Dear Ashley and Graham circa 2008,
Your business will not live and die by social media. You're going to be tempted to put more time into Facebook and Instagram than you do into in-person relationships because it will feel like that's what everyone else is doing; it will feel like the only way to keep up. Resist that temptation. Resist the urge to jump on the ever changing hamster wheel of social media. When you get on that hamster wheel it will feel like you're running as fast as you can and getting nowhere. And that's exactly where sinking unscheduled, unintentional time into social media will get you: nowhere. Instead of viewing Facebook and Instagram as a popularity contest or a measure of your success, use them as business tools and nothing more. Instead, take all of that time you’re saving and go find your tribe - the real, right-in-front-of-you kind of people who will enrich your life and cheer you on in a meaningful way. This will be a game changer.
You're doing just fine.
These are the words I needed to hear when we started our business. I wish I had known that I didn't have to sink hours and hours of my time scrolling Instagram or figuring out how to broadcast on Periscope (Remember that? Me neither.) Instead, I wish that I had set up social media as a tool to serve our business and not a time suck that was a measure of self worth or popularity.
Here are the rules that I would have given myself:
Put one hour on your calendar each week and schedule out your social media posts for the next 7 days. We use latergramme for this, but there are many tools to schedule social media posts (like Buffer, planoly, etc). Sitting down and having a social media "meeting" allows you to create thoughtful content that is consistent and targeted to your audience rather than trying to drum up posts on the fly throughout the week when you're in a time crunch. These planning tools also allow you to create hashtag sets that you can copy and paste rather than spending time typing out individual hashtags whenever you want to post. We have sets for Destination Weddings, Colorado Weddings, personal posts and business posts so that our hashtags are still relevant to the content we are posting, without taking up too much time figuring out which hashtags we want to use and writing them out every time we post.
Say this with me - "Social media is not real life." Now breathe, and let go all of the personal feelings you've ever attached to social media. Put Facebook and Instagram in the same category as any other online business tool that you use. Do you derive self worth from your budgeting software or your client management system? Nope. Not at all. When we began to view social media as a business tool (like Quickbooks) we were able to drastically reduce the amount of time wasted on it while increasing the consistency of our strategy and targeting of our content.
We’ve all been there; you get online to do something productive and you get sucked into the scroll. An hour later, you look up and realize that you’ve wasted an hour and still haven’t done that thing you got online to do in the first place. Instead of allowing yourself to scroll, we suggest spending your time engaging with your direct audience (the people who are commenting on your posts and responding to your stories). Set aside 10-15 minutes every few days to hop on social media and respond to your engagement in a direct, personal way.
Instead of utilizing Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest and Youtube (i.e. doing alllllllll the things) and doing them all poorly, just pick TWO platforms and use them well. When you have your social planning days (these are Mondays for us) lay out your posts and make sure that they are accomplishing a few key things: showing your best work, highlighting the types of images that you want to shoot, targeting your ideal clients and communicating your personal values. Consistent imagery and messaging will set you apart in a sea of other photographers who are haphazardly posting photos with no real strategy or brand story attached to them. When your followers know that they can expect quality content from you it creates loyalty and a higher level of engagement.
At the end of the day, the purpose of our small businesses is to support our everyday lives. When we become so engrossed in things like social media it begins to chip away at our free time and compromise our quality of life - undermining the beautiful freedom and flexibility that this work can offer when we choose to say no to time-sucks.
Ashley and her husband Graham are wedding photographers based in Denver, CO. They have dreamed their way from Los Angeles to Connecticut to Atlanta to Colorado. They have had the wonderful opportunity to work on Oscar nominated films, had the privilege of building an internationally recognized photography studio, and been honored by being named one the 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography by Rangefinder Magazine.