COM0015, Blog 4: Out of the Box

From Social Media to Stock Image Storefront

I find it interesting that social media not only helps market products and services and even serve ads, but it can also be the storefront. For example, some photo-sharing social media sites, like ViewBug and 500px, allow photographers to charge royalty fees for their images through a stock-image system.

While Instagram and Flickr may be the best-known photo-sharing social media platforms, I love ViewBug. The community is much more active. Not only does ViewBug have 20 or so free contests going on at any one time (plus contests for premium and pro members), but anybody can set up a photo challenge, asking users to submit images on the most eclectic ideas imaginable. This really boosts creativity and inspiration.

I have Curator status, which means I’m one of the volunteers who greets new members and offers pointers to budding photographers. ViewbBug recently invited me to become a Collaborator, which means they would like my input on new contests and promotions. Because of my status and the 138 awards I’ve won so far, I’m confident that I should be able to sell a few of my images.

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While I have to do more research before turning on any revenue-generating feature, 500px’s Marketplace seems to be the most complicated. Not only does it require model-release forms (which is common practice for taking, let alone selling, images of people), but it also requires property-release forms. As an architectural photographer, I need to see if I can legally sell any of my existing images. I also need to determine whether I need to ask property owners to sign a form for any photographers I want to take.

I have not been able to find a similar feature on Instagram. I’m not surprised by this as:

“Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever.”

Even if your mobile phone boasts 20 megapixels, in most (but not all) cases, the quality of those pixels and of the jpgs they create are not of high enough quality to allow for professional purposes and printing. Instagram does not allow people to upload photos directly from a desktop or laptop computer, so it becomes more difficult to post pictures taken from a DSLR (although Hootsuite sends push notifications to my cell phone to post images and captions I’ve uploaded from my computer).

I find it disappointing that Flickr does not offer a marketplace. My hopes were raised when I saw that it allows photographers to choose which licence they want for their images. These range from public domain or government work to all rights reserved, with variations of attribution in between. While public domain and government work are free for anybody to use, all rights reserved protects photographers’ copyrighted material from being reproduced without written permission, which is the licence professional photographers would choose.

Whether the social media account is for FlashDesignsStudio.com, my husband or me, we already have accounts set up on each of these sites, have joined conversations with groups and have gathered a following. For 2017, we will take our photography hobby to the next step toward a retirement business by starting to sell our images. Wish us luck!

COM0015, Blog 3: My Professional Networking

Having a professional networking strategy that incorporates an online presence with face-to-face opportunities is nothing new to me. When it was time to leave my last job, I let my networks know and ensured my LinkedIn profile was up to date. While I was away on a vacation, there was a lot of activity on my profile and a voicemail message from John, the printing rep for the medical journals I was producing at the time. John had spoken with his coworker, Randy, who is the rep for Canadian Nurse, the magazine I am currently producing. Not only had Randy viewed my LinkedIn profile, so too did the Canadian Nurse editor-in-chief (EIC) who was looking for a new managing editor. The EIC messaged me, we met and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Virginia St-Denis

My professional network not only includes people I have worked with over the past 25 years and connections of connections on LinkedIn, but also various professional groups of which I am a member. With most of my career being writing and editing, I joined Editors Canada. The Ottawa-Gatineau branch offers monthly speaker nights and seminars (for example, see COM0015, Assignment 5: Writing and Editing for the Web). These are not only great opportunities for professional development, but also for meeting other editors in the National Capital Region. Editors Canada has an annual conference, which brings together editors from across Canada and beyond. In celebration of Canada’s 150th, the Ottawa-Gatineau branch will host the event June 9-11, 2017. I will attend to learn, share information and gain a few more contacts, I hope.

While I have covered the cost of Editors Canada activities myself, I find out-of-town professional development and networking opportunities outside of my budget. I’m thankful that my EIC has agreed to cover the cost of travel, accommodation and registration for MagNet: Canada’s Magazine Conference. Held in Toronto April 25-28, 2017, MagNet draws magazine professionals from across Canada, and not just editorial, but also design and circulation.

While my career has focused on writing and editing, my husband and I hope to turn our photography hobby into a retirement business. Whether a hobby or a business (we could charge for presenting workshops), Photography Meetup groups like the Ottawa Photography Meetup Group, Ottawa Photography Events, Ottawa Photography and Ottawa Nature and Conservation Photography Workshops are a great way to meet new people, learn and share knowledge.

One thing I know I need to do better is attending club meetings. While some groups like the Orleans Photo Club are inexpensive to join, others like the RA Photo Club are not. I also want to find out more about Facebook events as another way to meet people in the Ottawa area.

COM0015, Assignment 5: Writing and Editing for the Web

I am a 25-year publishing professional—writing, editing, photographing, desktop publishing and managing newspapers, magazines and journals. The majority of my work has been in print and I have personally experienced the decline in this industry. To help me transition into online and social media platforms, I am taking various courses and seminars.

