The word “Brand” will mean many different things to many people. Some will think about logos, stationary and colours. Some will think about mission statements, style, public relations and public perception. Most will think about business and corporations like Nike and Coke.
The brilliant thing about the web now is some of the strongest brands are now people themselves. Using nothing more than your website, content and the social web, it is not just possible to become a brand, to be successful it’s essential to become a brand.
It’s important for search optimisation. How you present yourself, what you write about, whom you talk to and who talks to you are factors that are becoming increasingly important in search.
As people spend increasing amounts of time online in communities and on social networks these are the places you will want to make your mark.
With all the new and exciting possibilities for presenting yourself online, how you present yourself on your website and blog, and all social platforms, will be key to your success. The opportunities for sharing images are not only infinite for you, they are infinite for anyone with the means to take a picture. Your problem is how to stand out from the masses.
You are your brand
Big companies and organisations are struggling to find ways to engage with their audience, customers and potential customers. They have to find a way to humanise and personify their brand so that people will identify and engage with them. I believe that photographers have an advantage. You are a real person, someone that others can relate to, you ARE your brand. Your images are perfect for getting an emotional response. Images are much more powerful than words online and if you are a good photographer you should have these in abundance.
Anyone can develop an online brand if they are original, interesting and set aside time to engage with their online followers. I know many photographers say they just don’t have time to keep checking and updating profiles. I too would much rather spend my time out shooting images and talking to people rather than typing on a keyboard. Some may even be able to afford not to do it; they may have already found fame, established enough relationships in the industry to sustain an income. Sadly for most, that is not the case, the good news is that you can create your own buzz, gather your own following and use online and social trends to transcend your business using nothing more than imagination and time.
Of course learning what works and what doesn’t is essential if you don’t want to just tweet away your precious time, but by research and trial and error you can concentrate on maximising the return for your efforts.
It’s all about your audience
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is thinking that the social web is all about marketing your product, therefore assuming that continued posting about what’s for sale will work. Nothing puts off followers faster. The social web is best used to pull people in. Today we ignore online adverts, record TV programmes so that we can fast-forward them. Inundated with push advertising we have learned to tune out.
If your efforts don’t convert into sales, then if that is your objective, you will be wasting your time. However, you will need to be careful not to treat everything you do as an aggressive sales pitch.
Forget about pushing your messages out and focus on pulling your audience in. Using free tools like Google Analytics, Google Webmastertools, Klout, and Facebook Insights, you can keep track of what people are looking for and what people like, so that you can fine-tune both your products and your messages.
The purpose of all of this activity is to get out there, to get noticed. The more people who trust you, or feel that they know you, the bigger your potential for sales. It’s all about balance.
It’s also about quality not quantity too, better to post up one amazing image a fortnight than to post up a mediocre one every day.
It does take time and dedication, you need to keep moving, producing, and creating, bearing in mind though if you have nothing great to say don’t post. I’ve seen many fall into the trap of producing content for contents sake. Be consistent, be original and stay current.
For people to want to follow you online, first they have to like you! That’s where your personality comes in. Whilst many people will wish to keep their personal life off line you need to at least inject your content with your personality. People like stories, humanity, debate, conversation; these will keep your audience spellbound and coming back for more. Hopefully, too, your images will have developed in time to reflect your personality.
You can use your blog to share personal real life experiences in photography. You can share your difficulties; your triumphs and what you have learned form other photographers.
Different social networks will require different content some of the time. LinkedIn is a great place to make business contacts, Facebook to make friends, Google+ to engage with communities, Twitter to chat. One thing that they all have in common though is that you will only develop an audience if your personality shines through and that people enjoy and connect with what you are posting.
Sharing is the new currency. Social media is about sharing information for free that is of value to others. The more you give the better the return. If you are buying something online, whom would you rather buy it form, an unknown person who happens to have what you are looking for or a person you trust, who is a respected authority on the product they are selling? Who’s product are you likely to find online, that of an unknown person or a popular public expert? Who is most likely to be recommended by others?
I’m going to be publishing a lot more specific “how to’s” as I complete writing individual chapters for my book on marketing for photographers. If you have any burning questions let me know in the comments and I will respond and consider writing more in the book.