Tips to Building Your Social Audience
- [Colby] So, we're going to start things off with tips for building your actual social media presence. Again, some of this stuff has been mentioned but we're going to go a little bit further. I think, for a lot of people, the struggle is that you feel that the work that you're doing isn't really equating out. You're posting good content, maybe you're even asking questions or you're feeling that the different networks that you're trying to utilize just aren't really working out. So, when it comes to building the audience, it's really important to think…or building your presence, it's really important to think about a handful of core concepts that are going to be permeated throughout this entire course. So, the first one is essentially pretty simple: don't worry so much about your followers. Focus more so on the quality. And, it's not necessarily we're talking just about followers, it's about everything. Don't necessarily focus on the quantity of content you're trying to push out there.
Focus on the quality. Don't just focus on the fact you're getting 20 interactions per post, but try to focus on the fact of, are those 20 interactions quality interactions? Think about your overall followers or the use of hashtags. Whatever you do, stop focusing or fixating so much on just the numbers themselves, and think about the idea of making sure that they're quality numbers. Too many people fixate on those larger…the big numbers as we were talking about in the last segment, looking at photographers that have millions or hundreds of thousands of followers. That's not the point. The point isn't how big your following is. It's what you can do with it. So, choose your platforms carefully. Again, we've talked about the fact that you don't need to be on every single platform out there. Depending on what your goals are, which we've hopefully established by now, you can choose the platforms that you feel are most advantageous for what you're trying to achieve. For me, I like to teach a lot of photography. I'm highly into education, so I want to be where photographers are. So, that's Facebook, and Instagram, Twitter, a lot of places around there. But if you're a wedding photographer, you just don't have the time. Maybe you should just focus on Instagram, or maybe just focus on building your Facebook business profile. You don't have to do everything all the time. You can't be everywhere. Trust me, I've tried to create more hours in the day, and it does not work. So, the idea is that you have to figure out ways to get more efficient with your use of time. And, oftentimes, that can mean that you need to settle for less to build larger before you can expand. It's Business 101, social media shouldn't be any different. You want mitigated, controlled growth, because if you don't have controlled growth, then, all of a sudden, you're going to be wasting a lot of the potential value propositions that might come out of the idea that you had some overnight success that you weren't prepared for. So, with social media, you want to have that organic, controlled, mitigated growth that you helped foster, and that's how you're going to get the highest level of quality engagements. Create visually-stunning, target-specific content. Now, this is a little bit more of a deep dive than what we've talked about before. Of course, we said that you have to share good images. We're photographers, the visual median, that's a given. Social media, as a whole, is essentially predicated on the idea, or the social platforms are built around the idea that visual content goes farther. So, while we're adding in the idea of target-specific content is the fact that we've already talked about target-market audiences. So, if you're a wedding photographer and you have a business page, then you want to share stuff that's relevant to your audience. Now, that content that is relevant to your audience doesn't have to just be photos of brides. We talked a little bit about the idea that brides have challenges. Maybe they're looking for wedding planners or maybe they're looking for places to photograph, they're looking for florists, they're looking for all these different things. So, what are the challenges, and how can you create content that helps solve those problems that your potential target market or your potential target audience needs? And that's going to be a way that you can create engaging quality content that is hopefully going to bring those people in, because if you're just posting stuff about your own brand, if you're just posting images of yourself, and using your images as pulling people in, it's generally not going to work so well. You want to help solve problems for your target audience. And if you're not solving problems, then essentially you're just marketing yourself. And, again, people have been marketed to enough over the last 17 years that most of us have been on the internet. So, don't just focus or fixate on yourself in terms of this content you're sharing. Try to reach people where they need the help the most, and then wrap and create content, including maybe shoot images specifically wrapped around that idea, but try to help solve some sense of a problem. So, use ads to target your ideal market audience, and this is something we haven't really talked too much about, but let's use myself as an example. So, my largest target audience on my social platforms generally are following me because of my nature and landscape work. That's the content that gets the most engagement. That's the content that I've built a lot of my brand around, and that's the content that the algorithms are showing most people, because that's what the algorithmic profiles have developed for myself over the years. Now, if I truly want to have engagement for more of my humanitarian stuff, then I need to work to diversify my audience so that they're used to either seeing it or that I've created something like creating…I've done something like creating an ad, and then target people to come to my page and follow, engage, and become part of my larger community of followers that are interested in that type of content. A lot of people don't think about this. They sit there and say, "My followers don't like this, so I can't post anything else." Well, there is some validity in that, that your current followers might not be so engaged with your idea to do X or Y, but if you can figure out ways in order to bring the right people into your circle, you can get away with it. So, again, for myself, if I wanted to create, or if I wanted to build my audience more so around some of my photojournalistic humanitarian-style work, what could I do? Ideally, I'd be creating an ad, putting it out on a place like Facebook, and I'd sit there and target specific people maybe that were interested in
