If anyone is interested, here’s my final research paper for my graduate e-commerce class on old and new marketing strategies.
When considering a marketing philosophy or strategy for any business type, one must consider the vehicle in which they would like to deliver the intended message to the target audience. Specifically for photography, marketing is exponentially important because of the service they provide. When someone hires a photographer, they are hiring someone that can sell themselves as a producer of artistic images and a capturer of memories. The photographer that can market himself well, although not as talented as another, may sell more because they are perceived as better and are reaching a larger audience. This is achieved through successful advertising and promotion and is a distinct competitive advantage. The focus of this research paper will be on the traditional methods of marketing for business and how new methods of marketing are becoming integrated and implemented in to the photography industry. Because of the explosion in popularity of online communities and social media, businesses have many more options to reach and interact with their customers than ever before. This is why any efforts in promotion must be well planned and researched or else the message will get lost in all of the noise around the globe. In order to sort through the feasibility and viability of a new type of marketing, social interactive marketing, it is important to note that the methods of traditional marketing that have been effective for so long should not be abandoned nor ignored.
Traditional marketing can be defined as “the process by which companies create customer interest in products or services. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business development.” (Philip, Armstrong, Wong & Saunders, 2008) Historically, traditional marketing has been a one way street of information flow where a business will broadcast a campaign to the masses in hopes that they will reach enough customers to promote their product or service. Usually the message was delivered as advertisements in print media such as newspapers or direct mail as well as though commercials on radio or television. In reality, it would be difficult to see whether potential customers were impacted in any way through these marketing efforts without specifically surveying them or tracking the sales results after such a campaign. This top down model of communication where an advertiser sends out a message and the audience may or may not recieve it has one glaring flaw; there is no opportunity for customer response and interaction to give suggestions and feedback.
Although traditional marketing is still extremely important, there has been a transisiton in business to move toward new forms and methods of promotion and data mining. Recently another take on traditional media has been online advertising where it is easier to gather research on who is looking at a business’s advertisements and when. Data mining and collection should be at the core of any business’s strategy to find out customer demographic and tendency when viewing their promotions.
Contemporary internet marketing allows quick and easy real-time data collection and analysis of viewer trends that can efficiently be used to make real-time adjustments for greater impact. “Internet advertising in particular is targeted and relatively cheap, and its performance is easily measured. Despite a deepening recession, marketers spent 14% more on online ads over the first three quartes in 2008 than they did over the same time frame in the previous year.” (Quelch & Jocz, 2009) The information about a customer can be so detailed and specific that one can find out the most popular web browser and operating system that is used by its customers. Internet marketing also allows for a level of customer interactivity not available to traditional marketing. Interactivity is useful when a customer is willing to participate and their “willingness is often manifested by their search behavior in terms of selection of certain icons, breadth and depth of search, and the amount of search time.” (Yang, 2004) The key to internet advertising is engaging the consumer. The customer will not see your product or learn about your service if they do not click on your link.
A business also needs to consider who they’re trying to reach and what their motive is for looking at a particular advertisement. “Consumers who browse Internet advertising to pass the time are likely to devote less cognitive capacity and time than those who search Internet advertisements for information before making a major purchase decision.” (Rodgers & Thorson, 2000) Who will be looking for my product? Where do they browse? Where should an advertisement be placed to reach maximum penetration? These are all questions that must be answered by the marketing team when considering an internet marketing campaign. Because there are so many sites and blogs and communities available to choose from, again it would be easy for the message to get lost.
Social media is commonly referred to as any online source whose primary function is to allow users to share information and ideas. More specifically “it is media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques.” (Wikipedia, 2010) The term social media has grown to encompass most every type of online presence or publications that provides a space for a socially interactive community. Businesses that have been keen to explore not only this new means of communicating with consumers have become active in creating their own portals of interactivity, but also to join potential customers where they already are. Some of the more commonly referred to social media websites are Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and YouTube. Integrating social media marketing with a company’s traditional marketing plan is now commonplace because it allows a two way form of communication with their target market that was not as easily implemented before. “Integrated marketing communications coordinates the elements of the promotional mix—advertising, personal selling, public relations, publicity, direct marketing, and sales promotion—to produce a customer focused message.” (Mangold & Faulds, 2009)
Photographers have been pioneers on the forefront of the social media wave because their craft lends itself well to sharing and commentary. There are websites like Flickr.com that are dedicated primarily to the photography community that provides a platform where people can share images and join groups consisting of people with similar interests and tastes. Getty Images is a supplier of stock images for businesses and consumers recently struck a deal with Flickr to have the ability to scan their database of photos and strike license agreements with its members. Getty Images licensed 1.4 million preshot commercial photos in 2005. In 2009, that number rose to 22 million. The primary reason for this increase is through the use of user generated content like that of Flickr. (Clifford, 2010) It has never been easier to share images. Facebook, the largest photo-sharing site in the world boasts 400 million users.
