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5 Instagram Mistakes you can’t afford to make

5 Mistakes to avoid on Instagram

“Photographers have a huge advantage on Instagram.  You already have the most important thing for great Instagram content: awesome photos!”
~Sue B. Zimmerman

Last week I got to interview Sue B Zimmerman (@theinstagramexpert) after listening to her on a webinar put on by productivity guru Steve Dotto (@dottotech). Their discussion made me rethink how much attention I pay to my Instagram account.

In case you’ve lived under a rock for the past 5 years, Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service and, as a visual content creator, it’s basically made for photographers.  If you’re not utilizing it, well, let’s just say your missing out on a large market segment. I wrote about the importance of Instagram in getting hired last December on Strictly Business: Why a Strong Brand Online is Worth More Than Your Skill Set.

Within 5 years of its launch Instagram celebrated 400 million users,  placing it in the top 5 US Social Media networks; that is a little misleading, since it’s owned by Facebook. Since Instagram does only one thing, it’s simple to use – but that simplicity can be difficult to use well.

Sue talked to me about the 5 mistakes you can’t afford to make on Instagram:

Instagram Mistake #1: setting your account to private

Mistake #1: Setting your Instagram account to private ensures that no one, but your followers can see what you post.

I made this mistake when I started. Social Media is social so don’t keep your account to yourself.

Sue does recommend that you keep your account set to private, until you write your bio (see mistake #3), post a minimum of 9 fantastic images and/or videos (see mistake #4) and come up with a strong Call to Action (see mistake #5). Once you’ve populated your profile – open your Instagram (IG) to the world! Interact with people, reply to tags, @mentions and shares.

Instagram Mistake #2: using a generic IG avatar

Mistake #2: Using the generic Instagram avatar, will make sure that everyone knows you’re an IG newbie.

Ah, the profile picture. Mistake number 2 is uploading one that has nothing to do with your business. The only way you can do worse is by not uploading anything. Then you get this beauty:
Instagram Avatar

Sue says you should put your smiling face on your account. People want to know who you are (and that they’re following the right instagram account). Make it specific to your brand – it can be your logo, but I agree with Sue, I like to have my face up there. The same goes for your IG your username in your brand. Make it the same as your twitter handle (mine is @photosbydepuhl) or your brand name or your own name. The good news is you can change the username on Instagram.

Instagram Mistake #3: not writing a good bio

Mistake #3: Leaving your bio blank. Or writing a bad one.

Your bio, is the first thing people see on Instagram, so make it easy and tell them something about yourself.  Don’t leave it blank or write something completely irrelevant. (You should set your account to private, until you have a strong bio written.)

True, it’s not easy to write an effective bio in 150 characters. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Don’t forget you need to include your call to action in here as well (more about that in Mistake #5). This bio is the first impression your making on IG. Make it count.

Instagram Mistake #4: posting everything and the kitchen sink

Mistake #4: Posting photos of everything. Or posting underexposed, blurry, badly composed photos.

The Instagram feed for your business should be just that: photos and videos about your business (not breakfast – unless you’re a food photographer; not cats – unless you’re a pet photographer; not cute kids – unless [say it with me] you create portraits of kids).  If you want to post those images, create a personal Instagram account.

Keep your account focused. Sue says that you should show only the images and posts that build your brand. When someone clicks on your IG feed, your brand should be immediately clear. Remember you can post videos on Instagram, as long as they are under 15 seconds long, like this one:

Include finished photos and behind the scene shots, Sue says it’s important to humanize your IG account.

Instagram Mistake #5: forgetting to add a call to action to your link

Mistake #5: Not writing a strong Call to Action for your link. Not including a link at all is the only way you can make this mistake worse. You get one link on Instagram and one link only. It’s in your bio, so choose it wisely. Once you’ve decided what your want to feature – your website, your blog, your newsletter, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts – don’t just say “Click here.” instead include a strong Call to Action. Read my blog. Join my mailing list. Watch my video. Make that sole, lonely link that IG gives you count!  The one saving grace is that this link – like your username – can be changed.


