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Thursday, September 10, 2009

On my never-ending quest to find individuals and companies succeeding with Social Media I hit a goldmine. In a single word, Shutterstock. In today's post I share how one company, in a VERY crowded space, is dominating the niche with Twitter!

Shutterstock is a microstock company, which means that photographers upload their photos to the site, which in turns sells them to graphic designers, news agencies, marketers, pretty much anyone who needs stock imagery. The photographers receive a commission every time one of their images is sold. Basically it's crowdsourcing, as Shutterstock outsources the task of taking stock photos to the general public.

There are several of these microstock companies aside from Shutterstock; other ones include iStockphoto, Dreamstime, Fotolia, Big Stock Xchang, etc. When Twitter started blowing up, around six months ago, all these companies tried to stake a presence on this glitzy new social media platform. So far, Shutterstock appears to have been the most successful. Why?

1. Right from the start, Shutterstock identified their audience and offered them exactly what they wanted: free, useful stuff. In this case, Shutterstock's audience was comprised mainly of graphic designers and photographers, so Shutterstock began to post free vectors and images every week on its Twitter account, as well as links to Shutterstock generated articles containing photography tips, Photoshop and Illustrator tutorials, etc.

2. Shutterstock began to actively engage people who mentioned their service in their Tweets; every week Shutterstock responded to @shutterstock comments, to either offer technical advice, voice appreciation or ameliorate concerns. Doing this, and doing this in a specific, casual tone, made Shutterstock's followers feel like they had a direct pipeline into the company.

3. Many bloggers use Shutterstock as an image source for their blogs, so Shutterstock began to Tweet each blog post by an influential blogger that featured a Shutterstock image. Since bloggers are really the rockstars of Twitter, with a devoted readership base, this helped channel new people to Shutterstock, and also demonstrated that respectable bloggers used the service. Basically, Shutterstock used Twitter to network with popular bloggers.

4. This one's important! Shutterstock went back through its site and embedded link buttons to Twitter and Facebook throughout all of the site's pages. This way, whenever anyone new signed up to the site, or uploaded an image or collected a payment, their was a little button that they could click on that automatically made them a Facebook fan/Twitter follower of Shutterstock.

5. On top of all this, Shutterstock designed a simple and imaginative application for their photo submitters could called Shuttertweet. This application sends out a Tweet from a Shutterstock photographer's Twitter account once a day announcing their sales and accepted images. Since many Shutterstock photographers are looking to promote their portfolios, this was an attractive service that many photographers signed up for. Now, with @shutterstock appearing in so many people's news feeds, Shutterstock is channeling more interest than ever.

At this stage of the Twitter craze, the number of followers of each of the major stock image services seem to tell the tale:

Getty Images: 1,218
Fotolia: 223
Big Stock Photo: 168
stockxchng: 137

Shutterstock has created a vibrant Twitter community that continues to experience an accelerated rate of growth. The only question now is to see how this will translate for the company's bottom line which will no doubt benefit from the added traffic, exposure, and social media success they are experiencing!


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