Having a social media presence for your business is,—depending on how you see it, a necessary evil OR a fun, easy way to help you build your brand in the community in which you operate. Our idea of the payoff in social media is not as direct (do this, get this return) as you might be looking for. But we’ve found asking ourselves these questions helpful to promoting the effectiveness of our social media.
Who are we selling to?
- The institutions who are our clients.
- The individuals (largely parents) who populate the communities within those institutions.
Of all the activities related to getting invited into a school, at the core is the effort to have our company stand out. Everyone says, “we’re the greatest.” Our brand is focused on reinforcing the perception that we are not like ‘everyone else’. We are something different.
At the same time that we are selling to institutions, we have to sell to the community within that school, league, etc.
The challenge here is while this community is a “captive audience,” they are frequently inattentive and forgetful of the need/opportunity. And, if I were to be honest, they can be clueless about how to take advantage of the awesome product we create. And I’m not just talking about the prints.
The foundation of our product is quality. So, to use this selling point to our advantage, all of our sales are “show me” based transactions. We largely avoid the industry practice of preordering (ordering sight unseen). Instead, we present proof sheet (or an online gallery experience) to most of our approximately 30,000 clients. This isn’t necessarily the best option for everyone. But it is working to our advantage in our business model. While this differentiates us from our competition, it’s only one ingredient in a sophisticated recipe of branding, marketing, customer support and sales.
So what does all of this have to do with social media? Our social media expression is a vital ingredient in our sales “soup” — creating a brand and selling our company to the world.
And before we go any further, I want to be clear on something. Social media is OPINION. It’s personality. It’s “look at me” or “we’re in this together,”. It’s never objective. In the world of social media, perception is reality.
Here is how we use social media to sell Picture Day…
What would WE like to read about?
We start by creating a social media presence that we would visit if it were someone else’s page. We intersperse that with advertising (largely postings about mini session opportunities or off-season “sales”.) The postings are done in a very natural way: when we see something interesting, it gets posted. If we have an upcoming event, it gets posted. The ratio probably ends up being about 6 to 1—news or human interest to “advertising”. We design the advertising posts to feel like an “opportunity” that we are offering. We are not consciously thinking about sales. We think about the voice that Picture Day has and how to express who we are.
Whose job is it?
One person at our studio heads up our social media efforts. She is not a salesperson. Lisa was “chosen” for the job because she has some marketing experience, participates in social media individually, has been with the company for many years, lives in the neighborhood and is a parent of school-aged students. She is in a unique position to understand the concerns of our parent community. Ultimately, everyone at Picture Day is welcomed to make suggestions to her or forward her any stories or images that could make for good relevant content. Think you may have someone like Lisa that could help? Here’s how the conversation went, “Hey, could you do this?”. Try it out, what are they going to say? No?
What is the philosophy toward content posting to Facebook and/or Instagram?
We post photos and articles that are reflective of our company’s personality and of interest to busy parents and teachers. These articles offer educational and photo opportunities, and stories of interest happening in our neighborhood. Despite serving a wide geographic area, we keep a strong tie to our vibrant urban neighborhood that serves to define our brand and personality. This is our “Target Market”.
We serve nearly 150 schools. I will refer to them as our community. Those schools— some culturally conservative, others strongly liberal — are comprised of families and individuals. There is no way to second guess when something might offend someone in the community. We are guided by our core values and humanism – a point of view which we believe is compelling, is universal, and is interesting. If you avoid a point of view in your business’s social media, if you hide behind a business without a perspective, you risk looking stale and unrelatable And you are certainly less likely to be interesting to people who have short attention spans being bombarded by the millions of voices on social media.
We tend toward universal humanistic ideas that appeal to children and families. We know if we share our concerns, while some might not be in agreement or have an interest in them, that we are showing our brand’s personality without offending – (see the examples provided)
How do we widen our circle?
We also keep an eye out for postings from friends of the studio and repost those for deeper engagement. “Friends” are freelancers who work for us, – school PTO and parent organizations, school FB pages, non-profit organizations that we support, etc. While we repost things that are reflective of the personalities of these orgs and individuals, we also let the same concerns that guide our own posts, guide our reposts. Friends of friends will possibly be introduced to us through cross-posts and/or by us commenting on each other’s pages or posts.
What should we watch out for?
Posting content for everyone to see is front of mind. We all know how quickly consumers can turn on a brand that has posted something tone-deaf or offensive to their beliefs. We know who our company is and who we serve.
We are wary of reposting from personal accounts or pages that might lead a viewer down a rabbit hole that could reflect badly on our company. Due to the sensitive nature of working in schools, this cannot be overstated.
We don’t post too many photo opportunities or too much info about Picture Day itself. People feel they are being advertised-to all the time, so if we do that they will tune us out fast. We strive to offer relevant content to customers’ busy lives so that they feel as though we can relate to them and understand their concerns.
How do we convert customers?
Consumers frequently post complaints and rants about service or products on Facebook or Instagram for all the world to see as opposed to contacting customer support or management to resolve their issue. This is the age we live in. Having a social media presence means committing to monitoring and responding quickly and directly to a complaining customer. If it’s possible to solve an issue effectively and quickly, that once unhappy customer can become a loyal advocate and spread the word that despite their troubles, your company is one that will take notice quickly and make it right! Both happy and grumpy customers can make their feelings known to school administrations and other influential parents. We work to create advocates, not detractors.
How does this translate into sales?
Our brand building is the base of the soup—which is sales. Social media is the best place to connect with our core audience. Pay attention to what they respond to (or don’t!). Then reflect back what matters to them. Making Picture Day a trusted brand solidifies our standing in the field. It creates and strengthens name recognition. And it furthers sales to schools through recognition, reputation and word of mouth.