5 Mistakes you can’t afford to make on Instagram was originally written for “Strictly Business” the blog of the American Society of Media Photographers. 

last year

Anticipation builds audience – Marketing Hack #28

Anticipation can build an audience

Anticipation = Excitement = Engagement

We’re all looking for ways to expand our audience, but it’s not about the quantity of followers (I know shocking). It’s about the quality of people who consume our content online.

Imagine if I had 100,000 followers that we’re 70-75 year old, female asian women who love knitting. I’m sure these ladies are the sweetest group of followers ever, but how many of them do you think are in the market to hire a visual content creator and advertising photographer in the US, who specializes in making mind changing videos and product photography? I think you’d agree that a more valuable audience would be a 100 designers, advertising execs, production people and content creators, right?

Well I’ve forgone the asian knitting circle and produced a video for the première Design high school in the US, which happens to be in Miami. Year after year it cranks out a group of World Class fashion designers, architects, filmmakers, industrial designers and graphic artists.

Why do this work for a high school?” you may ask “it’ll be years before those kids are in a position to hire a professional photographer or commercial cinematographer.” I gotta hand it to you–you’re right, however there are 25 years worth of alumni that are in that position and being that this was for the 25 year anniversary, you could feel the anticipation for this event by the alumni, faculty, staff, parents, community and supporters. So how do you capture their attention? I’ve got two words for you: Anticipation. (OK that’s one word, but I’ll say it again – anticipation drives excitement, which gives you engagement).

How to build anticipation

Many people knew about the creation of this video. From the school administration and faculty, who helped us find the right alumni to interview to engaged parents and  excited alumni giving suggestions, from the world-class executive producer, who helped me put this together to the current students, who we filmed in their class rooms. Everyone knew something was up.

Of course it helps that the event is built on anticipation as well, that there’s an 25 year anniversary involved, that the person featured in the event and video is one of Miami-Dade public schools top educators. You still gotta build anticipation. Let me tell you about a local event I worked on, although the principles apply to any size audience.

Keep it under wraps

You can talk about it, you can Instagram behind the scenes shots of the project (check out my IG feed and let me know which of those images are your favorites), you should make a quick 16 second edit for IG, but the one thing you can not do is share the video. With anyone. Not with the people featured in the video, not with the people you’ve interviewed, not with anyone who does not absolutely, positively have to watch it – like your producer and one person who has the authority to approve it.

Every time you share it with anyone outside of that circle, you lose some anticipation.

In the end 5 people saw the video (outside my immediate family) before we premiered it at the event: my exec producer, an associate producer, myself and the assistant principal from the school (we wanted to dot our i’s and cross our t’s to make sure there was nothing that the school would object to) and one other principal from another school, who has no connections to this school – I wanted one unbiased opinion.

Teasers build anticipationTease it to influencers

5 days before the event launched, a short teaser video goes up on social media and is featured in an email blast to everyone at the school and the community, who is invited to the event. Many people came to me in the days leading up to the event saying they are excited to finally watch the final version.

Control you content

As soon as we had picture lock on the edit, the password protected Vimeo link, used to collaborate with my production team, went dark. Downloads were never enabled and even the AV team got their copy for the show the evening of rehearsal day – barely 24 hours before the event – with explicit instruction, that the video was embargoed until the actual first showing. It wasn’t even used in rehearsal – I had created a special clip for that.

Strike the iron while it’s hot

Once the cat’s out of the bag–so to speak–share your content as broadly and as quickly as possible. In this case the official copy of the video was on social media, less than 90 minutes after the live showing – I had to get home from the event and had the first comments soon after.

Share it from one central place

Figure out where you want the attention, which followed the anticipation, focused on. Release your content in one place and then share that place with everyone – in this case I embedded Vimeo link on one Facebook page and shared that page with my other pages, the schools page, the alumni page, the PTSA page and key influencers.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the share

I’ve done the same for other social media launches. Don’t be afraid to ask certain people (especially those that take the time to like or comment on your content to share it with their followers. Be polite and nice about it, thank them for their contributions, but ask for the share straight up–oh and don’t do that with each one. Pick 2 or 3 a year, find the audience that loves to share the anticipation and go for it.

last year

Everybody loves discounts … Marketing Hack #27

Marketing Hack 27

Who doesn’t like to save money? Look people are reading your blog, following you on social media and listening to what you have to say, because you’re the expert, right?

