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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).
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.
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.
Wanna get a sneak peek of what I shot in New York and Miami over the last few days? Check out our celebration of 25 years of making world-class artists and designers in one of the best #PublicSchools in @miamischools! #DASH consistently produces Top Talent in #architecture #IndustrialDesign #fashion #film and #graphicdesign @dashschool
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s not easy getting your marketing message heard today. There is so much noise out there – so many things are vying for every split second of our time, that especially if you’re just starting out you are speaking to no one. How do you build your audience?
Find someone who already has an audience and is willing to introduce you to them. Now there are a couple of people you don’t need to ask. The photographer that is in your market and your direct competition is probably not going to want to introduce you to his audience. I mean we’re all friends, but we also compete for the same work.
Let me tell you who gave me a chance to be heard: I met Rosh (@RoshSillars) a few years ago. He’s a Detroit photographer that shoots food and people. He was planning to hold a Social Media workshop in Miami many years ago and I had signed up for that. That workshop ended up falling through, but we stayed in touch. Rosh hosts a podcast and -I don’t remember all the details if he asked me or I asked him- but I ended up being a guest on his show. Rosh and I don’t compete. We’re in different markets and we focus our photography on different segments of those markets. It didn’t hurt his business to have a Miami product photographer on. Interestingly enough my first time we spoke about the importance of blogging.
To be honest, my phone did not ring off the hook, with people begging to photograph for them after the show aired, but Rosh gave me the opportunity to talk to his audience. You never know where these opportunities end up, our most recent collaboration was the Switch2Social workshop I produced in Miami, where Rosh was the main speaker. Rosh has interviewed me for books he’s written, I’ve been on his show a few times and he’s promoted some online events I’ve put on.
As long as there is mutual benefit in these relationships and it makes sense to share your audience. If you’re just starting out – ask another photographer, if they can introduce you to their audience and if you’re an established shooter, don’t be afraid to share some new voices with your audience.