Twitter and the Superbowl

06

Feb
2012
Posted By : Ted Wiatrak Comments are off

As expected, the number of tweets during the Super Bowl were staggering.  The final seconds of the game saw traffic increase to 12,000 tweets per second, with the Madonna half-time show seeing about 10,000 per second.

Twitter is fast growing to be the immediate go-to social media site, although not even close to the number of users on Facebook.  Convenience to post via mobile phones has certainly made a difference in their popularity.  In our “I want it now” world, getting the information out there first seems to be an unwritten competition.  It is highly unlikely someone found out who won the Super Bowl from your tweet, but getting on the timeline seems to be necessary.

I took some time to read some of the tweets scrolling on my timeline during the game.  Most seemed to be about the commercials and talking about how Madonna’s performance ranked up to her old self.  Steve Martin and Billy Crystal kept the jokes rolling, and JW Marriott proudly talked about their awesome building that donned the Indy skyline.

Honestly, it was the one time I found twitter interesting and worth reading.  Maybe I need to clean out my list that I’m following.

Thanks for reading.

Google+ : A Party of one…

19

Jan
2012
Posted By : Ted Wiatrak Comments are off

At BTW images, we embrace social media, recognizing it not only helps to get the word out about our company, but helps us communicate to current and future client.  Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all social networks that we actively post updates.  We even post to YouTube, a semi-social network.  Doing so not only helps to spread the word about our company, but also gain ranking in the search engines.

When Google+ launched, we quickly jumped on our developer invite and set up individual accounts (branded accounts came later).  Google made it effortless to integrate into our workflow since our work on Google Analytics and Google Adwords keeps us logged in and the network knew who we were.  Once the network opened up to the general public, we quickly found some of our friends and clients and connected with them.

But the excitement quickly wore off.  Not just among us, but our friends and clients.  We noticed more and more the lag of people posting on Google+, but there was no one idle on Facebook.  Was it just one too many networks to update?  I browsed the posts today and noticed no one had updated since November 2011.

For us, we use Hoot Suite to keep our networks updated.  We can write a post and push it out to many networks.  So the additional network was no burden on our marketing.  But for the average person, they embrace a single network and use the native interface.

Currently, Google+ boasts 85 million users.  More users post photos on Google+, tend to chat more, and tend to like the interface better than it’s competition.  On my personal Facebook page, I have friends, family, clients, etc.  But where are they on Google+?  I call out to them and all I hear is an echo…

It is hard for a new network to get buy-in from the public, since a social network is not worth the time unless you have someone to be social with.  With the enormous amount of users on Facebook, the giant is certainly the way to go.  Google could implement the best cutting-edge technology and still not get the average person to get on board.

So how can Google win?  The company needs to embrace the business community.  First, the LinkedIn community is certainly up for grabs.  I love LinkedIn, but it is certainly a underused and featureless business connection medium.  Since my time on the network, I don’t recall anything new being added.  Luring over their users would be a great start.  Second would be to embrace the businesses themselves.  Google+ rolled out branded pages much later than their initial launch.  People love to visit company pages on Facebook to get information and special deals.  Most advertisers ask you to visit the Facebook page vs their own web site.  People are on Facebook, and once you like the company, you automatically get posts integrated into your news feed.  Getting businesses on board would in turn attract the average user, and let them experience the social network they have long tried to avoid.

But until then, we will keep updating the network.  So if you happen to be in Google+, come hang out with us.  We can listen to our echoes together.

Thanks for reading.

Welcome to our Redesigned Blog!

02

Apr
2011
Posted By : Ted Wiatrak Comments are off

We’ve done some redesigning and rethinking of our blog and officially launched it today!  We had a large debate on what type of content we should be writing about and the connection with our company.  In short, we want to continue to provide our trials and tribulations of running a small business and how we professionally and personally overcome those barriers.  We also want to provide some technical insights of the industry as we see them, both in Photography and Online Marketing.

 

We hope you find our insights both useful and informative.  Please leave a comment or drop us a line to let us know!

 

Thanks for reading!

