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Basic definitions? Check! 
A better understanding on who is on what platform? Check!
Setting an overall strategy for success? You bet! 

The next step in your social media basic training: planning your attack! This week we'll cover how you can best utilize your time while on the World Wide Web). It's great to post things as they happen, but let's face it; life has a tendency of getting in the way there is nothing worse than going to create a post, and getting distracted by your friend's dog's birthday party pictures...

To start, think about theming your posts for each day of the week, so you're at least posting once per day, then sprinkling in additional content as it comes! If you ever get in a bind about what to post, find something that would fit the theme and 9 times out of 10, you'll be good to go! Some themes that might work for your studio:

  • Behind the scenes: Editing images, clients getting ready, some (appropriate) office jokes, new props or backdrops, anything that would make you (and your company) stand apart from the other guys in town.
  • Sneak peeks: The images don't need to be perfect, but once a first round of edits have been done, post your favorite images from past sessions and tag your clients! This can be done on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (or Instagram it and share it on Twitter and Facebook for even larger reach).
  • Community involvement: If you do charity work or teach classes, share why you do it and what you get out of it. And of course, snap some quick pictures to share!
  • Staff highlights: If you have other photographers, interns or anyone else that's around, do some quick interviews to help your public get to know everyone better (this includes yourself)! People like to do business with people they like and are familiar with. Social media is an easy way to earn interest and more love from your audience. 
  • Session tips: Give pointers on what to wear (or better yet, what not to wear), makeup and hair tips, smiling pointers and anything else that you think would make your clients feel more comfortable in front of your camera. 
Consider associating each one of those themes with a day of the week. It'll be easier to space out your content so you're not talking too much about one thing at any given point in time.

When you post, remember that you're a photographer, so use those images! Posts with images, regardless of platform, always trigger better engagement (getting more likes, comments, etc.). And to lighten the load, repurpose you content--so take the picture on Instagram, then share on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter (or post the video on YouTube and share it across your other networks).

Now down to the nitty gritty. You know what to post, but how do you do it without spending countless hours on the computer? There are a few wonderful options that will save you time, energy and get you back to what you love.

For Facebook:

Facebook allows you to schedule posts within your page. Just type up your post, add your photo, and click the clock symbol in the bottom left corner of the post box. Use the drop down menu to schedule your post down to the minute! The benefit of posting through Facebook than HootSuite (which we'll cover in a moment) is the ability to track your post's Insights. If you schedule through a third-party social site, it won't allow you to see how viral your stuff gets. That goes back to tracking and measuring your results.

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For Twitter & Google Plus:

HootSuite is a gem. It's great because it's free (for the basic version), it's simple and you can manage multiple accounts through one platform. You can schedule your posts one at a time, or you can schedule them in bulk for just $9.99/month for a Pro account (if you have a lot to tweet, you might welcome the $10...it'll save you some time). 

If you can do the bulk feature, download their sample CSV file so the date/time and tweet (and links) are formatted properly. Here is a pro tip: in the column after the links, use the formula =LEN(cell). This Excel formula actually counts your characters for you! You won't be stuck with an error message that your tweets are too long! If your tweet includes a link, it will account for 20 characters of your 140 limit. (If you're using it to post to Google +, forget about the character limit!) This is a really fantastic way of promoting your blog posts (we talked about those in SEO, remember?).

Not a fan of dealing with the formula's in Excel? We've made you a sample CSV for you here: TwitterCSV.xlsx  

To publish in bulk, Click the paper airplane (Publisher) on the left side, and select "Schedule In Bulk." This screen will pop up, just select your file, select which platform it's going to (it can go to multiple ones at once, but we don't suggest that. Each platform has a different audience and therefor the messages should be tweaked).

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A few other pro tips: You cannot schedule the same tweet twice, so although you might want to reiterate the same message a few times to get your point across, change up the verbiage! It's actually a good thing and helps avoid some spammy-looking tweets.

Posting times must end in either 5 or 0, so there's no need to get creative by posting at 11:13 AM, it'll just round up to 11:15 AM. 

You can only have one message per time slot, so if you scheduled one at 11:13 AM and one at 11:15 AM, you'll get an error message. 