One such seminar was Writing and Editing for the Web through the Ottawa-Gatineau Branch of Editors Canada I read printed material differently than I read web pages and I don’t think I’m alone. I wanted to learn the difference so I could better use online platforms to meet my readers’ wants and needs.

Moira White of Ubiquitext and past president of Editors Canada presented the full-day seminar on Nov. 24. I was particularly interested in learning techniques that draw readers to web pages and creating engaging content to keep them there longer.

For Moira, the answer to my question of how people read online today is simple: They don’t! (How’s that for a quotable quote? lol) Most people skim for information.

As a November 2013 report showed (a reference was not provided), more people get information on their mobile devices than their laptop and desktop computers. Mobile devices have narrower columns of text, giving the illusion of longer, more intimidating paragraphs. I need to remember to provide bite-sized chunks of information in smaller paragraphs because of that one fact.

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During the Writing and Editing for the Web seminar for Editors Canada, Moira White explains how writers encode and readers decode information. Depending on the medium writers choose to share their messages, readers can provide feedback, creating a loop.

As well, people retain less information when reading online, which makes organizing information into small chunks and providing plenty of headings even more important.

Moira suggests writing for the web should answer only three questions in this order:

  1. What?
  2. So what?
  3. Now what?

This gets the take-home message out quickly and succinctly, then provides context before making a call to action.

She also suggests starting each paragraph with a topic sentence (remember those from grade school?) For those who don’t remember, the first sentence of each paragraph introduces what the rest of the paragraph will be about. If readers want more information, they will read it. If not, they go to the next paragraph.

Networking While Learning

Sitting at the table with me were Jean Forrest from the Public Health Agency of Canada and Nikki Burke from Statistics Canada. Most of our discussion was about change: in our work environments, in language and in technology. Although neither uses social media, I shared that I am taking Algonquin College’s Social Media certificate program in hopes to expanding beyond print. Because the program doesn’t cover the basics about how to use each social media platform, I’m reading Social Media for Writers: Marking Strategies for Building Your Audience and Selling Books (Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine, 2015). I pulled the book out of my purse as I was reading it on the bus, and they each wrote down the name.

I also talked with Tricia Diduch from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and Josephine Versace from the Government of Canada Translation Bureau during the lunch break. Along with talking about the seminar content, we discussed social media, Algonquin’s program and my search for social media basics and best practices. They were also interested in finding best practices and said they would talk with social media people in their offices and email me information, which I need to follow up about.

As an Editors Canada member, I get a $125 discount on each of their seminars. The majority of the six seminars I took last year and two I’ve already taken this year (I have one more in March), have been invaluable. I expect I will take more next year. I highly recommend them.

COM0015, Blog 2: Photography on Social Media: The Good and the Not-So-Good

Perhaps the strongest social media strategy I’ve been from a follower’s perspective is at the National Gallery of Canada. They share a lot of information about what exhibits they have, retweet what other people are posting and only occasionally make a sales pitch. The National Gallery has Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts, making full use of the major social media platforms. What makes their social media strategy so impressive is how they use each platform differently, with little overlap of images or other content. A Facebook post about the new Canadian Photography Institute provides interesting information and images. They retweet quite a bit from their followers and following, and not just my share of their tweet on the Josef Sudek exhibit. Of course, it is the season for gift giving and the National Gallery does do some sales promotion, but it keeps the sales to a minimum.

Not quite as good is ViewBug because it shares articles freely and highlights many different photographers, not just the winners of its contests. It has Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn (although just launched three months ago with three posts and nothing more) accounts. But what surprises me from a photo-sharing website, is that ViewBug has an Instagram account. I mostly monitor ViewBug’s Twitter account, which is often repeated on Google+ (an area that needs improvement), not only shares serious articles like Photography: From Hobby To Full Time Job and Top Tips to Become a Great Fashion Photographer, but has fun sharing photographers’ images.

One would never know by visiting the Vistek website that they even have social media accounts because there are no logos or links to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn and whatever other platforms they may use. As well as having too many advertising posts that directly sell to followers, Vistek spends more time with drones than cameras. Even its Facebook posts to its own blog is direct sales marketing. Its YouTube channel provides some how-to videos, which can be handy, but they end with a statement to “Pick up a [insert product here] from http://www.vistek.ca today!” Rarely does Vistek retweet messages. Having a constant stream of ads only leads to people unfollowing them. Vistek needs to spend more time interacting with the photography community and joining or starting conversations. They need to start listening to the various conversations. Once they have a feel for that, they should start commenting and sharing their expertise on those conversations. All of this will help inform them about what photographers want and need to be able to provide that. Asking for feedback would also help them engage their audience.

