Not long ago, buyers and sellers were as distinct as, say, Democrats and Republicans are today (okay, maybe they never were that far apart, but you get the idea!). Today, thanks to social media, we’ve come a long way toward increasing shared goals and seamless connections. I’ll leave the political analogy behind because I’m talking now about a true win-win between you and your followers — when you get them to contribute their visual content to your social media.
Why would you want visual content from fans? After all, you’re the maker of professional images here, not them! What if someone mistakes their work for yours? Or (shock!) gives you a run for your money? Hang on, we’ll cover that.
First off, rethink what a prospect or customer is today. Once upon a time, sellers and buyers perched in distinct pigeonholes. Sellers saw a need, targeted a market, offered up goods and services, and pleased buyers — or not. Buyers shopped around, sampled the wares, and were pleased or not. Reputations grew, for better or worse.
Today? Separate pigeonholes no more. Those birds have flown the coop and are flirting about up in the air. Sellers promote customers and vice versa, implicitly and explicitly. Just think how social media has expanded the influence of a single customer. One recommendation can network into a thousand — or ten thousand.
Same with a social media site bursting with visual customer-created content that captures and expresses a certain subject or photographic style — wow!
By using your social media as a venue for customer images, you not only have help creating meaningful content but far more importantly, you gain fan investment in your social media and work. Fan participation sends a signal far and wide to their networks that, hey, your site is not only worth visiting but worth posting on. And that is how you become a magnet.
If you’re working in an area like sports or school photography, you’re sitting on a gold mine of fan-generated visual content. Think of all the photos parents and kids take at sporting events. Think of how kids love to share selfies and shots of their friends.
You can create opportunities to become the place where people who love the kind of photography you specialize in come to share their images. Tactics for making it happen range from contests and sweepstakes to more sophisticated approaches, as we’ll get into in later posts.
It can start with a simple invitation from you. Ask fans to post their shots of events, styles, experiences. Post a quote and ask for photos to go with. Present a technical challenge, invite a healthy competition.
Bottom line, it’s time to think of prospects and customers as your partners, as a tremendous collective resource for your community. If you approach your social media with this fresh attitude, you’re on your way to getting more fan contributions and sending a social signal that will command attention.
Stay tuned. In upcoming posts, I’ll dig deeper into techniques and tools. Meanwhile, why not just ask your fans what they’re shooting, and what excites them?
Guest post by Georgia McCabe follow her on Google+ – As an author, speaker, trainer and social media and photography evangelist, her perspectives on social media appear in print in her newest book entitled “SocialMorphosis – Transforming Your Business through Social Media”. Georgia is also a co-author of the book “The Relationship Age”, with social media guru Mari Smith. Georgia is a frequent guest blogger for our professional photography lab.