National Geographic, or maybe it was people that were tied to another brand that had ties to that world, but there's ways that you can actively court your ideal target market audience, depending on the type of stuff that you want to be known for. Now, again, this is a little bit different if you're a wedding photographer, you're doing fine art where it's something very specified, because you might want to just work with that specific demographic, in which case you can create ads or promote your content, invest a little bit of money, or work on networking, like we talked about Jose Villa did, and wrap around trying to create that circle of people, that target market audience that is rich for the type of stuff that you create, which is only going to spur more engagement, and more followers, and more interaction, and more business. But if you want to diversify, if you want to have…if you have things that you do that are slightly connected or that you have a brand that you wish to have a little bit more opportunity to do a wide variety of things, you can change, or adjust, or evolve your audience by using things like ads targeted specifically at people that you think are ideal for that type of content. Leverage giveaways and sweepstakes. Now, we mentioned this a few times, but I think a lot of people think that the idea of advertising or marketing purely means spending hard-earned dollars and creating Facebook ads, or Instagram ads, or Twitter ads, or whatever it is, and the truth is that there are a lot of ways that you can market yourself. And one of those ways is using things such as giveaways or sweepstakes. So, take that $400 that you were thinking about investing in a given month to push ads out, to promote your business, or your page, or whatever it is, and go buy something. Go buy a product that fits around the space that you think your followers might be interested in, and then sit there and ask them to… "You have to like this, you have to tag people to get this." Now, Facebook has a lot of terms of service rules about giveaways, so you generally have to go through a third-party application to make it work, from a legal standing, but Twitter and Instagram, a lot of other places are much more forgiving. So, you jump on Instagram, and you're saying, "Hey, I want to grow my following." So, for me, maybe I'd spend $1,000, I'd buy a camera, and I'd sit there and say, "Hey, giving away this camera today. It's going to be a 24-hour giveaway. If you want to be included in the giveaway, write a comment below, tag someone who you think would be interested in the giveaway, or in X, or in Y, or whatever it is." Now, on Instagram, you can't share stuff like you could on Facebook, but a tag is pretty big, and you can even multiply that. You can sit there and say, "Hey, tag…if you want to engage yourself for a chance to win this giveaway, tag three of your friends." People tag three of their friends, their friends see it, "Hey, I might want a camera," tag three of their friends, three of their friends, and, all of a sudden, you might have a couple thousand new followers. Now, generally, the larger your audience, the more benefit you're going to get out of it, so you might want to start with something smaller, but it's a great way to quickly grow a base. Now, again, coming back to our first thing for determining…focusing on the quality, some of those followers might not necessarily be quality followers, in which case, I mean super-highly engaged, but it gives you the opportunity to start developing relationships with them, and then you are much further along than you would be if you hadn't done it. And sometimes that can be more advantageous in terms of using giveaways or sweepstakes to build followers than it is just to promote an ad saying, "Hey, follow my page." You have a little bit less leeway in terms of the type of people you're getting, but people are generally more receptible to winning free things than they are to clicking through a link and saying, "Hey, I actually do like this page. I want to follow it." So, don't always be selling yourself. Again, pretty self-explanatory, most of us don't like seeing ads out there. Most of us that run businesses understand that. It's the harsh reality of doing business in a digital age, but I think, in terms of, from a business standpoint, you don't want to constantly be trying to think of your followers as dollar signs, because it will become apparent, and I see a lot of pages like it. Every post they put out there, they're trying to make money, they're trying to sell a product, and you see their engagement is just nothing. It's like a spaghetti test. They're just throwing everything against the wall, and eventually something will stick and they might make a sale. To me, that's a poor use of social media. I recommend having a ratio that is much closer, probably to 9 out of 10 posts, or maybe something like 17 out of 20, to essentially be more so wrapped around the idea of content that has nothing to do with your business, or has nothing to do, at least, with you selling, because, maybe accurately say that. So, you can share content, share images that are inspirational, ask questions, do things, but inside those posts, don't be promoting something all the time. Now, it's okay, like I said, sometimes what I like to do is share a post and I'll put my URL link at the bottom. I'm not doing it to say, "Hey, come to this link." I'm not saying, "Hey, sign up for a workshop." "Hey, purchase this product." It's just a URL link. And sometimes I'm doing that just to get people to hit the website, sometimes I'm doing that just to get people used to seeing URL links in my posts so that when I do have an important link, I have higher reach and engagement based on the algorithmic profile, because people have engaged with previous links. That's a form of gaming the system a little bit. I think that's okay, but don't constantly be asking people to do things, at least in terms of a business standpoint. Be authentic. Again, people are going to know. People know when you're fake. It's so difficult to fake a personality, and, generally, you can see through it. I see a lot of people that try to be people they are not, online. I have friends and colleagues that try to be people they are not, and, to be honest, it's a little bit sad. You should be who you are. You should find ways to leverage your passions, your interests, your personality, to make them work for you. You shouldn't have to change who you are to make money, or to make a business, or