Issue #3: Building Your Online Presence
“How do I drive more traffic to my website?” is a question that I hear frequently. Creating a website is merely the first mile in a marathon of establishing your online presence, which is now fairly straightforward with the myriad digital tools that are available for photographers and other creative professionals.
The answer to the question is that once your site is built, you need to recognize that you have just started a marathon and then make the commitment to complete the journey. This persistence is critical to successfully building your online presence. And that, says online influence expert Stephanie Sammons, “cultivates business success.”
Stephanie told me that “most people give up before they reach their desired level of success with the volume of people visiting the site, growing their network or connecting with them.”
It all starts with getting clear on what your goals are and aligning your online presence with those goals, which Stephanie says is “very, very critical to building a successful online presence.”
Are you a commercial photographer marketing your photography to specific corporate buyers? Do you want to set up an ecommerce site with lots of visitors in order to sell prints online? Or, perhaps you seek lower web traffic but need to attract a few key gallery owners to secure art gallery representation.
“When you are clear on these goals you can be a better leader and use your art to position yourself as a thought leader and person of influence.”
According to Stephanie, if you are committed to staying in the race until the finish line and have clear goals then your formula for success will be:
- Content – showcasing your art and telling stories
- Community – build a network of the people you need to connect with
Content: Use blogs to build your online presence
“I really think that blogging is the secret sauce,” Stephanie says. “It is the best way to get found online through search engines and to build your community through social networking.”
Stephanie recommends that you share the stories behind the photographs, as well as your passion and techniques and says that the more you reveal about yourself the more powerful blogging is going to be.
There is a caveat, however. You have to be committed to blogging and be consistent in order to build traction and online presence. “Trying to blog once a week is a great goal,” says Stephanie. Stephanie averages three times per month on her blog.
The tipping point, according to Stephanie, is reaching 100+ posts on your blog. “It is an amazing difference in starting to get traction. Every new blog post creates a new page for your site, so Google looks at your site as being more legitimate and having staying power. The consistency and volume together are what makes a difference.”
Consider this: the tipping point means if you post one per week, as Stephanie recommends, it could take you two years to reach your tipping point. This is why commitment is such an important point.
Stephanie suggests that there are ways to get there faster. For instance, you can accelerate traction by contributing blogs for other sites that are more established. If these other sites reach your desired audience, such as gallery owners or art collectors, they can be a “great way to get exposure and build your online influence.” Stephanie also suggests making sure you have a unique opportunity to stand out when contributing to other blogs.
Community: Build your network using social media
Building your online presence is not just about content. “You can crank out content and hope to get found but the other key piece of the formula is community,” says Stephanie. “Community is building a network, such as through Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. It is the idea of franchising yourself on different networks.”
Stephanie says that you want to identify who the influential people are that are important for your business and build a presence on the networks that matter to get in front of them.
One way to help identify these influencers is to do some searches on networks and forums. Think about which gallery owners you want to build relationships with. Are they in any LinkedIn groups? Could you follow them on Twitter?
“I have seen a painter in California, John Kraft, do a phenomenal job using Facebook,” says Stephanie. “He runs specials and promotions. What he has done so well is build a community around his art. John’s Facebook page has more than 2,500 fans.”
Resource list of digital tools for getting started and tracking progress
Getting started in blogging and community building, and tracking your success, can sometimes be a challenge for marketing novices. Below are a few digital tools that Stephanie recommends:
- Nimble: a social CRM
- Blogging/Wordpress resources: WP Engine and WP 101
- Hootsuite: for social media monitoring
- BufferApp: for social media content distribution
Descriptions of each of these tools can be found in the digital tools section of Stephanie’s site.
According to Stephanie, you want “all roads to lead back to your site.” Whether you are at the 1-mile mark in building your online presence or at Heartbreak Hill (as it is affectionately known to Boston marathoners), commitment and patience will ultimately be rewarded along your journey.
Cindy A Stephens is a Vice President of Marketing and a fine art photographer. She specializes in developing high-impact marketing strategies using digital and content marketing to build brands and expand market share. As a photographer Cynthia specializes in photography of main streets and back roads using unusual framing and multiple planes of perspective.