Photographers have a problem when it comes to social media: The hard sell is dead. This is proven true by studies such as like Google’s Zero Moment of Truth , which shows that people now self-direct buying decisions online for everything from cartons of milk to cars and enterprise data storage. The result? More and more, we are listening to salespeople less and less.
Successful salespeople are no longer extroverted, gun-slinging clichés. They’re ambiverts‚ people with personalities balanced between introverted and extroverted. They listen first and then solve customers’ problems from the position of trusted consultant. And, according to Wharton Research cited in the book To Sell Is Human, ambiverts sell 25% more than their colleagues.
Now, let’s turn our attention to photographers who use social media to hard sell, of which there are many. The social media hard sell occurs when we treat our photography like it’s more important than our customers. This is what happens when our photography becomes the substance of our online presence.
First, a couple of Caveats
The result, unfortunately, is that we hinder the goals we go online with in the first place – to attract customers. This is tough to swallow for many photographers, I know, so bear in mind the following caveats:
First, if you’re not interested in selling photographs, photography products or services online, this blog post doesn’t apply.
Second, sharing our work is a way to learn and stay energized. Community is important in this regard, and social media is a great way to connect with peers. This blog post in no way means to discount this element of connection, support,and inspiration.
However, if you seek to attract customers online, this blog post absolutely discounts the bad habit of shot-gunning photographs into social streams day in and day out. To those photographers for which this rings familiar, take note: the hard sell is dead.
We Now Self-Direct Our Buying Decisions
Research like ZMOT shows us that consumers now self-direct purchasing decisions by conducting web searches, reading blog posts and third-party reviews, seeking advice from forums and social circles, downloading product information from websites and comparison shopping. The list goes on.
Perhaps, though, you’re thinking that this doesn’t apply to you.
If so, do this: Search Google for the photography-related wares that you sell (or want to sell). When you do, use a refined, or long tail, search term. For example, don’t search for “wedding photographer.” Instead, search for “journalistic wedding photographer Portland Oregon.”
On your search engine results page (SERP), turn personalized search results off. In the upper right corner of the SERP is a button with a globe icon. Hover your mouse pointer over it to see the text “Hide personal results.” Go ahead and turn personalized results off by clicking this button.
Now, in the listings, see anything that looks like what you sell? Then guess what? People are searching for what you sell.
The Customer Journey
Let’s back up a step. The self-directed buying behavior described above represents a process of learning , fueled by information. The customer journey occurs in stages, each marked by distinct types of information, and begins when we recognize a need. For example, imagine a scenario in which a woman decides to improve her photography. At the outset of her customer journey, she doesn’t know what she needs to accomplish this, only that she wants to improve. She enters the customer journey’s next stage as she begins to understand her need. She finds a few possible solutions: books about technique, an online course on composition, a photography MeetUp, even a handful of local workshops.
Eventually, she’ll make a purchasing decision. She’ll do this by narrowing possible solutions to the one best suited to her needs and budget. She’ll use the information gathered on her customer journey to make this decision.
Now, let’s circle back to a notion put forward earlier: The social media hard sell occurs when we make our photographs the substance of our online presence.
In the scenario where a woman begins a journey to improve her photography, how does a constant stream of photographs uploaded to Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere help her to understand her need?
The simple answer is that it doesn’t. The obvious result is that she won’t find the photographer who possesses a solution, but who practices the hard sell online.
How to Become A Social Media Ambivert
To become a social media ambivert – to attract customers online – do the following:
- Learn about your customers.  Before selling, successful salespeople listen. You can do this, too. Only when we understand our customer’s needs can we help make them informed buying decisions.
- Create content that helps people make decisions.  Successful salespeople provide tailored solutions. You can, too, with awesome, helpful, well-written, informative content you publish online. Inform this content by listening to questions people ask to understand their needs and potential solutions. The benefit to you? The customer journey will lead people to your website.
- Follow social media’s 80/30 rule . 80 percent of the time, talk with people online. Use social media for what it is, a two-way communication tool. Don’t focus on your needs by sharing your photographs. Share information that helps people with their needs. With the other 20%, your time, share your work, a story, a joke … be yourself.