One of the benefits of sharing images in a social media setting is the ability to get feedback and criticism immediately from a community that is interested specifically in the images that you produce. For example, Facebook business pages and Twitter have a system where fans and followers respectively receive anything one posts on a real-time basis. Only fans and followers will receive this information although the information may be available to the general public. In essence, a business that uses Facebook and Twitter exclusively would mostly be marketing to people that already know about them.
Then why would a photographer want to focus any efforts if they would essentially be preaching to the choir? It would be because all social networks are interconnected in some way and fans and followers can suggest your business to other fans and followers in a sort of word of mouth grass roots campaign. The large viewership that these websites achieve is an attractive target from a marketer’s perspective. ”The fact of the matter is that websites such as Digg are providing a gateway for photographers to be seen by hundreds of thousands of people.” (Milian, 2008)
Given the current state of economy, consumers are looking for savings everywhere and photography may not be seen as an essential expense. When one considers how inexpensive and ubiquitous digital cameras are now, any expense for professional photography may be seen as frivolous. “During recessions, of course, consumers set stricter priorities and reduce their spending. As sales start to drop, businesses typically cut costs, reduce prices, and postpone new investments. Marketing expenditures in areas from communications to research are often slashed across the board—but such indiscriminate cost cutting is a mistake.” (Quelch & Jocz, 2009) Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Digg provide a free or inexpensive way to continue to market even in times of economic downturn. Photographers especially need to find the most efficient and inexpensive means to communicate with their audience because there is rarely a very large marketing budget to begin with.
Chase Jarvis, who is a successful commercial photographer, has mastered the art of combining all forms of social media to promote his personal brand. Mr. Jarvis effectively combines blogging, podcasting, video streaming and other forms of social media together to form a powerful marketing force. As part of Mr. Jarvis’ philosophy, he constantly challenges his audience and provides them insider looks into photo shoots and offers free tips and advice. He states on his website that “storytelling, creative innovation, and visual voodoo—no matter the medium—make my heart go thump thump; and sharing all this online with the world, plus as much of my professional experience as I can muster, makes my soul sing.” (Jarvis, 2010) His business has nearly 40,000 followers on Twitter and nearly 25,000 fans on Facebook. This is a significant audience when one considers that the total population of Penobscot is less than 150,000. Having this resource available can be a powerful tool for market research. If he wants to know what his fans and followers are doing at that very moment, all he has to is ask. If he wants feedback on what everyone thinks about his latest project, all he has to do is ask.
This kind of feedback was unheard of even five years ago. Major media outlets like ESPN have caught on to the power of this and have integrated it into their broadcasts. Nearly every day on Sport Center, the hosts will direct the viewers at the beginning of the show to a poll on the ESPN site and ask the viewers for their opinion on a current event. Usually the host will query from these viewer opinions during the show and will give the results from the poll. Corporations are beginning to understand that “these communities give companies the opportunity to interact with consumers and, most important, listen and learn from their experience and ideas about product improvements.” (Fagerstrom & Ghinea, 2010) Having the ability to not only poll the consumer but also provide them the opportunity to feel ownership of the product can be an effective method to build customer loyalty. The key to this is to “give consumers a reason to engage. Consumers must have some incentive to spend time and energy to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences.” (Fagerstrom & Ghinea, 2010) CNN.com even has a Facebook social plug-in built right into their site that is prominently placed on the home page. It seems that the design of the plug-in is to feature stories that were recommended by a viewer’s Facebook friends or people near them, thus personalizing the news. CNN also features a section on their site called iReport. iReport is basically a forum that allows viewers to submit news stories to CNN and gives them an opportunity to become a part of reporting the news that they see and happens close to them. The producers, as the website states, will select the most popular and newsworthy stories and will integrate it with its regular live broadcast. According to CNN, they “believe that looking at the news from different angles gives us a deeper understanding of what’s going on. We also know that the world is an amazing place filled with interesting people doing fascinating things that don’t always make the news.” (CNN, 2010)
Facebook is by far and away the most popular social networking site in the world. Any conversation regarding any kind of social media marketing must begin there. The Facebook site states that they have more than 400 million active users of which 50% log in on any given day. This means that a business could potentially have access to 200 million users around the globe every day. The average user has 130 friends in their network and in total; people spend over 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook. This number is staggering and reveals just how much opportunity is available if the resource is properly tapped in to. The real benefit to setting up a business page or group is that there is no cost in doing so. Facebook only charges for advertisements, which is certainly an option for promotion. Facebook provides a simple process to create an official page as long as the person creating the page is an official representative of the business and has permission to create the page. Once a page is created and the category and “short name” are selected, the business is free to promote the site.
