It’s hard to remember a time before life was all about likes, shares, double-taps and swiping left. Social media has become such a huge part of our lives and I can’t think of a single business out there that doesn’t rely on it for their marketing. I mean why not, it’s free and everyone is on it, right? I’ve come across (more times than I can count) photographers and other creatives who rely solely on their Facebook business page and don’t have an actual website or any other form of non-social media presence. To those people, I always ask one question:
If Facebook decided to shut down tomorrow and suddenly ceased to exist, how would people find your business?
I mean, really. Think about it. What would you do without Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or day I say it… Pinterest?? (Insert shocked face emoji here) All of these platform are so beneficial but at the end of the day, they’re all free. Trends come and go and there’s no telling if or when the day will come that the social media giants will fall. Could you survive without social media exposure or would your bottom line take a massive hit? Where else will people be able to find you? #foodforthought
I “officially” started my first business in 2009, just as website forums were starting to fizzle out and Facebook was on its way to becoming king. I had a Facebook business page, of course (remember when “likes” used to be “fans”?), but I relied mostly on my website and word of mouth for new leads. All of the most popular photographers of the time drew me into their work not with Facebook posts, but with blog posts. It’s amazing to think how drastically the marketing game has changed in just under a decade. If you’re relying solely on social media for new business you’re missing out on a lot of great marketing opportunities.
Need a little help breaking your mind away from the social media rabbit hole? Here are 5 ideas to help your business get real life likes and shares.
1. Network! Introverts (like yours truly), this might be a tough one for you. But it is so important! If you’re a wedding photographer you know that making strong connections with the top local vendors will get you far. Attend conferences and conventions in your field, set up a booth at a bridal show or local fair, socialize with other vendors. Invite your favorite florist for coffee and talk about how you can help promote each other. Gather together a group of photographers and have lunch, this is a fabulous way to gain trust and start sharing referrals with each other. If your business is primarily online and you don’t directly serve the local area, try having a virtual coffee date (Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.) with other people in your industry! I’m heading to the Showit United conference next month and while I’m insanely nervous about meeting so many people I know that it’s a great opportunity to meet other like-minded professionals and maybe even hand out some business cards.
**Side note: I am one of the designers participating in one-on-one coaching sessions at United, so if you’ll be attending and you’d like a website, branding or SEO review I’d love to meet with you!
2. Referral programs. Guys, this one is huge. Word of mouth is an incredibly powerful thing (for better or for worse) and using a referral program has the potential to be a friggin’ goldmine if you play your cards right. For those of you not familiar with referral programs, it’s basically a rewards system for your best clients that send you new bookings. Maybe you offer a Mom a complimentary 8×10 print for every session she sends you. Gift your bride a box of chocolates and a print credit for every wedding she refers you or offer your web clients an Amazon gift card for every new client they send your way. Referral programs, senior reps, affiliate programs… they’re all pretty much along the same idea. You pat my back, I pat yours. (I mean, who doesn’t like free stuff??)
Take your best clients and turn them into your biggest cheerleaders.
3. Carry business cards with you. (Yes, business cards are still a thing.) Hand them out everywhere! At the grocery store, at play dates, at yoga class. Leave some at your child’s daycare. Keep some in your wallet for those random times that you run into a local vendor that you’d love to partner with. Leave one with your check before you leave a restaurant. (But be sure to leave a memorable tip first!) Hand those things out like Halloween candy!
As I mentioned above, I’m headed to Showit United next month. So I created some really fabulous business cards (shoutout to Moo.com!!) that showcase both my photography business and my design business. For these I chose to focus on my website (both Showit sites, of course!) and social handles.
4. Email lists. Mailing lists have picked up a ton of steam in recent years. One of the biggest reasons for this was Facebook’s limiting reach on business posts. (Ahhhh, the joys of free social media…) The idea here is that you get people to join your list and then you can send them updates, advertisements, etc directly to their inbox. Maybe you want to sell a course, or share a fantastic new blog post you wrote or give exclusive access to your next set of mini sessions. A mailing list is a great way to do that!
The two big names these days are MailChimp and ConvertKit. I personally only have (embarrassingly limited) experience with MailChimp but I have read raving reviews about ConvertKit and if you’re serious about keeping up with your list, it’s worth the investment.
Remember… you can NOT go through your contacts and just add everyone all willy-nilly to your mailing list. Subscribers have to opt in and agree to receive emails from you. There also has to be a clear way for them to unsubscribe from your list as well. Offering a freebie is a great way to sweeten the pot and get subscribers! You can give brides a PDF of 5 tips for planning their wedding day timeline or offer a free spreadsheet to help creatives set their financial goals. Give away a Trello board template or have an exclusive coupon code just for subscribers. The possibilities are endless!
And last, but certainly not least…
5. Have a kick-@$$ website with phenomenal SEO! SEO (search engine optimization) isn’t just the latest buzzword in a world full of trends, it’s actually a pretty big deal. (Big, HUGE! *name that movie) When people aren’t turning to their friends or social media to find businesses they’re turning to the almighty Google. And if you don’t have a website, you’re missing out on a major marketing opportunity. But simply having a website isn’t enough. It has to be GOOD. It has to be designed well and tell people not just what you offer but WHO you are. It should be eye-catching, informative and easy to use on both desktop and mobile devices.
Having a strong mobile site is SO important, but that’s something we’ll touch on in a future post. For now, I’ll summarize by quoting a Moz article: “Mobile-first indexing is exactly what it sounds like. It just means that the mobile version of your website becomes the starting point for what Google includes in their index, and the baseline for how they determine rankings.” (Click here to read more.)
These days social media may be your online voice, but your website is your home. If Facebook was wiped from existence tomorrow, you’d still have your home. Your own little piece of real estate in the vastness of the internet.
>>> Check out Showit.co to learn more about my absolute favorite website builder
>>> Interested in outsourcing your Showit website design? I’d love for you to see what I have to offer!
>>> Join the Fuel Your Photos Facebook group for honest, no fluff SEO & marketing advice
>>> Ready to get hands on with some intense SEO knowledge? Check out Corey’s brand new course from Fuel Your Photos!
>>> For content writing and Google Analytics setup, check out Eleventy 7 Marketing
If you’re joining me at the Showit United conference next week, I’d love to meet with you and talk about your website!
>> Click here to sign up for a free one on one 30 minute website coaching session with me at United <<