Twitter has been at the top of the news cycle since Elon Musk completed his purchase of the company for $44 billion. And although the mere mention of his name stirs a variety of emotions, political opinions, and other reactions, for the sake of this piece, I want to focus not on the political ramifications of his acquisition of Twitter, but rather on how it will impact us as photographers. I am greatly interested, in fact, in some of his proposed changes to the platform and how they may affect photographers and content creators, especially if the change is positive.
2022 has turned out to be a strange year for photographers when it comes to using social media to grow their brands and share their work, especially for those of us who deal primarily in still images instead of the ever-more popular short-form video content. Earlier this year, Instagram notoriously tweaked their algorithm, a move which resulted in still images being suppressed over videos. This was a transparent attempt to compete with TikTok by bolstering video content on the platform, and it was roundly rejected by users, especially photographers. And, although they backtracked after the huge backlash they received from both well-known and unknown photographers alike, ultimately changing the algorithm again and claiming it would treat photos and videos equally, I can tell you anecdotally that my photos still do not have the same reach as they used to prior to their original change. This, however, is the topic for another article.
Then came Vero, an app that has been around for quite a few years, but that never really took off with photographers. Like many others, I opened a Vero account with the intent of migrating my content to the new platform as my primary photo-sharing vehicle, but again, I was disappointed. In my opinion, Vero, although a robust application with a thoughtfully designed interface, tries too hard to be the “Anti-Instagram” and doesn’t seem to have a niche. Personally, I don't find myself posting and updating on Vero nearly as much as I do on Instagram. Additionally, there are still not enough users on Vero for it to become a viable replacement for Instagram.
If you are a content creator as well as a photographer, you may also know that YouTube has jumped on the TikTok bandwagon and is working hard to promote “shorts.” This means that creators like me are now strong-armed into creating a 30- or 60-second video that either previews a long form video or is completely new content. The problem with this is that many shorts wind up being based on a silly joke or other contrived method to get people to notice your channel. I have been doing some of these myself on YouTube and Instagram, but I honestly don’t want to, as I feel like they lack substance for the sake of clicks. For instance, I created a gag short where I joked about how I forget to put the removable battery cover inside of my grip before attaching it to the camera. This short clip received over 3,000 views in the first few hours it was live, which is way above my typical engagement for long-form videos.
To summarize, I’m surely not the only one feeling a bit disappointed in all three of these apps as vehicles to share my photography work and grow my business. And this is why Twitter might just be poised to become the go-to app for photographers and content creators, as Musk has said paid users will get "priority in replies, mentions & search... ability to post long video & audio."
Musk has recently floated the idea of creating an $8/month Twitter subscription. Included in his proposal are a number of features including more robust search, replies, and mentions that do not favor the blue checkmark crowd. This seems to make sense. However, the main feature that piqued my interest is the ability to post long-form videos.
Although the term is overused to the point of becoming meaningless, posting long form videos to Twitter may be the “game-changer” that is needed to not only reinvigorate the platform, but make it a viable alternative to YouTube and Instagram for photographers and content creators. Many photographers already post their work on Twitter, and as most major photographic companies already have Twitter accounts, I think there is great potential for Twitter to take the best that YouTube and Instagram have to offer photographers and reinvigorate both stills and video content in a one-stop shop for creatives.
Additionally, in a response to a tweet by Zuby Music, who suggested that Twitter partner with content creators like other social media sites and allow monetization, Musk replied: "Absolutely." Partnering with creators in conjunction with long-form video and tweaks to the interface to address where other apps are falling short could indeed put Twitter in the position to become the favorite app for us in the photographic industry.
Clearly, there is quite a bit to discuss here, and most of us know that Musk is famous for floating many ideas on Twitter as well as trolling accounts on an almost daily basis. Having said that, if you would have asked me if I thought Musk would really purchase Twitter two months ago, I would have said, “No way.” Yet here we are.
The elephant in the room relates to Musk’s politics, which have a polarizing effect on many users, some of whom even at this early stage, have begun abandoning Twitter altogether. I understand how difficult it is to divorce the politics from the networking site itself, and this is certainly part of the discussion when it comes to the future of Twitter for us as photographers, content creators, and creatives. Will Musk's political leanings prevent potential users from embracing the platform even if he makes it more friendly to photographers and content creators? Or, is Twitter already just too toxic a platform for it to be viable again at all? Only time will tell, but I am interested in hearing what you think about the future of Twitter as an alternative for photographers in the comments section below.
Lead image by Flikr user Steve Jurvetson, used under Creative Commons.