Having been implemented several days ago, an initial ten-week marketing plan has started to yield some interesting results. Notably it has demonstrated my predictions regarding potential audiences for my photographic output to be accurate.
However, for my marketing activities to be most effective, a degree of realistic expectation is needed.
An all-important question is who could I potentially work for? Simple, basic. Yet there is a geographical consideration in order for this question to be answered in a manner which is meaningful from the point of view of running a viable business. Not only is the who important, where is also fundamental. Despite operating in the age of the digital image, advice garnered from initial discussions with a photographic agency is to focus on becoming established in one’s local area first.
Commercially, photography is a commodity and as with all commodities, there is supply.
Key questions here are as follows:
Who are the other photographers that work in my area?
Who else is supplying the clients in the applicable market?
Who are my competitors?
And because there is a supply, there is also demand.
Identify the amount of demand. Is there an overpopulation of photographers supplying the market earning a low share of the available revenue, or is there a small number of photographers supplying the market, taking a bigger share?
Having identified potential clients, the key is to reach them through targeted marketing activities.
Bowkett (2017) suggests that ‘photographers should choose where they would like to have their work displayed and develop that space to reflect their visual identity’.
Establishing a brand, the public image you present, is another fundamental requirement. Being consistent across a range of modes of presentation is essential to successful branding, as is adopting a professional yet stylish design.
It is this ‘visual identity’ which can be presented across the various social media channels.
Barthes referred to the contexts in which images can be consumed as “channels of transmission” in a tripartite system where the authors of images he describes as the “source of emission” and viewers become the “point of reception” (Barthes, 1977, p. 15).
Contemporary social media owes much of its popularity to its interactive nature where the community members are authors and contributors as much as they viewers and consumers. Images contributed to social media help individuals to define their online identity, where they “shape” the way in which others see them, where they portray themselves as they wish to be perceived, their “ideal”.
Social media is a dialogic form of transmission, meaning that there are many sources of information and many users, or to put this in terms Barthes would recognise, there are both many sources of emission and many points of reception. This is opposed to traditional forms of media which are monologic where the sources of emission are typically a very small number of powerful organisations delivering information to a wide audience.
From a marketing point of view, not all forms of social media are equal. One may be more beneficial to one type of photographer, to promoting one genre of photography than to another. Again, there is a need to be realistic.
Quality content – for photographers, this translates into having high quality images, is the obvious input to social media.
Tagging is necessary to create viral spread.
Regularity is also key. However, quality is again the overriding consideration, fewer quality posts are better than frequent low quality and irrelevant posts for the sake of posting.
But to assume these two activities alone constitute a successful social media marketing plan is a gross oversimplification.
As discussed previously, there needs to be a strategy.
And this needs to start with the question ‘which social media channels are the most appropriate to reach the target market?’
Commercial photography requires a more ‘no-nonsense’ approach to social media, for example, examples of successfully completed projects and behind the scenes shots, bearing in mind that behind the scenes shots build trust.
Stick to a plan diligence is key. Setting up accounts and posting regularly for a few days before the novelty wears off is a common mistake to avoid.
Successful social media marketing campaigns share certain characteristics. They begin by targeting a specific market, and avoid random posting.
Such campaigns also consider the value of interaction on social media. The best strategy is to engage with the target audience, for example, replying to comments.
Whilst engagement is valued, social media can be a black hole, try to limit time spent interacting on social media to, say, 20 minutes per day.
It is also beneficial, from an efficiency point of view, to identify which social media channels are most important, especially in the case of small businesses, and choose two or three maximum to concentrate on. Again, identifying the target audience, then identifying which social media platforms are most likely to be used by that audience is key.
The jewel in the crown, as far as marketing is concerned, is the website. The online presence for a business should be focused on the main target market, with all content being relevant to the target audience and their needs.
Only best work should be featured, even if this results in the gallery remaining small – ‘less is more’ being particularly apt in this instance.
In terms of operation, a website should have two main characteristics: these being that it is quick and easy to access. By analogy, a website is a shop window. Potential customers need access to the window if they are to view the goods on display. Any barriers put in place prevent easy access to the window. Simplicity is paramount when designing a website. Appearance and functionality go hand in hand.
Finally, a word on speculative marketing.
Businesses are curious regarding the appearance of their products look like and how they are perceived by the market. It is the need for such information that results in companies spend significant amounts on market research.
They are also interested in understanding the ways in which different photographers can portray their products.
Consequently, there is a lot to be gained by carefully targeting potential clients. This can be achieved by producing high quality images of products which are commercially available and sending them to the appropriate department within the product’s manufacturing company. This is an attention-grabbing way to potentially secure a meeting.
These, then, are the kernels of recommended best practice, the nuggets of advisory wisdom harvested from the internet which will bolster my marketing plan as I look to move forward over the forthcoming weeks and months.
Barthes, R. and Heath, S. (1977) Rhetoric of the Image in Image Music Text. London: Fontana
Bowkett, E (2017) ‘Creative Brief’. The British Journal of Photography, Vol 164, Issue 7858 (April 2017), pp.84-85 [online]. Available at: http://ezproxy.falmouth.ac.uk/docview/1920352153?accountid=15894 (accessed Thursday 26 October 2017)