by Heidi Willbanks
Last week I spent some time catching up with my old friend Joe. We met up in Oakland and took BART into San Francisco, hopped on a cable car and wound up at Bowie & Burlesque night at the Red Devil Lounge. (Oh, how I love the Bay Area!) We began discussing work as we walked from the cable car stop to the bar. Among other things, Joe is a freelance photographer--a very good one at that. He said that he really needs to spend more time building his business, but that it's hard when you're the one who has to do all the work. Not only are you the talent for hire, but you have to be accounting, sales, marketing and webmaster, too. Boy, don't I know it!
I asked him what he was doing to optimize his online presence--not for the purposes of pitching my business, but just as a friend having a dialogue. He seemed to know what I meant, so I pressed on about social media. He understands Facebook and Twitter, and he has been told he should probably get on Pinterest, but doesn't know much about it. (Which, btw, is a FANTASTIC idea for a photographer, since Pinterest is so graphics-driven.)
But when I used the term SEO, he asked, "What's SEO?"
I forget sometimes that not everybody knows what I'm talking about when I discuss what I do for a living. We spend so much time working--whatever our fields--that often our business vernacular threatens to become our primary language. This was a great opportunity for me to practice explaining SEO in lay-person's terms.
This is pretty much how the conversation went:
I said, "You want your business to come up when people search for photographers in Oakland and San Francisco. Right?"
"Yes," replied Joe. "But specifically, I want to photograph gay weddings. LGBT weddings."
"Great!" I exclaimed. "You've defined a niche! And one that is likely to be in high demand now. Well, SEO stands for search engine optimization. It's basically a bunch of stuff you can do to optimize your website to show up in search engines when someone searches for a business like yours. But it's not just your website. It's social media, too. It's your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, your blog if you have one, and--yes, Yes, YES!--your Pinterest boards."
The light bulb began to flicker on.
"But, I don't know how to do all that stuff," he said.
I smiled. "Well, that's why you need me. But, I know you can't afford to hire me, so I'll just give you a little piece of advice for free. Get on Pinterest, but don't just put up a board with your whole gallery on it. A gay male couple in search of a wedding photographer is going to be looking for something different than what a lesbian couple is. A cisgender/transgender couple may want something else. You know this community. You know your audience. Think of all the different ways you can slice and dice that audience, and make a separate board for each. Then, cross-promote those boards on other social media, targeting the right group for each."
By this point the light bulb was shining brightly above his head.
"Oh, I can do that!" he realized.
And so can you. Would I like you to hire me? Sure. But most of all, I want you to be successful. So, if you don't have the knowledge or the budget for full-blown expert search & social marketing, just think about what you can do to target the people you're trying to reach. Segment. Break it down. Be specific. Be relevant.