I've recently had the pleasure of working with Janelle Robertson Photography. Janelle is a very creative and talented local photographer who manages her own Facebook page, like so many small businesses do. I had the opportunity to ask Janelle a few questions about how she markets her small business using Facebook...
Sharpe Design Solutions [SDS]: You chose Facebook as your main social media channel, can you tell me why?
Janelle Robertson Photography [JRP]: For the personal interaction. I had a blog that I updated regularly and while it got a lot of traffic, I didn’t get to create any connections with the people visiting it. With Facebook, I can communicate instantly with fans of my page, I can tag people to include them, share images directly onto clients’ personal pages and develop relationships with potential clients before I even meet them.
Facebook also helps spread my business to people I wouldn’t be able to reach through traditional channels…. Friends who ‘like’ an image will often share that photo of mine and suddenly all their friends and family are seeing my work…. I’ve had a lot of referral work through friends of friends, simply because they’ve been exposed to my business through Facebook … and, in a non-threatening, friendly and trustworthy environment. Facebook, as a networking tool, is a great way to create interest in my business and once a person has found their way to my page, they can find out more about me just by looking through my work and my experiences that I share.
I do like to post about my family and day-to-day life on my business page, it gives people a sense of who I am and what my values are... these things translate into confidence in my work, and a connection that makes people feel comfortable when we work together on a shoot. And that shines through in photos!
SDS: What techniques do you use to increase engagement?
JRP: Quite by accident, I’ve increased my engagement dramatically through a personal project that has grown over the years since my children were born. Even before Facebook, I was undertaking an annual “photo a day” project for the month of January. It is as simple as taking a photo each day that represents what my family has been doing. It started to document our summer holiday one year, and I’ve kept it going as a wonderful keepsake. I write posts to accompany each photo – some are funny, some are deeply personal and some are just words that tumble out after a long day. But they’re engaging, and they’re me. And for some reason, people seem to love reading them lol! I have so many messages and posts begging me not to stop at the end of January… I think people like to know others make the same mistakes, have the same frustrations and the same joys as they do. They can relate.
Every January, when I post my daily photos, my page gets a huge influx of traffic, people share the posts with their friends and I get interaction and connection with people I’ve known for years and people I’ve never met. This is how I like to build my business, through my personality – which is evident in every post – and my relationships. I like to comment on my photos along with everyone else, and engage with people in a way that hopefully brings them back to my work when they need my services, because they will already feel like they know me. Which, if they’ve followed my page, they already do!
SDS: How did you grow your Facebook fan base?
JRP: I haven’t dedicated any real time to actively chasing fans. To date I’ve let the fan base grow organically, through referrals and through people sharing my work with their connections. I’m not convinced having a lot of ‘fans’ is equal to having a lot of work! Photography is personal and unique, and I like to use my Facebook page the same way. While increasing my fan base increases the people seeing each post, that doesn’t necessarily translate into shoots. I’m happy at the moment to present my style to the fans I do have, and let them refer me on. I plan to focus more on Facebook marketing this year, so I can extend my reach further and be more present even when not posting every day, but in a meaningful way that still keeps my brand true.
SDS: How often do you post to Facebook?
JRP: Probably twice a week on average... sometimes it’s a photo from a recent shoot, or a family photo, or from a personal project I’ve been working on. Sometimes it’s just a silly thing that brought a smile to my face and I wanted to share! I like to showcase my work, but not bombard people with it. And it’s nice if I can write some commentary that is interesting or amusing, and gives readers a sense of who I am and what is important to me. When you’re working closing with people, photographing their business or their family, you need to have them feel like they know you. It creates a better relationship and does wonderful things for the images! Clients get to know me a little every time I post, and I like that.
SDS: Would you agree that online sales/enquiries peak AFTER you post to Facebook?
JRP: I definitely get an increase in enquiries when I post, particularly when post family portrait work on my page. That doesn’t necessarily become instant bookings, but many people make that initial contact and then plan shoots around their family calendar, special events, reunions etc… It can be a slow burn, but I’ve built a foundation and make that connection with a fan, they usually come back when they’re ready. I hold two ‘mini-shoot’ weekends each year, which I announce through Facebook and they sell out almost instantly, within a couple of hours. People don’t take long to decide they want a shoot like that, as they’ve already had time to know my work and know they like my style. It pays to keep that connection going throughout the year!
SDS: How do you plan to continue engaging with your fans on Facebook?
JRP: I’ll keep going the way I’m going for now, maybe focus on more bespoke photography, collaborating with clients to tell their story and create beautiful works of art. I’m not a huge fan of competitions or promotions for my work, so I don’t run these things on my page. I keep it clean and avoid confusing people by not changing my packages and pricing etc. I do think there’s a lot of potential for my business to be bigger on Facebook, but I’m planning that slowly for now.
SDS: Do you advertise on Facebook and if not, why?
JRP: No I don't. At the moment my business is small and works around my family commitments. I take on projects that I know I'll enjoy and work with people that I'm confident I can help - either through beautiful personal photography or by building their business with images that showcase their work. People trust me to know my profession inside out and that my technical skills are well honed, so I take great photos for them… it’s the same for me with things like Facebook marketing. There’s so much to know - more than any average user realises – so I will be leaving that side of my business to an experienced Facebook marketer. I can’t know everything there is to know, and I certainly can’t keep up with all the changes to social media, so I’ll use the knowledge and skills of someone who does…
SDS: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Janelle. When the time comes, I look forward to helping you grow your business with Facebook Marketing.
Jody Sharpe, Branding & Online Marketing Specialist at Sharpe Design Solutions
For more information on Janelle Robertson Photography, visit Janelle's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/janellerobertsonphotography
For more information on Facebook marketing, visit www.sharpedesignsolutions.com.au
Jody Sharpe has over 20 years experience in marketing & branding and is passionate about helping local small businesses grow.