July 01, 2011 — Facebook is wonderful, not only for remaining social with friends past and present, but it is actually a perfect marketing tool for photographers. Photographers are uniquely positioned to gain much from Facebook, because Facebook is designed around connections and imagery. The vast majority of high school seniors have a Facebook account; moms are the second largest group of Facebook users. Facebook has become the buzz of the marketplace. Having a solid, well-maintained presence on Facebook is fast becoming a key element to any portrait marketing strategy.
At our studio, we take Facebook very seriously.
I was raised in the professional portrait business. I am very proud of our excellent reputation for quality portraits, customer service and consistent and effective marketing. We built our company on word of mouth, mass mailings and displays in malls, doctor's offices and salons. We've strived to remain on the cutting edge of social interaction for the past three decades. I personally made the move to incorporate social media into our marketing five years ago with MySpace, and now with Facebook, blogging and Twitter. We have seen an incredible response from our involvement, as we are now known as THE Facebook friendly photographer. But our Facebook marketing plan goes beyond random image posting and status updates. Here are eight concepts you should be utilizing for an effective Facebook strategy:
1. Your Facebook Page URL. We would have never told a client to look for our company phone number in the yellow pages where they would see our competition, so don’t ever ask your clients to search for you on Facebook. Know your URL and put it on every marketing piece you send out and share it often when a client calls with questions. We don’t assume our prospective clients are going to take that much time to find us. I have, in years past, purchased a domain that would forward or redirect clients to our Facebook page. However, we learned that without ‘Facebook’ in the address, we’re disassociating ourselves from their world in an unnecessary manner. We have found that knowing and publishing our official Facebook address has driven many clients to our page in a very easy and logical way. Once your Facebook page is created and you have attracted 30 fans, you are eligible for a vanity address such as Facebook.com/yourstudioname.
2. Properly Linking Your Online Trinity. A great social media team has three players: A Facebook page, an official company web site and a blog. These should all be linking to each other directly in very easy to find places. When a client is on your Facebook and would like more detailed information, she should be able to quickly click to go to the blog or Web site. A key element to keep in mind is that your message should not be different on each Web site, rather particular aspects amplified. Facebook is about connecting, your Web site is about your image and your blog is about the details. Like a great trinity, they should be one, but with specific roles.
3. Consistency with Image Postings
We have firm rules on this:
Every client gets all of his/her purchased images for Facebook as quickly as possible.
I don’t want them to ever feel they have to scan their images to share online. They’re going to post their images online anyway, so give them high quality images to share with their world. Make it your responsibility. Make the images look better for Facebook and they’ll put them in front of all of your prospective clients, with your logo.
Every Facebook image is perfectly retouched with a sizeable (but not obnoxious) logo.
Have you ever forgotten to send out a marketing piece without your company logo or contact information? Then why would we send out tiny marketing pieces with absolutely no mention of our company? Make the logo respectful of the image, create something that fits, but is not the only component of the image your eyes are drawn to. An obnoxious logo will prevent posting and they may revert back to scanning. Tasteful logo placement is great marketing and prospective clients talk. An obnoxious logo could prevent clients from coming if they think you’re only about self-promotion.
We size every Facebook image to 5x7 at 72dpi. We’ve found this size to be too small to print, but perfectly sized to view online.
Images are uploaded via our Facebook Page and the client is tagged for shared ownership.
Tagging is making the necessary connection when a beautiful image is posted. Sure the logo does a great deal of promotion, but having an easy click back to your studio Facebook page makes all the difference. Friendship with a client is necessary for this; therefore it’s vital to add a client as a friend early on in your relationship.
4. Profile Picture. The profile picture on your page should be one of your best images. If you're a senior photographer it should be of a girl or boy from the current class you’re trying to attract, or from one of your best children clients. Change occasionally, but make the change a big deal. Make an announcement that a new profile pic has been chosen and make that client feel that little bit of celebrity. If you are properly active on Facebook, this image will be very important, as it will be seen very often. Choose wisely because, as with every move you make in social media, your company’s reputation stands on it.
5. Status updates should be relevant and to the point.
A status should never be your personal thoughts on religion, politics, or your competition. A great status update talks about new things going on at the studio, with client benefits for the current class, or sale events in the near future. While relevant status updates are well received, obnoxious updaters lose friends.
Don’t give a company bio as a status update. So often I see, "We are a full-service studio, etc. We take the best senior, children, newborn, wedding, commercial, preschool and soccer team pictures in the area. Call today." This is a blatant waste of time that will lead your Facebook friends to wonder why they’re even friends with you. Something along the lines of "Bethel Park Class of 2012, don’t forget about our One Day Sale this Wednesday. 80% off session fees! 724.743.5700" would be a better use of that space.
6. Be vigilant of your wall, comments, likes and messages. Whether by virus, bored friends or actual client interaction, your Facebook page will experience activity. Being aware of everything that happens to your page keeps your image and reputation in solid working order. Remember that we want clients to visit our Facebook page, in fact we send them there with our marketing, so make sure that we’re never sending clients to inappropriate material. Spammers exist and the content they leave on your page can be anything from bogus links to scams.
Always have notifications sent to your email so that if a negative comment, a spammer, or any activity that could be a negative expression of your company can be squelched immediately. It’s wonderful to get an email notification of someone raving about how great your company is, as well.
7. Make being a fan of your page a Benefit. Ask for fans in your marketing and make it worth their while to be a friend of your company. We give Facebook images to every client with the only stipulation being that they must be our fan on Facebook. This is so we can tag their images, but additionally, having a solid base of fans is a good evidence of your company’s legitimacy in the Facebook world. Having mutual friends is a plus when someone visits your page.
8. Answer quickly and affirmatively. Answer tagging requests quickly. A few years back we were at a homecoming football game. We took some crowd shots and posted them on Facebook. A freshman girl came across the images, spotted herself and requested to be tagged. I allowed the tag and requested her friendship. This year she became a model representative for our studio based on an announcement I made only to Facebook fans. I responded quickly and affirmatively and this year she is our model.
Facebook is the new catch-22. Your hand is somewhat forced as you have to use it, but when you do you’ll find it to be one of the greatest marketing tools you can master. I do suggest balance, however. It is terribly important to maintain a good balance between your social media and your traditional marketing efforts. You are in business today because at some point you were successful at other marketing mediums, including word of mouth, before Facebook, don’t lose sight of their effectiveness. We maintain a steady flow of traffic on our blog and Facebook, but we are sending clients there by our mailings, mall displays and great word of mouth efforts such as model representatives. Facebook is free to use, therefore you’re not the only one of your competition using it. Find your own ways to rise above the fray. I can tell you, high quality portraits, great customer service and strategic marketing will always set you apart.
Kevin Redford has been the Director of Communications and a Photographer for Redford Photography in Pittsburgh, Pa for the past 12 years. He can be reached via his blog at www.kevinredford.com.