Should Photographers Use Twitter?


Media is the buzz word in marketing nowadays, and services like Twitter
have gone mainstream. But should photographers use Twitter as a
marketing tool?

Let’s start by acknowledging that social media
services like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are real phenomena when it
comes to business marketing. Everyone from accountants to plumbers are
finding new audiences and paying customers by leveraging social media.
As far as photography goes, I’ve picked up paying jobs by simply having
a presence on Facebook and posting new photos on a semi-regular basis.
The easy flow of information (text, pictures, video) through these
networks acts as connective tissue for new businesses.

claims to have 25 million active users, and like any social network,
you have to explicitly “follow/friend” users — this “opt-in” makes
this inbound marketing so much more powerful than the unsolicited
e-mail or postcard of yesteryear.

But even given the size of the “addressable population” and the strong connectedness, should photographers use Twitter?

There are two key components to determine to answer this question:
1. What are your goals?
2. What do your analytics say?

are a funny thing. When we think of Twitter or Facebook, it’s too easy
to be seduced by the number of followers or friends. What are you — in
junior high school? This isn’t a popularity contest. Numbers are
meaningless if we don’t have a goal. It’s like saying you have 10 best
friends, but none of them will meet you for a drink.

A lot of
photographers will tweet with no business goal in mind. If you’re
trying to sell photos or photographic services, what is the value in
regurgitating links to other websites? Or trying to be the wittiest
person online?

I fully understand that you don’t want to come
across as a schill or schmuck, so there needs to be a balance of
self-promotion. But when you are in self-promotion mode, why the heck
are you sending people to a blog post or gallery of images with no
discernible “point of conversion?”

  • If you want to get hired, then you need to 1) make it clear that you’re available for hire, and 2) make it easy to contact you.
  • If you’re looking to sell images, then your website needs to have e-commerce.
  • If
    you’re looking to audience build, then don’t “dead end” your content.
    Point people to other content on your site, or allow them to sign up
    for newsletters and RSS feeds.

You need a goal because with
out it, we can’t answer the “return on investment” question which is
central to understanding whether it’s worth it to tweet.

You’d be hard pressed to be a Twitter pro without knowing of the URL-shortening service Although services like tinyurl preceded
it,’s success is due in part to it’s ability to provide tracking
statistics like how many people clicked on that link.

At a bare
minimum, you’ll want to know this because you can never tell how many
people actually see your tweet. There’s no “pageview” equivalent in

But once again, knowing a click-through rate (CTR)
isn’t really that helpful if we can’t tie in a goal. Let’s say you
publish your favorite images as prints for the holidays on your
website. Then you post the link on Twitter, Facebook, and your blog.
Even if you know that Twitter sent you 100 visits and Facebook sent you
60 visits, I’d argue that it’s not enough information to say that
Twitter is a better marketing tool.

Why? Because you might get 100 visits from Twitter but only 1 sale. Whereas Facebook might send you 60 visits with 4 sales. Quality of traffic is much more important than quantity of traffic, and you can’t make this determination without tying in analytics.

Analytics has a concept of “campaigns.” It’s an easy way to add
tracking variables to any link to your website that you post online.
When people click on the link, your Google Analytics will use cookies
to track their activity. If you have a “goal” set up in Google
Analytics (e.g. an e-commerce sales funnel), you can now determine:

  • the number of visitors that came to your website from Twitter
  • how that traffic compared by various site usage metrics (e.g. time on site, page views, etc)
  • what percentage of those visitors completed a sale

At PhotoShelter, we use this all the time. When we have a discount code for example, we’ll use the Google URL Builder to add campaign codes. Then we’ll use to shorten the URL and then post it on Twitter.

Now we can see specifically how our general and specific Twitter activity ties into our bottom line.

in social networks can be fun, so if you’re having fun, tweet to your
heart’s content. But for a lot of you, time and resources are probably
always squeezed and that’s why I’m advocating an analytical way to
determine whether tweeting is worth it.

By the way, follow us on Twitter @photoshelter.

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This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 8 comments for this article
  1. Taylor Davidson at 9:45 pm

    Couldn’t agree more; setting goals and analytical measurement is critical for any investment, including our time spent on social media. Obvious our measurements won’t be perfect due to the limitations of the tools and the difficulty in tracking human behavior, but at worst they provide enough information for us to make directional decisions. Should photographers use Twitter? I’d say yes, but only if 1) they set appropriate goals and use appropriate analytical tools and 2) also participate in the broader set of online networks and communities. I hope everyone that reads this post also reads your other posts and reports on how to use Google Analytics to create and track campaigns, because that’s the true gold here. But obviously, I’m biased 🙂

  2. Phat Photographer at 11:26 pm

    I have to admit – I still don’t get twitter. I tweet so clients get a sense of who I am but only a fraction of my followers will click on a given post and a fraction of them will eventually become clients. It’s fun, but the return on investment hasn’t been there and I’m curious how much time people put into it versus other channels and the relative ROI. That being said, the post rings true for twitter and for anything you do in life. Have goals and measure to those goals. Thanks for the post.

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