How to create social media content that helps sell. From a commercial/product photographer.
Updated: Jun 19
With 500 million daily active users on Instagram alone, social media is maybe the most important way of engaging potential clients and customers.
It is so easy to produce social media content daily but putting out content without any real aim in mind is not going to generate good return on investment.
As a commercial photographer, a growing number of clients come to me with the hope of creating great imagery to post across their social media channels. That is a great place to start but it is only the first step. When tasked with this I come back to clients with a proposal that is aimed at establishing their social media presence and plan.
1. Understanding your customer – Different Photos for Different People.
As a business, I am sure that you already know a little bit about your customers, but what I really mean, is understand your customers online. Your early 20s, sports enthusiastic, gym-going demographic might be useful in working out where to put your protein shake vending machines, but when it comes to developing great online content, we need to be a little more precise.
Let us imagine that I have been tasked with taking pictures of an organic smoothie, the temptation here is to dive right in and start shooting vibrant images of fruit and smoothies poured over ice. However, when I do a little more digging with the people that are engaging with the brand most online, this kind of content is not going to appeal to them. By checking the hashtags that your customers follow for example you can start to see their content tastes.
Building up a profile of your customer's online social media habits is essential in informing not only the aesthetics but where the media should be distributed, there is no point creating amazing videos for YouTube when 85% of your demographic are engaging on Twitter.
Now having run my customer analysis I decide that the types of photographs that are going to draw in the customers we want are actually low key minimalist shots. Turns out when I was originally planning to shoot them for Instagram, that Facebook is actually where I need to optimise them for.
2. Know where you are distributing your content
This can not be stressed enough, where you are distributing your content will guide the type of content that is created. This does not just mean because I am creating a video for Instagram it needs to be less than a minute, the content needs to take in to account what your customers are there for.
Here is a great example of what I mean, I create photographs of a product for a website, a posh little pen in this case. I shot those with the intention of creating images to demonstrate the pens in a captivating manner, showing off how amazing its titanium clip is. Now one may think let us just post those same images on Instagram, it is cheaper. It is yes, but people that are on your website are there to buy your product, the want has already been created, the images you are now posting on Instagram were made with the intention of demonstrating the product and increasing its perceived value. Problem is people that see pictures of your pens titanium clip on Instagram don not have that want yet.
So, what is the job of the content that we are posting to Instagram? People curate the life that they want on Instagram, therefore we want to create photographs that are part of that, it is about delivering content that tells your product's story, the kind of life that people with your posh little pen can have. As such the images will be less product focussed and more lifestyle focussed.
Understanding the unique reasons people use these platforms is essential in creating content that converts potential customers.
3. Provide your customers with value.
It is pretty easy to put together a video telling the world just how amazing your protein bars are, they taste incredible, packed with muscle pumping protein and will make every person you see fall to your feet and fall madly in love with you, well if you make bars that do that I imagine they market themselves. Magic bars aside give your customer something and they will give you something back.
The key with content is that it is all about creating engagement, higher engagement leads to higher sales opportunities. You are a gym gear brand, here is how you can deliver your value, how about some YouTube tutorials demonstrating a workout routine to tone up your abs. This has so many advantages. The customers come to you for the workout tutorial, you get to show off your wares as well as the letting the customer know that your brand might actually know a little about going to the gym. Content that is considered ‘valuable’ is much more likely to be shared than generic pictures of models in yoga pants. Not only have you modelled your gym gear, but you have also increased your brand value and authority in the space.
Providing valuable content is all about providing content that gives the customer a reason to trust your brand, not just show off how pretty it is.
4. Create a sequence of content, not just a post.
Have a vision. You would not go releasing products to the market willy-nilly that aren’t related to one another so stop posting randomly to Facebook. Social media content needs to be planned, by creating a series of posts you will be able to engage customers over an extended period, this is how brands build followers not just likes.
By managing your imagery, for example, into a sequence of linear posts you will be able to ensure that customers are left wanting more with each post and so returning in the future. Furthermore, by thinking about your photographs as a collection, rather than as standalones, brands begin to form an identity. I provide a content subscription service for this very reason, by developing an identifiable aesthetic in imagery your brand takes that on, the brand is then recognised for their online aesthetic, this creating brand recognition.
To create a sequence of content is to create a storybook for your customers to read, not just a page. In this way, they return over and over creating more opportunities for you to sell.
With all of this in mind you need to create a social media plan which you can refer to every time you create your next post; who are you marketing to? Where will they be? What value can you provide? Is it coherent with your brand and with your past content? With all these new tools at your disposal action them now and turn your social media channels into an effective sales channel.