9 best practices to link photos to Twitter

Posting photos on Twitter can kick-start conversations with your audience and increase revenue, but only if you post with purpose.

With the rumor that Twitter is going to create a photo sharing/hosting platform within its own walls, it’s time for businesses to start getting serious about using photos if they’re on Twitter. The following are best practices on how to do just that.

Know your audience.

Before you even consider posting photos to Twitter, ask yourself the most basic of questions: Is your audience on Twitter? According to eMarketer, only 20 million Americans visited or used Twitter last month. While that’s a decent number, that leaves a few hundred million potential customers who choose to get their information in other ways. If you’re not meeting them where they are, all the best practices in the world won’t help you. Find out where your audience is before you start posting with reckless abandon.

Assuming you have a decent audience on Twitter, it’s time to start implementing photos. Here’s how:

1. Throw out the old Instamatic. Nearly every decent phone has a decent built-in camera. iPhones, Droids and even Blackberries are fine, but do some basic homework. Make sure you have decent lighting. Try to avoid using a flash; natural light works best. Avoid harsh shadows, as most camera-phone cameras don’t have the ability to distinguish light from dark in anything more than a primitive way. Soft, natural light is best for any subject. If you have basic photo skills, by all means use a good digital camera, drop the size, and upload. As good as a camera-phone camera is, nothing beats a decent SLR.

2. Size matters. Remember that your photo quality, while it needs to be good, doesn’t need to be a billion megapixels. You’re posting to Twitter, not to the front page of The New York Times. Use the best quality resolution you can without requiring each photo to use a T3 hardline to upload. Chances are that Twitter, much like Facebook, will auto-compress the photos once you upload them to prevent a large file from killing the network. That said, it’s even more important to make sure your lighting and focus are stellar. Bad lighting on a huge file is easier to fix than bad lighting on an already shrunken image.

3. Who cares? Before every photo upload, ask yourself: “Why am I posting this?” Is it a fun photo? Is it something that will entice your audience to buy your products? Will it engage them into further conversation, leading to conversion?

4. Don’t be a product whore. Posting a continual stream of photos of every product you sell doesn’t make you a power Twitter user—it makes you a catalog. No one wants to see a catalog in their Twitter stream. Be selective. Over-posting, just like over-sharing, is a guaranteed way to lose followers.

5. Keep it interesting. Games magazine used to have a really cool page where they posted extreme close-ups of every day products, challenging readers to figure out what the products were for a prize. Can you do the same? Of course you can. New line of purses? Show just the clasp. Shoe? Just the heel. Dog leash? Just the loop. Have fun and experiment, and engage with your audience to encourage them to buy, as well. (But, don’t market to them—audiences hate that.) Include a link to the product page if you like, but again, not every photo needs to be product.

6. Offer “backstage access” with your photos. Got an event? Show scenes people normally wouldn’t see. One of the coolest photos I ever saw came from a NASA tweeter, who posted a photo from the wheel of the pad that rolled out the shuttle. It was so cool to look at, and encouraged me to follow not only him, but a ton of other NASA tweeters. Events and the like are made for Twitter photos, but again, be selective.

7. There’s “sharing,” and then there’s “bragging.” It’s great if your product is in the Oscar gift bag and you get to go to awards show, but 75 photos in a row of every celebrity you’re meeting is bound to annoy people. Again, it comes down to being selective. A handful of photos is fine. Any more than that, and you’re going to start losing supporters.

8. Engage, engage, engage. Remember: An ad is a one-way street, and Twitter is a boulevard. If you’re launching a new product, post photos of the design and encourage user feedback—make the audience a part of the new product build. You will encourage user participation, and make your audience feel like they had a hand in the new build. What happens then? They’re more likely to purchase, which leads to revenue generation and sales.

9. It will always be about the Benjamins. Finally, remember that photos are just another part of social marketing, which is just another part of the marketing channel as a whole. If you can’t tie everything you do back to revenue and sales, you need to re-evaluate how you’re using social marketing. Remember: No CEO or bean counter believes that cool trumps revenue, and they never will.

Peter Shankman is the founder of Help A Reporter Out, and CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc. He blogs at Shankman.com and is on Twitter @petershankman.

This article originally ran on his blog, where you can read the full post.


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