After reading our guide on deciding the right approach to adding a Portfolio to your WordPress site, you’ve decided that you’d like the benefits of using a third-party, social media site in conjunction with your own hosted WordPress website. Basically, this means your galleries will be hosted, either in part or entirely, at the third-party site. You will then create links from your personal domain to that website and can embed “featured” works on your own site. This article explores some tools to connect your website with those Social Media sites.
Why Use Third Party Social Media sites?
Before going further, it’s important to distinguish between Social Media Portfolio sites and Dedicated Portfolio Hosting sites.
There are a number of websites that allow you to host your portfolio as a turnkey solution, basically providing the functionality of a WordPress portfolio site. A couple of examples are Carbonmade, Dunked, and Viewbook. These sites are similar to web hosts; they provide hosting on their servers and focus on portfolios as their primary function. You can list your portfolio under your own domain, or URL, on these services.
Effectively these Dedicated Portfolio Hosting sites are special purpose hosting services that remove the need for you to have your own WordPress install. The benefit is simplicity and focus; the drawback is that you lose the wide variety of other functions WordPress provides and the general flexibility that comes with controlling your own install.
More importantly, these services are quite different from a Social Media Portfolio Site like Behance, Dribbble, or Flickr, which combine the hosting of your portfolio content with the massive benefits of a pre-existing community and simple social media functionality – think Facebook, but dedicated to the sharing of creative works.
In this article, we are focused on the benefit of using these Social Media sites, rather than the Dedicated Portfolio Hosts because of the unique benefits these sites provide. These features and benefits include:
1. Easy Discovery. If you create a site of your own, you’ll need to find some way to drive users to your site. If you’re hosting your portfolio at a site like Flickr or Behance, all the content is hosted on their web domain and branded site. These sites already have a large volume of incoming traffic. This means you have a ready-made audience for your content. These companies continue to do marketing and outreach to drive traffic to their websites and you get to benefit from this. A Dedicated Portfolio Host will not do this for you.
2. Social Sharing. Closely tied to discovery is the fact that Social Media Portfolio sites make it easy to share your content both within the site itself and with the larger web. Most of these sites will promote content on their main page or in “channels” when you post it. They’ll also show it if it’s shared a lot or if it gets enough “likes.” This means that as you add new content to the site, your chance of discovery goes up. While a Dedicated Portfolio Host may make it easy to add buttons for viewers to share your content on Facebook or Twitter, this is very different than the site promoting content and showing it to all users in a feed or homepage.
3. Community Engagement. These sites not only allow other users to share and “like” your content, but as a site member you can interact and communicate with other creators and viewers. If you engage on these sites in a way that is visible and positive, you can build followers. Think of it just like running an effective Social Media presence on Twitter or Facebook. If you engage with others, this increases the chance you’ll be discovered, and that your content will be shared. A Portfolio host will not likely have such a community built into its service.
Why Integrate Social Media Portfolios with your own WordPress site?
Being discovered and shared within a portfolio site community is a great way to build your brand recognition. But ultimately, you’re not in this just for “upvotes” or “likes.” You’re likely trying to build a business as a photographer, illustrator, web designer, architect or product maker. It’s important that the time you invest on social media sites eventually creates business for you.
With most social media portfolio sites, you’ll be able to set links to your other social media properties like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Most critically you’ll want to set links to your own website and serve content within your URL that builds your credibility and/or provides eCommerce functions. A Social Media portfolio host may do many things well, particularly around discovery, but they won’t do it all. And since you may be posting on multiple social media sites – portfolio or general purpose – you’ll want to drive all your traffic to a central location: your website hosted on WordPress.
Now, you could use a Portfolio Theme or a Portfolio Plugin and also put all your content on your own site and on the third-party portfolio sites as well. This approach is workable if you carefully curate your efforts by putting the “best” of your work on the Social Media sites and then serving the “full set” of your content on your own URL. But this is a lot of work, and you’ll have to manage content in two or more places. Plus, you never know which of your works might catch the community’s imagination and end up being shared widely; there’s a risk that you might reserve content on your site that really should be pushed out widely.