COM0015, Blog 1: Tools and Resources

I have a full-time job, which limits the amount of time I can spend on social media work for FlashDesignsStudio.com (FDS). I created a Feedly dashboard as part of the Social Media Monitoring and Measurement course; however, I found it limiting. I prefer Hootsuite. I spend a half hour on the bus going back and forth to work each day. Hootsuite allows me to be productive during my commute. Through the Hootsuite app on my tablet, I can monitor my various streams and like, share or retweet effortlessly. Feedly does not have that capability. On weekends, I use Hootsuite’s online interface to schedule a week’s worth of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts. Hootsuite also connects to Drop Box, making organizing and posting images that much faster and easier. I sometimes use Ow.ly shortened URLs to track traffic.

On weekends, I use the Google Analytics plug in on the WordPress website to monitor traffic on the FDS website, which is one of the key success indicators. On a monthly basis, I can dig deeper into the website traffic and audience reports through the Google Analytics website. This is particularly useful to see who (demographic information) is coming from where (our social media networks or elsewhere). Having updated websites as far back as 1999, I am so thankful I no longer need to sort through raw website user data.

Of course, I also use Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics and Bitley to monitor and track social media activity, but I spend more time on Hootsuite and Google Analytics.

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I have many sources of news. I think my best source of information is a set of Google Alerts (which I view through Hootsuite) that shows photography contests, exhibits and other events happening in the Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto triangle. As well as providing content for the website, blog, Facebook and Twitter, Norm and I use the information to plan our photo excursions and submit images to contests. When I finish well in a contest, I post it on the FDS social media networks. It is a testament to the quality and creativeness of my images.

While most photographers are aware of all the magazines, stores and manufacturers on social media, few know about Science Daily’s photography research RRS feed (which I also view through Hootsuite). Having worked with medical and academic journals for more than a decade and with newspapers and magazines for longer than that, I can understand complex ideas and explain them in plain, everyday language. I rewrite the photography research media releases with information from the published research paper and post as Technology News in News Flash, the FDS blog. These have included advances in lens technology and how researchers are data-mining social media photos to guide land use policy, conservation planning and development decisions. This is well suited for our more advanced photographer audience and positions FDS as being knowledgeable of the cutting edge.

Personal Reflection on COM0014 Digital Communications

Being a publishing professional for 25 years, I understand that storytelling is important in all communications, whether it’s print, broadcast or online. Storytelling brings the content to life by painting a picture for the audience. By putting things into context, storytelling makes complex concepts easier to understand.

News Flash by FlashDesignsStudio.com shares stories of photography events happening in the Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal triangle. It also shares research news stories that advanced photographers might find interesting. Photography 101 uses a story format of having a beginning, middle and end when explaining basic concepts and how-tos for novice photographers. In the future, I hope to tell stories about some of Norm’s and my theme photography shoots. As good storytelling is important to any medium, I could have easily submitted most of these blogs to a hobby magazine for possible publication as articles.

While the course covered basic communications concepts of storytelling and target audiences well, I’m disappointed that the course did not provide any digital– or social-media-specific information. As I mentioned in my discussion board introduction, I was hoping this course would cover how to write for the different social media platforms. While writing a blog is similar to writing an article, getting something substantial in 140 characters or less on Twitter is a challenge for me. The course did not address this. It would be useful to know how to use Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to their fullest potential. I understand there are too many social media platforms to be able to cover them all, but Facebook and Twitter are by far the largest and would be part of every social media strategy. Perhaps writing one or more Facebook posts and tweets with every blog, whether related or not, should be part of future courses.

When I was a kid…

When people ask me how long I’ve been taking photos, they’re often surprised by my answer. I was in Grade 5 when my parents bought me a Kodak 110 point-and-shoot camera to capture memories of summer camp.

In Grade 8, my parents took me out of school one day to watch the launching of a new ship in Collingwood. It took two and a half swipes of the film advance to get to the next frame, and I did that as fast as I could. Swipe, swipe, swipe, click! Swipe, swipe, swipe, click! until the 24-exposure roll of film was finished. I got the processed pictures back days later and showed my classmates and teacher the near flipbook images. I became the unofficial class photographer that day.

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I don’t have those pictures anymore, but I do have an album of my March Break trip to France with my Grade 13 French class. Looking back at those images, I see that I already understood how photography was the art of capturing light. Take for instance the photograph I scanned and posted here. I took this image of stained glass from inside Notre Dame Basilica in Paris. I remember being in awe of the coloured light shining into the dimly lit historic site.

Going to journalism school, I learned to use a 35mm camera, which gave me better control of the images I took. Unfortunately, working for more than a decade as a reporter/photographer took the joy out of photography for me. There were too many pictures to take of people nervously posing on days I wasn’t feeling inspired.

