Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How one Photographer Successfully Uses Social Media to Promote Her Work

Fotocare is pleased to present an exclusive interview with photographer and filmmaker, Gail Mooney. She is co-owner, along with her husband and partner, Thomas Kelly, of  Kelly/Mooney Productions an award-winning full service digital media production company, based in NJ, that services clients such as American Express, Pfizer, Coca-Cola, AT&T and GE to name a few.
I am working on a series of blog posts about how photographer’s can use social media as part of their marketing mix and was in the process of searching for good examples, when I stumbled upon an intriguing post about Gail about how she used Social Media as a means to successfully promote her film Opening Our Eyes. I was so impressed by Gail’s business savvy and case study I wanted to share this story right away. I hope you find this helpful when thinking about how your business can leverage Social Media to your benefit.
Hello Gail, can you tell us about yourself and how you got started in photography?
I had been studying architecture at Syracuse University and decided to take some time off to travel. I ended up traveling half way around the world, during a one year period of my life when I was 19 years old.  I realized on that trip what kind of a lifestyle I wanted to live – one that would allow me to travel and explore cultures.  I thought that becoming a photographer would be a means to that end.  It would also allow me to use my “tools” – in my case cameras and motion cameras to tell the type of stories that I felt needed to be told – to create awareness.

I recently ran across an article on ASMP’s blog about how you effectively used Social Media as a business tool. Could you tell our readers about this effort and why you think social media played a key role in this successful marketing initiative?
Yes, in that blog I provided a real case scenario where I used social media for a project that I was producing.  It was a personal project that would take my daughter and I around the world on a 99-day journey with the purpose of creating a feature length documentary.  The title of the film isOpening Our Eyes and it tells the stories of 11 different people, on six continents who are making a positive difference in the world.  We used social media throughout the making of the film:
  1. To find our subjects through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, emails etc.
  2. Building Relationships and Audiences: We set up a website and a blog where people followed us virtually on our 99-day adventure.  We were building an audience at the same time for our film and a place where people could find out more about our subjects and their causes.
  3. Fund Raising: When we returned from our trip we had over 150 hours of footage and over 4000 still image captures. I spent months going through all the video that I had shot with the Canon 5D Mark II, transcoding the files and laying down the first rough cut. I knew that I wanted to hire a professional editor for their skills and vision but I didn’t have the funds.  Our entire trip had been financed by airline miles, hotel rewards, American Express points and trades for gear and accommodations.  So, I put the project up on Kickstarter, a crowd funding site and raised a little over $10,000.

Would you attribute any business leads, activity or commissioned work as a result of this social media effort?
I can attribute quite a few business leads to social media.  As far as commissioned work, I find that I’d rather work on self initiated projects.  They are not only more gratifying, but can be more profitable as well.  So, I use social media as a networking portal to find partners for collaboration and/or funds.

What digital tools do you use to market your photography business? (such as social media, emails, website, blog, forums etc.) Which do you feel is the most important for your business?
All of the above.  I find my blog is perhaps the most important asset to my business because it creates a buzz in the community.  It’s also led to other opportunities like speaking gigs which I enjoy.

If you have a blog, how often do you post per week?
I actually have two blogs:

I try to blog at least two times a week.
Do you think the time and effort required to maintain an online digital presence is beneficial for your business? How much time would you say you apply to this a week?
Yes, it’s beneficial for business because it gets my name out there.  It’s branding.  I spend about 1 – 2 hours a day.
Do you use any social media tracking tools?
I look at stats on my website, blogs, Vimeo etc.
Given the example outlined above which seems to have met considerable success, have you done anything else using social media that you would say has been successful in marketing your company and its services?
Yes, I uploaded the trailer to my film on Vimeo and within two months time, it had been played in over 107 countries! That’s more than half the countries in the world.

Any tips for photographers that want to start or ramp up their social media efforts?
  1. Don’t (use the platform) to sell
  2. Provide valuable information
  3. Be authentic
Thank you Gail, I am sure many will find your business savvy inspirational! I wanted to end this interview by sharing this paragraph posted on Gail’s website about her film project:
Believe in your dream.  Lots of us have dreams but most of us don’t really believe in them.  I think that makes all the difference as far as making your dream a reality – the ability to believe that your dream will happen.  I have felt that this would happen from the first moment that I conceived the idea – I saw it – I heard it – This idea picked me – not the other way around”