Podcasts: My Playlists…

10

Sep
2010
Posted By : Ted Wiatrak Comments are off

The last post I covered using podcasts to pass your time while feeding your brain.  As promised, here is my weekly playlist:

1)  Mac Break Weekly/This Week in Tech/This Week in Google – From the TWIT Netcast Network and Leo Leporte.  There are a wide variety of available weekly podcasts, also available in video (stick with the audio).  These are the three I regularly listen to, although they are a bit long and repetitive.  More info at http://twit.tv

2)  The Real Estate Photography Podcast – From Virginia Photographer Mike Miriello.  Covers technique, business advice, and other issues and advice related to the industry.  Usually only about 3 minutes in length, but available only as video.  But well worth watching.  Whether you are starting in the business or just curious on what other folks in your area are doing, check it out!  More info at http://www.realestatephotographypodcast.com/

3)  Tech Stuff from How Stuff Works – Two guys, great personalities, and a wide variety of topics.  Each week is a tech topic and they go into detail on how it works.  More info at:  http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/other-gadgets/techstuff-podcast.htm

4) This Week in Photo – From the TWIT Network, but has broken off to have their own website and cover less technology and more photography.  Great hosts and guests each week.  More info at:  http://www.thisweekinphoto.com/

5) Duct Tape Marketing – I’m sure you heard of the book now listen to the podcast.  Actually it is more of a host/guest style talk show, but still interesting.  More info at:  http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/podcast.php

Those are my Favs, but here are a few more:

I’m always open to adding more to my playlist.  Feel free to share your playlist in the comment section.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Learning through listening

08

Sep
2010
Posted By : Ted Wiatrak Comments are off

I spend a lot of time on the road.  I mean a lot

Besides the audio books to pass my time driving, which most of the time I end up spacing out and missing the plot, I listen to podcasts.

For those of you with an iPod, this is a great learning tool.  You can access podcasts through iTunes available from the Apple website (PC or Mac) and either listen to them directly on a computer or transfer to an iPod and listen on the go.

The reason I am such an advocate of the podcast genre is there is a wealth of information available by experts for free.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a bunch of BS out there, and a lot of just plain weekly radio talk show style podcasts.  But search around in your area of interest and guarantee you will find something.  Download as many past episodes as you have time for and listen through them.  You’ll find tidbits of new information and reaffirmation of stuff you already know.

On the road I usually let them play in the background, some last for 0 minutes, some last for 1 hour or more.  Each new episode is downloaded via iTunes by “subscribing” to the podcast.

Topics I focus on are Apple/Mac news, Photography News, Tech, Small business marketing, and a few others.  Some are long winded and a bit repetitive, which is why it is good to play in the background.

Podcasts are also available as video which is a great how-to forum.  Lightroom and Photoshop for Digital Photographers are excellent examples of how-to videos.  Real Estate Photography Podcast is another top notch podcast I follow.

In the next post I give you a list of recommended podcasts that I listen to and feel are worth checking out.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Pricing – to post or not to post…

03

Sep
2010
Posted By : Ted Wiatrak Comments are off

When we originally set out prices, we did market research of both national and local businesses offering similar services.  It is extremely important to do complete analysis of your competition to see how you can compete.  Looking back, we had some fault in our research, more on that later.

In order to set our pricing for our services, we found some pricing on the web of some of our competition.  Some companies did not have their pricing and we had to call to get details (obviously not revealing why or who we were).  Using this information, we set our pricing at something competitive in order to gain entry into the market place.  Quite easy for a small business with no overhead and mainly service-oriented.

So the question is:  Do you post your pricing on the internet?

At first we did, since we knew we were lower than the competition and full disclosure is always best.  We recently removed the pricing, asking the viewer to call us for details.  Our prices have not changes since we have started and we are still one of the best deals on the marketplace.  Our decision was based solely on complexity of some of the requests we have been getting and we did not want to scare off potential clients.

By complexity, I do not mean a difficult job that would cost an incredible amount, but more of requests for photos that did not fit into our pricing scheme.  For instance, we have been hired to build the portfolio of a glass company, with the potential of over 100 sites to shoot.  Based on our pricing we had posted, the only option was to charge them the cost to shoot a small home.  This certainly would have made them look elsewhere.  Needless to say, they called and we worked out a deal.