Last but not least, set an appointment with yourself for an hour a week to create and schedule the bulk of your posts for that week (or even month if you can work that far in advance). Actually use your calendar and block time. Other things will have to wait for this hour, it's really that important! And by blocking one slot a week only, you reduce your chances to spend too much time (because of distractions) on social media and actually ensure you are contributing to your business' marketing plan. If you have the luxury of sharing the load, have a few people write so you can get a few different voices.

Once you're all scheduled up, let your posts fly! Make sure you check in a few times a day to make sure there aren't any customer service issues to be addressed, but stay focused! The checking-in shouldn't take more than five minutes across all of your sites (don't get distracted by babies, puppies or Buzzfeed stories about your favorite TV characters and what Harry Potter house they would belong in) and feel free to post ad-hoc things when good opportunities arise. 

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Post them! We'll answer anything from the totally general to the super specific!

- Sarah

This is post 4 of 7 in the Be More...Social series. Read the other posts in the series using the links below:




theLoop, PPA's exclusive social network for professional photographers, has been aflutter with the release of the new app for iPhone and Android devices! Now you can stay connected on-the-go with your pro photographer community, asking (and answering) questions, share ideas and even submit images for a peer critique! theLoop is only available to PPA members, so don't worry about asking those tough questions you wouldn't want your clients to see! 

For those of you who are new to theLoop, or those who haven't had a chance to check-in lately, there are some great discussion threads going for July. Here are 5 of our favorites:

1. PPA Members: How should I handle this with my client?
Getting stuck in the middle of a client's family strife? Check out how your fellow photographers navigate the muddy waters of family relations, threatened blackmail and bad press.
2. Marketing: FB Likes
If you're a newbie to Facebook, or just frustrated with a lack of likes and engagement, this thread is for you! See how your peers find their clients, increase their fan base and stay connected. We bet you'll "like" it!
3. PPA Members: Flaming Balls
Unfortunately, this one isn't nearly as inappropriate as you might think, but if you're a sports photographer, you might be interested in lighting your client's sporting equipment (i.e. balls) on fire. Debate the pros and cons of rubber cement, gelatinized fuel and more options to set your images apart!
4. PPA Members: What's the next big investment in your business?
Whether you've been in business for a month, a year or a decade, you're always looking to invest in your future. Join this thread to see where others are putting their resources for their next great move!
5. Post-Capture: Thoughts on editing services
What are your thoughts on getting away from the computer and spending more time behind the camera, doing what you love? Outsourcing your editing can be a touchy subject--weigh in with your opinions here!

So there's just a few of July's most-talked about discussions. If you don't see one that applies to your needs or interest, then dive in and find the right community or discussion for you! Or be a leader and start a new one!

It's week three of our "Be More...Social" series! In week one, we covered why on earth you need to be on social media (and what's the proper lingo) and last week we discussed the top six platforms to consider utilizing in your social media strategy. Social media strategy you ask? Welcome to week three!

Social media strategy is the thorough process that goes into your posts, tweets, and shares. Think of social media as something that needs to continually be optimized--how can you improve your efforts when you have no way to track or measure them? That's where strategy comes in!

There are some pretty simple steps to create your strategy, and numerous websites to help you track your successes and opportunities for improvement (let's avoid the word "failure").

1. Determine Your Goals

What do you hope to get out of social media? What goals do you want to accomplish? 
If you're not sure where to start--here are some common goals and objectives small businesses usually turn to social media for:
  • Branding: General company/brand recognition is huge, especially for photographers. You don't want to be "that guy over on Main Street...you know...what's his name?"--You want to be you! You want (and need) to build a brand identity to get word-of-mouth recognition going. 
  • Attract new clients: Utilizing social media to drive traffic to your pages or website/blog will help attract new clients and customers. Also, by listening closely (we covered that week one) - you can see who is in the market for your work and seek them out. By handling social media in a professional manner, it will allow your personality and your work to shine. 
  • Build a following: By creating dynamic content, you'll be giving your customers a reason to talk (positively) about your brand! They will share your content and voila! Their friends become your fans and followers and you become a likeable, recommendable, in-demand photographer. 
Pro-tip: Make your goals as measurable and reasonable as possible. It would be ill-advised to say your goal should be to double your Twitter followers in a week (unless you only have a handful)--but increase by 5% over a month's time might not be a bad place to start! Or you can equate your goals with more inbound inquiries--more phone calls, emails or requests from your website can be tied back to building your brand and attracting new followers! Give them a reason to follow you. Peak their interest with behind the scenes shots or stories, promotions or special offers, color or dressing tips, etc. 

