Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Is This Social Media Thing??

One of the things I didn't mention in my bio post the other day is that I was a geek before I became a professional photographer. Well, actually, I was a photographer before any of us even knew about the internet, but I spent 1996-2006 working in internet related fields before I finally started to live the dream of being a photographer for hire.  Social Media is something I've been involved in for years (even before I knew what it actually was) - but something that has only recently become a buzzword among the tech crowd.

Social Media, as defined by Wikipedia:
Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and "building" of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences

Social media (and social media marketing) isn't specifically about the internet -- it is all about having conversations with your clients, your peers, your community! The internet is the vehicle for this conversation to take place. 
Magazines and other types of marketing only let you talk to people.  It doesn't allow for the back & forth interaction of the internet. Social media is about blogs, forums, podcasts, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, RSS feeds, anything online that helps you communicate your message to others - and anything that allows the people listen to you to engage in a conversation with you easily online.

You never know who might be a part of your social media circle.  It can be between you, potential clients, other photographers, magazine editors - you name it!  It is a conversation that isn't organized, controlled, and doesn't always even have to be a business related message.  You're a lot more likely to be heard if the messages you put out there are vibrant and fun, business related and even personal things.  The key is to create value for the people you reach.

There is a lot of media out there. We are bombarded by it all, all the time.  Social media helps you connect by having a conversation. It is a way for you to stand out among the crowd.  Bonus? It doesn't cost anything. All it takes is time.

How should you use social media?

Lets start with the basics.  (I'll get into different types of social media outlets in later posts.)  Think of it like one big mix and mingle type of party.  Everyone is sharing, talking about whatever they want. Work, friends, their life in general.  The party is fun, and you want to meet a lot of people. Sometimes, they are people you can help and that can help you.  

Now imagine if over in the corner there is one person, always saying "Look at me! Look at me!"  They are only asking for your attention, but they aren't a part of the conversation. They are just talking about themselves.  Do you really want to listen to them?  NO. You would much rather go over and talk to someone that wants to have a conversation. 

It is just like at a party, and sometimes you might find someone really fascinating when you don't expect it.  Mingle. Get your word out there -- but be sure to listen too! Be a part of the conversation, and you'll be surprised where social media can take you!

Don't talk to us as if you've forgotten how to speak. Don't make us feel small.  Remind us to be larger. Get a little of the human touch. - The Cluetrain Manifesto

Christine Tremoulet is a Houston, Texas Hot Mama Boudoir photographer and wants you to have a Business of Awesome. She also runs Wholly Matrimony, a destination wedding blog. She is a creative geek, having blogged since 2000 at BigPinkCookie. When she isn't taking photos or knitting, she is busy devouring all the info related to Marketing & Social Media and its powers that she can find online. Follow her on Twitter.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Meet: Christine Tremoulet

For quite a while, I've considered Christine to be the "queen of social media!" When it comes to the photography world, I honestly can't think of anyone who understands social media and USES it on a regular basis, more than Christine. I asked her if she would be willing to share her expertise on Photo Lovecat and I'm excited to say that she'll be joining us as one of our regular editors! In this Web 2.0 going on 3.0 world, it can be hard to keep up with the pace of technology, so I think it will be great to have someone who is on the cutting edge helping us make sense of it all. Please be a lovecat and leave some warm fuzzy comments for Christine so she'll feel welcome here! Also feel free to ask her questions to spark ideas for future Photo Lovecat posts!! We're all about sharing the love around here.

(Photo by Elaine)

Name: Christine Tremoulet

Business Name: Christine Tremoulet & Boudoir Mon Cheri

(I think she needs a few more websites don't you? ;-))

Location: Houston, TX

When did you start your business? Spring 2007

What services do you offer? Wedding and Boudoir Photography

What products do you offer? I'm a huge fan of all of Miller's Products - and their customer service can't be beat! I'm testing Cypress Albums and other products this winter and plan to add them also in 2009.

Are you home or studio based? I do most of my editing work from home, and I have a office/studio space where I meet with clients and photograph Boudoir sessions.

What do you enjoy about working from home/studio? I like doing my editing at home because it is more eco-friendly - Houston is a huge city, and I like to keep my driving to a minimum. I adore my studio space for client meetings and Boudoir sessions because it has a nice, intimate feel and beautiful natural light.

