There were a number of themes developed during my social media marketing workshop with members of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography SA branch last week, that might be worth tucking into an album for future reference.
They centered around taking time to focus our efforts on the audience so that the subject of our work can be presented in the best possible light.
What I enjoyed the most was the reflective depth of questions I fielded, which means there will be an enriching gallery of social media activity from AIPP SA members on display in social networks near you very soon.
Why are you engaging in social media marketing?
The biggest question we pondered on the day was "why", why are we doing what we do.
Some of this was drawn from the work of Simon Sinek's Start With Why book and process. I have explored that in a previous article entitled, My Why, my Why, my kingdom for a Why: How you can unlock drive and clarity with Simon Sinek’s Start With Why process.
The core principle here is that if we can uncover the deeper motivations that drive us to do what we do, and if those motivations are perceived by others as valuable and inspiring, these qualities will be communicated in everything we do at a sub-language level.
I have gone through this process during the year and arrived at this current iteration of my why: I thrive on helping people articulate and share the value their enterprise can bring to the world.
The simple act of honing that insight continues to give me an extra spring in my step and enables me to refocus ahead of meetings and project work.
For the photographers in the room that day, there were some lights going on in the darkrooms of their minds as they took the opportunity of the AIPP event to reconnect with the passions and curiosities that drove them towards photography in the first place.
However, just like every other business owner on the planet, the busyness of life also robs photographers of this important "down time" for calibrating our compasses.
Who are you trying to engage through your social media marketing?
Another important strand from the day involved thinking deeply about our ideal customers and clients.
But we didn't just do this in a superficial way of picking a broad, sweeping demographic like "women aged 25 to 45", but instead we got into the settings of businesses and chose a particular persona to work with on the day.
A personal is a fully fleshed-out human being, typically based on an existing or previous client, for whom your business and approach and "why" is a perfect fit.
We used a number of exercises drawn from the realms of Design Thinking or Human-Centred Design, to add depth and nuance to our personas.
We thought about not only their demographic qualifiers like age, income, location, family status, education, etc, but we sifted through snippets of things they'd said and imagined things they'd felt, to help build a more complete picture.
Armed with these insights, we were then able to frame our content creation ideas in ways that would not only make sense to our personas but that would also be interesting, helpful, and/or entertaining.
Where will you be practicing your social media marketing?
The third strand of the day (or third leg of the tripod if I wanted to go over the top with my photographic allusions) involved the strengths and weakness of particular social media channels for professional photographers.
This is the jewel in the crown for photographers because this social media channel is all about images and, in particular, quality images.
We discussed the importance of making sure your Instagram profile (and all social media profiles) were up-to-date, helpful, and consistent across all properties.
For Instagram, where you only get one active, external link (as a general rule), this link needs to be used carefully. The link is based in your bio and we discussed using it to link to a custom page on your website that is NOT your homepage but rather is a special page designed to welcome and guide visitors from Instagram to key content, or using a service like linktr.ee which achieves the same end but doesn't require webmaster skills.
Another pointer was the importance of using hashtags or mentions in posts, to help boost the discoverability of your social media activity. Using #topic or @username is a simple way to get noticed faster. In a similar vein, selecting a location for all posts can help boost natural or organic visibility for local Instagram users in the area around the place where you "checked in".
After we all laughed awkwardly about this monolithic social media platform, we agreed that for all its faults (and there are many), it is still the place that has "everybody" connected.
To that end, we discussed the importance of having a Facebook Business Page because it gives you a toehold in Facebook and a simple connection to Messenger, the messaging app by Facebook that is one of the most downloaded and used apps in the world.
We also discussed the approach to writing captions that will draw people into your work. Instead of just sharing a photo or video or link to a blog post, we saw how taking time to write a caption that explains why you think something is worth sharing is a much more likely way to grab attention.
LinkedIn has two important roles to play for professional photographers or any other business owner for that matter.
Firstly, it is a personal insurance policy to keep your name and experience (your LinkedIn profile is basically an online, living and breathing CV) current and accessible should life step in and change your world overnight. If you suddenly need to start apply for jobs rather than be running your own business, a pre-established profile is going to look more considered and stable to recruiters.
Secondly, through your personal profile or, ideally, your LinkedIn Company Page, you have a platform for sharing insights that link your work to business needs. What is the value of a professional portrait? How can the simple act of preparing for a photographer's visit lead you to tie up loose ends on your premises as well as within your systems and marketing mindset?
LinkedIn is a great gift of focus!
Other social media channels
We also discussed a number of other social media channels from niche platforms to Pinterest and YouTube, and arrived at an heuristic (a rule of thumb to apply to decision-making) to apply to our engagement there.
If our personas are likely to use these other social media channels, or people who influence our personas (from journalists to the great god Google itself), then we need to consider how it might be valuable for us to be involved.
But we are all stretched for time, so we will need to prioritise where and how we spend our time and effort. This might mean that although a particular platform might be worthy of our time, we won't get involved until we're sure it won't lead us to dropping the ball in other channels.
One way to manage this dilemma is to schedule content in advance, to make sure we stay present in the social media channels we have elected to use. Hootsuite, Buffer, and other tools (Facebook even has Creator Studio for scheduling content within its own ecosystem, which is highly advised) can help us make efficient use of one, two, or three dedicated social media marketing appointments with ourselves each week.
In conclusion, social media marketing is simply an avenue for helping you share worthwhile content to raise awareness of your products and services with your personas, or to help them understand they made a great choice in choosing to work with you.
I hope you embrace social media confidently and use it to share your unique way of looking at the world, for as Oscar Wilde said (and could have said to photographers): To look at a thing is very different from seeing it. Please help us "see things" more deeply.
If we can find our authentic, intrinsic motivation for what we do, get clarity about who will make the best fit for our business, then social media can be a valuable place for helping our enterprise get talked about.