As time goes on, track your progress with spreadsheets or fun (free) infographics from places like www.visual.ly! They allow you to see how your Facebook content has reached the masses, or how you're stacking up to your competition on Twitter. 

2. Know Your Clients (Both Present & Prospective)

Last week we discussed who is on what platform - and hopefully that directed what sites you're planning on leveraging. Now, drill deeper to see who your audience might be!
  • Understand your target market's point of view and activities: Think of your target demographics--age, gender, income, location, as well as interests and priorities. When you post on Facebook, you can segment by many of these demographics and really hone in on who your post reaches. 
  • Consider influencers, buyers and end users: This is key--especially with senior portraits! You have the senior (end user), buyers (parents) and influencers (senior's friends/social circles) to contend with! 
  • Consider your audience's social media behavior: Do they lurk? Do they share? Do they create? Each type of social media user can be engaged in a different way. Know your market to see how you can best leverage your reach.

3. Choose Your "Hot Buttons"

These are your studio's main content topics. Keep it to three - five different themes depending on your studio's product offering. They will differ from studio to studio, but remember to keep them relevant to the work you do so they are optimized for your market. 
  • Create an editorial calendar: We'll go into this more next week, but know you should have a place to create content in bulk so it's less work on the fly. 
  • Brainstorm ideas: Using these themes, bring in your most creative thinkers and collaborate how you can best utilize these themes in fun, interactive ways!
  • Offer a variety of content formats: Text posts are not nearly as popular as images. You're a photographer -use your work! Also consider utilizing your Instagram images on Facebook/Twitter or creating a YouTube video to share "behind-the-scenes" action. 
By sticking to your themes, it will help your pages develop a rich content source that will help you more dramatically achieve your target goals.

4. Set Your Limits

If you're not careful, social media can be a black hole of time. Ever start looking through your newsfeed to see what you're clients are up to and end up 15 pages deep on Buzzfeed? Don't worry, you're not alone. Set time limits and stick to them! Maybe set aside 30 minutes, twice a day to start. Or utilize services such as Meltwater an RSS feed--they scan the web for your company's name (or other key words) and bring the results to you!  It eliminates the time-suck that can happen when you hop over to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but it also costs a pretty penny. 

5. Plan Your (Human) Resources

Next (big) question: who will handle your social media? If you're in business by yourself, with no additional help, this is a really easy answer! If you have a bit bigger of an operation, it's important to set clear expectations of who has access to the admin rights, how those rights are to be used and what happens if they blow it (they won't blow it, but just in case). It's usually not the best idea to have the intern running your image, so pick someone who knows you, knows your business and can handle some nonsense (FYI: people can be jerks on the internet). 

It's usually helpful to set some social media guidelines and rules for etiquette. We have our set of rules for PPA and if folks violate them there is a clear expectation of what happens. Same goes for your page! If someone is making inappropriate comments, don't be afraid to boot them off. Creating a process on how you handle these situations is key!

Note: If someone has something negative to say about your business that has some truth behind it, leave it and respond to it. Kill them with kindness, but try not to delete those comments. That will take away the transparency of your business and you will come across as much less authentic. 

6. Measure. Improve. Repeat.

We talked about creating measurable goals in step one. Make sure as you're implementing your strategy, you have all of the tools to make these measurements. Set aside time the first of the month to see how your number of fans/followers have grown, or make sure you ask how people heard of your company when you get a new client calling. 

There are also great free analytics on Facebook (click your "Insights" box in your admin panel) to see what posts reached the most individuals, gained the most likes/shares and worked the best. Explore what made those posts great and keep it up! You can also see what needs some help and tweak it for the future. 

Last, but not least, you can set up a special landing page on your website to see how many clicks convert from all of your social platforms. Talk to your web developer to set this up for an easy way to see what platforms are working and what needs some love!

