Lebanon Arches
Lebanon Arches, 2010

Note: Recently New York Street Photographer James Maher got in contact with me asking for some points and tips regarding building his online social media presence. He noticed that I had a great community backing me up (you guys), and he was curious how I did it. I thought about it long and hard, and came up with this blog post. Hope you guys enjoy!

The modern-day photographer is more blessed than ever having a wide-array of online social media networking tools at his/her fingertips. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, DeviantART, and online Forums/Blogs allow photographers not only to build up their own online social media presence, but also to connect to the rest of the photographic community. The benefits of having a strong online social media presence are numerous. One of the most apparent benefits is that photographers are able to get more comments & critique on their work, which help them develop their own style and composition.

However for an aspiring photographer with no experience with online social media, building a presence can be difficult. In this blog post, I will give you a small summary of my experiences, and hopefully give you information which can help you in the long-run as well.

1.Give honest and helpful comment & critique to others:

Lebanon Arches
Lebanon Arches, 2010

If you want to start building up your own online social media presence as a photographer, it is first important to build up a good rapport with other photographers. One of the best ways to do this is to give honest comments and critiques to other photographers. This is definitely something that is missing in today’s day and age, as the every-day comment on a photo-blog or Flickr is either “nice photo!” or “I like the composition!”

These two comments don’t really mean anything to the person who took the photograph. Sure, it may boost his/her ego and confidence, but it doesn’t help the photographer in any way. If you like the photo, what do you like about it? What do you like about the composition? Do you like how the photographer used a silhouette to highlight his subject? Or do you like how the photographer used leading lines to lead the viewer’s eyes? If you find something you’d like to change—what would it be? Would a tighter crop be more effective, or an increase in contrast?

If you give honest and helpful comment & critiques to other photographers, you will stand out. People truly appreciate this type of feedback, and you will be remembered. Not only that, but typically this will lead to a positive feedback-loop, as the other person will leave you honest and helpful comment & critique as well. However remember as you are doing this, do it in an honest and genuine way. It truly goes a long way.

2. Be active:

Social Media
Staying active takes a huge commitment

If you are truly serious about building a strong online presence, you need to be active. How active do you need to be, you ask? Well it depends on how strong of an online presence you want. Just as a benchmark, I probably dedicate around 4 hours a day being active on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and my Blog. Is it easy? Hells no. It definitely takes up a lot of time, but I feel that it is definitely worth it terms of how visible you are on the online social web.

Now am I saying that you need to spend every hour of the day wired to your iPhone, constantly updating your statuses? By no means. As a photographer, I firmly believe that the most important thing about being a photographer is actually taking photos, rather than being glued to any screen. However, building an online social presence is not easy, and it takes hard work and dedication. For starters, try to carve out an hour or two out of your day, and dedicate it to interacting and communicating with others. It will make a huge difference.

3.Remember, it is quality, not quantity.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that online social media is a numbers game. As Seth Godin said in his book, “Tribes,” you only truly need 1000 loyal fans to be effective. Nowadays with social media, we are tricked into thinking that our influence on the internet is simply tracked by how many Fans we have on Facebook, Followers we have on Twitter, Contacts we have on Flickr, or the number of hits that we get on our websites/blogs.

Don’t get me wrong—sometimes I can fall into this trap as well. The allure of thinking that it is all about numbers is quite strong, as we as humans love to track our progress. It is better to have 1 loyal fan than 100 weak ones, as it is your loyal fan who will tell his/her friends about your photography, and support you in many different ways. It doesn’t always have to be monetary either. Think about how great it is to have a tightly knit network of close friends, rather than a sparse group of superficial ones.

Forget the numbers. You cannot affix a number on influence.

4.Focus on the community.

My beautiful street photography community in Beirut, Lebanon

Remember, it is not about you. It is about them (being your online social media contacts). If you want to be a true influencer when it comes to online social media, focus more on building communities. For example, I am passionate about street photography and want to spread my love of street photography to the rest of the community. This sparked me to crate the “Aspiring Street Photographers” group on Flickr, which is focused on community and genuine support. Sure there are a tons of other street photographer groups on Flickr, but many of them consist of “view whores” or people who want to fish for comments (without giving any of their own).

Be a hub of a network. Think about the wheel of a bike. It is the hub that holds together all the spokes in a wheel, and what allows it to turn. If you remove a few spokes (followers), the wheel can still turn. However remove the hub and the entire wheel will be destroyed.

5.Be yourself.

Me just being me in the streets of Beirut, Lebanon.

No need to be fake or “front” when it comes to online social media. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you will often see me talking very colloquially and with slang. Why do I do this? It is part of my style and who I am. Sure when I agree to something and say “werd”—people may think it is “unprofessional” or tacky. However by talking differently from the way others do, my style stands out from the crowd of “others.”

Think about all of the famous personalities that you see on television. Are they animated or interesting and have a character of their own? Or do all of their personalities simply blend together? Sure nowadays with Botox and plastic surgery many actors/actresses are starting to look the same, but it is their charisma and charm is what differentiates them from others.

What tips do you have for aspiring photographers who want to build their online presence in a genuine way? Leave a comment below and let’s see what you guys have up your sleeve.

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