Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What Pinterest is... What Pinterest is not and Why You Should "Pin Away!"

I’ve read the blog posts. I understand the law. I’m well aware of the issues. And with all of that, I say pin away and celebrate when you are pinned. Here’s why.

Pinterest isn't a picture promotional site like Flickr. It isn’t a substitute for Facebook. Frankly, Pinterest is a new form of search engine. And one that ties the most powerful aspects of 21st century marketing together in a fun and easy to use format. When someone pins your picture to their board they are endorsing you. They’re saying, I love this work and in doing so, they’re saying they think you’re a good photographer. This is better than any of the photo specific rating sites. The only people who go to those sites are people who love photography in the first place. (Why advertise to other photographers except to stroke one’s own ego?) Being pinned is a much more effective advertisement than being liked on Facebook. (Frankly ‘likes’ have become so common and heavily promoted that they are losing their impact for everyone but Facebook - who uses them as a way to figure out what ads to serve to YOU ...).

I think there is an interesting opportunity for photographers here. Why not develop some sort of 'free to pin' policy that makes it clear to your fans that you love it when your images are pinned? Frankly any commercial photographer who doesn't see the benefit of Pinterest is effectively tilting at the proverbial windmill. It is the most sincere form of flattery and the BEST possible endorsement. I read a thing from a photographer the other day that said that if people wanted to see her work they could find it on her fan page. She didn’t want people stealing her images to pin them on pinboards. I thought - 'you're a fool' - though I didn't say that out loud (I don't think anyway). Why wouldn’t you want people to advertise for you?

Now, there are some forms of photography in which these things may not be true. Artists for instance may want more control over where their images appear. But even in these cases, when pinned properly any image carries the links back to where it came from, much like clicking on a link on a search engine. Do you want to sue Google because they list your business name under “great pictures of Cambodia?” Of course not. You’re thrilled when they do this. (provided you actually have great images of Cambodia because, let’s face it, if you don’t and they do then it’s kind of a pain, right? But I digress). Pinterest is the same thing except that it has the horse power of not just being a bunch of words in a search response. It is both the search response and the review altogether and it has the best aspects of GooglePlus built into it too since the ‘friends’ of people who Pin create defacto circles through the boards they follow.

There’s also a lot of noise about whether or not you should pin your own work. I know ... Pinterest poopoos this. Who cares? Do you think Pinterest is going to kick you off if you do? They have to be very careful of that. They can’t both say that they can’t protect a copyright and say that they watch your content. There is a legal standard that creates a clear demarcation between a conduit and an editor. They’re copyright stance makes them a conduit. So go ahead an pin your own stuff. But! Pin it in a board called “My Favorite Personal Work” so you’re making it clear to people that these are your images and that you’re pinning them because you’re proud of them.

If you’re super worried about whether someone will sue you because you pin their image send them an email and ask if it’s ok. If they say no then know they’ll eventually regret this decision. Effectively they’re blocking a very effective marketing channel. As for advertising images etc., PIN away! There is nothing an advertiser wants more than for a consumer audience to take up the standard for them.

New technologies come and go. No one knows for sure what will happen with Pinterest (though I can promise you that somewhere in their business plan you will find the phrase, ‘acquired by Google,’ either mentioned in the positive or the negative). For now though it is a rising star and an effective medium. As with all things, what’s next is what’s important. I’ll be waiting to see what that is, but in the meantime when I think about it I will be pinning stuff. It’s the best compliment I can think of for the people who’s work I think highly enough to pin.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Going from Doing to Teaching, A Slippery Slope

Not long after I got to Pictage I had an interesting conversation with someone I thought of as a photographer. He set me straight. "Jim, I'm not a photographer any more, now I'm an entrepreneur and I teach photographers how to succeed." It was an interesting conversation made even more so because in the same few minutes he also told me that he wasn't making enough money and wanted Pictage to sponsor him with more.

I didn't know much back then so I went to a bunch of our clients and asked what people thought. The predominant reaction that I received was that this person was out of touch, a has been. "We'd listen to him if he was still a photographer but he's really not. He just wants our money." I went back and told him no. Not surprisingly, within a few weeks he had moved on, endorsed a "competitor's" products and was on a speaking tour for the competitor. I never regretted the decision. He still speaks, though I note that he no longer gets an endorsement from the "competitor."

