An online photography forum is a great way to increase your peer network, especially for beginning photography businesses. Forums offer access to a pool of a few hundred (or perhaps thousand) photographers who are in a similar position with their photography and who can relate to the issues you face as a small business. Forums are great for collaboration, ideas, and getting specific questions answered. This post offers tips for getting answers.
I was a member of an Internet marketing forum called the Third Tribe for a couple of years. Basically it was this brain-trust of a couple thousand marketing people all sharing ideas about how to grow each other’s businesses. I was getting so many ideas that I left the group because it was stressing me out to try and accomplish all the great strategies at once. I was able to learn and apply more than a dozen ideas that changed the direction of my business and more than paid for the price of the membership (which was about $50 a month). Some of those ideas included positioning myself and personality along with my business, using my blog posts as an email newsletter, not to mention the partnerships I gained with other members. I could ask a question like “What do you think of my logo” and get dozens of constructive responses from people who know about these things better than I do.
I learned that paid groups have more active members that are willing to share information and help each other. That the price of the membership is a bargain compared to the information and connections I received. And that I am free at any time to walk away if I’m not getting a return on my investment (or become overwhelmed).
Benefits of Joining a Forum
- Get viewpoints from photographers in the same position of their business as you
- Get an immediate answer to questions
- Find ideas that worked well (or didn’t) from others so you can replicate
- Connect with mentors and moderators who are there to help you
- Receive advice and direction so you can focus on what’s most important
Here are two photography-specific forums I’m affiliated with and active in that you should find valuable.
Newborn Goodness Forum
Laura Brett, trainer and workshop leader, started a forum where her students could ask questions and share ideas. It grew into a much larger support network of professional photographers. After being invited by Laura to answer a few questions, I quickly found myself sucked in. I now help these advanced users with their detailed website questions.
Here are some of the questions I answered this week for professional photographers:
- What are your thoughts on blog sites?
- What should I put on my splash page?
- Do comments on blogs count toward SEO?
- Any advice for ranking consistently?
- Should I get Google Adwords?
Rock the Shot Forum
I’m a member and instructor for Rock the Shot and currently working on a forum-based workshop there to help photographers get found online. You’ll find me trolling the threads about marketing and business, answering questions.
Here are some of the forum threads I recently responded to with expert advice:
- Marketing Strategies
- Where to Start with Marketing
- Tips and Reminders on SEO
- Website/blog Design – Please Help!
- What Domain Name Should I Use?
Chic Critique Forum
This forum has a web/SEO section dedicated to me, where I answer photographers questions about websites, search engine optimization.
Here are some of the topics I recently posted:
- 7 On Page Factors for Photography SEO
- Homepage Tips to Improve Your Google Position
- Web Design Guidance
- Creating a Newsletter
When I posted a thread in the forums to ask why other photographers joined, here are a couple responses that stood out:
5 Tips for Photo Forums
Use a descriptive title for new threads. Forums have hundreds of threads with discussion topics. You have to get people to open and read your post before they can even answer it, and for that you need a quality subject line (just like email subject lines). I only have a few minutes to browse the posts so a post called “Need marketing advice for my WordPress blog” will get my attention whereas “Advice” will not.
Be specific with your questions. If you ask others “What do you think of my new website” you’re bound to get useless responses such as “Cool” or “I like it.” Phrase the question to meet your desired answer. For example “I just redesigned my website with a new logo and brighter colors. Do you think the logo is easy to remember and would be attractive for brides on a budget?” Simple direction toward a response elicits much greater feedback.
Include your URL (or a link to your sites) in every post. Sometimes it’s hard for experts to answer a question without seeing the bigger picture. I’ll answer the same question many different ways depending on how long you’ve been in business, where you are located, and your specific niche. I can get all that information quickly from your website if you include a URL with your post (even if you’re not asking for website advice).
Boost your SEO. Don’t forget that links from forums can be a slight benefit toward search engine optimization. If you do join, make sure to link to your website and/or blog from your forum signature so that every time you post it carries a link back to your site (it helps other forum users see who you are too).
Find two or three partners. If that same special someone consistently provides you good feedback, try and connect with him or her offline. That way you don’t have to depend on that person to always see your forum posts. Plus, you can get much more strategic and personal through a quick phone discussion.