By Grover Sanschagrin | Published: January 4, 2011
If you're like many photographers, you've created a Facebook "fan page" for your business and/or a Twitter account to help get the word out, and you're hoping that somehow this is going to pay off in the form of more business.
But what happens when questions and business leads start coming in? What happens when people start spreading false information? What happens when you become the victim of negative attacks? Do you know how to conduct yourself? What's the best way to respond to these situations?
Many people, unfortunately, don't know. I wasn't able to find a list of best practices for photographers, so I thought I would create one myself.
5 Points Photographers Should Consider Before Posting Social Media Responses
1) Respond quickly.
If you don't, someone else will. Remember, these aren't private messages that only you can see. You, your other clients, and your competitors can see these messages, too.
People who use social media, especially Twitter, are expecting fast answers. Am I suggesting that you monitor Twitter and Facebook nonstop? Of course not. But you should be aware that many people looking for quick answers are choosing to tap into their social networks first because it provides recommendations and answers that not only arrive quickly, but feel more trustworthy.
Obviously, you can't monitor your network at all times -- every once in a while, you are expected to spend some time making pictures, after all. But if the people within your social network know you, what you do, and how you do it, they can help by quickly answering questions and making recommendations in your favor. (The question to ask yourself is: Have you provided your social network with what it needs to respond the way you want it to?)
2) Be approachable and conversational, not overly formal or PR-like.
It's difficult to be formal in 140 characters or less. Because of this, social media is extremely informal. But social media is all about talking to real people, not a corporate structure. If you're too formal, and you lack any sense of personality, you will be less approachable. You are a person, not a machine -- let that show.
While we're on this topic, it's also important to be honest and transparent in your responses. People who are the most approachable are the ones who routinely exhibit honesty and transparency in their communication. If you are intentionally not saying something, let this serve as a sign that you're most likely not being entirely honest and/or transparent.
3) Don't push your services. Push the benefits of your services.
This is an age-old sales tactic that works in any medium, including social networks. Instead of simply describing your services, consider using words to describe what the client will receive from your services. This is effective because it positions you as a solution provider, someone who "gets it" and is capable of making their life easier.
This way you can be judged on more than just price. If you're in the running with other photographers for an assignment, it is in your best interest to be seen as the one to solve the problem.
And yes, it's OK for you to talk about your services on social networking sites - just don't talk ONLY about your services.
4) Don't respond to negative attacks.
Responding to the people who degrade, bash, rant or rage isn't a good idea for several reasons. It gives them attention and power, it provides incentive to do it again,it repeats what was originally said, and it allows them to change the discussion. Don't be sucked into a trap with a defensive or emotional reply.
However, there is a big difference between online trolls (as described above) and those who may be either misguided (has the wrong information or facts) or an unhappy customer. If the person is raising a legitimate issue, you should respond, even though the post may be negative. Keep a level head, supply corrected information to a misguided person, and do whatever you can to fix a problem with an unhappy customer.
Also, don't conduct extensive dialog with an unhappy customer via social media. Address the concern with a post that shows you are responsive, then shift to a more private method of communication like email or telephone.
5) Always respond to compliments.
Responding to compliments uses the same principle as point #4, but in reverse and for your own benefit. It repeats the compliment and it shows that you've got happy customers singing your praises. People who praise your abilities are also the ones who will refer you to others within their network. Take the time to acknowledge them, and let them know that you appreciate their business. It may result in more work from them or others within their network.