As an alternative, many – though by no means all – Social Media Portfolio sites can be integrated into your WordPress install by way of plugins. Although many of these are not “official” plugins offered by the social media site itself (they’d rather keep the traffic on their own sites to drive up their volume) the developers who created these are often just as skilled as those who create the Portfolio Plugins we mentioned in our other article. Still, they do require configuration and installation, and may not do “everything” you want out of the box.
What should a social media portfolio plugin do?
Social media sites come in quite a variety which means that there are significant differences in the way their respective plugins function. We think you should look for the following features to make sure you’re getting the most value out of the tools:
1. Ability to “embed” all or parts of your portfolio. It’s great that your content is hosted on these Social Media Portfolio sites, but you’ll want to be able to show the images and some of the data from these sites to visitors at your own URL without having them leave your domain. This means that the plugin should be able to display the content from the host within the boundaries of your website, perhaps in a frame or by pulling the images and data from the host. This requires that any images be displayed with your existing WordPress Theme via the plugin.
2. Display Social Media stats. If your images and portfolio content have a lot of likes or shares on the Social Media site, then it’d be great if that information is displayed by the plugin for you next to each image on your site. If your visitors can see the number of likes, views or shares your content has on Social Media, that builds some social proof and demonstrates how much other viewers are engaged with your work. Simple icons and a number count should be enough for this, along properly formatted text.
3. Data Display. If you have set descriptions, links or other information about your work, it’s easiest to manage all of that in one location. If your work is accompanied by relevant data on the social media site, for example – the type of media used in artwork, shutter settings for your photographs or product information for your jewelry, the plugin should display that same data on your site. Otherwise, you’ll be going back and forth to make sure what you entered on your website matches the content elsewhere. It’s not a difficult thing, for sure, but it is more work and errors can make you look unprofessional.
4. Social Media Engagement Buttons. A plugin should make it easy for users to share your Portfolio content on the most popular general purpose social media sites (eg. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr). If the plugin doesn’t provide this, it’s likely your current WordPress Theme already has it, but there are dedicated Social Media plugins available as well. In addition, if a user happens to have an account at a Social Media Portfolio site like Flickr or Behance, it’d be great if the plugin lets that user add a “like” or mark your work as “favorite” with their account. This is a bit harder to find as a feature and we’re hopeful it’ll be forthcoming as Plugins mature.
We’ve focused on the most popular Social Media Portfolio sites for this article, but if you use a different site and find a WordPress Plugin for it, we recommend you evaluate it against the above criteria. And do tell us about any new Plugins you find – this is an evolving area and new tools emerge constantly.
Social Media Portfolio Sites and Recommended Plugins
Behance bills itself as the place to “Showcase & Discover Creative Work” and it caters to a wide variety of creative fields, featuring channels from Architecture and Art Direction all the way through Photography to UI/UX and Writing.
In addition, the site tries to reach out to those who might be hiring talent, so it’s not just a group of creatives sharing work with each other. The Behance job board feature and the outreach to potential employers is a great benefit.
Behance is owned and operated by Adobe, the heavy hitter in creative software, so it’s got plenty of backing and credibility. If you haven’t chosen a Social Media Portfolio site, this one deserves a place at the top of your short list.
WordPress Plugins for Behance
Behance Portfolio Manager: This plugin is a relatively comprehensive solution for pulling your Behance galleries into your WordPress install. It provides for categorization of projects on your site and allows you to show or hide project data as a feature. The layout provides for both Grid and Mosaic views and lets you show one project, multiple projects within a single category, or projects from multiple categories on your site.
It uses the Behance API (Application Programming Interface) for a direct connection, which will make it more reliable than scraping or other “hacks.” Using the API requires that you ensure some PHP components (cURL in this case) are installed on your hosting server. This isn’t hard to do, and the reliability of an API connection make it worth it, but it is something you’ll need to check with your hosting provider. This also means you’ll need to enter your Behance username and API key, which are available in your Behance account settings. The developer provides a pretty decent installation guide that walks you through the setup.
