Some people use social media platforms as their emotional outlet, some for vanity purposes. I use social media to brand my photography business. This approach may not fit every photography niche, but I would like to explain how it fits mine, and I am sure you will note a thing or two that you could use as well. I hope you can interpolate my experience onto the niche you work in.
Building Your Target Audience: A Bit of the Background
I am a beauty photographer with an emphasis in hair. My full time job is to make hair look desirable and accentuate the artistry of the hairstylist. Between collaborations and commercial assignments, I had a decent body of work, which I was showcasing online, specifically on Instagram. I was hoping to attract more peers and have photography discussions, but I was surprised to discover that my page attracted hairstylists instead. It was disappointing at first, until I realized my potential clients were following me, which made me feel like I won a jackpot. They liked and shared my work, but we didn’t seem to communicate at all. I really wanted to shrink this distance between us and make myself look more approachable, start the dialogue with my audience, and see how I could monetize it.
Becoming a Brand: This Is When the Selfie Becomes Useful
One of my favorite definitions of branding is by Joel Desgrippes, a French designer, credited with the invention of the model of today’s design agency, a "multidisciplinary" design agency: packaging, product, commercial architecture, and multimedia. Desgrippes says:
Branding is not only about ubiquity, visibility, and functions; it is about bonding emotionally with people in their daily life. Only when a product or a service kindles an emotional dialogue with the consumer can this product or service qualify to be a brand.
Analyzing my feed as a main point of contact with the potential clientele, I realized that the gap in communication appeared due to be to the absence of personal information. My audience had no idea who created the works. My promotional efforts seemed pushy. The other interesting detail is that the hairdressing community is a very tight circle. As a photographer, I do not belong to the circle, because I do not cut, color, or style hair professionally. Though I photograph hair professionally, it was hard to prove my thorough understanding of the subject and build the trust.
The solution was to combine my personality with knowledge of the niche and present it to the audience. The only way of achieving it was through capturing my personal experience. One Saturday morning, a friend who is a colorist convinced me to dye my hair, and I took a few self-portraits for his portfolio. As many of us, I had a bias toward selfies or posting anything personal on social media, but since the images represented my photographic work, I didn’t mind.
The vivid hair trend was growing fast; pinks and corals were in vogue. These images became viral and created unpredicted resonance with the audience. I became “that girl with the coral hair.” People would compliment and ask questions about my transition from natural to vivid color. They may not have realized I was a photographer, but they knew me as a personality, which is a much stronger connection. Immediately, I knew this was my foot in the door to the hairdressing industry.
My photography business obtained a face. Self-portraits humanized my photography and helped me gain trust and respect within the niche. “The girl with the coral hair” became “photographer, who captures hair in motion.” In one year, thousands of people knew my face. I gained countless opportunities directly through social media. My photography business became a brand.
I think what I am trying to say is that a self-portrait or even a phone selfie is not always a sign of exaggerated self-love or narcissism. When used properly, it can be a great addition to your marketing plan.
Now, I share even more personal information online. It helps my new clients get to know me and my regular clients stay in touch. It makes it easier for a new client to approach me or to assign a job due to a long-standing rapport and communication. Glimpses of my personal life in the feed, balanced with photography work make my brand look personable and approachable.
Summary: Five Reasons Why I Think Self-Portraiture May Help You With Brand-Building
1. Your brand gains a face and becomes more humanized We all like talking to a person, not to a robot.
2. Your brand becomes more personable, charismatic, and approachable, which gains you trust.
3. Your brand becomes emotionally charged and welcoming. It is easier to initiate a first step when you feel like you know the person.
4. Hiring you stops being just a service and becomes an exciting experience for a client. Your relationship transitions from online to the real world.
5. You become well known in your niche, which gains your brand respect and prestige.