So there are the six easy steps to create your strategy from the Social Media Examiner! They may be simple, but they can take some time to implement. Dedicate an hour a day to working through this list and see where the week takes you. Next week we'll cover the planning of your posts (think content types, timing, etc.)! 

How have you implemented what's been covered thus far? What questions do you have? What troubles (if any) have you run into? Leave them in the comments!

- Sarah

This is post 3 of 7 in the Be More...Social series. Read the other posts in the series using the links below:



Last week we started our weekly "Be More...Social" series with a piece on just the basics of social media (need a quick refresher?). This week we'll use some of those keywords and dive into what the top platforms are to market your business. We'll cover who are the average users on such platforms and how you can start to effectively engage with them. 

Before we dive in, it's key to remember two things. First, just because a social media site exists, it doesn't mean you need to be on it. Second, if you're new to social media, start off with one or two platforms. You don't need to spread yourself too thin trying to be everywhere at once. 

So where to begin? It's helpful to start by exploring the top sites in terms of reach. Here is a list of the most popular social sites by unique monthly active users (more than 100 million users). Unique monthly active users just means it doesn't matter if a visitor came to a site once or a hundred times, they're only counted once:

  • Facebook: 1.11 billion
  • YouTube: 1 billion
  • Twitter: 550 million 
  • Google+: 343 million
  • LinkedIn: 225 million
  • Instagram: 130 million
It should come as no surprise that Facebook leads the pack, with YouTube in a close second (have you seen how many adorable cat videos there are?!).  Now, just because a site gets millions of users doesn't mean those users are who you need to be focusing your energy on. So who are the average users on the sites? Read on. It's not always who you might think it is!

Facebook
67% of internet users are on Facebook (72% of women, 62% of men). The highest percentage of users falls between 18 - 29 and 30 - 49 years old. Income, education and location don't matter much in the world of Facebook. Facebook is the most used site by the widest range of people.  People share their personal lives, follow brands they love and stay up to date with words, images and even play games (Candy Crush anyone?)

What this means for your studio: Facebook is a great jumping off point to get the word out about your business, regardless of your specialty. Business pages are completely free to set up. Note: set your business up as a page, not as a person. There are a million reasons why...mainly if you set up your business as a person, you have to actively accept people as your friends (there will be a lag between when they want to start seeing your posts and when they actually get to see your content). Plus, you can't advertise as a person, only a business. Finally, Facebook said not to (and you don't want to get on their bad side). 
Once you've established a web and social media presence for your photography business, what should you look at next to keep your marketing rolling?

One important part to add to your business' digital marketing strategy is mobile marketing. "Mobile marketing" is quite a buzz word these days, so you may have heard about it before (for those that haven't, mobile marketing is any marketing that leverages mobile devices, such as a smart phone or a tablet, as an additional means of communication with your target audience).

All in all, only a small proportion of photographers have started looking into mobile marketing for their business. Opportunities are immense and it's not that complicated. Plus, it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg, yet it greatly helps to set you apart.

Why is mobile marketing so important? Consider these stats:


  • The Mobile Marketing Association says that there are 7 billion people on Earth. 5.1 billionmobiletoiletinfographic.jpg own a cell phone. 4.2 billion own a toothbrush. That's right, more people are connecting through their cell phones than using toothbrushes!

  • According to Morgan Stanley, 91% of all smart phone users have their phone within arm's reach 24/7.

  • What's more (no shame here, it's a factoid): three-fourths of the participants of an 11Mark study admitted to using their smartphones in the bathroom. That number reaches 91% for the Generation Y, confirming Morgan Stanley's survey.

From those stats alone, it's easy to see that a lot of us are missing out on a huge audience if we are not leveraging mobile marketing tools. Imagine the business you could create if even a tiny fraction of those smartphone owners found you using a mobile device.

Now that you understand the importance of mobile marketing, it's also worth keeping in mind that a client searching for you on a mobile device behaves very differently than one that found you on a traditional website. How so?

Here's some surprising behavior of users that find you on a mobile search:

  • Mobile Marketer says that 70% of all mobile searches result in action within 1 hour. 70% of online searches result in action in one month. Meanwhile, mobile coupons get 10 times the redemption rate of traditional coupons.