Share how you do things

  • Share what programs you use – I use Capture One for all my RAW image processing.
  • Share what services you use – I use PhotoShelter to host all my online image galleries and website.
  • Share what backend you use – SalesForce is my CRM backbone.
  • Share what equipment you use – My gear practically lives in ThinkTank bags.

[Full disclosure all these links are affiliate links, that give you discounts or gifts and may have some financial benefit for me to, BUT I used all these products for many years and I love to tell you about them.]

The list goes on and on, but you can do even better, than just saying – hey this is what I use to do my job: contact the companies and ask for discounts when your audience starts using their services and products, after getting introduced to them by you.

Isn’t a 10% discount or a $15.- savings worth clicking through your links? I think so. It doesn’t take that much time to set this up and sometimes you can also get something out of these deals for yourself (a discount on next months bill, a check for commissions you’ve earned).

One word of caution–actually two:

  1. Let your readers know that they are clicking through an affiliate link. Just a short note at the end of the blog post, tweet or post; the last thing you want is for your readers to think that you’re taking advantage of them. I don’t want to break the trust that my audience has placed in me for a few bucks. If I’m excited about a product I’ll share that.
  2. Promote products and services you use and know. Maybe I’m don’t write on a big enough blog, but the products and services I push are the ones I use. The ones that help me do my job better. I go after these sponsors, affiliate links, what ever you want to call them. These are also often the same companies that give me door prizes for the live workshops I teach.

You’ll find these links in blog articles I write or on the sidebar of my blog. Sometimes I’ll use them in Social Media posts or on forums when someone asks a question,  where I can help give a solution and a discount.

If you wanna get all fancy, use bit.ly links to help track how people are using your recommendations and to help remember what the links are; I can’t remember the PhotoShelter affiliate link for the life of me, but http://bit.ly/DepuhlPS is easy.

Now go to your favorite software site, you most used cloud service, … and share why you love to use them with your audience. And figure out how to get them a discount; your audience will love you for that.

3 tips to give all your clients front row seat: Marketing Hack #26

10,000 clients sitting in the front row (all at the same time)

Wouldn’t it be great, if a potential client could come along on one of your productions and have a front row seat to see how you work, get a behind the scene glimpse of your workflow and get a feel for your personality on a shoot?

Yeah, I know it’s impossible, but wouldn’t that just be an awesome marketing opportunity? Well although it’s not possible to offer that front row seat to ten thousand clients (or even 10) on set with you, here’s the next best thing you can do:

Let your clients come along for the ride

If you take a little bit of time during a shoot, your clients can join you –front and center– virtually anywhere in the world, no not in person, but online.

Here’s a few ways you can put every member of your target audience, specifically your clients and prospects, in a front row seat of your next shoot:

Instagram/Twitter/Facebook
Instagram is visual, it’s quick to produce and you can easily broadcast the photos to your fans on Facebook and your followers on Twitter. Come up with a memorable hashtag that you use in all the photos and let your target audience experience how you run a production from the virtual front row.

Putting your client in a front row seat via InstagramCase in point: I posted only 18 images to Instagram on my recent trip to New York. Here’ how they break down: 5 travel shots, 5 behind the scenes shots, 4 food shots, 3 shots from NYC and one shot of my packed camera bag. I posted these shots over the course of 4 days and got audience engagement on all 3 social media channels, from people in the business, current and maybe some future clients.

You don’t have to flood your social media accounts with content while you’re shooting. A little bit goes a long way. You can check out all the photos on my Instagram account @photosbydepuhl, follow me and catch the next series of bts images (check out #adventuresinfilmmaking).

Remember to tag clients, people you’re interviewing or photographing to make it easy for them to like, share and retweet your visual content (just make sure you ask their permission first).

How to fire a marketing broadside at your target audience!

One of the mistakes I’ve made in my career is to rely exclusively on my images to get me booked. That may have worked in the past, but as I get ready to push my business this fall, I know my clients want to see more than just pretty photographs.

I’ve quoted this before, but it’s so valuable I’ll mention it again–Heather Elder* (@heathereldersf) creator of Notes From a Rep’s Journal said “The bottom line is that relying solely on your imagery to speak for you has become dangerous. Adding your voice to that imagery is as dangerous, but for everyone else, not you.” That sounds great, but how on earth do I add my voice to an image?

