Most professional photographers are in it for the art. You love going out and capturing the most precious moments in life with just the right amount of personality and flare. You enjoy the creativity and ingenuity you put into Aperture or Photoshop to add the fine touches on your piece. You also get excited about packing it all up in a nice gift basket to present to your client.
But how do you feel about marketing?
How do you feel about spending time building a professional portfolio, interacting with social media, developing a website, and advertising yourself to your niche community? Not exactly the most enjoyable part of your job right?But boy is it crucial! Without a proper marketing strategy, your company might end up lost among the hundreds of other photography businesses in your area. This doesn’t mean that your clients, close friends, and family are going to leave you in the dark. Over time, if your work garners enough buzz, it’s definitely going to inspire word-of-mouth recommendations and natural marketing to your business.
When clients are scarce though, you’re going to need to have a good foundation in place to work up engagement and keep new business coming in. So here are the marketing fundamentals you need to keep your current clients interested, while attracting new potential clients as well.
The Power of Social Imagery
You’ve heard it once. You’ve heard it twice. You’ve heard it a thousand times. Social media! Social media! Social media! Social media has become as much a part of our culture as search engines and the internet itself in some sectors. Whether you like it or not, it’s one of the strongest ways we as a society communicate in 2013. But ok, maybe I’m preaching to the choir here. You’re down. You know how important these platforms are. So what’s the secret? How can you use these platforms to gain more clients?
It’s all about knowing your platform. Today, there are three major players:
The main thing going for Facebook is that virtually everyone is on it. My five year old has one. My grandmother has one. Even my cat has one! But seriously, I’ve never seen such a large audience all together in one place talking about their likes and sharing their latest cool discoveries. So if you have to only choose one social network, definitely go with Facebook.
In terms of imagery, this platform is built on albums, timelines, and the “Like” system. Users find your content initially by reaching your fan page, and then receive your content regularly on their news feed by liking your page or subscribing to your updates. Your main goal here is to share your most recent work on your timeline while mentioning the client’s name through their own Facebook profile. Your clients will love the mention and their own friends and family will like your photos. From there, it’s all a domino effect. Their friend’s friends will see the photos and like it, and their friend’s friend’s friends will continue the cycle. So the key is to mention your clients along with the piece that you upload.
Side note: Remember to ASK your clients before you post pictures of them online, especially if you’re doing boudoir sessions!
From there, you can organize your photos into albums and judge the album’s success based on the number of likes and shares it receives. This goes without saying, but make sure to add your business info to all the images you upload!
Bonus Tip: Next to every post you create on your Facebook timeline, you’ll see a button with a star on the top right corner. Select it to highlight the post. This way, your image will cover the entire width of your Facebook page instead of a small thumbnail.
Twitter is the quick, concise social media outlet with a dreadfully short attention span. Almost like a subculture within a culture, this social platform plays by its own rules and demands its own brand of attention. Built on followers, your Twitter page is used for short, 140 character posts that barely leave enough room for a good tongue twister let alone engaging marketing posts.
Oh and here’s the kicker. By default, Twitter originally did not have a photo upload feature. Even nowadays, when you upload a picture, you only get a link instead of a thumbnail.
So what’s the point for photographers?
It’s all about the Hashtags. Twitter incorporated a very clever feature called “Hashtags” that allows you to highlight your tweets with certain keywords. These words are organized under its search function so that anyone who looks up that keyword will see your tweet even if they don’t follow you. This is a great way to directly categorize and address audiences based on search terms relevant to your niche community. Stuff like wedding photos, self-portraits, or professional photography. It’s so easy and so fast that you can have new people constantly looking at your content on a regular basis.
Well it’s actually Pinterest! A relative newcomer to the group, Pinterest came in with the idea that people could create their own virtual bulletin boards or scrapbooks of their favorite foods, products, places and other visual media.
Pinterest is all about repins. People repin the content you upload onto their personal boards that they categorize into appropriate niches. Let’s say you primarily work in wedding photography. You snap a couple of photos of the bride-to-be in her wedding dress, and upload them to Pinterest the next day. Maybe what really caught someone’s eye was the wedding dress itself, so the person pins it onto their “dream wedding dresses” board that they created. Then, later down the line, someone sees your pin on their board, and actually admires the photography enough that they contact you.
Boom! You’ve won a client!
Other social platforms
Google Plus, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Tumblr are social networks that in their own way, require your time and engagement as well. But for the most part they’re still nowhere near as strong as our top three contenders. Diversifying your outreach through multiple social platforms is a great way to discover new niche audiences while maximizing your exposure online.
But as busy as we are running a full-time business, it’s best to keep your engagement down to two or three platforms. This way, you can provide a ton of great content through these mediums without spending all of your time on social outreach.
Setting up an Online Niche
Another way to share you photography business is by having an online portfolio. Like a base camp of some sort where people can easily and quickly see your work. Here are a few of the best places to upload your photo portfolio:
The key here is to establish a niche.
Notice how earlier I mentioned photographers who specialized in weddings. This is an example of a niche within photography. What are your preferences in photography? Is it the outdoors? Or is it portraits? Whatever it is, you want to market yourself from that niche’s perspective, and not from the idea or concept of photography as a whole.
I can’t tell how many times I’ve seen photography portfolios littered with dozens of images from all types of niches. Sure, the images are top-notch and worthy of praise, but as soon as I go to the next portfolio and the next, I forget about them completely.
It’s because people are drawn to the content of a photo not the quality of the photo itself. I’m not saying that image quality doesn’t matter. It’s just that people will look, search and remember “that wedding photographer guy” more than they do photography in general.
Get creative with this aspect of marketing though. There are outdoor photographers by the thousands. Why not upload images that are strictly by waterfalls? There are millions of wedding photographers. Why not be that “white and black only” wedding photographer?
Don’t think of this as limiting yourself and your audience, think of it as focusing your talents to attract specific niches through a unique quality that you can call your own. And don’t think that you’re only bound to one niche, you can set up multiple portfolios but each with its own theme. The secret to a successful marketing strategy is to attract your clients based on the content, not the medium.
This article is courtesy of Vincent Clarke who generously shared his knowledge of social media marketing strategies with us. Vincent Clarke is keenly attuned to the photography business, and works with photographers every day to help them develop marketing strategies and increase the visibility of their businesses. As a marketing analyst for USB Memory Direct, a custom flash drive wholesaler, he specializes in helping photography studios achieve great marketing outcomes. To see examples of their work with photographers, check out their Portfolio.
Check out his website @ http://www.usbmemorydirect.com/