Social photo-sharing sites look an awful lot like variations on the traditional portfolio.

But if you view services like Instagram, Flickr, or Pinterest as places to push out content that pulls in business, your efforts are almost guaranteed to fail.

First, because pushing in general doesn’t work in an attention-based, “pull” economy; sharing content that informs, supports, and entertains does.

And second, because people don’t hang out on social media to find a photographer; they hang out to be social, to express themselves creatively, and, in the particular case of Pinterest, to fantasize (or even to fulfill their fantasies with a little retail therapy–Pinterest drives a lot of traffic to retailers and women’s magazines).

This is not to say there aren’t terrific, creative ways to use photo-sharing sites that can attract people to you, serve your clients and prospects, and build your brand. I believe that And I am firmly in the camp of relaxing old-fashioned ideas about copyright and making your work easier to share on consumer-centric social sites.

But to see Instagram, Pinterest, or any other site merely as a place to show off your photos is to miss the point. What we should all be sharing, on the internet and everywhere else, is our unique creative thinking, our experience, and our humanity–as often, and as freely as possible. If our work is truly unique and awesome, the people we’re meant to serve will find us.

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