Google+ continued to grow last month. Although slowing a touch after June’s big run, it’s clear that Google+ is expanding as a major and important social network. Like most networks, those connecting earliest benefit the most in the end. It pays to be an early adopter as far as social networks are concerned.
Many different and independent communities are emerging on Google+. More than any other community, photographers have thrived on Google+. Every day millions of new photos are added to Google+ and photographers have flocked to the site to interact in many ways around their work.
Every now and again I hear from photographers saying that they just don’t get Google+, that despite seeing so many others succeed here, they just can’t seem to gain any traction. At the end of the day a basic tenant of any social network is that you get out of it what you put into it. None of us can expect to simply post our photos and have the abyss that is the world wide web immediately recognize our artistic brilliance and talent and propel us to new heights of exposure.
Social networks take work. They take tending to. They take activity and participation. With this in mind, I thought I’d share 20 Pro tips that might help you do better at Google+.
1. Consider not watermarking your work. Many photographers and viewers dislike having to consume watermarks and signatures. A person who posts unwatermarked photographs never alienates anyone. Someone who posts watermarked photos will likely alienate at least some. I know all the arguments about your work being stolen and all that — this post is not about how to avoid having your photos stolen though, it’s about how to gain exposure on Google+.
Lots of folks, like me, generally dislike consuming watermarks and so we don’t follow a lot of photographers who use them. For what it’s worth, it’s super liberating to stop caring about whether your photos are stolen on the web or not.
This is not a hard and fast rule, but if you’re not gaining traction on Google+ you may want to ask yourself is it me, or is it my watermark?
2. Respond to every question someone asks you on your photo. As you develop a following over time, inevitably you will be asked questions on your photos. What settings did you use? Where did you take this? Did you use a filter on this? Look for opportunities to interact with others on your photos. It’s your job to stay on top of the comments on your photos most of all. If someone asks you a question on your photo and you don’t respond to them, they probably won’t ask another one.
3. Use the +username feature on Google+ and ask lots of questions of others. Show an authentic curiosity and interest in the work of others. Google+ is not just a place for you to share your work. It’s a place for you to learn and grow as a photographer. If you have a question about a photo, ask it — and when you ask it, always +username the person you’re asking. If someone is super popular and busy, they might not always be able to get back to you, but a lot of people will get back to you.
By +username mentioning someone it creates a hyperlink to their name and it also sends them a notification in their G+ notifications and possibly into their email. I routinely go through my mentions (sorry I can’t keep up with all of them) and answer lots of questions that people have for me about my own work. If you comment on my photo without a +username mention there’s a bigger chance I might not see it. If you use the +username I’ll be more likely to see it. Don’t abuse this, but if you do have a question, don’t be shy. Ask it and +mention the person you are asking.
4. Participate in some of the photography related shows on Google+. Lotus Carroll and I broadcast Photo Talk Plus every Wednesday night. Trey Ratcliff’s Variety Hour is on Mondays. Life Through the Lens, The Photoshop Show, The Billy Wilson and Tibby Show. You can find some great G+ hangout shows on Keith Barrett’s Vidcast Network.
Many of these shows have chat rooms that go on when they broadcast live. Watch the show and chat with other photographers during the show. You’ll meet some of the most active photographers on Google+ and make new friends.
5. Sharing is caring. If you see something you really like, share it. The other day I saw this kick ass photo that my sister took of my wife and I shared it. You have to be careful about balancing your stream with your own work and shared work, but people love it when you share their work. When you share something, don’t just share it, add a note about why you like it and what caught your eye particularly.
Most importantly, +mention the person whose work you are sharing in your note about why you like their work so that they are notified that you’ve shared something of theirs.
Also be sure to +1 and comment as much as you can too. If you like something don’t be shy. +1 every single thing you like. If something stands out in particular comment too.
Don’t forget about mobile here either for +1s. One of things I like to do to work out is to spend an hour walking laps in the park near my home. It’s got lots of hills and I do 7 laps in an hour while listening to music on my phone. It helps to make the time go by faster for me to use G+’s mobile app and +1 some great photos by my contacts while I’m walking the laps.
6. Post regularly. If you really want to be active on Google+ I think you need to post at least once a day if you can. It’s easy. It only takes a few seconds to send a photo to G+. Build a folder up of work that you want to share so that it’s easily accesible on your computer even when you don’t have time and just pop a photo up regularly.
Nothing is a turn off like looking at someone’s G+ stream and seeing that they haven’t posted in 6 weeks. There are even scripts which people use to uncircle inactive people on G+. I try to post 5 photos a day spread out throughout the day on G+. This feels about right to me for what I do. You may not have the output I do or the inclination to post that often, but post regularly so that people know you are serious about using G+.
7. Fill out your profile as completely as possible. Have a creative avatar. Give yourself a description. Add in the other social networks where you have accounts. Take advantage of your photostrip on your profile page. Don’t just use the generic circle pattern that Google puts there if you don’t upload something. Here’s my profile. Your profile says a lot about who you are.
8. Don’t be a jerk, offer unsolicited criticism, troll, etc. Try to avoid negativity as much as possible. Don’t bitch about how something on G+ sucks, or how you can’t believe how unfair something is.
In fact, be super nice to everyone you meet. Be authentically positive. I’ve been on the web for over a decade and it took me a while to learn this one myself. Nobody wants to hang out with someone who is bitching all the time. If you feel you need to criticize something, do it respectfully, genuinely and make sure that a person that might feel criticized by your remarks knows that it’s not personal.