Behance Portfolio for WordPress: This plugin provides the basics you need to integrate Behance back to your site. It uses the Behance API and also needs you to install cURL on your hosting server. Check with your hosting provider about this. As with the Behance Portfolio Manager Plugin, you’ll need to get your username and API key from Behance; the developer of this Plugin provides a guide for that.
After set up, the Behance Portfolio for WordPress Plugin provides the basics for a Portfolio: either a grid or slider layout for displaying your content and some basic customizations for colors. Other than that it should work pretty well with most existing WordPress Themes. This is a good option if you want to keep things relatively simple, as it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles.
Compared to Behance, DeviantArt is more focused on visual artists – especially illustrators, painters, digital artists, and animators. Still, it does also have a good community of photographers. Founded in 2000, it now boasts over 65 million unique visits a month, and nearly 40 million registered users. DeviantArt also provides the ability for artists to sell their work as photo, fine art, or wrapped canvas prints in their integrated shop. Which all means that if your work falls into this category, it’s a key community for you to be a part of.
DeviantArt Widget: This plugin (branded as a “Widget”) is the main option for integrating your DeviantArt gallery back into your WordPress site. Unfortunately, there isn’t an API based connection, so the plugin works by “pulling” images on a set interval from the gallery you set. This means that updates on your DeviantArt portfolio may not instantly refresh on your WordPress install, so some patience will be needed.
More troubling is that, as of this writing, it hasn’t been updated since mid-2015. However, it seems to be stable and working at the moment and the developer has commented that an update is coming. Also, you’ll need to do more work to configure how you display the imported images within your existing WordPress Theme, as it doesn’t have Portfolio display features built in. This means you could make it work with an existing Portfolio Theme and while it should work with many such Themes, it will likely require some experimentation to get right.
Flickr, owned by Yahoo, is the 800-pound gorilla in the photo sharing space. The service has over 80 million registered users, and billions of images hosted on it. While primarily known as a photo community, it also supports all kinds of images and video. If you’re a photographer, this is likely one of your top choices for Social Media hosting.
Awesome Flickr Gallery is a lightweight and simple Plugin that lets you filter your galleries from Flickr in a variety of ways, including by tags and using your own sorting so you’re not locked into Flickr’s defaults. It also provides a slideshow feature, which you can replace with your own Plugin or Theme default if you prefer. It’s been updated recently by the developer. And it’s free!
Flickr Justified Gallery builds on the “Justified Grid” layout that Flickr uses, creating a stylistic consistency with the main site. If you like this visual style, this Plugin may be a good option. It also allows for filtering based on tags and in different groupings by photostream, photoset, galleries and group pools. And like Awesome Flickr Gallery, it’s free.
Installing the Plugins
Each of the above options is offered as WordPress Plugins. They’re pretty easy to install, though if there are additional tools like cURL or a separate Gallery or Slideshow Plugin needed, you’ll have to repeat the plugin installation steps for each; consult the developer documents for the sequence of installation. If you need help, check out our knowledge base article with a step-by-step guide to installing plugins.
Lastly, if you haven’t yet selected a host for your WordPress site, a reminder that the right hosting solution is critical to maximizing the benefits of WordPress. Here’s a quick list of solid hosting options available to you:
– Go the “Managed” WordPress hosting route for the most headache-free experience when running WordPress. View a list of the hosts with the best reviews here.
– A “Shared Server” WordPress host is great if cost is a top concern. For a list of best rated cost-effective plans go here.
– VPS or “Virtual Private Server” WordPress hosting is a good for a small or medium sized business. Click here for a list of the best VPS servers that support WordPress.
– For the highest control, select a “Dedicated Server” WordPress host, especially if you’re a large corporation. For a list of the best, dedicated servers that provide WordPress solutions, see this page.