Can you rein in the power of social media, such as Facebook, to get more business as a professional photographer? If you have a good plan, the answer may be a big YES.
As social media evolves, it is moving toward a viable marketing avenue for photographers. Many photographers are discovering ways to get their products and images in front of potential customers. As the social media outlets grow, it becomes more important to find ways to rise above the “noise”. While it’s critical to stand about above the crowd, most social media sites don't make it very easy. Currently, there are a lot of places to market on the web, but in this article, I'll talk about what's working for me.
Make a plan
First and foremost, I like to begin with a plan. For me, that plan consists of building my marketing around a hub with several spokes. The hub is my web site. All my marketing efforts drive people to the web site because that's where I have the largest repository of information. I keep the photos updated, and the information is complete. It is my primary marketing tool. I put my web address on everything.
My social network marketing plan started with a site that would attract an enthusiastic local audience around my hometown of Folsom, CA. I created this Facebook fan page and updated it with local photos every day. Soon, I had 2,000 followers. Noite the arrow pointing to the drawing (yellow text on black) for my studio.
I put links to my website everywhere (email, blog posts, articles, forum entries, comments, etc.). As the hub, I want to make sure that no matter what spoke of the marketing hub my potential clients land on, they can find their way “home.” It is critical to build several spokes around a reliable hub because as the online world evolves, you don't want to end up at a surprise dead end with a long road back home. If one of the spokes breaks or disappears, your business won't come to a standstill.
My Facebook Strategy
That being said, when I approach social media as a marketing avenue, I like to look for two things: 1) ways to stand above the crowd, and 2) how to bring people back to my website. Currently, there are two main areas where photographers are trying to build a crop of followers: Facebook and Twitter. For the purposes of this article, I'll cover what I'm doing in Facebook to bring in business and new clients. I’ve launched a custom look on my Facebook page and used it to bring in a lot of new clients in a very short period of time. So, let's get into it.
I began by coming up with something I thought my target market could rally around. At the same time, I wanted to begin building my name around town as a photographer. At this point in the game, I wasn't concerned about the type of photography they associated me with, I just wanted to get my images and name in front of a ton of people on a regular basis. To this end, I built a fan page using Facebook called I Love Folsom, CA (www.facebook.com/ilovefolsom). In my town, there's a lot of local pride. People who live in my town love it. Naturally, I began putting up photos every day of things around town, including local landmarks, flowers, public art, buildings, etc. By the end of 30 days, I had acquired 2,000 fans. I put up a new photo every morning with a banner across the bottom with my name on it and a nicely written caption. People loved it and it took off fast!
Here’s a sample photo of the day, with a caption, which I posted on my Folsom, CA fan page.
Build a base, start marketing
At the beginning of the plan, I had set a mental target of 2,000 fans before I started marketing to them for my photography business, specializing in family portraits. The second phase of my plan was to holding a drawing on my photography business Facebook page (www.facebook.com/williamfosterphotography). Why 2,000 fans? No special reason, I just wanted to make sure a lot of people became a fan of the page before I began using it for marketing. When I launched the draw, I didn't want to lose people from the fan page because it was becoming “commercial”.
Upon launch of the drawing, I decided I would still put up one new photo from around town each morning, then in the afternoon, make a status update on the page inviting fans to enter our drawing. The status update would usually say something casual like “Don't forget to enter our Free Family Portrait drawing at William Foster Photography.”. By using Facebook's @ link capability, I was able to put a live link to the page where my drawing was held. At the time of this writing (three weeks after the drawing went live), I have booked 40 family portrait sessions and have grown my mailing list by 150 qualified leads who opted in on my drawing form.
Rise Above the Noise with Static FBML
Plain Facebook fan page: This is what your fan page’s typical wall would look like. But I want to rise above the noise, so I used a tool to create a better-looking fan landing page.
I customized my business fan page using Static FBML, Facebook’s version of HTML, to design a welcoming, attractive mini-site. It’s the first thing my Facebook fans see when they go to my studio’s fan page.
As a matter of business practice, I'm never one to put all my eggs in one basket. For this draw, I did focus heavily on Facebook and worked hard to keep my visitors within the Facebook environment. Normally, I try to drive people to my website for more information, but in this case, keeping people in one place helps to solidify the experience. With that in mind, I needed a way to stand out from every other Facebook page they might see and “rise above the noise.” I utilized Facebook's Static FBML application to build a custom landing tab that functions like a mini website. I put all the immediately critical information on the landing page, which includes plenty of sample images in a slideshow, session details and pricing as well as information about me as a photographer. I did include links to my website and to the drawing entry form, so instead of taking people out of Facebook, I kept them in and directed them to exactly what I wanted from them (to enter my drawing and give me contact information).
What if you want to just have a custom landing page without a more detailed marketing system like a drawing and multiple fan pages? That's fine. Just begin your marketing with a solid plan. Decide exactly what you want your clients to do, and develop your marketing around that as a natural progression. Depending on your target market, Facebook may or may not be a perfect option for you, but as it does grow, don't overlook ways to rise above the crowd and make a big impact when people land.
In my next article, I'll cover some more detail of my custom landing tabs, how to set them up and how to set some of the options that help you make a big impact when people land on them.
William Foster is a Family and Portrait photographer based in Folsom, California.