Add Your Voice

Clients – at least the ones in the B2B space that I’m working with – are looking for more than just an image: they want a photographer who has a strong Social Media presence, one who understands how small businesses market themselves online, one who is recommended by his/her clients and who takes them behind the scenes of productions he’s worked on. On top of all that they expect award-winning photography and video productions.

Integrated Marketing Campaigns

With this in mind I’ve started to create integrated marketing campaigns, which focus on a very specific group of people but are executed across a very broad range of media:

Website

ABE-Website-screenshot2-300x188The target of your campaign is your website. Everything should bring your client to a homepage that proves to a potential customer one thing only: you are capable of producing the job for them. And how they can contact you (check out how to automate that first customer contact). OK, so that’s two things, but you know what I mean. Does the first image your visitor sees on your site tie into your marketing?

Mailers

Yes – physical good old-fashioned postcards. With all the emails, Facebook messages, PMs, videos, texts and SMS’s we get today it’s easy to drown in a sea of electronic messages.

Beautiful-Product-Photography-postcard-300x103

Old-school post card connected to the cloud.

How do you compete against this onslaught? Go old school (with a twist): send a hand- written postcard. Clients appreciate knowing that they weren’t part of an automated campaign, filled in with their <FIRST NAME> <LAST NAME> and thanking them for the opportunity to bid on a photography job for <THEIR COMPANY>. A handwritten thanks gets noticed.

product-photo-story-lp-209x300

Online Context

So where’s the twist I mentioned earlier? Well on the back of the postcard is a link that goes to a landing page with the same image, a client testimonial video and a contact form that integrates with my CRM along with all the automation that comes with it. This page continues into a blog series about this shoot, that details how I estimated the job, pre-produced and scouted the job and how the job actually got photographed. (For a more detailed explanation of how the physical postcard gets integrated with my cloud based CRM, check out this weeks #MarketingHack #17: Link your postcards to the cloud!

How broad can you go?

So-perfect-it-had-to-be-photoshopped-150x150The sky is really the limit on how far you want to take it – social media memes, customer video testimonials, organic Facebook campaigns, winning photo contests, behind the scenes videos, online recommendations on LinkedIn, periscope live broadcasts… All these pieces of content make up the voice you need to promote your small business today. How many more channels can you think of that this image could be integrated into? I’m trying to hit a narrow audience in the broadest possible way.

 … but does it work?

That’s the $64,000 dollar question, isn’t it? As you can imagine a lot of work goes into creating an integrated marketing campaign. “What’s your ROI?” you might ask. Well, let’s look at one example.  In this case, I entered a professional photography contest hosted by the Florida Guild of Professional Photographers because winning an award gives me another reason to showcase my work to my target audience, even if they’ve already seen the image before.  Here’s my investment:

  1. Entry fee to a photo contest: $5.00
  2. 16×20 print for said contest: $26.00
  3. Postcard: ¢10 per card and ¢35 postage
  4. Video of client testimonial: $0.00 – produced by me
  5. BTS video: half day rate of a photo assistant to shoot 4 hours of video

A decent return in the first few weeks:

    1. The client bought more images from the shoot, because of the publicity and awards it was generating
    2. One of the best organic Facebook campaigns I’ve run in a long timeSunrise-Run-FB-stats_465
    3. A multi day photography booking, because of this campaign

The real secret is to cross promote these channels: the postcard leads to the landing page with the video testimonial; the news of the award sparks the curiosity of how the image was created and goes to the “how to” blog series; the periscope live broadcast builds excitement before the photograph is even produced (and lives as evergreen content on the blog); the LinkedIn recommendation causes someone to check out your profile and leads to another visitor to your website… You don’t have to create a linear campaign, where step 2 follows step 1. Someone can enter this integrated marketing campaign at any point and go to almost any other channel to get more info.

As I’m getting ready to come out of the slower summer months and gearing up for a busy fall, a marketing campaign like this can drive the visibility I’m looking for and ensure that new (and repeat) clients are hearing the voice I’m adding to my imagery.

(This post first was written for and published on the American Society of Media Photographer’s strictly business blog.)