What have been the challenges of working from home/studio? It is easy to get distracted while working at home - especially since my husband, Mike, also works from home most days. I also forget to stop working sometimes. Life needs more balance than that! The challenges of working at the studio is the commute time.

Do you have any employees? I have a permanent second-shooter for weddings, Elaine, and I just hired my first office employee at the beginning of November. It is a learning experience for me figuring out how to train her and to let go of control.

What do you outsource and to who? I've talked about outsourcing for months now, and yet the control-freak side of me can't let it go. Someday...

How did you acquire your photo skills? I still remember my mom commenting back in the early '80s that I should take the family vacation photos because mine always came out better. I bought my first 35mm P&S in 1982, and my first SLR in 1986 for a high school photography class. Since then, I've photographed a LOT of things! I see the world in photographs, even if I don't have a camera in my hands.

How did you acquire your business skills? I started my first business in 1999 (making soap) and owned a blog hosting company for years. I've always tried to treat clients like I would want to be treated. Things like bookkeeping, taxes, etc? Lots of reading books, blogs, forums, and any other information I can get my hands on!

What do you wish you would have known starting out? It isn't as scary as you think it will be -- I wish I had not waited so long to start out! The most successful people in the world actually fail 70% of the time -- failure doesn't have to be something to fear. It can lead you to some really great places.

What has made the biggest difference in your business? Networking with other photographers. We're all in this together, and I'm so grateful for all the people who have helped me with advice, support and encouragement. Having a supportive family has also made a huge impact.

What do you want for the future of your business? To continue to grow and have FUN doing it! But to have more balance in my life - to let go of some control and not have to do everything myself.

What do you want for your personal future? To have more serenity, and more time with my family & friends.

What are you passionate about other than photography? Knitting! Oh, how I love to knit. There is something so calming about the feel of wool and making pretty things. I'm also pretty passionate about social media and all things internet. Especially blogging -- I've been doing it now since 2000, so it is second nature to me.

Share a little about your home life: I'm married to the most awesome man in the world, Mike. While we didn't meet online, we did meet thanks to blogs back in 2002, and we got married in 2004. My fantastic and amazing son, Jason, is now 16 and a junior in high school. We have a cat, Mona, who likes to sleep a lot, but will wake up at any time for some good head scratches. We live way out in the fringes of northwest Houston, but dream of moving into the heart of the city once Jason graduates from high school.

My favorite quote, that I totally live by (for better or worse) is:
What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

Tell us a funny story about one of your experiences:
Oh, goodness. I have the best clients, so most of my stories are more warm & fuzzy than they are funny. Recently, I was shooting an engagement session at the Houston Zoo. I was doing what I like to call "photographer yoga" which involves getting into weird positions as you try to get that perfect shot with gorgeous sun flare. I was crouched down, balancing on my toes, as I felt it happen. I started to tip slowly backwards. It was like it was in slow motion, a scene out of the Matrix as my arms started to twirl in the air. All I could think was, "Protect the camera!"

I ended up on my back on the ground, laughing. I was ok, the camera was fine, and once I reassured my clients that it was all good, we had a great laugh over it. I giggle every time I look at the photo, and at their wedding we laughed about my Matrix photography skills!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Planning for Wedding Day Emergencies

This bit of excellent advice comes from Alicia Williams of Massachusetts-based Cordele Photography. After breaking her ankle two hours prior to one of weddings (and successfully taking care of her client in the midst of the crisis), she devised a plan for future incidents. While I sincerely hope that we all avoid broken ankles another emergencies, Alicia presents some very practical advice for how to be prepared for the worst:

What if, on the day you are scheduled to shoot a wedding, you're outside looking for your cat. Suddenly, you slip and fall, breaking your ankle. Worst part is, this happens two hours before your scheduled wedding? You are sure the ankle is broken. What do you do?

To answer this, I bring you the power of networking. As photographers, we should all have a strong group of local photographers we network with. You're already in a network if you meet up with other photographers for a drink, call other photographers for advice or second shoot for other photographers for fun. You're also in a network if you pass referrals among each other. These are the people in your network. Write their names down on a list and keep that list handy. You just never know when you'll need it. Think about it right now: You broke your ankle and your wedding is in 2 hours - who do you call? Don't laugh - this happened to me back in September 2007.

In an instant you should be able to pick up your phone and dial 10 photographers you trust in the area. I know in my area we are all so willing to help each other out in the case of an emergency.

