Getting the attention of clients annoyed by phone calls, emails and pitches is a big challenge. In his seminar titled “Building Audience in the Age of Distraction,” PhotoShelter CEO Andrew Fingerman explained why those old methods of self-promotion no longer work, and what photographers should do instead.
“Stop selling now. Start building an audience [on social media] that will stick around and care about your content,” he said, during his talk at PhotoPlus Expo 2017.
Fingerman explained that clients see themselves as “crazy busy,” partly because their attention is so diverted by Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms that have all of us checking our smartphones an average of 47 times per day.
Clients no longer answer their phones. They don’t have time to read emails, and feel productive when they delete unread mail. “They don’t want to be pitched to,” Fingerman says. “Nobody wants the sales call that interrupts their day, but they’re OK interrupting themselves” multiple times a day to check social media. “They have time for a self-guided journey into the content platform of their choice.”
He noted, “This presents an opportunity” for photographers who can build audience on social media. That way, all of those social-media addicted clients can find you in their own time, when they need and want you.
He proceeded to offer tips and advice for building those audiences. He emphasized the importance of building a “really big” audience—in the thousands of followers, and not just the people you think of as your potential clients. “Your clients are a small subset of all who care about your content.” And you never know who in your audience might end up calling you with work.
“Content is secret weapon number 1—the thing that feeds the beast” and attracts followers, he said. Social media platforms use algorithms that privilege whatever content keeps people engaged the longest: photos, and even more so, videos. But your content has to be unique, Fingerman said. “Think about your brand and be your most authentic self. [That’s] what endears people to you.”
Building that brand with content that defines and reflects who you are is easier said than done. Photographers have to figure out what it is about them—and their work—that stands out. An exercise Fingerman suggested was to make a Venn diagram of two or three circles that represent your deepest interests. At the intersection of those circles is a “sweet spot” that will help you define your brand and the content you should be producing, he said.
He gave several examples. Donald Miralle’s “sweet spot” is the intersection of his interests in photography, sports and unique perspectives. Amy Lombard’s is the intersection of photography, eccentric people and pets, and powerful speedlights.
Other questions to help you define your brand as a photographer are: What do you have unique access to? What are you an expert at? “Your goal is to become an expert,” Fingerman said. “When you’re an expert, people seek you out.”
The next step, Fingerman said, is to “start sharing [content].” Figure out who cares about your content and where to find them, he advised. They might be nonprofits, Facebook groups or other groups that share your interests and will therefore be a source of followers.
“Personal projects…build audience for photographers,” he said, adding: “Share the work you want more of.” It’s going to be the work you’re best at, and the work that clients are more likely to remember you for” because they “like to put [photographers] in buckets”—categories defined by subject matter and photographic style.
“Tell the stories behind your images” because that engages people and makes them want to follow you, Fingerman said. He cited the example of Pete Souza, former White House photographer, who has built a large following by posting and telling stories about images of Barack Obama’s presidency. “You don’t have to be Pete Souza, but your audience will appreciate how you got that shot,” he said.
Ultimately, audiences are also built on “trust and credibility,” he said. Photographers achieve both by consistently posting authentic, high-quality content, he said. He also advised photographers to lead their social media followers to “no dead ends, anywhere. Think about where people find you, and where they go from there,” he explained. “If your Instagram profile doesn’t have a link so people can find you elsewhere [eg, at your website], they’re just engaging you on Instagram. Pull them deeper.”
Fingerman said photographers should consider all the opportunities they have to engage audience—“touch points”—not only through their social media, but through their websites, live events, directories, newsletters, invoices, proposals and estimates, and how they conduct themselves on set. “Come up with ideas for how to tweak your presence in ways that are consistent with your brand—in ways client will appreciate and want to work with you again,” Fingerman said.
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