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Creative Rising Episode 102
Does your social media look less like a strategy and more like throwing a wet paper towel against a wall and seeing what sticks?
Do you feel like no matter what you do, you never seem to get the right followers on Instagram? Or have no idea WHAT to post and WHEN?
In this episode, I break down what every wedding photographer needs to know about social media (and what you can ignore). I’ll unpack our step-by-step marketing system that we use across all three of our photography brands to attract our Dreamies on a regular basis.
In this episode, I cover:
- Which social media platforms to ignore (and which ones you can’t)
- What to post on Instagram, how often, and why
- How a wedding photographer should REALLY be using Facebook
- The key to writing copy that your ideal clients will love
This episode will take the guess-work out of marketing to get your Dreamies knocking down your door – even if social media makes you cringe!
**Listen to the podcast episode above or read the transcript below. **
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- (6:24) Why Your Mindset Matters with Social Media
- (12:04) Step One: Know Your Bullseye
- (17:47) Step Two: Pick Your Platforms
- (24:26) Step Three: Choose Your Content
- (31:51) Step Four: Develop Your Values
- (36:10) Step Five: Automate
- (39:26) Here’s the Thing with Social Media
Why Your Mindset Matters with Social Media
In this episode, I’m talking about how to use social media, and I just want to make one thing clear.
This isn’t so that you can get 10,000 Instagram followers.
It’s not so you have 100 comments on every photo you post.
I’m going to teach you how to use social media so you can build a business that’s life-giving. Because a business that’s life-giving will automatically be a business that matters to you and it will be a business that matters to those around you.
When I talk about social media, more than anything else, your mindset really really matters.
It’s so easy to let social media become a really difficult source of negative energy in your business and moving forward, from this point on, that’s not what I want for you.
I want social media to be a life-giving tool, not a soul-sucking compari-scroll. Sound good?
In order to do that, I need you to raise your hand and repeat after me:
I will not look through other people’s Instagram feeds after 10pm. EVER AGAIN.
Some advice I received years ago? Don’t look at other people’s stuff after 10pm. You are not in the right frame of mind.
How can you find your own voice, if all you’re doing is paying attention to everyone else?
AND what you’re paying attention to is everyone else’s insanely curated highlight reel. It’s not even reality. And yet, we take it so seriously.
I teach a lot about marketing, and social media is an amazing tool, but only if you learn how to use it in a life-giving manner.
But I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re thinking, “Erin, seriously, it’s so easy to say ‘Don’t pay attention to everyone else’ but it’s nearly impossible to do.”
Well, I’ve found that instead of just trying to ignore something negative, if I have something positive to focus my energy on, then it’s so much easier to realign my focus when I find myself starting to dive into the black hole of the social media.
Instead, pay attention to the people that make you come alive – your dream clients.
Which brings me to step number one of the Bullseye method: KNOW YOUR BULLSEYE.
STEP ONE: KNOW YOUR BULLSEYE
If you haven’t yet listened to Episode 101: How We Built a Dreamie Business, then I want you to go listen to that episode, ideally before you finish this one.
In that episode I talk all about your ideal client and how to figure out who your particular ideal client is. I also tell the story of our first years of photography and how the turning point for us was when we finally discovered who our ideal clients were.
Before I knew my Dreamies (that’s what I call our ideal client in case you didn’t know yet), our marketing “strategy” was like having a big giant empty wall in our office, wadding up wet paper towels, and throwing them against the wall to see what stuck.
But once I began understanding my Dreamies, I had a big fat bullseye on that wall, and my goal was just to learn – over and over again – how to get as close to the bullseye with every effort I made.
Everything I did from that point on had purpose. Every throw I made was strategic.
And everything I did from that point forward was exciting and life-giving.
Spinning My Wheels
The term “spinning my wheels” is like nails on a chalkboard for me.
I bet that if you’re an achiever-type personality like me, then you can put your head down and work crazy hard for days, weeks, or months to make something happen.
The WORST feeling for people like you and me is when we come out on the other side of those days, weeks, or months, and discover that what we just did… it didn’t matter.
That we were just spinning our wheels and wasting our time.
And in those first years of business when Jeff and I were still working our corporate jobs, Jeff and I attended a photography conference, and the blogging world was EXPLODING.
Every photographer around us was starting to blog and speaker after speaker was raving about blogging this and blogging that, and that we NEEDED to have a blog!!!
So I decided that I was going to blog EVERY SINGLE DAY. That lasted for six months.
I worked my tail off for six months trying my hardest to blog every single day, including Saturdays and Sundays.
At the end of that six months, I did gain a small following, but guess who that following was? They were all moms that loved to cook.
