I have been on Twitter as @unofphoto for ten years or so and during that time amassed a following of other 27,000 people. Last week the account was hacked. I was locked out of the account and my password/email account would not let me back in. I tried to contact Twitter support only to discover that there was none. It had been Musked!
Twitter was my principle method of communication with the photo community and marketing tool for the UNP. It was also a place where I had made good friends, had rigorous discussions and learnt about so much I knew nothing or little about. Now I was locked out!
For some this may have been a professional and personal crisis, but I was prepared for this situation. Ever since Elon Musk purchased Twitter I was on guard for what many believed to be its inevitable demise. I opened accounts as @unofphoto on Mastodon, Post and Vero, I established a presence on Substack. In short I set up some escape routes, but I did not particularly like any of them. So, despite my new found situation on Twitter I decided to stay and re-establish the UNP as @PhotoLifePod a tag I had previously opened, but never used, named after our weekly podcast.
I put the word out to some supportive Twitter friends and quickly the following started to grow again. At the time of writing this article, two days in we have 283 followers. However, the number of followers is not the point.
I regularly teach how to use social media effectively in a professional context and when I do I talk about the importance of understanding publishing, old school publishing. Understanding the importance of editorial tone, consistency and most importantly audience. How to engage with your audience, respect them, educate them, challenge them, entertain them and accept that they will not be there forever. Magazines and newspapers change and close as their agendas evolve or become financially unviable. To understand publishing you have to accept that even good things end.
Rather than feeling depressed about the death of one Twitter tag, I feel energised by the prospect of building a new one.
What my experience does show is the fragility of any social media platform. To rely solely upon any of them is a mistake, we know that, but it is easy to forget and be seduced into thinking that we cannot survive professionally without our favourite. It is also a mistake to believe that a large following guarantees a corresponding scale of audience engagement, it doesn’t. The hard core @unofphoto following has followed us to the new tag and that is what is important to me.
Therefore, my second adventure on Twitter will be focused on three words often stated by the product designer Dieter Rams, “Less but better.”
You can now follow the UNP on Twitter @PhotoLifePod
Dr. Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019). His film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was first screened in 2018 www.donotbendfilm.com. He is the presenter of the A Photographic Life and In Search of Bill Jay podcasts.
© Grant Scott 2023