to grow a following. There are billions of people on the internet. There are people interested in you, interested in your content. You just haven't found them yet. So, be authentic. Be yourself. It's where you're going to be most comfortable, you're going to have less stress, you're going to have less worry, everything. Be authentic. Have an opinion. Now, we looked at some of the other photographers earlier today, and some people are a little bit more business-minded. But even within those, within the screenshots we looked at, you can see that people were still engaging, they're still sharing some of their thoughts and opinions. And people like Chris Burkard, Benjamin Von Wong, Adam Elmakias, and myself, have no problem interjecting some of our opinions and our thoughts into it because we feel that our personality, our brand, our appeal is part of the benefit of what has made us successful. So, have an opinion about the stuff that you're writing about. It's okay to sit there and say, "Hey, I think this, or I think that." You can't tiptoe yourself around…social media is not eggshells. There are topics that, again, I don't recommend you generally bring up all the time, at least, the standard religion, politics, and things like that, that get people yelling at each other, but, in general, it's okay to have an opinion. It's okay to say, "Hey, I don't like this," or, "Hey, I don't like this," or, "Hey, I like this." Let people know a little bit about what you think. They don't want to just see your images. They want to get to know you a little bit. Again, social media, social age of the internet, it's about connections, it's about the human connection. Be consistent. So, consistency, we're going to talk about in a section all about consistency, but, essentially, try to have common themes and messages. Let people have a feeling, what they can know to expect from your page. That's how you're going to increase that engagement over time. If they don't know what to expect, they don't have any reason to come back. People like consistency. People like to know that you're going to mention the camera gear in your posts. I have people that do that. When I don't, they're like, "Well, what did you use?" And I'm like, "Oh, I forgot to include that." So, being consistent can help your brand, because, A, it's rewarded from the social media algorithms. The platforms like it when people are constantly producing content and constantly getting engagement, that's helping you, but, also, just, at times, the type of content you're creating. If you look back at a lot of the stuff that was shared earlier, a lot of the other photographers, if you look through any of their streams, you're going to see some of that consistency, as well. Consistency in message, consistency in quality, consistency in types of photography. Make sure there's some threads connecting all the stuff that you're doing. That can be a distant thread, but there should always be a thread. - [Man] Travel Pics asks, "I partner with another well-established photographer in two different areas of our business, workshops and film. Do we need to create separate Facebook pages for each separate business? We don't want to build our individual existing client fan base. We just want to determine the best way to gain exposure for our combined specialty business." - If they're doing a combined specialty business, and they're…something that they have, that they see longevity in, then I recommend that they're creating something new. And what they can do is they can create a new entity, come up with some name. If they're doing it right and they're actually looking to make a lot of money, they should do it correctly. They should form an LLC, from a liability standpoint. They should actually have the paperworks if they're both joint owners. I recommend…not everyone does. LegalZoom, if you can't afford a lawyer, can provide a lot of different educational information, and provide a lot of different documents that you might need to, at least, get started, in which case you can have a lawyer, at least, overview, so it's less expensive. But then, what you can do once you've created this entity, is that you can sit there and use whatever followers that they have established on their own, and then promote this new entity. And then, they don't have to worry necessarily too much about cross-promotion, at least, in terms of the idea of building up their own followers on their own basis because they wanted to focus on their new stuff, but it will give them a jump-start to push things off, and then they don't have to worry about consistency, or lack of consistency in message, or other stuff that they've done in the past. So, definitely start something new. Do it right, do it legal, if you're going to make money. Nothing wrong with having legal binding documents, trust me, I've been burned in the past, highly recommend that you do it. But then, just take whatever you have already built and then help push up what you've done so you can get a head start. - "What are your thoughts on calls to action when you're just starting out? A hundred Instagram followers and very little engagement." So, super-early in the game, do you do CTAs? - It's a good question. Again, I think there's always going to be a reason. There's always going to be an excuse not to do something. And I think when you're first starting out, there's the worry that the stuff that you're putting out there isn't being seen or engaged with, and that those low numbers, people are judging you by. And I don't think that's necessarily the case. I think that's a very… You're focusing on yourself so much so that you think that other people are doing the same, and, generally, they're not. I think it's okay to start off doing CTAs, or things like that when you have small followers because you have to start somewhere. How else are you going to build a following? How else are you going to build your engagement? If you're just sharing photos, that's one thing, but a lot of that is not going to change too much. Now, you can use hashtags, you can try to work with other hubs, you can engage with other pages while you're doing stuff, but you should start using CTAs and those things now so that you can build up that fan base, so that, yes, maybe with 100 followers, you can get 10 or 15 people that constantly see everything you post, and then that's something, and everything from there snowballs. So, be sure to start somewhere, and I think CTAs are great. It's a great way to start conversations, even if it's one. One conversation has value, and eventually one will lead to two, and two will lead to three, but we all have to start somewhere.