  • According to Search Engine Land, 9 out of 10 mobile searches lead to action, over half leading to purchase.

  • Google points out that 61% of local searches on a mobile phone result in a phone call.

  • There are more than 2.7 billion internet users on the planet, including close to 1+ billion Facebook.

These statistics show the trend that mobile searchers often make quicker decisions than potential clients using a traditional web search. By establishing a mobile presence, you'll be able to have users find your photography business and convert them to clients faster than you could just by being found on non-mobile web searches.

So, how can you get started? It's not nearly as difficult as you might think.


Adaptive/responsive design

A great place to begin your mobile marketing efforts is by building a site with an adaptive design. Adaptive design allows the display of your site to automatically fit any screen a potential client might view your site on. So, whether your site is being viewed on a desktop computer, a smart phone or a tablet a visitor will see information optimized for their current viewing screen.

Not only does this prevent a visitor from getting frustrated by having to re-size your site to fit their mobile screen (less scrolling and tapping around means a better customer experience), it also makes managing your website much easier as you won't have to worry about updating a separate mobile site in parallel.

Social from your mobile

When you consider the level of social media interaction occurring via mobile devices, it becomes blatant evidence that interacting socially with clients and prospects who are on their mobile devices is part of the way of doing business (and you might even be responding to them on the go from your phone). Facebook recently announced that close to 44% of their users access through a mobile device. These users are also twice as active on Facebook as non-mobile visitors.

These active users are the folks you'll really want to connect with, as they're more likely to share the content you've posted to social media outlets. However, if a blog post that you've shared does not adapt its display for mobile; you might miss out on some great opportunities for gaining web traffic. After all, if it can't be easily read by a user on a mobile device, it won't be shared.

Mobile compatible comments

It's also important to make sure that the comments feature on your blog will also work with a mobile device. This will allow you to consistently connect with mobile visitors to your site and respond to any of their questions or concerns.

Offers or contests

Along with using an adaptive design, another quick way to get involved with mobile marketing is by offering an exclusive offer or contest designed specifically for mobile devices. There are many companies that can help you set-up a contest that potential clients can enter via text message. It can be as simple as having a mobile user text you a keyword that enters them in the contest or gives them a special discount.

Perhaps the best part of a contest like this is it offers the opportunity for potential clients to share their contact information with you when entering, giving you a database to focus your future marketing efforts on! Just remember to keep the entry process as simple as possible so you'll receive a good amount of submissions.

Customer Service on the go

Another potential benefit of getting involved with mobile marketing can be the ability to provide better customer service to your clients by using mobile devices. For instance, say that you've been shooting on location and would like the ability to take orders while on location. There are many apps out there that will not only allow you to take and process the order using your own smart phone or tablet, but also generate an invoice that will go directly to your customers' mobile device. Some of these apps will even connect with your own book keeping software, making it easier on you to keep up with your sales.

Galleries & apps

Last but not least, many photographers also have created mobile apps for their business to share their work via smartphone or tablet. You can tell your clients to download the app and share it with their friends looking for a photographer, creating your own mobile referral network! There are many app providers out there, but if you're a PPA member check out your member benefit with StickyAlbums for a custom built app for your business.

Mobile marketing is truly the next frontier, so don't delay. Get started on your own mobile marketing plan today.

Already have a mobile marketing plan in place? We'd love to hear about it! Share your comments with us below or on theLoop.

INFOGRAPHIC © 11MARK


This is post one of two of the Mobile Marketing for Photographers series. Use the link below to read the other post in the series.

Mobile Marketing for Photographers: Email Optimization
Case studies sound boring, am I right? But is making money boring? Not so much! That's why we've gathered details and sales tips from three PPA members around the country (case studies, if you will). If you're a PPA member too, you can read all about their best-selling portrait/wedding sales packages here.