I don’t mind people who want to respectfully debate something, but yeah, haters gonna hate. Haters also gonna get blocked though. It’s so easy to block someone on G+. I block people all the time. Then you’re completely invisible to me.
Also, unless you know someone really well and know that they actually *want* your unsolicited criticism on their photo, don’t offer it up. Keep it to yourself. Yes, someone may actually want that, but a lot of people won’t — and if you don’t know them well enough to know what kind of person they are it’s best not to tell them that their HDR is garish or that they should go back to photography school and start over. Art is subjective, always remember that.
9. Don’t post gifs, crazy memes, stuff that’s being passed around Facebook and other stupid crap. People hate this stuff. They will uncircle you. If it’s *your* cat and *you* took the photo and *you* came up with the witty caption, *and* it’s caturday, maybe, just maybe, but otherwise avoid this stuff like the plague. The rare exception to this is if the meme is ABOUT someone in the community. Feel free to participate in these.
10. It’s YOUR job to get your friends here from other networks, not Google’s. Don’t be lazy. Don’t blame G+ for not getting all your Facebook friends over here. These people are your base. Don’t let them say no. Keep bugging them over and over again and get them on Google+. Post often on your other networks linking to your Google+ page and talking about how cool a place it is and how all your friends should come join you.
Many of my favorite people on G+ came here because I posted non-stop on Flickr about how much fun I was having on Google+. Make sure your profile pages on your other networks include a link to your Google+ page. Go on Twitter and Facebook and tell other photographers especially that they should be on G+. Write blog posts (like this one) about how great G+ is. There is only one person to blame for your copout that all your friends are on Facebook instead of Google+: YOU! Make it your personal goal to bring these people over!
11. Try to post your best work. Especially on weekday mornings. Nothing gets you followers like really well done work.
12. Keep an eye out for popular circles that are shared on Google+. If someone shares popular circles on G+, they are someone you might want to try and get to know. Don’t just ask them as a stranger to put you in their photographers circle — instead make it a point to try and get to know them, to try and interact with them. Hopefully this can happen authentically and organically. If you *do* get to know someone and know them well and they’ve just overlooked your work in their circle, maybe you can ask them then. Popular circles are one of the biggest ways to gain new followers on G+. Make some circles and share them yourself too. Don’t go crazy or overboard with this, but try it out.
13. Participate in active conversations. Look for active conversations on other people’s photos and participate on them. There is constantly a debate or conversation going on somewhere on Google+. Find it and participate.
14. Be funny. Everybody loves humor. Because of this everybody loves Michael Seneschal.
15. Participate in social games and activities. There are so many daily themes on G+ now. Some of them are really well curated and followed. #selfysunday, Macro Monday, Christa Rae’s Photography Scavenger Hunt, etc. Here’s a whole bunch of G+ photo themes for you to explore.
16. Developing friends on any social network takes time. Just like in real life. People need to get to know you a little bit first.
When I first met Gino Barasa I thought he was a stalker, hell, I still think he’s a stalker but a really cool stalker now.
Especially if you are male and the person you are interacting with is female there will be some natural tension there. Females get a lot of crap thrown at them online. There’s a lot of crazy people out there in internetland. Some people are creepy. Don’t expect everyone just to immediately recognize you for what a great guy you are. Don’t overdo it. Just be natural and be yourself. If someone doesn’t like you for some reason, don’t let it bother you. Lots of people don’t like me.
17. Make sure that there are photos of you on your photos of you page. This makes you seem like a real person. If nobody else has posted any, do a few self portraits yourself or put some family photos up that show you. This makes you feel more approachable and human. Don’t worry if you’re not a total hunk like Michael Bonocore, just get those photos of you up and you’ll be that much more inviting.
18. Participate in hanoguts and follow up. There are always hangouts going on G+. Don’t be shy. Jump into one. Introduce yourself. Say hello. Spend an hour or so just chatting with folks. Get to know them.
If there is someone who you find interesting, be sure to follow them after the hangout. Maybe even set up a special circle for “people I’ve done hangouts with” and make sure to go back and interact with their posts. Also look for G+ photowalks in your area. These are GREAT ways to interact in a highly personable way with people in the community.
19. Let people know more about you than just your photography. I’m a photographer, but I’m also a husband and father, a blogger, a caretaker of two awesome labradors. I love San Francisco and Oakland and great restaurants and food and wine and especially music. Share not just what you make but who you are.
20. *MOST IMPORTANT* Keep at it. Don’t give up. Charles Bukowski once said that endurance is more important than truth. I don’t know if it really is, but I’ve always liked the way that sounded. DO NOT GIVE UP. It will take you a while to build up friends/traction/an audience etc. This does not just happen overnight. Keep at it and I guarantee you if you plug into the community like I’ve described above and you are a genuinely nice and authentic person, you’ll end up getting a ton out of Google+ both for you and your photography.
Bonus tip for newbies. When you post your photos post them publicly. I see so many new people posting their photos to limited circles. Unless there is a specific reason why you *don’t* want everyone to see your photo, it will get more traction if you post it publicly. If your goal is to get as broad as distribution as possible for your photos, you are limiting friend’s ability to reshare them publicly or most of the world to even see them if you do not set the photo to public when you share it.
By the way, if you want to find some active photographers on G+ to get to know, be sure and check out my 2,000 Kick Ass Photographers on Google+ circle.
Do you have more tips on using Google+? Be sure to add them here!