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About a year ago, I started a Facebook Group called Nevada Photographers. Little did I know how lucrative an investment it would be for me as editor of Nevada Magazine.

My intention was to create a group that would connect us with photographers who are producing quality images of the state we promote in print and online. Not only has it accomplished its primary intent, it has grown into a community of people who offer each other career advice, schedule photography outings together, share tips of the trade, and generally communicate and have fun. More than 260 members and 2,500 photos later, I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Because the images being shared in the group were of such high quality, it even spurred us to create a new department in our magazine called “Visions” — my apologies to National Geographic. Readers are loving it. One of our magazine advisory board members had this to say about the March/April 2012 lead story in Visions, titled Southern Exposure: “Southern Exposure was interesting, and I loved the larger photos that extend to the edge of the page.” When I shared the layout (see below) with the group, one member commented, “We are in danger of a visitor’s reality not living up to the photos!”

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Photos by Van Phetsomphou

The group epitomizes the melding of journalism and social media. As a magazine, we’re getting ideas for stories from an almost never-ending flow of images. The photographers get to share their work and bounce ideas off other talented artists (and, when we print their photos, they get paid!). Just today, one photographer posted two images, one in black and white and the other in color, and asked the group which one they like best. In another post, one group member was so impressed by another’s image, he offered to frame it for him.

While I try not to oversell Nevada Magazine in the group, groups can also be a decent traffic driver to your website. For instance, if someone posts a photo of Hoover Dam, I could comment, “You might find this story interesting…,” which of course would be a Nevada Magazine story about Hoover Dam. Or if someone posts a Nevada ghost town photo, I might refer them to our Ghost Towns feature story.

I could go on and on about the benefits to the magazine, but really the joy of the group is seeing how much people like to share their work, and support one another. “I’m a big fan of cheering each other on and ‘meeting’ other photographers in this area,” says Nancy Good, owner of New Light Foto Design. I’m a photographer myself, and agree wholeheartedly with Good. It’s a family mentality. I’m always impressed with how other photographers will welcome new group members after they share their first image.

I know, I know — you’re the social media manager for your business or organization, and taking on another project right now seems impossible and unnecessary. Understandable, but if you find the right niche, and depending on your needs and strategy, creating a Facebook group could be a game-changer.

Have you used Facebook groups to supplement your main Facebook page? How about another social media supplement, such as Twitter Lists or Google+ circles? I’m interested to know.

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