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I’ve been on Twitter for about a year now. Twitter.com is a micro-blogging site. Think of it as a blogging platform that allows you to post 140 character (or less) notes about what you’re up to. It is one of the “social media” platforms that has gained great interest lately. There are other sites that you should also investigate in the social media space like Friend Feed and Facebook. But for this post, I’m going to concentrate on Twitter.

You can sign up for a free Twitter account at Twitter.com. I suggest you either use your real name or the name of your photo business. Cute names like “StarwarsGuy#123″ won’t really help you in the future if you decide to make use of Twitter as a marketing tool. The next step is to follow people.

Photographers who want to get the most out of Twitter should initially use it to follow people who they find interesting. You might want to follow the Twitter account of PDN Magazine. It’s a photo magazine that covers the New York photo scene. Their Twitter account name is “@pdnonline” minus the quotes. Simply type in the URL http://twitter.com/pdnonline and click the “Follow” button that appears under their name or icon. That’s all there is to it.

If you want to follow me, do the same thing only use the URL http://www.twitter.com/scottbourne and click FOLLOW. Then you’ll see the stuff I write about my photo career that doesn’t make the blog. I also occasionally just talk about what’s going on around me.

If you don’t like RSS and want to keep up with what comes out on this blog, just follow http://www.twitter.com/twipphoto.

You might want to find and follow photo editors, photo buyers, photo book publishers, etc.

By now you should get the hang of it. But how do you get someone to follow you? Have something interesting to say. Jump into conversations you find interesting and reply. Or mention someone of note who’s on Twitter and say something like:

“@scottbourne did you know Canon just updated the firmware for the Canon 5DMKII? #photog” The #photog is what’s called a “hashtag,” and this allows your Tweets to be searched. People looking for photography-related content on Twitter can search for #photog and may find your post. The downside is that you eliminate seven valuable characters out of your allotted 140 – so in some cases, you may have to drop the hashtag if you have lots to say.

Back to the posts. If I find that you are continuously talking about things I need to know about, I’ll follow you. Other people interested in your posts will also follow.

Over time, you’ll build a group of followers. It might only be 100 people or 80,000. It doesn’t matter at this point how many people follow you. It only matters that you’re out there, both listening and talking and sharing.

Another good reason to monitor Twitter is to find out what people are saying about you. Depending on your online status, you might not find much. But some people or brands often find people saying things that need monitoring. If someone really likes one of my photos and starts Twittering about it, I’ll take that into account as I am deciding which images to publish that month. If someone who’s jealous of me starts lying about me, I can also deal with that.

Perhaps you have a great photo you just posted on Flickr? You can use Twitter to announce that to the world. Self-promotion is vastly important to photographers and Twitter offers a fun, fast, easy and free way to accomplish that goal. Just remember to add some real value along with your promotional posts. Too much self-promotion on Twitter can lead to people UN-following you. This (as you probably guessed) means that your audience size decreases.

The point of this is simple. Your photography will eventually be seen by more people and that is always a good thing.

If you want to learn more about Twitter, I can suggest two valuable resources.

First, visit this blog http://www.twitip.com/. It’s full of great tips. Then get a copy of Twitter Means Business. Written by a tech journalist whom I really admire named Julio Ojeda-Zapata, this book will act as a guide to things you should think about if you’re planning to use Twitter for your photo business.

I’ll post future tips on how to use Twitter to promote your photography. In one short blog post, it’s impossible to say everything I want to about the value of this tool. In the meantime, feel free to leave your twitter tips. Feel free to leave your Twitter name in the comments. Who knows if anyone will follow, but it’s worth a try.

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store