Great. That was going to do my WEDDING business a lot of good…
After so many months of blogging everyday, I went from loving to write, to hating blogging.
The blinking cursor in WordPress had become my worst nightmare…
Not to mention, I was completely sick of the internet rat race. You know, going through my RSS feed, reading everyone’s blogs, making sure to comment on theirs so I could get more comments on my blog.
(Sounds familiar doesn’t it? We’ve just replaced blog posts with Instagram.)
So when I realized that I had been spinning my wheels for those six months – that what I was doing didn’t matter – I nearly imploded from the gut bomb of wasted time.
In fact, I swung the other direction, and didn’t write a single blog for like six months after that.
It’s not because I had received bad advice.
It’s not because those speakers at the conference were bad people filling me with lies.
Blogging absolutely DOES work.
Instagram IS really important.
Social media WILL transform your business.
But only if you know WHY you’re doing it and WHO YOU’RE DOING IT FOR.
My blogging ‘strategy’ wasn’t a strategy at all. My daily blog posts were just wet paper towels that I was throwing against the wall of the internet.
It wasn’t until I took the time to figure out my favorite clients and put that giant bullseye on my wall with my Dreamies smack in the center that I began excitedly blogging for those Dreamies twice a week with content that MATTERED.
That was when our blog took off.
That was when our BUSINESS took off and we started traveling the world.
That was when I stopped spinning my wheels making random shots in the dark, and built a focused brand with a targeted following.
- My blog wasn’t the center of my business anymore.
- My social media wasn’t the center of my business.
- My images weren’t even the center of my business.
My Dreamies were the NEW center of everything we did and they’re still the center everything we do in all three of our photography brands.
My workflows, my sales, my systems – my big and small everyday decisions – they all begin and end with my ideal clients.
This is what the bullseye method means.
STEP TWO: PICK YOUR PLATFORMS
I am a very lucky woman because my dear sweet hubby, Jeffrey Gene Youngren, does ALL of the cooking in our house.
I cooked for years, and it never went well – I got super stressed out! But at one point, Jeff realized he loves cooking, so he took over and it’s amazing!
But, my dear sweet hubby, Jeffrey Gene Youngren, also loves kitchen gadgets. He will find the most random kitchen tools on Amazon.
It’s incredible what he finds.
Have you ever heard of a banana slicer? Yeah. You heard me right. A banana slicer.
A banana shaped tool with little inserts for slicing bananas. Into perfect little banana slices.
And my husband is one of those people who bought one…
So we have a drawer in our kitchen that is literally FULL of kitchen gadgets. Little tools that only do one random task and nothing else.
On the other hand, we also have a cast iron skillet, and we use this skillet for EVERYTHING.
With our one cast iron skillet, we can accomplish so much more than we can with the entire drawer of kitchen gadgets.
So when it comes to your social media, I want you to think simple.
What is your cast iron skillet? What is the most useful tool that you have in your social media toolbag?
And what are the random kitchen gadgets that only do one thing, and that one thing isn’t actually necessary?
The Social Media Wagon Wheel
For the rest of this training, I’m going to use the illustration of a Wagon Wheel to describe your social media system.
The center of the wagon wheel is your main social media platform, and everything else that you do is going to revolve around and feed off of that central platform.
Pick Your Center
First, pick a social media platform to be the center of your marketing strategy, and I want this platform to be the equivalent of the cast iron skillet that’s sitting in our kitchen.
It needs to be useful. It needs to be versatile. It needs to do a lot of heavy lifting.
For most photographers, your central social media platform is your blog, and everything else you do, feeds off of your blog.
Your blog is a great way to show off your work plus you will always own your content.
But, it could also be a podcast. The point of our podcast, Creative Rising, is for it to be the center of our social media strategy when it comes to education for photographers. Everything we do is going to feed off of our podcast episodes.
It could also be a YouTube channel, a Facebook page or a Facebook group.
Once you’ve decided on your central platform, then COMMIT TO IT.
Don’t bounce around and try a whole bunch of different stuff because this is where you need to build consistency.
Pick Your Spokes
After you pick your central platform, pick the spokes of your social media wagon wheel.
Pick three social media channels that will feed off of the central platform and be the ways in which you spread your content.
These spokes will be platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, email newsletters, Snapchat, etc.
These are more like the kitchen gadgets.
They’re a lot more specific. They function in a certain way for certain recipes, and aren’t as versatile as the cast iron.
For weddings and portraits, I highly recommend that your three spokes be Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest.
Those should be the three places that you focus on spreading your central content.
I don’t worry about Snapchat because I love InstaStories better, but senior portrait photographers, snapchat is a great way to go.