The web is filled with two type of folks, those that are introverts, and those looking for instant gratification.  Neither one will be satisfied by not having prices posted on your site and will keep searching until they find what they are looking for.

I can not tell you what is best.  What I can tell you is whatever you decide, provide the best options for the viewer.  If you have your pricing posted, ask them to call for special pricing/rates or custom and volume work.  Give them the hope that what they are looking for is doable.  If you do not post rates, make it easy for them to get the rates without calling.  For example, provide a contact sheet to send an e-mail to request pricing, or have them sign up to receive special deals and a price list.  Encourage them throughout the web site to contact you, whether through the phone or e-mail.  You can also list a “Pricing starting at…” for each service to give them a baseline.

Whatever you do, have a solid pricing strategy and do not waiver.  You have determined what you pricing is through market research, but it also defines what your services are worth.  Wavering on this lessens the value of your business.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Your Portfolio

27

Aug
2010
Posted By : Ted Wiatrak Comments are off

Whether you are in the photography business or any other type of business, you will need a portfolio to show you work (hey remodelers, need a photographer?).  Not only is it a must to display your work online, but you also must have a print version to show at client meetings or when online viewing is not practical.

At first we tried lugging our laptop and a large monitor to not only display our work but also to present our product to the client.  This worked well if you exclude the awkwardness in the beginning while we were setting up.

We also have tried prints, but the only way to show great prints is getting them professionally printed.  Our laser and inkjet printer just doesn’t cut it to show great work.  We thought about a professional portfolio book from an online company.  But a portfolio book is a permanent display of a set number of photos, certainly not dynamic enough to adjust for different clients.

I will have to say a portfolio book is probably a must and should contain a large variety of subjects.  Put a lot of though into what photos should go into the book and how it is organized.  Make sure the color is adjusted to meet any color profile the company may list on their web site (if they do not, call them before sending it).  Viovio.com offers quality for a decent price.

For showing your work online, choose the best and organize it so it is easy to get to what the viewer wants.  I would get on my soap box and tell you not to use Adobe Flash to display the photos, but no one ever listens.  Whatever format you choose, make it lightweight to download, easy to navigate between photos, and for goodness sake, no music!  Your initial photos should be sizable enough to view on a laptop but allow a full screen view to get a close look.  We have found that instead of using our own website, we link to a third party.  Smug Mug offers us easy uploading, a place to show our work, and a place to transmit to our clients.  We have back links to our site and they handle SEO for us.

We have considered getting an iPad, which will solve a lot of our dilemmas,  Portable, clear viewing, and able to hold a large dynamic set of photos.  It however is no replacement for the online and print portfolios.

One of the things you’ll face is trying to figure out which photos or products to include.  For every piece of work you do, take a second to ask yourself if it would be good to include in your portfolio.  Keep a finite set of photos, and for every one you  add, pick one to replace.  For us, our work got better as time went on, so it was easy to find ones to replace.  But also make sure you have some of your work for all interests.  It is of no use to show a Real Estate Agent selling $200K houses what you can do for a $3 Million home.  Best piece of advice, update often and keep it current.

The above advice applies to any industry, not just photography.  Whether you are a homebuilder or cupcake makes, you need something to show off how good you are.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Your Web Site

25

Aug
2010
Posted By : Ted Wiatrak Comments are off

Chances are your web site will be the first impression the potential client has of your business.  It is important that this site is something you are proud of and that it conveys the information about your business in a clear and concise manner.  The site should also be an extension of the personality of your business.  Think mortuary vs. toy merchant…

First off, if you can, do your site yourself.  Companies charge unbelievable rates for websites that can easily be done in a few days.  But your real savings will be maintaining the site.  Trust me, a fee of $75/hr is something you don’t want to have to pay to make simple updates.

OK, so you aren’t technical enough or have enough patience to create a website.  Your first option is use an online service such as Squarespace.com.  Or, if your site is more suited for blogging, wordpress.org and wordpress.com are pretty dynamic and powerful option.  Your other option is create a post on Craig’s List.  You’ll get tons of responses, aim for the college students.  If you are daring, post a feeler on a site in India or the Philippines.

