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Content Creation And The New Game Of Photography Marketing
I want to start out this module on content creation with a look at what that term really means for today’s photographer because there have been many changes in the way we market ourselves online.
In fact, these changes are still ongoing, with no signs of letting up any time soon.
Change, it seems, is a fundamental part of our way of life in the online world and we must be prepared to constantly evolve and adapt the ways we market ourselves and do business if we’re to remain in business.
Part of the problem is things are changing fast!
Take Facebook as an example – how often do we see changes to privacy policies, screen layouts, and even the algorithms that govern how our updates are seen by our fans, the people who’ve already declared an interest in us by liking our business pages?
Facebook started out as the bright darling of online marketing, almost as if it were designed for photographers, but look at it now! Facebook is reducing the effective reach of our page updates and moving us ever closer to a “pay to play” system where paid advertising will become a necessity.
Google is another example of rapid change.
Without even considering the effects of hundreds of minor algorithm updates, Google’s “penguins”, “pandas” and “hummingbirds” have changed the SEO world to the point where it would be unrecognizable compared to where SEO was less than 10 years ago.
Search engine optimization has always been something of a reactionary marketing strategy in the sense that its main intent is to fathom out the inner workings of Google’s top secret algorithms, and then to try to game the system to some extent in order to rank our content higher in the search engines.
What Is “Content”?
So what do I mean by the term “content”? After all, it’s a word that’s thrown around all over the Internet, but what is it really?
In it’s broadest sense, content could be taken to mean simply the words, video, audio and images we find on any given web page regardless of how much of it there actually is or the quality of it.
Strictly speaking, every page on the web has content, even if there’s nothing actually visible on the page, because the HTML code behind the page can also be thought of as “content”. The meta tags, for example, can be read by Google, but aren’t normally visible to us.
Clearly, there are varying levels of content, from poor to excellent.
We can find pages with reams of content and others with hardly anything. Some of the in-depth content turns out to have little real substance, while some of the shorter pieces (for example, the posts on Seth Godin’s blog) are beyond profound.
Which sort of begs the question of what makes some content poor and other content excellent? Who decides what’s good and what isn’t? After all, there are no Internet content police with the responsibility of making that decision.
Turns out that it’s us who decides.
“Us” being the collective population of web users.
Every time we click the “like” button, share a page on Twitter, give a +1 or pin something on Pinterest, we’re casting a positive vote that says, “I think this content is valuable and worth sharing.”
Just like in the early days of SEO where Google found that the number of times a page was linked to from other pages was a good indicator of relevance, these new social signals are becoming much more important in determining how “good” or “bad” a piece of content might be.
Unlike the link-building system, social sharing is an awful lot harder for Internet marketers and black-hat SEO spammers to leverage any kind of advantage from.
Social sharing has become the best sense of true popularity we have. It’s as if there’s a never-ending election going on, and we’re voting in it every day in one way or another just through our online behavior.
And Google knows that too.
Of course, we can’t throw out all the old values and ideas about SEO – if we relied completely on social sharing statistics (at least for now), our search results would be completely overtaken by pictures of cute cats and Gangnam-style videos.
On top of that, and of particular interest to photographers, Google also has its eyes on advanced photo recognition.
In a recent acquisition, Google purchased a small start-up company that had developed software able to see inside a JPG, for example, analyze the pixels and then determine (roughly for now) what the main subject is.
Imagine what that might do in the hands of Google, when combined with their current knowledge of what’s happening in social media!
Conceivably, they could know that a photographer’s images are from a wedding, count the number of comments, likes and shares, then compare those to images from another local photographer to “decide” who is the best photographer to return in search results for “best local wedding photographer”.
A bit far-fetched perhaps, and it might seem a little like science-fiction right now, but much of what we take for granted today would have felt like sci-fi just 10 years ago.
The Old Game Of Photography Marketing
So let’s take a quick look at what the “old game” of photography marketing looks like – for many this is still the current game, and they really need to change quickly if they’re to keep up with the rest.
The old game all starts with a website – do you remember the days when many photographers actually resisted having a website – that would be unthinkable today, wouldn’t it?
The traditional photography website had a home page, an “about” page, a contact us page, some information about pricing, maybe a booking form, and possibly an FAQ page. There would also be some basic information pages for the photographer’s specialties with testimonials and calls to action to phone the studio or get in touch by email.
If it was really advanced, there would be a fancy slideshow to show off the photographer’s work.
Throw some keywords and SEO into the mix and everyone was happy, at least for a while.
Then along came YouTube, blogs and WordPress.
All of a sudden, we all had to become video makers and bloggers, posting online diaries about our latest sessions and dealing with the inevitable onslaught of spam comments.
Fast forward, and here come Facebook and the other social media giants.
“Like” buttons, tweets, pins and a host of other ways to swap and share web content erupted all over the web.
While that’s happening, WordPress becomes ever more dominant as a website and blog platform, with new plugins and themes coming out every day.