So, now you've found someone to cover the wedding, but what do you pay them? Before they run out the door to your wedding, you should probably get down to the nitty gritty details of finances. If they are going to just shoot and burn the wedding, you should pay them what you might pay someone to contract out the wedding. If they are going to shoot and edit the wedding, they should probably receive about 70% of the wedding commission. You should take the remaining 30% to put towards covering album expenses and administrative costs you will have on your end. If they are going to take over the contract in full, they should receive 95% of the commission. The remaining 5% should be put towards the administrative costs you have had up to the date of the wedding.

If they are a good friend, they will most likely refuse any payment you offer. You should pay them SOMETHING, even if you only take them to dinner or buy them a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant. You could also just file away the "favor" for a later date. In my situation, I paid what I could did a 'Shoot and Burn' for everyone that shot for me. They were all very good friends, and making money wasn't the reason for helping me. My friends wanted to help because accidents happen, and I was totally helpless in giving the bride the wedding memories for deserved. This question from brides always pops up: "What happens if you die before my wedding?" The story of the photographer that broke her ankle now circles the Boston photography network.

In every contract you should have something that states, if you have an emergency that prevents you from shooting the wedding, you are allowed to transfer the contract over to another qualified shooter. It is your responsibility to determine who you think is a responsible and capable photographer. Some photographers have mentioned clients don't like that contract clause, as they want to be able to pick their photographer out. In situations where you have a few days, I'd be okay with letting the bride choose a photographer from a list. However, you should make it clear that, if two hours from a wedding you break your leg, their might be slim pickings on a Saturday. You need to set clear expectations of what CAN happen. You need to explain you aren't just going to abandon their wedding because your favorite team made it to the World Series.

You should also let someone in your family know what to do if "something" happened in the event you are not able to speak. For example, in the address book on my iPhone, I have a list of only photographer names in a contact group called, "Photographers". My husband and other family members know, in the event I am unable to speak, to go down the list and contact photographers for upcoming weddings. These same people also know where I keep my wedding files. In the case of an emergency, my system is not hard to figure out. The folders are categorized by wedding date and the couple?s name listed. Inside those files are all the contact numbers they will need to find my bride(s).

In a heart beat someone could transfer all those weddings over to another photographer and that photographer can pick up where I left off. The key is to have a plan, while making your filing system easy and organized as well as having a strong network of local photographers.

Thanks Alicia for being such a love cat and writing up this amazing and compelling article! Be sure to add her blog to your blogroll.

For more information on preparing yourself for difficult times, see Anne's June 08 entry on creating a business back-up plan!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Relationship Marketing

One of the hottest trends in marketing over the last decade has been relationship marketing. At first, it sounds like networking, and in a way it is, but not exactly. Here are some examples of effective relationship marketing:

Nike + iPod
T-Mobile + Starbucks
RedBox + Grocery Stores
Keno + Bars
Carpet Cleaning + Veterinarian
Pizza Hut + Family Board Games

These relationships go beyond the expected connection between two businesses and form an entirely unexpected relationship that makes complete sense. WalMart actually built their business around analyzing consumer purchasing behaviors so that they could more effectively market items that "go together" like Celery and Peanut Butter, Ice Cream and Napkins, Basketballs and Socks. The thinking is, by putting one product or service close to another product or service that has a relationship to the product, you will sell more of both by the power of suggestion with very little financial investment or outlay.

Here's an example that I came into contact with this week while consulting another business:

Cake Artist New to Small Town
Cake Artist isn't sure if the new town she lives in can support an artist like herself, with a modern style and higher pricing because of the time and ingredients she uses. Most local people seem to be modest and reserved, but there is a large population of college age students and young professionals just entering the field who would be interested in her product for their wedding day. In order to test the market and attract customers, I suggested teaming up with other area wedding vendors who have storefronts and might need a beautiful cake for display, such as a florist or an event planner. If no such storefront exists, how about teaming up with these people or caterers during the next bridal show and offering samples of the cake as a giveaway at the show. Her cake adds value to the display of the person she's giving it to and it helps her get her name out in a way that appears as an endorsement for her product from already respected people in the industry she's hoping to target.

How can you apply this to your business? What do your customers typically shop for when they aren't shopping with you? What else are they passionate about? How can you harness that power of suggestion by being connected to another product or service that your clients enjoy or are looking for?

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years in the corporate & non-profit world before pursuing her passion for photography. When not behind the computer or camera, she can be found exploring the world with her husband. Follow her on Twitter.