Twitter before Twitter was Twitter. I did a sticker campaign. I put all these stickers all over the city. It was me as Uncle Sam etc. It was a street campaign designed to drive traffic to my website.You know what I mean? I really think the more people you are talking to, the better, Art Buyer or man on the street. For example, I accept everybody on Facebook because the people I really want to know, I already really know them. You know what I mean? I have their phone numbers and shit. So I call them or text them… I don’t need Facebook for that. I accept everybody on Facebook because its a promotional device. The more people hearing whatever it is you want to shout, the better.

“The more people hearing whatever it is you want to shout, the better.” (Photo by Richard Dole/Orlando)

The British Journal of Photography also has a recent article about the ways in which photographers have used social media to their advantage—winning awards and getting assignments as a result of their online presence and connections made through networks.

In the spirit of communication, feel free to comment below or tweet at us, to let us know how you feel about the ubiquity of social networks.

-Asad Haider

2 Responses to “Expert Advice: Social Media and Creative Connections”

  1. Hi Asad.

    I just wanted to send a quick ‘thanks’ for taking *this* blog up a notch. You’re doing a great job, offering some fantastic insight so far. Keep it up. Today you’ve inspired me to make better use of my own blog.

    Cheers!

  2. What a rubbish. How can you call it a website. Change the theme, so it will be a bit more interesting

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