Typically, we like to review books that deal specifically with photography technique, inspiration or the like. But occasionally a book comes along that we just need to bring to your attention, despite not being directly related to photography. The book I am speaking of is: The Linked Photographers’ Guide to Online Marketing and Social Media, which was co-written by Lindsey Adler and Rosh Sillers. Like the title of the book plainly states, the purpose of the book is to provide a better understanding of online marketing and social media. An online presence, if you will.
As the online world is a fast-evolving environment, I have to hand it to our authors for taking on such a daunting subject, especially when you add that extra layer of specificity: The photographer. True, a lot that is contained within this book can be found elsewhere in broader terms. And surely someone with the skills of a web developer would possibly benefit more from those other resources. But alas we are not web developers and do not strive to be as such. So Adler and Sillers have done a lovely job of boiling it all down into the details that affect us most. But fear not, this is not an incredibly technical book. In fact, it is designed to give you an understanding of the overall concepts at hand, complete with examples from photographers you surely know as they have all become well known on (and thanks to) the internet. But most importantly, the book serves as a tool to help you better understand your audience – or at least the portion of which is on the internet.
Having been around the web for a long time, and having been a part of social media (in general) for as long as it has been around, I’ll admit the first few chapters were a bit redundant for me. It’s not that I didn’t learn anything – I certainly did. But a lot of the information is targeted at those who have little or no experience in online marketing and social media. These are of course obligatory chapters as they outline a lot of the concepts that a beginner will need to know. Despite my experience, I still learned a great deal, or grew a better understanding of some more abstract concepts and strategies. If you are fairly well versed in the basics of social media, you may wish to skim through the early chapters. But don’t skip them entirely. There are a few gems and concepts that are worth spending time with. For example, there is one such discussion where your online presence is compared to a galaxy in space. Your primary website is the sun, and all other aspects of your online presence – your blog, facebook, twitter – orbit the sun. They go into great length on matters concerning the importance of having a blog or how twitter helps you get recognized. They even discuss some proper ways to use social media as a way to develop trust in others, not as a way to simply promote yourself. I of course don’t want to go into too much detail – in part because I don’t want to share all of Adler and Sillars’s secrets, but also because I feel the duo explain many of these issues far better than I could.
As you would expect, the majority of the book is dedicated to social media and how it can benefit you as a photographer. Adler and Sillars start from a broad perspective by discussing a number of basic issues that impact the full spectrum. Such issues discussed are personal branding and options for setting up a blog or your website. They even briefly touch on monetizing your sites through advertising and affiliate links. Part III of the book is entirely dedicated to profiling some of the most common social networking outlets available such as Twitter, Youtube, Flickr, Facebook and so on. They cover how to get started, some of the benefits and capabilities of each and how you can use each as a marketing tool. Most importantly, for each outlet they discuss best practices and offer a few tips specific to photographers for each.
Part IV of the book is incredibly valuable as a resource and learning tool. It is the section of the book dedicated to case studies. Social media is a social science, after all, and it is still yet not entirely understood. The case studies profile a number of photographers – nearly two dozen including the authors themselves – and describe how they use social media to fit their needs and desires. Some of the photographers have fully embraced their online presence and have surrounded themselves with social media outlets. Others seem to stick with one or two outlets, recognizing the importance of an online presence, but choosing to limit their involvement. In all cases, the benefits of each photographers’ online presence is apparent and much can be learned from their case studies. To me, this is one of the most valuable aspects of the book.
The book is really targeted towards people looking to market themselves as photographers and sell their work or their services. The Linked Photographer’s Guide is a good sidecar to your other how-to-start-a-photography-business books. After all, many of these how-to books don’t get into detail about the use of online marketing and social media, nor do they discuss the importance it has to your branding. Even so, I had my own skepticism, which is in part cause for my delay in publishing a formal review of the book. Many of the concepts within the book were against my own intuitions and I wanted to take an opportunity to employ some of Adler’s and Sillars’s strategies. I learned that I really shouldn’t second-guess the experts. My social influence has grown a bit, I restructured how my personal sites interact (a work in progress) and I feel that all is for the better. I have seen an increase in activity within my “personal solar system”. So based on my own personal experiences – I feel that a lot of which I learned from this book is quite effective.
Keep in mind, that the solutions contained herein are not a set-it-and-forget-it set of solutions. Social media in general is an ever-evolving aspect of the internet. I would not be surprised to see additional editions of this book as Adler and Sillers tweak and update the information in years to come.
If you’re looking to start a photography business, or if you’re looking to grow a business that you already have, this is certainly a book for you and you should check it out without question. But what about those of you who are hobbyists and aren’t necessarily looking to start a business? Well, online marketing and social media is one way to get some followers and to increase your interaction with the online photography community. And who wouldn’t want that? It helps you meet interesting people, photographers with common goals and philosophies and it will ultimately help you grow as a photographer. And if you have a change of heart about owning a business down the line, then you’ll have a great foundation on which to build it.
With that, I’d like to leave you with this thought: The only reason I heard about this book is because I was following someone on twitter who was following Lindsay Adler during the last few weeks before release and mentioned it in his stream (I now follow Ms. Adler, of course). It’s a wonder if I ever would have heard of the book if it weren’t for social networking.