Facebook made a recent change in the nomenclature of what they called the users who followed a page. Previously, a user that wanted to follow a business page was considered a fan. Now they refer to these people as someone who “Likes” the page. The function remains the same. All status updates made on the business page will be placed on all of the “Likers’” newsfeeds, which is a real-time news and status feed that includes all of a user’s friends, groups and pages. Part of Facebook page promotion is the ability to suggest the business to friends of users. This would be where the networking and power of Facebook shines through. Let’s say a photographer posts an image that is commented on by a user because they enjoyed the composition. All of the “Likers” of that page will also see that comment and will have the same ability to comment or respond, thus creating a conversation. In turn, all of the friends of the original commenter will be updated on the fact that the commenter enjoyed the image and will also have the opportunity to “Like” the page and comment now that they have been exposed to the photographer. This is the epitome of word of mouth on a mass scale. In this case, the word of mouth is entirely automated by the Facebook database. The only thing that the photographer had to do is provide content that the followers enjoy and would like to share.
Another social media tool that is growing exponentially by the day is Twitter. Although significantly smaller than Facebook, Twitter has over 105 million registered users and is gaining 300,000 new users every day. Twitter is a “microblogging service that enables its users to send and read other user messages called tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page.” (Wikipedia, 2010) Similar to Facebook, popular businesses and celebrities can quickly amass a large number of followers with whom to communicate to directly for no cost. For instance, NBA superstar LeBron James has over 470,000 followers even though he has only had a Twitter account for two weeks. In that time, he has promoted his web site, posted an image, and given an inside look into his daily life. He has also “mentioned” several other Twitter users and has used hashtags. “Mentioning” another Twitter user in your feed is similar to “suggest to a friend” on Facebook. A link to that user’s account will appear active following the @ symbol in the message. A hashtag is defined by the # symbol and usually defines a subject or category. In Mr. James’ case, he used the hashtag of #lebrondecision, which he used to tag other tweets in order to easily search for them later. One of the most used features of Twitter is the “trending topics.” A trending topic is one that appears in many tweets at any given time. In many cases, the topics reflect current events as they happen. If one were to click on the trending topic, a real time list of all of the tweets that contain that topic appear along with updates as they are tweeted.
The risk that a business may run into is overusing these resources. The problem would occur if the only thing that a business ever posted were sales and advertisements. The key is to “never spam. Never just broadcast a message out to your connections and call it good. Never be too promotional.”(Sherman, 2010) Social media is about relationships and networking, not about advertising. Users are “not impressed by the unceasing efforts of thinly disguised salespeople who call attention to their next ‘brand-new great moneymaking resource’ every 10 minutes.” (Yankee, 2009) Mindful care must be taken not to abuse that statuses or tweets because too many successive updates will clog up a user’s feed and would become an annoyance. A Facebook or Twitter user could just as easily unlike or unfollow an organization that is seemingly harassing them with advertisements. The likers and followers of a business are already aware of the product so they don’t need a constant reminder of how great a widget is or what a great price it is. There is a delicate balance between promotion and information. Social media networks are probably better used for promoting upcoming events, public relations initiatives such as charity benefits, and to recognize loyal customers. Using social media alone to increase business is a mistake. “Social media marketing is another tool in your marketing toolkit. It is not currently a direct sales tool, but can lead to sales.” (Sherman, 2010)
If a business would like to specifically advertise on Facebook, there are tools that Facebook provides to do that. This would be the preferable method to promote any ad campaigns to new users without alienating the business’s current likers. According to the Facebook Ads page “People treat Facebook as an authentic part of their lives, so you can be sure you are connecting with real people with real interest in your products. Facebook Ads provided CM Photographic the ability to target their exact demographic — 24-30 year old women whose relationship status on Facebook indicated that they were engaged.” (Facebook, 2010) A case study was conducted over 12 months and it was found that CM Photographics generated nearly $40,000 in revenue from a $600 advertising investment on Facebook. 60% of the users that were directed to CM Photographics’ page became qualified leads and actively expressed interest in more information. (Facebook, 2010)
Using Facebook Ads would provide the opportunity to increase the customer fan base and to promote any deals. These ads are placed in a specific area in the Facebook page so users know specifically that they are paid advertisements. Advertising on Facebook is very much like traditional internet marketing on steroids. Facebook has demographic information on its users like no other social networking site in the world. In the case of CM Photographic, they were looking for a specific age range with a specific relationship status, probably in a specific area. All CM Photographic had to provide was a target market and Facebook could get the info to that market with surgical precision. Facebook ads are priced based on impressions. It is an auction-based system where the highest bid for a similar ad would get the impression and would be charged based on whether a business chose to pay per click (CPC) or per thousand impressions (CPM). (Facebook, 2010) The cost of the ad is based on the supply and demand of businesses seeking to reach that same target market. Facebook also allows a business to set daily budgets and spending limits so that costs don’t get out of hand.
