Today’s Lesson Plan: Building Your Blog & Your Network

Today’s Lesson Plan: Building Your Blog & Your Network

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While I’ve shared some thoughts on the importance of a blog in the past , I’m surprised at the number of retailers and manufacturers who still don’t get it. Right now you’ve got the greatest reach in the history of imaging. In fact, thanks to social media, you’ve got the same reach only magazines had 10 to 15 years ago.

So, the question of the day becomes: “What are you doing to take full advantage of the tools at your fingertips?”

I just returned from the ShutterFest conference in St. Louis, where I taught two classes—one on marketing and the other on networking. Marketing involves so much more today than it has in the past, and networking has gone far beyond collecting business cards for your Rolodex.
TodayLesson-6-17My programs targeted many of the challenges professional photographers face. But there were two topics that stand out the most for any business owner.

Yes, I’ve said it before: your website is about your business and what you sell, but your blog is about what’s in your heart. If you do it right and maintain a consistent stream of posts put together with Facebook and Twitter, you’ve got the ability at least twice a week to share who you are and why you love imaging.

Tips for a Successful Blog

A blog is about being visible, accessible and building a relationship with your readers. It’s about being helpful. Here are some quick tips.

•    Consistency. Put up a new blog post at least twice a week.

•    Content. Pick topics that are of interest to your readers. This is about education and being helpful. Soft sell when it comes to the products you want to promote.

•    Diversity. There’s so much under the imaging umbrella; share ideas about how to use images. From prints to novelty items to hybrid videos, there are so many great ideas to share.

•    Length of Content. Depending on what you’re sharing, you can produce great content with as little as 50 words; try to stay under 500.

•    Guest posts. Don’t be afraid to give your staff, associates or customers an opportunity for a guest post. A great blog is about relevant content.

•    Images. Never post without a photograph or video. It will pull people into what you’ve written and also give you something to share with your Facebook posts and Tweets.

•    Contests. I’m a huge fan of contests, especially if you can give customers, particularly the serious hobbyists, a vehicle to share their images and get some recognition. In terms of prizes, you’re sitting on a gold mine of products and access to all the manufacturers’ reps you work with.

•    Build a Stash of Posts. The challenge too many people have is in their thought process. Photographers especially think a blog post has to be tied to an event that just took place. In order to consistently be posting, build a stash of articles, so you’ve always got something in the pipeline. The list of topics to write about is virtually unlimited—photo tips, places to photograph in your community, educational events, fundraisers and associations you’re involved with, and technology. These are just the tip of the iceberg!

The Care and Feeding of Your Network

Gone are the days of just collecting business cards and the names of the reps who call on you. A reliable network brings together people with mutual interests, who have the ability to support challenges and also share a passion for imaging.

It starts with as many people as you can meet face to face and truly get to know a little better than you can via e-mail or a phone call. Then it’s about keeping in contact, beyond once a year at a convention or national sales meeting.

The tips I shared with photographers at ShutterFest are universal, starting with the variety of sourcing for your network. Think about all the people you know and have met through:

•    Conventions, conferences, workshops
•    Community involvement
•    Friends/Associates
•    Vendors/Manufacturers
•    Customers/Your database
•    Social media

Stay in Touch!

Now think about all the ways to stay in touch, especially with those members of your network who have a skill set you admire. And today, there are so many different ways to stay connected.

Connect at conventions. Make plans in advance and connect with associates face to face.

Be active in Facebook. There are dozens of forums with a photography theme. Use Facebook’s search box and find them by keywords. When you join though, become a member with the intent of being helpful, not as a retailer.

Facebook/Twitter. Retweet each post and tweet of the members of your network. The idea is to always be helping each other.

Track birthdays, anniversaries, events. I love using the birthday notifications on Facebook. In fact, it’s my first stop each morning.

Pick up the phone! It’s old fashioned, but in an age where we spend too much time texting and e-mailing, it’s the perfect way to stay in touch with the most important people in your network.

Think of your network as a target with you at the bull’s-eye center. The two or three rings closest to you represent people you trust the most and also have the most valuable skills to help you with the various challenges that might come up.

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