If there’s one form of marketing that outshines all others it’s word-of-mouth. You can spend a fortune on advertising but nothing beats the power of a personal recommendation from someone who knows you — even if they’ve never actually hired you.
That’s why networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn have proved to be such giant hits both with people looking for friends and with professionals looking to expand their businesses.
But can sites like these help photographers find work?
According to Brendan Wovchko of SocialNetworkExpert.com, they can but it’s more likely to happen on LinkedIn than on Facebook. “A photographer would want to leverage a professional network to find new business, not a social network,” he says. “LinkedIn is a professional network and Facebook is a social network.”
The difference, Brendan explains, is that a “professional network’s purpose is to create business opportunity. A social network’s purpose can range from dating relationships, ratings and reviews of products, connecting former classmates, affinity sites (ie. Harley Davidson owners), photo sharing, or connecting people by nationality.”
Certainly, LinkedIn makes searching for potential clients much easier than Facebook does. The profile — a marketing page that requires as much attention as a professional resume — asks for details of experience and education, and the Advanced Search feature lets members look for “potential employers” by industry sector. LinkedIn, in short, feels as much like a job site as a networking site.
But most photographers are looking for one-off gigs rather than long-term corporate employment. They want to find couples that plan to marry as much as companies that are planning their catalog shoots. The sort of job searching that LinkedIn offers can put your name on an art director’s desk — especially if you can find someone who knows him or her — but it’s likely to require some hard networking or a long wait before the effort pays off.
The photo-sharing feature on Facebook though can make the passive searching easier. In particular, the ability to put up images and share them can turn your profile into another outlet for your online portfolio. Even though people using the site might be looking to keep in touch with old friends rather than employ a photographer, displaying your images can lead to additional income from models who need headshots or friends of friends who need their reception shot.
“[H]aving a web-presence has been very helpful,” says Clint Cook, a professional photographer who does a lot of fashion/portfolio work and maintains a Facebook profile. “Facebook and its photo galleries have been part of that for me and gotten me some very good attention and some well-paying jobs at low cost for that type of marketing.”
Finding photography work through both Facebook and LinkedIn will require sending lots of carefully-written emails before you uncover potential clients. But there is another opportunity available on these sites: the chance to shoot profile portraits. If you spot a bad picture on a profile belonging to someone in your area looking for love or a job, you could always drop them a line and offer them a more eye-catching image.
But when it comes to putting images in front of potential buyers, building online portfolios and networking, it’s hard for both Facebook and LinkedIn to compete with Flickr.
Although like Facebook, Flickr is a social networking site rather than a professional networking site, it’s still doing a very effective of job of matching photographers with buyers. Just as photographers gather on Flickr to look at each other’s pictures and discuss techniques, buyers come to find Creative Commons images… and sometimes end up paying for unique photos and even handing out commissions. The different photo sets let members show off their skills, groups allow them to network more effectively in their fields and anyone can write to anyone else without having to prove they’re friends first.
You should certainly network on Facebook and LinkedIn. But with the right strategies, you should expect faster success on a site that was actually designed to let photographers show off their work.
[tags] photography marketing with linkedin, photography marketing with facebook, photography marketing with flickr [/tags]