This isn't about who this person is. Who he is doesn't matter. He could be anyone. (Frankly, He could be She and may be because I am the master of concealing identities). It is about what he represents. His story applies to a great many people I know and what is most interesting to me is that a lot of the people who told me they didn't think he was relevant then are now on the same path. I often wonder, what makes them different? How will they stay relevant. In my short time in this industry I've seen the complete cycle. Do and find success. Teach because you can. Die because you stopped doing.

Of course, it's not quite that easy, right? Do and find success, but realize that even success is marginal. It's hard too. In a generation that likes its "things," its travel and its flexibility it is surprising how money is so often an afterthought. How do we think we're going to pay for all of that stuff? So when we are finding success on a path but we are also finding that path to restrict our time and not necessarily let us buy the things we want it is natural to look to supplement our income. The slippery slope comes when we start to believe our own press.

People tell us we're smart and we should speak more. Companies offer semi lucrative arrangements for endorsing their products. Conventions offer platforms. And a year later our business is dead and no one wants to hear what we have to say anymore.

Obviously it's not quite that fast and a few have bucked the trend, figuring out how to have a vibrant business even while they derive a supplementary income on the teaching circuit. I've found that one common trait is true among all of these people. They each understand that they have much to learn. They each understand that their relevance relates directly to their business success. They each understand that what they do is their core business and what they teach is the supplement and they each pursue the success of the core first, teaching from what they're continuing to learn along the way.

After all ... These people seem to understand that what's next is what's important.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pictage and WPPI ... Changing Times

A lot of folks have asked why Pictage is not at WPPI this year. It's a fair question and it wasn't a decision that we made without a lot of thought. We've loved being a part of WPPI for many years. The team and the people we meet there are all great folks. Since taking over the reigns, George Varanakis has done an terrific job of connecting with the community and building anticipation for the show. I will especially miss seeing George do what he does so well - problem-solve!

In truth, we don't go to any of the national shows anymore. The reason is, bluntly, cost. This isn't WPPI's fault. It is the industry that has grown up around these events. The various costs for drayage (moving stuff in and out of the convention center) and electricity and booth construction, moving, setup and tear down. Costs for staffing; hotels, restaurants, getting to and from the convention, etc. And entertainment costs while we are at the event, the party, dinners, etc. all add up. Last year total costs for WPPI came close to $200,000. We tried hard last year to maximize every dollar spent. We tracked every lead and kept track of all purchases related to WPPI. We looked at these figures with the most aggressively positive eye we could and even then we found that there was simply no way we could justify the expense.

A lot of people have said we could be there anyway. We could have a hospitality suite, etc. It's a personal thing but frankly I think that's kind of sleazy. WPPI has spent an enormous amount of money promoting the conference. They've created the event and built the excitement, so to 'piggyback' on the event in a way that doesn't benefit them feels disingenuous. It's just not something I wanted to do personally - or associate my company with. This is not to judge those who've done this (and many have done it for many years), although one would hope it might at least give them pause ... (Ha! I thought 'Paws' for sec and then had to shake that thought out of my head!)

If we could have we would have done the party. Studio54 at WPPI is a tradition we would like to repeat in the future. Since it's an official WPPI event, the organizers get credit from the hotel which defrays some of their expenses. This year the club was closed. There's always next year. We'll see, maybe we'll be back.

We're refocusing Pictage's regional marketing efforts on smaller shows and gatherings. Home grown efforts that attract groups of professional photographers from specific regions are very interesting to us. We find that the content value is high (people bring in what they want to hear) and the lower operating costs mean we can reach more people for dramatically less money.

I'm hoping that at some point in the future we'll be back at WPPI. I miss being there and I think Pictage should be there. I just haven't been smart enough yet to figure out how to make it happen. George and I keep talking about it. If we can figure it out, we will. In the meantime I'm hoping the folks who are there have a great time. Know we miss you and we look forward to seeing you around the country as the year moves along.


Friday, February 17, 2012

If you read this post you could win a ...

I feel like if the only reason you come to my blog is because you want to win a camera or a free month of service, then why would I want you to read my blog? Fame is not an avenue to financial reward - at least not the kind of financial reward that I would consider interesting. So why would I want to effectively pay you with giveaways, etc. to read my blog?

I ask the question in all sincerity as we do these things on our company blogs. "Read this, post this, etc., and you can win such and such." They definitely increase the list of blog watchers. But is that increased list worth anything?

I'm sort of tired of listening to experts on the matter. I'd rather hear from you. What say you?