Why a Strong Brand Online is Worth More Than Your Skill Set

[by Pascal Depuhl]

Your clients are looking for a strong brand

We hired you, because your online persona matches our brand.” That’s the reason my brand new client gives me when I meet them at a coffee shop in downtown Miami to finalize our upcoming shoot. It’s not the first time I’m hearing this either. Several clients recently have commented that how I’ve branded my online presence played a significant role in their decision to hire me. 2014 has been the year where my clients are starting to think about how they can leverage my online brand for their benefit.

A strong brand online gets you photography assignments – even if you’re not a photographer

Nordstrom Instalog.jpg

Images from Nordstrom’s Instalog.

OK,” you think, “Nice that this works for you, but how do I know that this is a national trend and not just your experience?” Did you know that Nordstrom hired 11 popular Instagram shooters to create an online “Instalog” to promote their fall collection? Wanna guess how many of them where professional photographers? Two. But all have a strong brand on Instagram. “The photographers were selected not for their portfolios, but instead for their rather large Instagram followings.” writes David Willis in Digital Photo Pro. Instead of seeing this as the end of professional photography, look at this as an opportunity to set yourself apart from your competition by building a super strong brand online.

Instalog shooters

Nordstrom hired these 11 shooters with a strong brand on Instagram.

Your online brand turns the ‘you as a search result’ into a strong real life relationships

Social media is part of how we build business relationships today. Of course excellent photography and video production is still expected, but recently I’ve seen my clients starting to look for more. The couple at the coffee shot is launching a Kickstarter campaign for a brand new product line. What are the chances of you getting work from them by underbidding me? Slim to none, because I fit their brand and we have built a strong relationship.  A  few months earlier it was a company listed on the Fortune 1000, that asked me to share the video projects I create for them with my social network. They want to use my online branding to reach a different audience.

The good news: You don’t need to have a massive audience to have a strong brand

To be fair, I don’t have a huge Twitter following or a Facebook audience of ten’s of thousands, but my Klout score puts me in the top 10% of all Social Media Influencers and that’s a pretty good start towards building a strong brand.

Klout Score.jpg

Honestly it’s not hard work, but you need to be diligent and it does take some time. I’ve been using LinkedIn to promote my work for over 10 years now. I’ve been hired straight from a Facebook friend request. On Thanksgiving, you read about the #ThankYouThursday campaign I’ve been running this year on Twitter.

If you haven’t already started building your social footprint, it’s not too late to start. Check out which social media platform may work best for you. For a great primer, check out Gary Vaynerchuck’s (@GaryVee) book: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.

How are you going to strengthen your online brand?

Where am I going from here? 2014 was also the year that I realized I am focusing on the wrong audience. Almost all of my content is geared to fellow photographers and filmmakers, but not towards the people that actually hire me. Redesigning my blog has been the first step.  Exploring new content types is the next step. Looking for new places to share content is another one.

Looking forward to 2015, I am concentrating on figuring out what art buyers, creative directors and agency folks are interested in reading and watching online.

  • What are your plans for 2015 when it comes to your online strategy?
  • How do you use your online presence to make yourself more valuable for potential and existing clients?
  • What’s the biggest success story you’ve had that you can trace back to your online audience?

Looking for help? Our friends at eMyth are giving away $9,000.- in free business coaching, designed to help you stick to your New Years Resolutions in 2015. Check it out #HoldMeToIt

Pascal Depuhl has been leveraging social media to connect with new customers for over a decade. Contact him on twitter @photosbydepuhl if you have any specific questions of how Social Media can help your business.

By Pascal Depuhl | Posted: December 22nd, 2014 | 2 comments


2 Responses to 'Why a Strong Brand Online is Worth More Than Your Skill Set'

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  1. As encouragement for anyone discouraged by the story of the Nordstrom job above, many chosen are actually professional stylists (the same people we’d hire to style our shoots, not just random people posting selfies) and they don’t even have 10′s of thousands of followers.

    By Eric F | Dec 22, 2014


  2. Eric,

    You are correct, some of the 11 are stylists. And their follower counts (again you’re correct) start from the low 3,000′s but go up to over 1,000,000 on the high end! Between them they reach over 2.25 MILLION followers on Instagram.

    No it’s not random people posting selfies, but it’s also not professional photographers (whom I assume Nordstom still uses for all their ‘normal’ advertising, marketing and sales material) that are being used for this project.

    I’m not lamenting the fact that Nordstrom didn’t hire pros. All I’m saying is that if we don’t actively build a strong brand for our businesses online, we are ignoring a new way to market.

    I’ve written a bit more on this on my blog: http://blog.depuhl.com/strong-online-brand/

    Thanks for your comments and have a very Merry Christmas and an awesome productive and Happy New Year in 2015. (Nice beauties on your photography website btw :)

    By Pascal | Dec 22, 2014



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