The real question for photographers as that given all of these new tools for marketing that social media affords them, is photography a sustainable business for them. Social media sites like Digg and Twitter provide a wonderful opportunity for exposure on a grand scale, “but it is hard to live on exposure alone. And some professionals worry that with ways to make a salary in photography disappearing, the impact will be severe.” (Clifford, 2010) Digital cameras have never been cheaper or more powerful. There are cameras that are so smart that it will tell the photographer that someone blinked in the photo and to retake the picture. The camera will also wait to take a picture until everyone in the frame is smiling. Technology has made it easier for the average person to take better images and the recession has made it harder to justify spending money on a professional. Photography is a highly competitive field. Because there are relatively low barriers to entry, anyone can purchase an inexpensive camera and take photos. The allure to earn easy money in photography is rooted in the fact that there is little to no cost to the photographer after the initial purchase of equipment. According to the website www.downtownme.com, a search lists 260 photographers in the state of Maine. According to www.onewed.com, there are 73 wedding photographers in the 04401 zip code alone. There are 32 photography businesses listed in the yellow pages for Bangor, Maine. Although there doesn’t seem to be a complete and comprehensive list of all of the photographers in the area, there is a lot of competition.
Traditional internet marketing may or may not work for a business unless the proper resources and expertise are dedicated to it. Google Adwords could be another option for advertising directly to the target market. Google allows a business to control their ad placement by selecting a region where an advertisement should be displayed as well as which search terms it should be associated with. Cost is a factor for both of these solutions, as a business would have to pay per click on the ad regardless of whether it resulted in a sale. What it would increase would be traffic to the resources, which would be a positive result but there is no way to know if the expense will directly lead to sales. Using social media and internet marketing to promote a business isn’t something that can just be produced and then walked away from. “Creating a Twitter feed isn’t going to create customers the next day.” (Talbot, 2010) These are communities that are constantly in motion and changing and looking for new information. A static page will die a slow death in Web 2.0 because the search engine crawlers are constantly looking for new data to replace the old.
Online marketing communications (OMC) for some businesses is limited to the “mandatory website. There is a need to integrate all forms of online marketing in order to have the greatest impact. Integrating these disciplines “involves for example using online advertising to increase awareness and image, and to drive traffic.” (Jensen & Jepsen, 2006) Integrating social media marketing with traditional internet marketing and traditional media marketing provides a holistic approach to reaching an audience on their terms. (Jensen & Jepsen, 2006) More specifically, “the goal of social media for business is not mindless interaction… it’s a conduit to your web site.” (Photo District News, 2010) Using social media alone will not be a complete approach to marketing and promotion. Creating a blog or Facebook page that may not get very many visitors still serves the purpose of achieving a higher ranking for search engine optimization due to having multiple linkbacks. The more linkbacks a website has, the more popular and respected it appears to be according to the search algorithms. Quelch and Jocz said it perfectly when they stated that ”no brand can afford to coast solely on earlier efforts. Brands that are out of sight on the television screen will sooner or later be out of mind for a large percentage of consumers. Indeed, while advertising in newspapers and magazines and on radio and local television all declined in 2008, advertising on the four national broadcast television networks in the United States remained steady.” (Quelch & Jocz, 2009)
The bottom line is that the amount of people that use social media networks are too large to ignore. Chris Talbot states that social media marketing takes a while to develop, anywhere from three to six months. (Talbot, 2010) Trust and community needs to be established and that takes time. This is why it is important to create a marketing philosphy that integrates old with new in as many areas as possible. Some consumers use Facebook, others are hooked on Twitter while yet other only read the local newspaper. Limiting the focus only limits the audience. “The more footprints you have in social media, the more likely it is search engines will drive traffic to your site.” (McNealy, 2010) The more opportunities a business gives consumers to discover them, the better off they will be. No one method of marketing is the be-all, end-all solution nor can any be abandoned either. “Two important things to remember in business marketing today are integration and interaction. Don’t abandon something that’s been working for your business just because social media is the hot new thing on the block.” For photography, social media market lends itself well for immediate and wide spread exposure if an image becomes viral but how much business would that actually lead to. Depending on the target market, the people that are looking for one’s services may or may not be searching for a random interesting image in hopes of finding the photographer for their wedding or newborn. A multifaceted, multilevel integrated approach using social media, tradional and online marketing will give the best opportunity for a business to reach as many consumers as possible.