No matter what your site is built in, make sure it is well organized, which is good for SEO and maintenance.  As much hype as SEO companies try to sell you, a well written, well organized, and frequently updated web site is all you need to get up in the ranks of Google.

Here is another key to your site…one site may not fit all…Our actual site is spread across three sites.  Our main site is a flash/html site, our portfolio is on smug mug, and our blog is on wordpress.  The main site links them all together.  There is a bit of a different look and feel, so they are not consistent, but the advantages far outweigh the look and feel factor.  I utilize smug mug a lot to transfer photos to the clients, so it is the perfect place for our portfolio and can be referenced directly.

Here is another tip.  AVOID FLASH!  OK, we have it on our site.  It is tough to maintain, heavy on the cpu, can’t be viewed via iphones/ipads, etc.  I’d tell you to be bold and try html5, but it isn’t friendly to folks with old PCs.  And please do not do intro pages or music.  If everyone has to sit through an intro page every time they visit your site, or listen to music while they open a new tab, your site will be closed quicker than the time it takes them to search for your competition.

You should plan on overhauling your web site every year.  Everyone hates an old website and technology is constantly changing, so keep up with the times.

Thanks for reading 😉

Getting your first client

16

Aug
2010
Posted By : Ted Wiatrak Comments are off

As we talked about earlier, one of our first clients came from offering our services for free.  I don’t want to tell you this is the only way to get your client list growing, but it certainly helps to build your references.

So how about the paying clients?  Our first few clients came from two sources: our website via Google and Craig’s List.

Having a well established web site before you start looking for business is a must.  Doing everything you can to get it relevant in search results is even more key to your success.  Don’t fall for SEO ploys, they only work short term.  A well written and structured site with relevant and frequently updated content will do the job better than any SEO company.  More on websites in a later post.

Clients that find your website via Google are more or less unexpected.  You can’t plan for them, they just happen.    We landed one of our first big clients by them searching the web and finding us.  They are still a client today.

The second way we got our first set of clients was simple: we answered a post on Craig’s List.  It wasn’t exactly in our area, but it was a paying photo gig.  To this day, I still monitor Craig’s List for people looking for a Photographer.  I’ve seen comments that a “Professional” shouldn’t need to stoop to this level, but I’ve found there are people in the real world who get overwhelmed with search results and would rather have people come to them.

My best advice for getting your first client…patience!  Once you get over this hurdle, you’ll gain confidence and your path will be clearer.

Thanks for reading 😉

Working for Free…

14

Aug
2010
Posted By : Ted Wiatrak Comments are off

If you follow Craig’s List in the DC area, the list of folks in need of a photographer to do a wedding or head shot for free is a constant fixture in the Creative category.  They are often met with a response from the “Angry Photographer” (not me, I promise) detailing how insulting it is to expect something for nothing.

I guess there is a a huge misconception that there are tons of photographers just starting out looking to build their portfolio.  But the truth is, this is the best way to build your portfolio.  As you start out in your small business, you will have silent phones, no e-mail, and a lot of free time.  And as always there is the Catch-22, trying to convince clients you are worth hiring, but nothing to show of your work.

Our best move was to find a model home of a small Luxury Home Builder in the area and ask if we could come in and photograph.  In turn we would pass them the photographs and full usage rights.  Turns out this was our best move ever.  The builder called on us to photograph a new model shortly after and has been a devoted client ever since.  He also referred us to other builders, who in turn gave us referrals.

We ended up doing this several times to build our portfolio.  We found the larger the business, the less interested they were.  Small businesses love to save money, but more importantly, have less management and red tape to clear to get the go-ahead.

People always are open to free things, as long as you present it properly.  Make sure you are clear on what is expected from them and what you will provide in turn.  Have paperwork ready for them to read and sign.  If you are providing them usage rights, they should have it in writing that they can use the photos in promotional and print advertisement along with any details on how credit should be given.  Most people will be wary of the offer and think it is a gimmick…DON’T MAKE IT ONE!  You are there at their grace.

But most importantly, treat it like a paying job.  Present yourself professionally, promote your business, and act like it is your 100th job, not your first.  And follow up with a thank you gift, after all, they did help you out.

Thanks for reading 😉