All of a sudden our websites and blogs are transformed into amazingly complex beasts that can do almost anything we like – slideshows and galleries become ever more fancy, and photographers everywhere willingly embraced this visual utopia to create ever prettier websites.
Who needs marketing copy when we’ve got great eye candy?
Bringing us to where we are now, in a world where the most important requirement for many when it comes to website design seems to be that it has to look pretty.
Parallel to these developments, SEO has changed beyond all recognition, meaning that we can no longer rely on a few strategically-placed keywords to save the day. Google’s penguins and pandas terrorize the Internet, rooting out those who still cling to the old black-hat tactics, while Google gets ever better at understanding human language.
Despite its prevalence and awesome power, even social media can’t come to the rescue, at least not in its current form.
Why is that? Well, have you looked at the sharing statistics for your blog posts and pages lately? How many times have your readers actually shared your content on social media as a percentage of the number of page views?
Not many, right?
Even the big A-list bloggers out there struggle with the same small percentages we do. Yes, they might get 2,000 tweets for a post, but it takes 200,000 page views to achieve that and a tight network of co-conspirators.
What does this mean for you?
Essentially, if photographers stick only with content-poor, image-heavy websites and blogs in the hopes that people will find them, fall in love with their photography, and then hire them just for that reason, they’re doomed to failure.
Sure, they might catch a few.
But it simply won’t happen enough times for any serious business to remain sustainable in the long term.
Introducing The New Game Of Photography Marketing
So what can we do about this problem?
How can we market a photography business online so that it not only gets noticed, but it also endears itself naturally to our target market and guides them almost effortlessly towards working with us?
Pure SEO is not the sole answer, as it’s too hard (and highly unwise) to game the system and try to trick Google.
Social media, in and of itself, is too crowded and reactionary in nature for us to be heard above the ever-present noise. It’s like trying to hear a whisper in a hurricane.
Simple blogging (ironically, considering this is a blogging course) is also not the solution when taken in isolation – it is part of the solution, but not in the way you might imagine.
Maybe video marketing is the “magic bullet” we need? Nope – again, it might be a useful component, but it’s not the one thing that will ensure our success.
Everywhere you turn on the Internet, it seems that someone is trying to sell the latest secrets about XYZ and how this or that special system is the answer to all our marketing prayers, but they turn out to be nothing more than get rich quick schemes that simply don’t work.
The reason? They fail to take a holistic view, focusing instead on one component. It’s like trying to make a car go faster by increasing the size of the gas tank but ignoring the engine.
The things you’ll learn from this blogging course are not part of any get rich quick scheme, nor is this a secret system. As you’ve no doubt noticed, it’s not even the usual kind of blogging course (there are plenty of other resources available on how to blog, or how to set up WordPress, and that’s not what we’re concerned with here).
What this course is designed for, at its core, is to get you thinking about the new game of photography marketing before it’s too late and you get left behind!
What we’re talking about here is the world of media, and content production.
Essentially, from now on, you need to think of yourself as a content producer.
Think about that for a moment. Consider what that really means.
Not just as someone who makes content, almost at random, but as someone who creates content with a strategic mission behind it – that mission being to connect and engage with a specific audience (your target market) and convert that audience into valuable leads for your business.
You develop, produce, and create meaningful content with the express purpose of entertaining, informing and educating your target market, getting them to know, like, and trust you, so that they will be far more likely to want to work with you.
And I don’t mean you have to now spend all of your time just writing – that would be no fun, right?
All of the other marketing strategies I mentioned earlier have a strategic part to play in this new game but, like a player on a soccer team, they can’t win the whole game on their own.
Your new content, built on your blogging platform using this roadmap, will form the core of this new methodology, happily supported by SEO, social media marketing, copywriting, email marketing, video marketing, maybe even podcasts for the brave ones – all of it aimed at attracting, connecting with and converting your prospects into leads.
From now on, everything you do on your blog – whether it be creating posts or pages – should align with your strategic mission. Anything that distracts the visitor from your end goal should be re-purposed so that it is properly aligned or eliminated.
From here on out, it’s ALL marketing – everything you create, regardless of the platform, becomes a part of your marketing system.
But that doesn’t mean it has to look, sound, or feel like marketing to the prospect!
It’s no longer “look at me” marketing, the new game is all about “look at you” – the “you” in that case being the customer. We’ve moved away from business-centric thinking to a better customer-centric way of thinking.
This is an exciting new world we’re operating in, and I know that many photographers might see it in a negative way or complain that this all sounds like too much hard work.
And, yes, it is hard work.
But, this is where the photographers with true passion for their art – photographers like you – can outshine all the others so much that it will seem as though people are drawn to them like moths to a flame.
From the outside it will seem as if they’ve suddenly been endowed with off the charts charisma when, in reality, all they’ve done is started a conversation that their ideal clients want to become a part of.
I can’t wait to see some of the awesome results photographers will get from this.
So there you go, some food for thought as you move into the realm of becoming a real content producer – I’m sure you’ll shine.
Thanks for listening, and do let me know if you have any questions at all.