Fine-tuning Your Blog for the New Year with Skip Cohen
“The first thing you need to decide when you build your blog is what you want to accomplish with it and what it can do if successful.”
It’s March, and we’re in the home stretch of the slow season. But as I’ve written for the past two months, that doesn’t mean it has to be quiet for you. Now is the time to be fine-tuning various aspects of your business to set things up for greater success in 2019.
A couple of months ago, I did a short podcast with Ken Sklute, an outstanding artist from Arizona. Ken talked about previsualization in photography—instead of going out with a camera in your hand and looking for something to photograph, he spoke about visualizing what you want to capture beforehand. You can apply that to marketing in the new year. Visualize how you want business to be in 2019. Rather than sit and wait for something to happen, use the tools you have to elevate your brand awareness in the community.
There’s no better way to lay down a foundation of brand building than with a great blog. Sadly, so many of you treat it as an afterthought when it should be part of your core business and planning. Sure, you can have a website and a presence without a blog, but why would you want that? Success in photography today is about relationship building, and a well-done blog can help your target audience get to know you better and build trust.
I know I’ve written this before, but your website is about what you sell and your blog is about what’s in your heart. This month I give you tips for building a stronger blog that works together with your website and skillset.
Consistency: If you’re not going to post on your blog at least twice a week, give it up. Posting once every full moon is not going to help you build a readership. Post two days a week at the same time each day. If you can post three times a week, that’s even better.
Be relevant: Good content is king. Be helpful and relevant to your readership with topics they can relate to. Ed Forman, an outstanding marketing and motivational speaker and writer from Texas, gave us a tip at a meeting over 30 years ago, which you’ve seen countless times in my articles: “If I can see the world through my client’s eyes, then I can sell my client what my client buys.” You’ve got to see the world through your readers’ eyes and understand what’s important to them. Use that understanding to build content they want to read and share to start the process of building trust.
Post lengths: You don’t need to write like Shakespeare every time. Keep your posts under 500 words; 100 to 300 is ideal. You can go longer, but length depends on its relevance to your readers. If it’s going to be long, use bullet points to break things up.
Know your demographics: There it is, one of the most ignored words in marketing by photographers. You need to know the demographics of the audience you’re targeting; for most of you, it’s women. Women in the portrait/social categories of photography make 98% of the purchase decisions. That means Mom in many cases. Share ideas on topics Mom is interested in.
Be a farmer: Use your blog to plant seeds of ideas. They should be about photography, but they can also be about community events or family activities. As you build loyalty with your readership, you’ll find you have a lot of influence. Use it wisely.
Call your lab: Technology changes every day, giving you the most creative tools in the history of photography, but it’s hard to keep up with these changes, especially in presentation. Your lab is introducing new products all the time.
Last year I wrote about Bay Photo’s Performance EXT Metal prints. I have a huge metal print of a sunset on the wall outside by our pool that doesn’t look any different than the day I took it out of the box. How many clients do you have with patios and back porches that could use a unique decorative touch of a stunning print? Don’t forget some of the old standbys—just because you’re tired of canvas prints doesn’t mean your clients won’t want them.
Show your images: Never share a blog post without a photograph. Even if what you’ve written has nothing to do with the image, always include one.
Quality: Never share a mediocre image in a post unless you’re using it to make a point. You’re the pro, and you’ve got to share images that are better than Uncle Harry’s.
Run a community calendar: You want the community to be good to you, so you have to be good to your community. Put a calendar on your blog where you share information about upcoming events. Events don’t have to be about photography. Remember your readership. Share content they’re interested in. Use your blog to demonstrate your support for the community and special events, especially for any nonprofits you’re involved with. As your readership grows, so will support from your community.
Build a stash: Not every post has to be written fresh each time you post. It’s the slow season, so write a couple dozen posts now. Before you whine about how there’s nothing to write about, I’m going to give you some ideas. But first, you’ve got to be committed to the process. Building a stash gives you content in the pipeline to draw from when you get busy. Remember the importance of consistency—your stash of material will help you stay focused on the regular timing of your posts.
10 Easy Content Ideas
- Tips on Photography: Help your readers become better photographers. They’re all taking pictures of their family and events, and there are things you do every day they don’t think about: posing, composition, lighting, storytelling.
- Throwback Thursday: Old images of your own family reinforce the importance of capturing memories. Use throwbacks to remind your readership that time never stands still.
- Faces of the Community: Do environmental portraits of people in businesses you frequent—restaurants, pharmacies, doctors, dry cleaners.
- Pets of the Community: Brides, babies and pets are three top reasons people hire a photographer.
- Storytelling: Give your readers tips for how to capture images that tell a story. Follow up with how to best display their images.
- What’s New? Share new photographic products from your lab.
- Gift Ideas: Share the latest photography products.
- Community Events: I wrote earlier about keeping a community calendar. Share blog posts about upcoming events and post images after the events. Link to the websites of the sponsors.
- Tips for Hiring a Photographer: Make it sound objective, but be sure all the answers lead back to you as an ideal choice.
- Finding Balance: Your readers wear multiple hats in life, just like you do. It’s okay to share things that are personal, but don’t go overboard.
Your writing skills: You’re an artist and a photographer, and didn’t sign up to be a writer. I get it, but I’m not letting you off the hook. If you hate to write, then get over to the local high school and talk to an English teacher. You’re looking for an A student who can moonlight for you translating your thoughts into print. You might even find a teacher who would enjoy doing it. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but if you’re going to have a blog, keep it filled.
Grammar: Even those of us who write for a living need a proofreader. For everything I write, I have three levels of defense outside my own skillset: spell check, Grammarly and my wife. I spell-check everything. Grammarly gets everything when whatever I’ve written is complete. But you can’t just drop things into the program and make all the suggested corrections. Grammarly doesn’t know what you’re trying to say. You have to look at every correction it suggests. I never question its punctuation, but when the software suggests different words, it’s often wrong. Still, it has helped me become a better writer. Last but not least, I get my wife involved whenever I’m writing something emotional or sensitive. I read it out loud to her, which helps me hear what I’ve written and at the same time gives me a feel for whether or not what I’m saying is easily understood.
Read it one more time: I always read everything one more time before posting. Even then, I don’t catch everything. I heard Guy Kawasaki talk once about the manuscript for one of his books. He had over 40 people proofreading it before he submitted it to his editor. He told the editor, “I’ll bet you’ve never seen a manuscript this clean before.” The editor came back a week later with 1,600 corrections. So don’t beat yourself up if it’s not perfect. Take your time and do the best you can.
Guest posts: A great way to keep the content flowing and stay consistent is to exchange content with photographer friends. Sharing content helps you stay fresh, and you all become a network of contributors, building each other’s brand.
A good blog, just like your skillset, represents a huge commitment. You’ve got to be consistent and helpful, and contribute to your readership’s outlook on photography, the community and even life. Do it right, and it’ll help build your business; but go into it compromising on quality, and it will do nothing but waste your time and frustrate you.
And if you need help, you know where to find me.
“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.”