Email newsletters are awesome, but they’re complicated, so get into email newsletters once you feel like you’ve got a handle on the main things like Instagram.
Twitter is a huge platform, but it’s not where people go to research their weddings. So just ignore it for your photography business.
Next, put your three social media spokes in order of priority:
Spoke #1: Most Effort
Which platform is going to be the most important channel where you spend a lot of time and effort? For weddings and portraits, that’s Instagram hands down.
Spoke #2: Less Effort
Then pick a platform as your second priority, and this is where you can automate things a little more. Probably Facebook.
Spoke #3: Automate
Lastly, which platform can you really automate and spend the least amount of time and effort? For a wedding photographer, this would be Pinterest. Pinterest is really important, but it can be heavily automated.
Pinterest is not about engagement. It’s a search engine so optimize for that.
Now that you’ve picked and prioritized your social media platforms, let’s move on to Step Three in the Bullseye Method.
STEP THREE: CHOOSE YOUR CONTENT
Now that you know WHO you’re posting for and WHERE you’re going to post, you need to choose WHAT you’re going to post.
In my opinion, there are three major types of content for wedding and portrait photographers to post on social media.
- First, there’s Your Work, your images that you’re producing.
- Second, there’s Evergreen Content, or informational how-to posts.
- Third, there’s Personal Posts or behind the scenes.
Center of the Wagon Wheel: Your Blog
First, decide which of those types of content belongs in the center (your blog), then decide what types of content belong on your spokes like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
If the center of your wagon wheel is your blog, then the two types of content that should go on your blog are your work and informational evergreen posts.
And then don’t worry about anything else. Blogs are not personal journals anymore, at least for photographers. Instagram has taken over that function, so that’s where your personal posts should go.
Your blog is your portfolio and your SEO engine.
We want a bride to find one of your gorgeous posts by googling their venue, and then get lost in all of the beautiful recent work you’ve done.
So first, focus on posting your work – this will be the vast majority of your blog content.
The second type of content for your blog is evergreen content.
Evergreen content is informational content – like tips and tricks for the wedding day, how to get gorgeous photos, your favorite locations for engagement session – and these posts are ones that you write and publish once, but then you can use them over and over and over again.
(So they always stay relevant, just like an evergreen tree always stays green.)
These posts will make your life wonderful because you can use them to take your current clients and make them into Dreamier clients.
For example, an evergreen post that every photographer should have on their blog is what to wear for an engagement session, or what to wear for a portrait session. If you don’t have this as a post on your blog, then this is the next one you should write.
With this one blog post, you can tell your clients exactly how you want them to look when they show up for their session.
So Jeff and I tell our couples to wear a cocktail dress, heels, and a tailored suit to every session. And guess what? Our couples do!
So we get to create classic, elegant photos with every engagement session that we’re proud to post online.
So make a list of all the ways that you want to educate your clients and let’s get those scheduled to post on your blog.
And then as part of your wedding workflow, you’ll be able to send these blog posts to your couples throughout the client experience to set yourself up for success to generate more portfolio-worthy work.
Spoke #1: Instagram
One of the biggest struggles with Instagram is figuring out what to post right?
The two types of content that should go on your Instagram feed are your work and personal posts.
This is where you get to show off your personality and connect with your Dreamies on a personal level.
First, put your face on your feed. People want to see you and you need to make sure your face is shows up on your grid at least every six posts or so.
Second, post about your ‘weirds.’ if you’ve heard me talk about Dreamies before, then you’ve heard me say the word “Weirds” and this is where weirds really come into play.
(I also dig into Weirds in our free Dreamie class HERE!)
The idea of Weirds comes from Seth Godin’s book, We’re All Weird. They’re the surface things that we choose to do with our time and the ways we choose to spend our money.
Weirds are the particular shoes we love to wear, the cars we drive, our hobbies – like hiking or crocheting.
Think about one or two things that are totally you that your Dreamies would absolutely love about you.
Are you obsessed with your dog? Are you super into yoga? Do you have a crazy fetish for Beyonce?
For us, Jeff has a huge bourbon collection. He’s really into bourbon and you can bet that our grooms are all about that.
We’re also obsessed with flying Delta airlines, and so many of our couples are frequent flyers for their jobs, so we totally connect over the nerdiest things when it comes to flying.
This stuff shows up on our main Instagram feed, but honestly, we do a lot of this stuff on our Instagram stories.
Instagram stories are huge. If you’re not posting to stories, then you definitely need to start.
Engagement is going down on main Instagram feeds, but audiences are loving Instagram stories!
