The Internet Loves Photos and Videos — How Can You Profit?

by Kevin Casey on October 5, 2012
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Say “cheese”! More than half of all internet users in the U.S. post or repost photos and videos online, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Pew breaks down our collective obsession into two categories: “Creators” are the 46 percent of internet users who post photos or videos that they produce themselves. “Curators” are the 41 percent of users who repost photos and videos that they find online to websites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. Pew’s report, titled “Photos and Videos as Social Currency Online,” says 56 percent of American adults on the internet are either creators or curators — and 32 percent are both.

Can your small business convert that social currency into real currency? Here are four things to remember when considering how your small business can best capitalize on the internet’s giant appetite for visual content.

1. Don’t be afraid of video. Once upon a time, high-quality video was the stuff of big businesses — but not anymore. You don’t need a Hollywood film crew to make compelling, shareable videos these days, nor do you need a Hollywood budget. Check out the Intuit Small Business Blog’s tips for making the perfect YouTube video. Small Business Trends lists eight useful and easy video-editing tools. And StartupSmart offers 10 examples of how small businesses are using video in effective ways.

2. Invite people to share your stuff. No one’s going to pin your photos to a Pinterest board or anywhere else if they’re worried about a lawsuit. Yet you still see plenty of websites that slap a copyright symbol on every image, word, and other piece of content. It may make sense for some businesses — say, photography companies who sell these photos as their sole source of revenue — to be protective of their images and videos. But even if you copyright your material, consider offering at least some content under a Creative Commons license. Photo-sharing sites like Instagram and blogging platforms like Tumblr make it particularly easy for you to publish photos and encourage others to share them. Check out the Intuit Small Business Blog’s guide to connecting with customers on Instagram. Also, the folks at Constant Contact have put together brief case studies of how four small businesses use Instagram — and how they use their other social media to promote their photos.

3. Remember that you’re competing for attention. You can invest countless hours in creating great photos and videos, but there’s no guarantee anyone will even look at them, much less share them. Three days’ worth of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute, so you’ve got major competition. Be sure to spend time helping your videos stand out. If you’re using YouTube — and with 800 million visitors, it’s not a bad place to start — smart SEO can give your videos a better chance of being found.

4. Know your audience and which sites best match it. Tailor your photo- and video-content strategy to the audience you seek. Doing so can also help you better prioritize your time and financial resources across so many online marketing options, a must for any small-business owner. Pew’s research backs up the conventional wisdom that Pinterest is considerably more popular among women than men, for example. Similarly, the survey shows that Tumblr and Instagram are favored by the 18- to 29-year-old crowd. LinkedIn, on the other hand, skews older — the professional network is also used more widely in higher-income brackets, as is Twitter. Facebook is popular with, well, everyone. You can see Pew’s full breakdown of site usage here [PDF].

Beyond traditional demographics, it’s worth analyzing whether there are smaller niche sites and communities that might be a good fit for your business or industry. Yes, YouTube may be the most popular video site, but it’s not the only one.

Kevin Casey is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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