Spotlight on...A start up’s guide to marketing, the social way.


As a fairly recent start up myself, just passing my first year of business, I know all about the bombardment of phone calls and emails you receive as soon as your website, blog or business listing hits the internet. With a hunger to get new clients through the door as soon as you can, it is so tempting to take out every advertising offer that comes your way with the hope that the 300-odd quid you’ve just charged to your credit card will be the start of a flurry of enquiries that will have the masses beating down your door….right?

As someone that’s been there and done that and in the end, not got the T.shirt, I want to share with you my experiences with some fantastic resources that are just awesome for spreading the word about your new business and are FREE!..yes, that’s F-R-E-E.

What I’m talking about are those once procrastination-inducing, coffee break time wasting, little ditties we call social networks. Yes, from this point onwards you should no longer see these online applications as just ways to check out your buddy’s stag do pictures or ways to build your virtual farm communities, they are now your best friends as they are such powerful marketing tools.

It was estimated that in July 2010, over 500 million people around the world had a Facebook profile and that number continues to grow. So with all these potential clients for the taking, don’t you think you should be making the most of it?

Here are my top ten tips for maximising social networks for your photography business and they wont cost you a thing. Please note that of course, some of you guys will disagree with my approach, but this is just what has worked for me and my photography business:

1. ‘Your Fan club starts here’

First things first, set up a Facebook fan page. It may seem a bit pretentious at the start of your photography career to build a place for all your adoring fans to congregate, but it really is so important in today’s environment.
2. ‘The power of tagging
So you’ve just finished editing an awesome wedding and the bride is over the moon with the results. Make some low-res, watermarked versions of the best images using a program like the fabulous ‘Blogstomp’ and upload them to your fan page. Then seek out all the people you remember the names of who were at the wedding, ‘friend’ them on Facebook and then start to tag them in your images. You have just hit the first domino in the line. Soon the tagged guests will see themselves in the images, comment on how great they look, their friends will then see them too, etc etc and before you know it, your images will have reached hundreds and hundreds of potential clients virally.
3. ‘Your own virtual secretary’
So you’ve just updated your Facebook status telling all your new fans about your great new portrait offer. ‘But Ross’ you say, ‘I’m now such a social networking fiend I’ve now got to now do the same for my Twitter, MySpace, wordpress & Skype accounts’. Fret not! For starters, you can configure your Facebook Fan Page statuses to automatically update the same message on your Twitter account, but for uber-awesomeness check out Ping. This sexy little tool allows you to link all your social network accounts together so you post once on Ping and then they’re all updated! Smart huh?
4. ‘Joe Bloggs Photography is now following Ipswich Sewer drainage Inc.’
First rule of Twitter club, nobody talks about Twitter club. Second rule of Twitter club, GO FOLLOW AS MANY LOCAL BUSINESSES AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN! You may at the moment only be following the usual (Stephen Fry & a fake Steve Jobs account) but you need to be making this work for your business. It doesn’t matter in the slightest if the businesses do not really align with yours; it’s all about building brand awareness and the more local businesses that know about you the better.
5. ‘Give back and they will follow’
If you’re going to have a twitter account you’ve got to promote that warm, friendly person that you are. So as well as promoting your latest offers, remember to have a healthy mix of engaging in conversation with others and giving back to your new found friends. Know a great way to get red wine out of a carpet? Post it!, Heard about a great new offer for deal on business card printing? Post it! Once your followers see that you post some really cool and interesting stuff they’ll take note and you’ll soon see your follower list grow and grow.
6. ‘Lights, Camera, Action!’
YouTube is another fantastic medium that you should exploit. See that mobile phone that is pretty much glued to your hand 24-7? That’s probably got a video camera function on it, so do your hair, put on your best shirt and do your own little commercial! Or maybe a tutorial on off camera flash? A short video each month, uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo all linked back to your website, blog , Facebookand Twitter cant be too bad for your SEO now can it?
7. ‘The power of the album’
Prospective wedding clients love to see the kind of albums that you are producing, so why not share your previous designs with your Facebook community like you now do for your images? They can either be posted as single pages in a photo album or if you’re a bit more savvy, maybe a snazzy virtual book in flash, the choice is yours, but your prospective clients are going to love this one.
8. ‘Taking Facebook outside of Facebook’
So you’ve now got all these loyal fans that are following you, but you’ve noticed that a lot of them have really dodgy profile pics… you following me here? :-)
You’re right! You’re going to run a Facebook promotion where the offer is to book in for a session at your studio or in their home and you’ll get some cool images and they’ll get to choose one digital file for their Facebook image. Of course, you’ll also be happy to sell on the other amazing images to them wont you :-)
9. ‘Love thy neighbour’
I’m a big believer in Karma and so should you be in this business, so reach out every once in a while and use your social network resources to promote other new businesses promotions you may have heard of through a quickFacebook status update or blog post. They’ll really appreciate it, it strengthens your relationship with other new businesses and will soon boost your profile within your local business community ten fold.
10. ‘Keep it separate’
This last point is so, so important. Every day I see so many people make the mistake of blurring the divide between their business and personal profiles. If you ‘re running with both a personal and business profile in Facebook say, make sure the content in each sticks strictly to those categories. For example, don’t rant or use bad language in a status update on your business profile. Another common mistake is don’t post the pictures of last Saturday night of you out with the lads asleep in a shopping trolley in the town centre. Your Clients will not appreciate this.
And that's it! I hope you enjoyed this post. I'd love for you guys to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for listening. RD

Ross Dean is a wedding photographer based in Ipswich, Suffolk offering his clients fresh, fun and vibrant fashion inspired imagery.