"Just search for 'wedding photographer Mammoth Lakes, CA'", says Daniel. "You'll see at least two pages of google results on different photographers that do weddings here." My challenge was to stand out from the crowd somehow right away. Most of these [photographers]
Daniel's solution was to find creative ways to use FaceBook for exposure. "I decided to give the first 5 wedding bookings at deep discount on FaceBook. To get the discount, a bride is required to leave a comment on the promotion. So now I'm not just randomly underpricing myself, I'm creating opportunity to have some engagement with potential customers and have others see them engaging with me." "I have other ideas too such as giving away a free wedding package as a contest in exchange for shares of a post on FaceBook or a contest to submit the best wedding photo concept. Anything to create conversations around my brand is better than just sitting and waiting for word of mount".
Like Daniel and his struggle to be noticed among stiff competition, most small businesses are facing the reality that engaging their brand with social media is inevitably necessary albeit a necessary "evil" to many. "In a world of unlimited choices, I'd rather do business with someone I've had some kind of conversation with.", says Daniel, "Even if that conversation has only happened online". "Most business owners will accept that these days. But they get it all wrong in the execution. If a business owner actually gets responses or "likes" on a post, that's a big success. But almost all of them stop there which is a huge mistake. They forget the purpose is to ENGAGE with people. So a business owner should be liking the responses and commenting on them in turn. Are you friendly when someone comes into your shop? Then why would you ignore their comment in social media. You just threw away an interaction that could make someone want to work with you!"
Daniel's strong opinions on small business interactions with potential customers via social media are well founded. According to recent data on brand building in social media, customers are twice as likely to make a purchase from a business they are connected to on a social network but up to 5 times as likely to purchase when they have been individually interacted with by that business. "I don't think this concept should require much explanation."
Daniel notes that although not all regular users, about 70% of the Bishop and Mammoth population at least have FaceBook accounts. And he adds that, contrary to popular belief, the fastest growing segment on FaceBook are people in the 50-60 age group.
"It's one thing to leverage social media, but producing photography that is actually work talking about, vs. photography that is merely salable to a bride is another thing.", concludes Daniel. "I guess I have my work cut out for me."
Whether Daniel's efforts yield a thriving client base in amongst a crowded market in a tiny town remains to be seen. But there can be no doubt that this photographer will continue to find new ways to stand out.