Ever heard of Twitter photographers?
Social media is a vital tool in the modern professional photographer’s marketing strategy. It’s also a notoriously difficult tool to use and master. The primary reason for this is that social media platforms are always moving the goalposts.
Because they are all competing for the same pool of users, each platform is constantly experimenting with different algorithms and target audiences.
There can be no greater example of this “meddling” than Instagram. From its inception, Instagram was a platform built around displaying images. Sure, at first those images were often selfies with bizarre filters applied but fairly quickly it became the place to be for photographers. Not so anymore, in my opinion. For me, and it seems an increasing number of professional and aspiring photographers, Twitter has become the platform to be seen on. So today we are going to look at Instagram’s demise and Twitter’s gain in the field of photography.
Instagram. Where Did It All Go Wrong?
That’s a difficult question to answer specifically as Instagram has been declining steadily as a photographer’s platform for years. In reality, it was never a great place to show images. The default resolution was low, for many years the only format was square and even now the most suitable images are 5×4 portrait format. This is because it was designed solely as a smartphone platform Not great for landscape photographers and others that like to shoot in the horizontal plane.
Of course, many of us conformed to those limitations, because if you could gain a foothold, Instagram was still the place to get your work seen. However, the gradual takeover of influencers selling products meant that good photography began to see diminishing returns. The Instagram algorithm, clearly favored the pretty young things dangling their feet in an infinity pool than it did a beautifully thought out and composed photograph.
The nail in the coffin for photographers came when Instagram decided it wanted to be Tiktok. Now short form, vertical video is what is promoted the most in the form of reels. As photographers, the only way to survive is to post 15-30 second tutorials during which those studying photography learn next to nothing. Most reels from “photographers” are so quick and so generic that there is little point in watching them. After a while, in my opinion, they simply become irritating.
I have tried doing some reels, conforming to the Instagram algorithm. The results were that a few people watched and engaged with them, and a few people subscribed to my relatively stagnant list of followers. The problem is that to stay relevant on Instagram, you need to post several of these Reels per week. Personally, I am not prepared to sacrifice shooting time to conform to a Meta algorithm. Up steps, Twitter.
Why Twitter Is Working For Photographers
I had read and watched a few articles by accomplished Twitter photographers. When you think about it, there are some significant advantages for photographers. Utmost of these is that Twitter is not a smartphone dependant platform, it works equally well on your desktop or laptop computer.
That also means that Twitter can display both portrait and landscape format images equally well. Looking at Twitter images on a desktop browser, you get a significantly better impression of the quality of the photographer’s work. Plus because it remains there and is not shown for a microsecond as the end part of a reel, you can really take the time to look deeper at the work.
One of the other big advantages of Twitter is the retweet. This means that people that appreciate your work can Retweet the image and that will appear on their own timeline. If that person has a large following, you are massively increasing the chances of your work being seen by a much greater audience. So how did I approach Twitter?
Why Twitter Is Working For Me
At the end of May, my Twitter following was around 380. It had been that number for years, barely moving. Then I noticed a trend. Photographers and to a certain extent NFT collectors, with large followings, were showcasing other photographers’ work. They did this by inviting photographers to submit images, often to them as a comment on their own tweets. They would then like and Retweet those images, hence giving a bigger audience for the commenter.
I started to submit my images to these showcases and immediately found my following increasing. The good thing was that this following was from real photographers of all levels. By the end of May, I had already reached 1000 followers so I decided to start showcasing images myself.
I did this by having a theme for each showcase and doing a showcase once a day. On certain days I would have a dedicated theme. These included Brutal Monday, a showcase where anyone could constructively critique images, honestly rather than simply gushing praise. Another is Follower Friday when I will only Retweet images submitted by my own followers. The upshot of all this activity is that at the time of writing, I am adding upwards of 50 followers per day, all interested in my photography, and currently have 3300 followers.
There Is A Downside For Twitter Photographers
The only major downside I have found is that the Twitter algorithm is excellent at boosting Tweets with images attached directly, it does not promote Tweets with external links as well. This means if you promote a service or product, you will not get as much engagement. However the bigger you build your audience through direct image posts, the greater number will see your links.
Another way to improve engagement on external links is to pin them to your profile. Many new followers will look at your profile and see the links. Personally, I pin a new post with a different link once per week. This has given me a modest post in figures visiting my website and blog. At the moment I am promoting my Youtube channel via the pinned Tweet.
It is also useful if you Tweet more than once a day. This can be a downside if you are time-starved but if you do have time, it really helps engagement. I tweet a morning image every day, often based on a weekly theme. This is usually something I have shot recently and gives me the opportunity to showcase multiple images from that shoot. Questions and polls are also very good for Twitter engagement.
Overall I have found a real sense of photographic community on Twitter. It’s much less narcissistic than Instagram, where everyone is out for their own likes. Twitter users like to showcase and help each other with photography and that makes it feel like a proper social media community rather than the chore that Instagram has become. I hope that Twitter does not chop and change its algorithms around too much.