Some time in the late 1990s we all started to play on the Internet. I remember the Kodak Daguerre’s chat room on AOL. It was the first forum I was ever active in, and it was especially valuable to me as president of Hasselblad USA. I’d make it a point to check into the chat room late on Friday and Saturday nights and just listen to the conversations between wedding photographers.
When appropriate, I’d jump in and comment. Essentially, I had my own focus group. They talked about challenges with equipment, clients and the venues. I didn’t hide behind a secret name and always made it a point to make sure everyone knew I worked for Hasselblad.
Even though it would be years later that I truly understood the significance of being involved, this early experience gave me an incredible foundation in social media. Sadly, there are a lot of you who still don’t know how to use it to your advantage.
Every executive and senior manager, no matter what your company or product, should be active in social media. It’s an opportunity to take the mystery out of being the wizard and to step out from behind the curtain. It’s about public relations, and it’ll give you and your target audience a completely different perspective on your company.
I missed the boat by stepping away from social media for too many years and really just ramped up a few years ago on Facebook and Twitter. I should have recognized the benefit at the same time Zappos’s CEO figured it out: today he’s got 2.8 million followers on Twitter.
Most of you aren’t involved because you’re: 1) looking at this as a passing trend; 2) afraid to get directly involved; or 3) don’t understand the logistics of each venue. So here are some guidelines to help you get started.
Your website is about the products and services you sell, while your blog and involvement in other aspects of social media are about your heart. It’s about being involved in the community and being approachable.
Scott Bourne had the 104th website in the world and has been an incredible mentor. A few years ago he wrote a guest post for me that was all about being effective in social media. This was presented to professional photographers as a guideline to help them be more effective, but his points are universal.
- Blogs, podcasts and social media sites when combined are 10 times more effective than when used alone.
- Remember you need to be accessible to communicate.
- Respond to your audience when they ask for help or ask a sincere question.
- Ignore your audience when they are complaining due to their false belief that they are entitled to something from you other than the free gift you give them of your time. Try to use your blog, podcast and Twitter sites to solve problems. Everyone likes a problem solver.
- Be consistent. Blog or podcast once every hour, or every day or every other day or every other week, but be consistent.
- When you first start out in blogs, podcasting and social media, listen first, talk second.
- When you launch, you’ll have few in your audience. Be patient.
- Be generous. Be generous with your time, your knowledge and your gifts.
Now, imagine the impact you can have not only listening to your audience but being there to help them with the challenges of running a photography business or taking their photography to the next level.
Today, primarily through Facebook and Twitter, I have the reach that only magazines had just a few years ago. In addition, I’ve run at least a dozen guest posts just in the last two months from photographers who are doing some amazing things. These are people I would never know about had it not been for being involved in social media.
Years ago, in my Polaroid days, I put together a couple of pretty good marketing programs. Everybody asked me how I came up with the ideas. The truth is, they weren’t even my ideas. I went to our sales force and the retailers and asked the same question: “If we were looking to double your business for next year, what would you tell me you needed?” Then I just kicked back and listened. All the answers were out there.
Social media gives you that same ability—the power to find the answers to build a stronger brand, make a better product and upgrade the perception of you and your company.
And if you need some help, here’s where to find me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Skip Cohen is founder of SkipCohenUniversity.com, an educational resource site focused on marketing and business content for aspiring and professional photographers. As a senior executive in the photo industry, he served as president of Rangefinder/WPPI and Hasselblad USA and has coauthored six books on photography. His company, Marketing Essentials International, provides consulting support to manufacturers, magazines and associations.