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Before venturing into the world of commercial photography I used to work as a public relations professional, specializing in social media consulting and strategies. There I helped a number of different corporations, non-profits and individuals craft social media strategies that fit their needs. Those same principles can be easily translated to help photographers maximize their effectiveness with social media. So I’m happy to share with you ideas and advice learned over the years.
A content strategy may sound fancy, but essentially it means one thing… know what you want to talk about and how you want your online brand to be perceived. It should be an extension of who you are as a person, but also the things that interest you. Do you want your social media postings to be from a strictly business standpoint, or do you want to mix some personal items in there as well? Are you a fan of posting inspirational quotes, or would you rather stick to pure facts and advice? How about letting people know what you’re up to on a daily basis, or only posting when you think it’s of help to your followers?
These are all things to consider in forming a content strategy. Each person is different and there isn’t one method that works best. Ultimately it should have a feeling of who you are attached to it. Ultimately, try to avoid any posts on politics or religions, as they are often very controversial and can have a negative impact on your business.
Make sure what you’re posting aligns with how you want your brand to be perceived. Are you the fun and bubbly wedding photographer, or the deep and brooding fashion photographer? Whatever you’re posting make sure it sounds like you and stays consistent with what your fans know of you. For example if you’re a maternity and baby photographer that routinely talks about your love for little hands and little toes and chubby cheeks and all the cute things that are babies, and then you let fly a post something along the lines of, “wow, some babies are really ugly,” that is not going to have a good impact with the audience you have built up to this point. Sure, some babies are ugly. But keep those thoughts to yourself or amongst your inner circle of friends/family. No one wants to think their baby is ugly, or that you might talk about how ugly their baby is in your social network.
A conversion ratio is the number of people that will follow you on Twitter, like you on Facebook or sign up for your newsletter if they happen to land on your page. Say you convert 1 of 10 people who land on your page, or 1 in 5, there are ways to help boost this ratio.
A great way is by creating a custom landing page on Facebook or background design on Twitter. A custom page is the first thing someone will see when they arrive to your page. It has been shown to convert a viewer to a fan (yes I know it’s “like” now but calling someone a “liker” just sounds patently awkward) at almost twice the percentage! That’s a big leap toward growing your social media audience. I’ve got a collection of photos on my own landing page and a sign-up form to my newsletter. It’s helped build my database and social network greatly. The good folks over at Mashable have a great step-by-step article on how to set up a landing page.
Much of the same principle applies to a background design on Twitter. And if you haven’t uploaded a profile photo yet you’re likely to get very few followers, as most will think you’re a new spam-bot account.
At the end of the day retaining fans/followers comes down to content. If someone isn’t interested in what you have to say, they’re not going to stick around for long. Make sure your content strategy is helping as best as it can here.
Once you know what you want your content strategy to be, you can get started on creating an editorial calendar. This is something every magazine around the globe uses to determine what their focus is going to be for each edition. You can use the same idea to success. Try planning a general theme for each month. Let’s say April is “Learning the Exposure Triangle” and May is “Taking Better Landscapes.” If you can loosely post on that theme throughout the month you’ve created a content schedule that doesn’t always have you wandering across the map and wondering what to post each day/week.
You can break your editorial calendar down even further by week and by day. If May is “Taking Better Landscapes” then perhaps week one can be about the best time of the day for landscapes, and week two can be about finding interesting compositions, etc. Break that down further by week and Tuesday’s could be a day for inspirational quotes from famous landscape photographers, Thursday’s could be your educational blog post day and Saturday’s could be sharing a landscape photo. You get the idea. The key is consistency using mixed media.
No one is denying that social media definitely takes a lot of time to manage. It can be overwhelming if you have a lot on your plate, but there are plenty of ways to make the process easier. Many programs allow you to actually enter in everything you’re going to post for a set amount of time and schedule it to post on an exact day and time of the week or month.
My personal favorite is Hootsuite. You could spend an entire day at the beginning of each month writing out everything you’d like to post for the month – following your content strategy and editorial calendar – and then schedule it to Hootsuite to post through the month. Voila! Now you don’t even have to worry about it the rest of the month. It’s great to keep checking on your posts and responding to fan interaction and questions, but at least you don’t have to worry about making daily or weekly posting a part of your routine.
If you’re trying to juggle a number of social networks – Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, Tumblr, etc. then it can often be beneficial to link the accounts. When you post to one of them, you post to all of them, or a selected number of them. The cautionary note here is that “posting etiquette” is different for each of the mediums. While one Facebook post per day is considered a good max, you could post 4-10 times per day on Twitter. But if you’ve linked your Twitter to Facebook, you’re likely to appear as very spammy. The audience for each is different as well. Your Facebook fans are not the same as your business contacts on Linked-In. Make sure you’re not pestering them with info they don’t care about. Play around to see if you can find the right balance that allows you to save a bit of managing without losing fans to the spam factor.
Give all these methods a whirl and you’ll have a stronger audience and better grasp on social media.