I am so excited for this post in my series, The Independent Creative. It’s the very first guest post on the Three Fifteen Design blog, and I couldn’t be more excited that Alison Murray is the guest. Alison (or Ali as she’s known around these parts) is an amazing photographer based in Oregon. She & her husband Matt run Murray Photography together, and she’s just launched her new brand, Portraits By Ali, for her beauty portraits and senior portrait work.
When I first met Ali, we talked a lot about Facebook. I was blown away that she & Matt didn’t use a blog to share their work, but instead, used Facebook as their main way to communicate with clients and potential clients. In the same conversation, I think Ali was a bit baffled that I only had 31 likes on my Facebook business page. Since then, she has given me so much perspective on using Facebook to build brand power, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I now see Facebook as an essential part of my brand experience. The knowledge she’s shared has been invaluable, and I’ve asked her to share a bit with the readers here!
315: When did you start using Facebook as a main source of online communication with your clients & fans?
AM: We started the Murray Photography business page in early 2009, and quit blogging in 2010. Our decision to quit blogging was easy once we saw the power of Facebook. Around that time, I realized we had the visual content to share, but I was taking so much time to write the posts. Once we started using Facebook, we noticed immediately that our clients responded more to the micro-blogging format. Instead of linking to an outside source, they could see the info & photos right away.
I love interacting with people more than telling a story with words. Facebook allowed us to keep a professional presence all while allowing it to be more personal. I could use a friendlier voice that was more in line with our brand.
315: Why do you love it so much?
AM: Facebook is so quick. It’s a good source of social information. As much as we love sharing, we also love learning about other people in our network. The tagging capability on all sides is really beneficial. Unlike a blog comment, which can be replied to via email, Facebook lets you respond right there, and it send a notification to the commenter. It’s convenient. I’ve been on Facebook since 2003, so I’ve had ten years to become familiar with the system. If there’s a better program, show me. But for us, it’s the best way to reach our ideal clients.
315: How does FB allow you to be deliberate with the message your sending to others?
AM: There are so many ways we’re ensuring we’re being deliberate, and infusing the page with our brand. Facebook gives you many tools to make your page unique. We always fill the header with an image. It’s a relevant image that we really love at the time. We never leave an image up for more than a month or two, and the image itself is a way to show potential clients our style. We use our logo (or a logo element) as the actual profile photo. This means when we’re using Facebook as Murray Photography or Portraits by Ali, our icon is showing next to our comment. We’re creating brand recognition within our network. Another way we are using Facebook to grow our brand is by keeping conversations going. If someone comments on our wall or on a photo, we’re sure to follow-up with them to say thank you. We also love the tagging capabilities, and the option to promote certain posts.
315: Let’s talk about using Facebook to advertise. You mention loving the option to promote certain posts … I’d love to hear a bit more.
AM: Because our business is 95% referral based, we don’t feel a strong pull towards paying for traditional advertising. However, we are big fans of the Facebook Promote posts. If there’s a post or session I’m really proud of, I’ll promote it. Generally it’s a $5.00 investment, and we can control who sees the post. It can be shared just our fans, or friends of our fans to reach a wider audience. Big announcements are a great time to use the promotion tools. The small investment means hundreds or even thousands of people will see that post. With all of that said, we use it sparingly. By using Facebook normally for most information, and using the promotion tools for big announcements, we aren’t overwhelming or annoying our audience. At the most, we’ve spent $20 in one month for promoted posts, and since it’s free to use Facebook, we find it an investment worth making.
315: How did you grow your fan base on FB?
AM: It’s grown very organically. Instead of advertising our Facebook page at weddings, we use tagging once we’re back in the studio. If a guest at a wedding wants to connect with us and see more work, we’ll give them our card and let them know we’re active on Facebook. We tag our brides & grooms, and after a really personal experience their wedding party will either like our page, or add us as friends. By tagging our clients, their friends can see our work, and they know immediately how to find us. Like I mentioned before, we are devoted to using Facebook as a conversation, and we love the interaction it allows. We meet people at weddings, but Facebook is how we stay connected & grow our network.
Our ideal clients are on Facebook … they speak the language, and we can use Facebook to keep them excited about their experience. From Facebook, we’ve been able to keep up with all of the exciting pre-wedding news, and it really helps us feel more connected. We love that’s it’s a very mutual platform. It’s a relationship building tool.
315: Is FB your only form of online presence?
AM: While we love the ease of use, and the ability to communicate with our clients on Facebook, our website is what really sets us apart. Anyone can create a business page for Facebook, and utilize the tools to book clients, but our website is the love letter we’ve written to our clients. By working with Three Fifteen Design, we were able to build the site our brand, and it represents us & our core values. We use Facebook as another tool to introduce people to our brand, and when they reach our site, it speaks volumes about who we are as people and photographers. We’re also active on Instagram & Pinterest. Lastly, we love submitting our work to wedding blogs like Le Magnifique and Borrowed & Bleu. Because Facebook doesn’t allow users to pin directly from the site, we still have a presence on Pinterest from the user’s ability to pin from the individual wedding blogs.
315: Overall, how has FB allowed you to share your brand & the values you believe in?
For me, photography should be a really personal experience. Instead of keeping up with the ‘how to be the world’s best photographer’ books, we let our moral compass direct the way we run our business. When we wrote out our business plan, the directives were centered on giving clients the same experience we would want for ourselves. We are tech savvy enough to order our own prints, or a canvas, and we know our clients are as well. Instead of watermarking our images (the same images we’ll be giving our clients), we load un-watermarked images to Facebook. By offering the high-resolution files in all of our packages, we’re giving our clients access to what they want: their photos. It should be a kind relationship. We prepare our clients for their full experience, and part of that is the interaction we’ll be sharing on Facebook. By the time we’ve worked together their excitement translates into honest feedback and referrals.
Thank you So much Ali! So, now I want to hear from you … How are you reaching your ideal clients … is your blog your main powerhouse? How have you tailored your blog to your brand? Are you more of a Facebook lover like Matt & Ali?
While we’re on the topic of Facebook, you can find Portraits by Ali right here, Murray Photography here, and the Three Fifteen Design page right here.
(photos copyright Murray Photography)