To Twitter or Not?

Posted on 5/6/2009 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (3)

Stock libraries have been moving to adopt social-networking technologies and Web sites. Microstock agencies, for whom the online community is an integral part of the business model, have naturally been the early adopters, integrating social-networking features into their own Web sites and using Facebook and similar services. Traditional agencies appear to be following a similar path; however, this adoption appears to be guided more by fad and novelty than tangible evidence of potential business benefits.

This week, London’s Mary Evans Picture Library announced that it is now “Tweeting”—that is, it now uses the services of, a Web site that enables your circle of friends and colleagues to follow your every move. Twitter encourages its users to provide “quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?” The Web site is the latest Internet trend and media darling: The New York Times says it is the fastest-growing online phenomena; Wired describes it as extremely useful.

Mary Evans also points to celebrity Twitter users, which include Stephen Fry and Barack Obama, whose administration has embraced all things Internet and cut out much of the traditional media in its interactions with the general public. In a similar vein, Mary Evans seeks to attain the perception of being “thoroughly modern and cutting-edge in outlook,” despite its specialization in historical imagery.

In today’s economic environment, anything that bolsters visibility and improves brand image—the top two goals of the London specialist—is a good marketing strategy, particularly if it is low-cost. Twitter certainly meets that criteria: using the Web site is free of charge and should take minimal in-house resources. Still, is it worth it?

While many people love using social networks, marketers and analysts overwhelmingly agree that these have yet to be successfully monetized by anyone other than these sites’ owners—and not even in all of such cases. In addition, social networks’ popularity appears to be more a function of media coverage than reality: The latest figures from Harris Interactive show that Twitter remains no more than a blip on the Internet radar, with only 5% of Americans currently using it. MySpace and Facebook, the veterans of the social-networking scene, also show surprisingly low penetration: less than half of U.S. population (48%) have an account with either Web site.

While a number of media outlets have covered the growing trend of using Twitter, MySpace and Facebook for business purposes, non-anecdotal information on the effectiveness of such approaches is not available. From a logical perspective, such sites offer stock agencies a way to connect with a broader and younger audience, access that traditionals sorely lack. But there is still the question of attracting this broad audience to your Twitter feed: just as with a Web site, building it does not guarantee new visitors. And then there is the bigger question of return on investment: can maintaining Facebook pages and Twitter feeds have demonstrable bottom-line effects on a stock agency’s business? Perhaps Mary Evans can help with the answer a few months down the road.

Copyright © 2009 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


  • David Sanger Posted May 7, 2009
    The value of Twitter is in realtime conversation, building a following and in feedback on your brand.

    This is good writeup by Taylor Davidson


    @mary_evans if people want to follow

  • Markus Belmonte Posted May 7, 2009
    A few other stock libraries are twittering as well:

    And you forgot to mention the coolest thing about Twitter: real time search across countless tweets!!

  • Jonathan Ross Posted May 11, 2009
    These advancements in community based sites are a power a small business owner never had at their finger tips. One photographer can make a post and have it reach across the globe to a massive grouping of other photographers if one wishes. That kind of direct connection between individuals can be very empowering if used properly. For stock photographers before the internet community concept began the business was very closed. I feel these sites are bringing us closer together than ever before. That in itself is a great value you cannot put a specific return on.

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