Cyrissa Carlson is a photographer, business coach, and probably the most energetic, charismatic person I know. She also happens to be an absolute rockstar at social media for photographers! Cyrissa’s coaching business — The Sparkle Society — is all about supporting photographers with the know-how, tools, and a vibrant community to build incredible photography businesses.

I had a blast talking with Cyrissa about how to use free social media channels — especially Facebook Live — to get more views and higher engagement that lead to more bookings. Here are the highlights of our great conversation. (You can also watch the full interview below.)

If there’s one thing in social media that you can count on, it’s change.

It seems every several months, there are new rules for Facebook, new policies on Instagram, new features on everything, and brand new platforms altogether. Once we finally get used to something, it changes.

That’s no big deal when you’re an occasional browser, but when using social media to grow a business, these changes can feel like wrecking balls. There are strategies and tactics that have worked great for us for so long, but now… they just don’t.

Tons of entrepreneurs — both photographers and non-photographers — are devastated by this. We hear from them all the time: “No one’s booking with me! No one’s seeing my posts! Facebook is killing small business!”

Well, there are three options:

  1. Whine about it but keep doing the same thing
  2. Whine about it and give up
  3. Whine about it, get it out of our system, and PIVOT!

PIVOT! PIVOT! PIVOT!

One of the biggest mistakes creative entrepreneurs make in social media is that they’re not willing to pivot.

If something’s not working — because of a change on social media or a flawed strategy — don’t give up! Fix it. Do something different. Pivot.

If you were in the middle of a shoot and your lens isn’t focusing right, would you continue to take pictures? Of course not! You’d stop, troubleshoot, fix it, and then get back into it.

We have to do the exact same thing with social media.

As frustrating as new changes and updates can be, the fact is, Facebook is still growing. People are spending more time on Facebook than ever before. And, using Facebook to market photography just works.

For her photography business, Cyrissa doesn’t have a blog and she couldn’t care less about SEO. But she still manages to have a six-figure photography business… using only social media. For her fall mini-session, she sold out 24 sessions — with paid deposits — in just 8 minutes!

Bottom line: when done right, it works!

If it’s not working for you right now, it’s time to pivot.

Go Live

Right now, one of the best ways to build and engage with an audience is through Facebook Live, but so few people actually do it.

That’s because it’s SCARY.

Everyone’s afraid to use live video. Even if we feel really confident, we still get nervous. And that’s completely normal. It’s super intimidating, but to get the most out of social media without dropping a ton of money into ads, we have to use live video. Period.

Here a couple tips for getting started:

1. Build a Launch Tribe

When getting started with live video, a huge mistake photographers make is thinking that a bunch of people will show up right at the beginning (which never happens, by the way). They do two videos with no live viewers, get discouraged, and give up.

The thing is, for the first five or six videos, we shouldn’t really expect anyone to show up. In those early stages, it’s all about the replay. Eventually, someone will watch the replay and the next time we go live, they’ll receive a notification and hopefully join in. As more people view replays and join us live, the more exposure our videos will get, which means building our audience.

If we really want to speed to up that process, a great tactic is to build a launch tribe.

Find 5 to 10 friends in your local area and tell them:

Look, I’m trying to grow my business. I’m gonna do these live videos and I just need you to watch, comment, and share. I don’t care if you never book a session buy a single thing from me. You can support me by helping my live videos get some traction.

Bribe them with Starbucks gift cards if you have to — just get them watching and engaging with your live videos. It does nothing but good things for you.

For starters, it always feels better doing a live video when you’re friends are on with you. But the real reason is because Facebook loves momentum. Once they realize there’s a pocket of people engaging with a video, it’s like they open up the floodgates to everyone else.

2. Greet Your Replay Viewers

There’s nothing more awkward than when someone starts a live video and then spends the next 30 seconds silently staring at the camera waiting for someone to join.