In recent years, no longer forced to take pictures every day as part of my job, I’ve rediscovered my passion for making art with my camera and I’m so glad I did. I hope you do too when you see my creations at FlashDesignsStudio.com.

Virginia St-Denis: The evolving brand

While a brand helps ensure a consistent image of a person or corporation, it is important that the brand evolve to keep up with the times.

For 25 years, my personal brand has been as a publishing professional — writing, editing, photographing, desktop publishing and (in the past 12 years) managing newspapers, magazines and journals. While some may say I’m a Jill of all trades and master of none, I prefer to think of it as having a broad overview of the entire publishing process and being able to understand and plan all of the elements. This makes me unique; this makes me an invaluable member of a team of one or more people on most any print serial publication.

However, with electronic publishing and social media weakening traditional publications, I am taking steps to keep up with the times and expand my horizons and my brand. Along with my print publications, I focus more on the three websites I maintained and the monthly e-newsletter I launched than I used to focus on years ago. To help me standout in electronic publishing, I am in the fourth of five courses in Algonquin College’s Social Media certificate program and expect to graduate in February 2017.

More and more people are developing social media skills, so I plan to build on these skills by taking the Social Media Compliance Management certificate program next. Being able to create and implement policies that will not only help build a social media brand, but also address privacy and security issues and manage risks should continue to set me apart from others in this growing field.

The combination of these courses and others I’m taking illustrate that I have an interest in learning and I’m able to acquire new skills. That’s one of my best traits, and it can’t be taught.

B2C Case Study: Vistek

As one of Canada’s larger photography chains, Vistek communicates to its audience online much like as other photography stores, manufacturers and magazines. It’s all about making sales, not engaging with photographers.

Vistek’s social media presence is barely visible on its website. An RSS feed logo beside the word “Blog” and an 180× 80 pixel ad for its YouTube channel are all that exist. Missing are the Facebook and Twitter logos, which many other photography websites leave for the bottom of the page with the sitemap, terms of use and copyright information—must-have pieces of little importance.

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The blog URL http://prophotoblog.ca does not include “Vistek”, which is a missed branding opportunity. The majority of posts read like advertisements promoting products, complete with bulleted specifications, prices and quotes from the manufactures. Upcoming Events are Vistek seminars and tradeshows it will attend; there is nothing outside of Vistek. The “Tips and Tricks” section includes links to products being sold. None of these engages the community.

Vistek continues its sales pitching on its Twitter and Facebook pages. It has 5,352 Twitter followers (following 1,118) with 1,328 likes and 7,350 Facebook page likes. The only engagement is encouraging followers to visit the Vistek booth at various tradeshows.

Vistek’s YouTube page has a series of how-to, product promotion and speaker videos from a recent tradeshow. Community engagement has resulted in two comments from four years ago and visitors liking 11 of the 74 videos.

There is so much more Vistek could do to communicate with photographers. An “Ask an Expert” call for questions would not only position Vistek as an expert but also encourage followers to answer each other’s questions. Offering a $50 gift card as a prize in a monthly photography contest would not only have followers submitting images but also voting for their favourites. Vistek staff could periodically post photos with common novice errors and ask followers to provide constructive criticism, which could generate discussion and help photographers analyse their own images more critically.

Vistek could probably increase sales if it softened its sales pitch.

Targeting Photographers and Models

Flash Designs Studio has five target audiences: photographers, models, stock agencies, people wanting family portraits and businesses wanting event photos. FDS has targeted the first two in marketing efforts so far, so let’s focus on them. These photographers and models are in Ottawa, ethnically diverse and artistic, visual people.

Most photographers who attend workshops and Meetups enjoy photography as a hobby, while some use it as a retirement business (local key players lead these sessions, as FDS soon will). As photography can be expensive, most in this target audience have post-secondary education, established careers and good salaries with disposable incomes. Most are open to sharing their images and insights, as seen at clubs and Meetups and on Facebook and online forums like PhotoNEWS, Photo Life, Outdoor Photography Canada and Canadian Geographic’s photo club (national key players).

While most photographers are men, models are young women who are in post-secondary school or just starting their careers and have modest incomes. An effective strategy has been doing “time-for-print” shoots; the only payment for models and FDS is to build each other’s portfolio.

According to Facebook Insights, 64% of people reached are female and 45% are ages 35 to 54. According to Google Analytics, 54% of FlashDesignsStudio.com visitors are male and 61% are ages 18 to 44. While 95% of Facebook visitors are Canadian, 43% of website visitors are Canadian and 24% are British (some of the more active Twitter photographers).

FDS does not have enough Twitter nor Instagram followers to generate statistics. These platforms and blogs are not as popular as Facebook with these target audiences. Instagram’s former square format and Twitter’s former text-only format may have deterred these groups. Advertising saturates Twitter feeds, possibly further deterring use. Because of this, FDS focuses more attention on Facebook than any other platform.