Not a member? Rectify that right now--join PPA and then you can learn all we've got to share!
facebook_beaker_blue_500.jpgMany photographers agree that some form of social media is necessary. But you've got to be smart about it. Two PPA members share what works for them (socially) in the August Professional Photographer magazine issue, and we've snagged a bit of that article for you right here:

Know What Works Best Where
When using more than one social media platform, it's tempting to link all the accounts you can and auto-update. While it may feel like saving time, it might not the most effective use of those spaces. Selective posting may be a better bet, as both John Pyle of Georgia and Jordan Brian of New Jersey have found. Here are a few pointers of what they post where:

  • Blogs--Both Brian and Pyle post longer, educational pieces on their blogs. Brian and his staff create articles for brides in-house (or share what vendors send) on topics like how to time the hair and makeup sessions.
  • Facebook--"It's all about engaging with your clients," says Brian. So instead of giving online images to the clients, he asks them to tag themselves on his Facebook page, even in the behind-the-scenes images and video slideshows. Pyle treats Facebook more as a traffic feed for his blog. He'll post teaser images from a session (linking to the blog), make announcements or even share the accomplishments of his senior clients, such as when one signed with a college baseball team.
  • Instagram--Pyle's favorite social media platform, Instagram, allows him to share behind-the-scenes images on Twitter, Facebook or email without having to log in to a separate site. He likes to show the client just arriving, picking out the wardrobe or trying to get in position for the shot. "With Instagram, it's easy to build excitement around what we're doing now," he explains. "I am able to keep everyone updated on my destination shoots, and I get comments back instantly with seniors saying, 'Can't wait until my session!'"
  • Twitter--Because his senior clients check this site often, Pyle also uses it to keep his name top of mind. He shares music he likes and cool products he sees--anything to put himself in the "cool crowd," as he says.
  • Pinterest--Gathering and sharing visual ideas is where Pinterest shines. Brian shares tips and suggestions for wedding photographs, along with detail ideas from weddings he's covered. Pyle even created a Pinterest Style Guide to ideas of what to wear to sessions.
Keep Your Images Safe
Whatever social media you use, don't forget to keep your images as safe as possible. Any online use of an image means your rights as the creator could be infringed. Help protect your images in these ways:

  • Register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office at copyright.gov
  • Add a visible watermark or a caption.
  • Embed metadata into the file properties of your images.
  • Link images back to your website.
  • Indicate that your images are "all rights reserved" (if the social media platform offers that option like Flickr does).
Read the full "Be Socially Smart" article in the "PPA Today" section of the August Professional Photographer magazine issue. Learn more about PPA member Jordan Brian at jordanbrian.com. Learn more about PPA member John Pyle at johnpylephotography.com.

johnstone_helpfulhints1.jpgWho here would like to save while still creating cool-looking packaging for your clients? (It's probably unanimous, huh?) Then you won't want to miss this article we put together with the help of PPA members Trevor and Tourine Johnstone of Johnstone Studios, a wedding, portrait and design studio. They've shared the ways they make the most of every bit of material they have, resulting in beautiful packaging and other items branded with their look. You'll soon be searching through your own studio to see what you can repurpose, too!

Read the full article.

IMAGE © JOHNSTONE STUDIOS
nordstrom_holidaypromo1.JPGHow do you handle your slow season? Most photography studios have a time when the bookings slow to a trickle; it's nothing new. The key is planning for those slower times, either by saving money or marketing to encourage more business.

In fact, PPA members Lori Nordstrom, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, ABI, and Kalen Henderson, M.Photog.MEI.Cr., CPP, API, have shared some of their seasonal promotions that coincide with different holidays to boost client awareness and keep business coming through the door.

Members can read the article with three of their promotional ideas. These ideas can help you make your slow season a thing of the past!

IMAGE © LORI NORDSTROM STUDIO

forester_xmas_promo1.jpgWhen it comes to holiday promotions, response is often contingent upon getting clients in the spirit well in advance of the holidays. Key to generating holiday enthusiasm in, say, July is good imagery. After all, you are running a photography business, and the images should ultimately speak for themselves.

Color Scheme
The first thing you should consider is the color scheme. Beth Forester, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, of Forester Photography in Madison, WV, says that she's experimented with different color combinations, but nothing sells quite like red and green. "When I'm putting together my card designs to show clients, I experiment with different colors, but I always have a red and green option," she says.

Read the full article

Image ©Forester Photography

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