Social networking sites help individuals and organizations maintain and expand their circle of influence. Each provides a different set of tools, including status updates, commenting, like/dislike functions, chats, discussions and more, that allow users to broadcast and receive information from each other in a variety of ways.
In general, social networking sites should be viewed as marketing tools, not direct sales tools. Strive to create posts that are conversational, informative, entertaining or interesting to your audience. Information about your business, including discounts or incentives, can qualify as informative, interesting and even entertaining — but proceed with caution. Most users have little tolerance for anything that feels like spam and will quickly remove you from their network if you abuse their trust.
Used properly, social networking provides a unique opportunity to maintain top-of-mind awareness with a wide range of people by providing a constant stream of small, easy to digest reminders that show them who you are, what you do and, above all, how their relationship with you adds value to their lives.
Social Networking can be an invaluable addition to any photographer’s marketing strategy. Use Social Networking to:
- Stay in touch with past, current and prospective clients
- Research and identify new prospects
- Connect with peers
- Study competitors
- Engage with experts
- Expand your mailing list
- Get referrals
- Drive people to your website and blog
- Announce accomplishments
- Promote activities, projects or events
- Establish yourself as a valuable resource or expert
Like all marketing tools, how you use social networking will depend on whom you’re trying to reach and what you’re trying to accomplish. Photographers engaged in broadcast marketing, where it’s all about reaching as many people as possible, will need to take a very different approach to social networking than those focused on relationship marketing, where connecting with specific individuals matters most. Where you fall on that spectrum will influence everything from the mix of personal and professional information you include to how much cross-posting between channels makes sense for your audience.
Regardless of your goals, though, social networking should be viewed as a long-term process that will help you build a reputation, over time, as a valuable, reliable and trusted resource.
Using Social Networking Effectively
- Research first. Before diving into social networking, spend some time lurking. Get to know the protocols and etiquette for the specific channels you’re interested in before actively posting.
- Follow your audience. Figure out the demographics you want to connect with the most. Learn where they spend their social networking time and concentrate on establishing a presence in those vehicles.
- Be engaging. Offer information that your target demographics are interested in. Strive to provide information that’s valuable, useful or entertaining enough to inspire your audience to share it with their network.
Growing your network:
- Batch import your contacts. Rather than entering names one at a time, gather the list of people you want to connect with into your gMail account, Apple Address Book or Microsoft Outlook database. Use the functionality built into most social networking sites to automatically generate invitations to your list.
- Look for key influencers. The viral nature of social networking allows your message to spread far beyond your immediate circle. By engaging established influencers — people who themselves have large active followings — you create the opportunity to spread your message to their audiences as well as your own.
- Differentiate your social networking presence. Think about ways you can use social networking that will help you stand out from the crowd. Even little things like writing a customized invitation to connect message instead of using the default language can help people remember you.
- Choose frequency over volume. Posting a single image every day generates more opportunities to connect than posting a gallery of 60 images every other month. Spending five minutes updating your social network six times per day will grow your presence faster than a single 30-minute effort.
- Build social equity. Many participants of social networking sites recognize a certain quid pro quo in their interactions. By commenting, liking, following, re-tweeting and re-posting other people’s postings, you increase the likelihood that they will do the same for you.
- Build a “Marketing Circle”. Ideally each of your marketing efforts supports all of your other marketing efforts. Make it easy for people to go from your business card, website, portfolio, reel, blog, mailers and e-mails to your social networking channels. Third-party sites such Flavors.me or About.me make it easy to link all of your channels to a single URL.
- Take it out of cyberspace. Once you’ve established a relationship and built some social equity, invite contacts to join your mailing list, come to an opening, review your portfolio, do an informational interview, etc. For most photographers, social networking relationships become much more valuable when they cross over into real one-on-one contact.
Efficient Social Networking
- Minimize your time investment by using third-party browser or dashboard-style applications such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Twidroyd orFlipboard to manage multiple social networking sites from a single interface. New tools are being developed all the time, and some work better on certain platforms or devices than others, so take the time to research your options.
- Set up your mobile devices to connect with all of your social networking sites so you can update from anywhere at any time.
- Depending on your goals and audience, you may want to broadcast all of your social networking messages through all of your channels or limit cross-posting to key messages like announcing when a new blog post is live. Either way, using automation tools that handle cross-posting for you can save enormous amounts of time. Most social networking channels offer some cross-posting functionalities. Some third-party dashboard applications (see above) also let you set up and control cross-posting.