I've been bouncing around social media for quite some time now. I remember downloading Instagram because I saw it on the App store's front page, yet no one was really using it at the time. I took a couple photos, forgot my password, then deleted the app. I moved on to Flickr, because it was a great place to post photos in bulk, organize them, and look at photos of other photographers that were way better than me. I spent tons of time commenting and liking (or whatever the equivalent of liking was at the time), which took a lot of time, but it was worth those precious followers. 100 or so followers later, I felt empty. I hadn't learned anything, just spent a ton of time sucking up to other users with the occasional "Great shot!" "Nice light!", nothing super constructive. Then it hit me: these photo communities, 500px, Flickr, Instagram, etc. aren't places for criticism or learning (although you can learn from others images to some extent), they are places for users to gather viewers and move to the top. The only thing: the top doesn't exist.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and 500px all have one common goal: to be seen and heard. They are walls for you to leave your mark on the world, whether that mark is a cleverly worded 140 character phrase, or a 4x4 landscape. Each social network has their own market (Youtube with video, Flickr with photo, Twitter with catchy messages), but they are all the same. Within these, you can comment and affirm anyone's posts, while they comment and affirm you in return. It's an attention exchange, with "likes" being the dominant currency.
In my experience of photo sharing (namely the 365), I found that the best place for photo sharing for me has been Facebook. I know, I know, photos look like crap on FB compared to the beautifully designed 500px, but honestly, I have gotten constructive feedback on the big blue monolith. I think the reason is simply that it isn't a place meant for photographers to fight for photo supremacy, it's a community wall to post whatever you want. Good photography stands out there instead of drowning in a sea of wildlife photography and really bad HDR. Even Instagram, Flickr's fun little brother, has a pretty great community, but my feed is filled with photos that all look the same. I love Instagram and I love taking Instagram-style photos (because the only thing you have to worry about is composition), but the bar of what's interesting is constantly getting raised.
The key is to break through the clutter, unfortunately that's pretty hard when the clutter is solely photography. Even on Facebook and Twitter photography is getting more and more dominant, which is making it harder. I just found I don't really get anything out of photo-hubs like Flickr or 500px, but I do enjoy browsing them. Instagram has an encouraging and pretty awesome community, and I think only being able to see one photo at a time gives Instagrammers more exposure than they get on the almighty grid on 500px. Is there a particular haven for photographers? Unfortunately, photographers need to be nomads of social media, utilizing and moving to different lands every day. The best thing is to take as many great photos as possible, (take one every day) and you will eventually be able to break through the clutter with your huge amount of work. (But don't spam)
Everyone is different, and some have been successful in places like Flickr and 500px. Where do you squat? What social network do you prefer for photo sharing?