And the amazing news is that you don’t have to be polished for stories. In fact, you shouldn’t be!
Stories should feel very behind-the-scenes, very imperfect, but all about getting to know who you are as the real live person behind the feed.
Spoke #2: Facebook
The purpose of Facebook for a wedding photographer is general organic reach and awareness. You will want to share individual images from your weddings so that your clients can share them, and it’s also where you’ll want to cross-promote your blog posts.
And that’s really it.
We spend far less time on Facebook for our weddings than we do our blog and Instagram.
Is it still important? Yes, but it doesn’t need to take much time at all.
Spoke #3: Pinterest
Lastly, your final spoke, the automated platform of Pinterest, the purpose is to get your work to show up in a relevant search and to drive traffic back to your website.
Invest in an app that will automate Pinterest for you.
Don’t make this complicated on yourself.
STEP FOUR: DEVELOP YOUR VALUES
This is where we talk about WHY.
We just covered the WHO (your Dreamies), the WHERE (your platforms), the WHAT (your content), and this is the WHY (your values).
This can be the most difficult part of the entire process. Which is completely understandable – if you haven’t thought about values before, then it might take some work to figure out what that looks like for you and your brand.
It’s easy to focus on the surface Weirds – on hobbies and interests that you love and your clients love too.
But a powerful brand – one that creates a tribe of Dreamies that loves you for who you authentically are – is one that uses those surface things as a way to get to something deeper.
A powerful brand talks about why and values.
What if you used a pretty photo of a chai latte to talk about connecting with a best friend on a Saturday afternoon?
What if you used a photo of a gorgeous bouquet at a wedding to talk about the wildflowers that were in your backyard where you grew up?
Here’s a practical example of how this played out for us as The Youngrens on our Instagram feed:
Jeff and I have a unique approach to weddings and we’ve developed this method that we call Emotional Grounding.
In short, at different points throughout the wedding, we’ll stop our couples, and have them savor everything that’s going on around them.
The point is to slow them down so that they can remember their wedding.
At Chris and Natalie’s wedding in Paso Robles, we only had a few minutes left to finish their couple portraits, but I turned around and noticed that their reception was in the final stages of being setup.
So I turned to Chris and Natalie and I told them to stop for a minute and to watch their wedding vision come to life. And Jeff happened to grab a photo of it.
I decided to post it, and this was the caption:
Stop. Look. Listen. Take it all in. Otherwise, you’ll miss all of the magic. As photographers, we have unique access to our couples. We have the privilege to impact how they experience their weddings, so Jeff and i make it a huge priority to pause our couples and help them seal in the memories of their day. I love this #bts shot my hubby grabbed of me pausing with Chris + Natalie. We only had a few minutes, but savoring was much more important than photos in that moment. I wanted them to remember how they felt as they watched it all come together. Because how it felt was simply magical.
The likes and comments for this post were somewhere in the normal range for our typical posts at the time.
It was’t off the charts crazy or anything like that. It was an average response.
But what’s remarkable are the comments that I hear from couples – the comments OFF of social media.
After that post, I would be talking with potential Dreamie couples over the phone – before they hired us – and they started mentioning how they follow us on Instagram and they love that we help our couples savor and how that’s exactly what they want on their wedding day too.
Which comments matter more to me and my business? The ones on Instagram? Or the ones from my Dreamies when they’re signing a contract?
This is how social media is MEANT to work.
STEP FIVE: AUTOMATE
This last step is super important because this is where you create consistency.
Consistency creates trust, and trust is the most important currency you can ever have in your business.
In order to be consistent with your social media without going crazy is to create systems that will work FOR you.
So first, create a social media calendar to plan out in advance all of your posts for all of your channels.
We use Asana to map out our social media calendar.
In Asana, you can do a calendar view in an Asana project and we put color coded tasks on that calendar view. We can assign those tasks to different people – based on who’s in charge of posting what, and we can make comments about the tasks, and keep track of what’s happening and most importantly, plan ahead.
Then, invest in apps to automate your social media for you.
There are so many apps right now that you can use.
We use Sked Social to schedule Instagram posts and we love it, but there’s a host of other options available.
This is where CLARITY is so awesome!
Since you now know what social media channels you’re going to use and NOT gonna use, you can make decisions like this a lot easier!
Now you know that you need to really automate Facebook and Pinterest as much as you can, so find a solution that will help you do that, as well as help you schedule Instagram posts in advance.
Use automations to help you get your work out in front of your Dreamies so you can focus on what really matters.
As important as social media is, it should never trump the two most important things only you can do – serve your Dreamies and shoot really awesome images.
Alright friends, those are the five steps to the Bullseye Method of creating a social media system.