Remember, most of your views will come when people watch the replay. When the replay shows up in someone’s news feed, you only have a second to grab their attention. If they watch you pick your nose for 15 seconds until you wait for someone live to jump on, they’re out.

Every time Cyrissa goes live, right at the beginning she says something like:

Hey, if you’re watching this on the replay, I’m so happy you’re here! It’s a bummer you can’t comment live, but I’ll check for comments for 24 hours. So if you have a question or want to chime in, I’ll definitely see it and welcome you to join us.

By the time she’s finished saying that, the live audience has seen the notification and start joining.

3. Don’t Be Perfect, Just Be YOU

As photographers, we’re used to being on the other side of the camera. We’re used to looking for every flaw in a photo or video and then correcting it. But here’s the thing: when we go live, it’s not going to be perfect, and that’s completely okay. It’s actually a benefit.

People are sick of scrolling through Instagram and seeing #blessed or #perfection. We’re tired of feeling like we’re the only one who’s a hot mess. People want real. They want authenticity. And few things are more authentic than putting yourself out there and taking a risk by going live on social media.

We might worry about our kids crying in the background, or our dog running through the room, or fire trucks driving by in the middle of a live broadcast. Well, guess what? That’s life! You’re a real person with real quirks, imperfections, and problems — just like everyone in your audience. When you embrace that, your audience has a much better chance of identifying and connecting with you!

Sure, it’s still a risk. And honestly, a lot of people are going to see us and think, “Ugh, no thanks! That’s not for me.”

That’s totally fine because there will be others that think, “Oh my god! Yes, this is exactly for me! I want what they’re on and what they’re about!”

You’re at your best when you are your most unique self. And NOBODY can compete with YOU. When you use live video, don’t be scared to show that you’re a real person. That could actually be the thing that sets you apart from every other photographer in your market.

Stop waiting for everything to be perfect and start publishing! It may feel really awkward at first, but even if you’re afraid of it, use live video.

Even if it’s just once a week, start going live.

Don’t Run Paid Social Media Ads Without Strategy

Jumping into live video on social media to build your audience is awesome. Jumping straight into running paid ads to grow your audience… not so much.

Before you take that plunge, you need a strategy.

We hear from photographers all the time that say, “I dumped a lot of money into running a Facebook ad and nobody’s booking any sessions. Facebook hates me.”

When we take a closer look at their ad campaign, we see that they just starting pumping out ads without a clear strategy in place. Most of the time, they make the mistake of marketing to a cold audience instead of a warm audience.

Cold vs. Warm Audiences

A cold audience is people who don’t know you at all.

A warm audience is people who know, like, and trust you.

The cold audience has never seen your brand. They don’t know who you are or what you do. If they passed you on the street they wouldn’t have a clue you’re a photographer.

It’s so important to realize that hiring a photographer isn’t an impulse buy — it’s not in the dollar bin at Target.

Almost no one will see an ad for a photographer they’ve never heard of before and think, “You know what? I think I need to sign up for this Halloween mini session for my kids today,” and then click and book.

That just doesn’t happen.

It’s said that it takes at least seven points of contact before someone ever really considers buying from you. Whether it’s an email, a social media post, a blog article, a live video, hearing about you from a friend, or anything else — it takes seven interactions before someone even considers purchasing.

Basically, sending book-now ads to cold traffic is a waste of money. Those ads should go to people who are already on your email list, following you on social media, or that have watched your videos (warm traffic).

For cold traffic, the ads you send should promote freebies that entice people to click and give you their email address in exchange for value. Then you can start a relationship that builds familiarity and trust, eventually leading to more bookings.

Learn More

To hear the full episode with Cyrissa, make sure to listen to — or watch — the full episode. It was so much fun, and we were able to dive deep into these awesome topics.

Want to see these social media strategies in action? Check out Cyrissa on Facebook Live at facebook.com/sparklesociety or on Instagram at @sparkle.society.

Also be sure to visit The Sparkle Society for her incredible resources, newsletter, and more on her online and in-person workshops.

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