There are a couple of acronyms that force me into a trance-like state as a survival technique. Churn is one of them. For those of you who haven't spent the last decade living with someone who's worked in the cel phone industry, that's the people that leave your service. At least I think so... and I'm 90% sure it's an acronym... though I really don't know what that would stand for. Customer something or other? Yeah. I'm going to knock that down to a 40% sure. At any rate, SEO, or "Search Engine Optimization" is a deadly boring and I'm extremely positive that it is, in fact, an acronym. At any rate, it used to mean hiring someone to get into some really fancy keyword voodoo and making your site come further up the google page. This was accomplished by working some keywords into the content of your site and getting other sites to back link to your site. There were a bunch of methodologies for accomplishing this, some good, some bad, but they were all about manipulating Google's algorithm for search results. Google periodically changes their algorithm, so things would need to get reworked whenever google upgraded. PS - Google makes changes to their algorithm specially defend itself against many of the tactical SEO maneuvers. Just saying. That's true.
So what does that mean for a regular person that's just trying to run a small business? Let's pick a random microcosm and work from there. Wellness Industry in Toronto. You're in luck - we can do this one.
Now most of the yoga teachers I know are pretty social media savvy. There are a couple reasons for this: 1. It's fun (or at least it used to be) 2. it's free 3. If you're friends are savvy as well, you've got a cross promotion media blitz ready to go.... which means your content can hit all of your friends, all of their friends and so on and so forth. That's reach. We are waaaay into reach.
The idea behind SEO is that Google wants good or poplar content at the top of their list. The best way to accomplish this on a small scale (Wellness industry Toronto) is to:
1. Have good "sharable" content and post regularly. Pictures are solid here. Using real, actual language here is also a plus. Google's latest algorithm (called Hummingbird) is designed to better understand real language as opposed to just linking together a bunch of keywords. So if you start sounding like a marketing guy in a bar because you're just linking together buzzwords like synchronicity and organically, that's bad SEO and just poor form on a basic human level.
2.Have good friends - people that will share your content with their friends on any social media platform. Except Myspace. That's not doing anyone any favours. If you're friends are media savvy, then they're doing this anyway. It's a gift that your friend gives to you. Don't ask people to post things for you on their page. Again, poor form. If you want people to post for you, post for them. It's a two way street. There has to be manners about this sort of thing. The first word in social media is social. Don't make yourself a pariah by focusing on the media.
So it really comes down to write what you know. Post pictures. Share your friend's work and they will share yours. Easy.
If you really want to get in there and find out more about SEO, these are some good articles:
This one is an ad for their services, but the inforgraphics are great - so it's in.
I'm just going to say it. I LOVE when there's a make-up artists on set. It's $100 + HST. Could. Not. Be. More. Worth. It.
This is kind of a theme with me: No one sees themselves objectively. There are professional people that put a lot of time and creative talent into making you look good. It's not that you look more natural when you do your own make-up, you just look familiar to yourself because that's what you see everyday. The artists that I've hired from PUSH Talent Management have been on point every time. Love those guys.
So - being "professional" in the 90's also meant that your headshots were face on, maybe a little head tilt, and your shoulders were a little bit on the diagonal, but not totally. You were wearing a button down shirt (preferably in a shade of blue) and a jacket. Maybe you were on a mottled grey backdrop. It's might have been mottled forest green. If it were the 80's that would have been a painter's drop cloth. Basically everyone got the real estate agent shot. Everyone. Doctors, lawyers, hair dressers... Like I've ever gotten my hair cut by someone wearing a suit jacket? COME ON. But that was the shot that said "I am a professional. I do business."
Being professional should mean that you're good at your job, not that you own a button down shirt.
Take shots that look like you being awesome.
Katherine de Boda is a professional because she's been doing a serious practice for 14 years. She's a professional because she's good at her job. She's opening a yoga studio in Scottsdale, Arizona because she kicks ass.
No seriously. It's not just because I grew up in the 80's and 90's which was arguably the worst hair eras of all time. I'm thinking back to going to job interviews in the mid 90's where looking "professional" meant interviewing for a $15 an hour job meant wearing a suit with nylons and a modest heel. The barrier to entry for a small business person was STEEP - think about it. In the 90's, if you wanted to start a business, that meant finding money, filling out a lot of forms, getting all kinds of licensing, finding someone that would rent a retail space to you and then basically living there on peanuts until you became profitable, which if you were really lucky was 3 years. If you wanted to be a writer, better go to school for four years and intern for two, and that's if you were lucky and some publication wanted to hire you more than the other 20 applicants.
Now if you want to open a store, you're all bummed out if the first 7 choices of domain names are already taken. $300 a year covers the hosting fees for an online store. Done. You don't even have to calculate shipping. I'm not saying success is that much easier in the current day and age, but the barrier to entry is negligible. For less than it would cost in just one month's rent on my 90's dream of opening a coffee shop, I could open an online store. I wouldn't even need to buy product if I found suppliers who would drop ship. That's a real thing. You want to write? Start a blog. That's free. You can do it whenever and wherever. No big deal.
So the barrier to entry for a small business isn't as steep as it used to be. All kinds of awesome. I wasn't actually planning on writing all that, but that's what I was thinking about as I wrote my little blog that costs me nothing.
The topic that I really wanted to discuss was advertising. If you're good at social media - that's free.99 folks. It's worth a little effort to make that happen, no? The reason I got stuck on the "barrier to entry" bit was that 15 years ago, the barrier to entry for the advertising field was MASSIVE. Let's say you're a wellness professional (...and based on my analytics, you probably are) and let's say it's 1997. You want to advertise? Let's check out your DIY options - we'll go with an ascending order. Flyers. Postcards. Direct Mail. (the flyers and postcards you'd actually walk around and put those in mailboxes or on the windshields of cards in parking lots). Big Banners. Newspaper Ad. Once you get to magazine ad, you'd have to hire a graphic designer and we're out of the DIY game.
Now you've got social media, and if you are smart about how you use it, that's free advertising. Use it! Don't post another buzz feed personality test - tell us something awesome. Tell a story. Keep it current. Have cool photos. Hire me to take them.
Diane Bruni is hands down both my favourite and most challenging subject. She is and always has been a beautiful and well formed creature… both inside and out. As her student I had always described her as equal parts Kindergarten teacher and ninja. I had photographed Diane's practice extensively just prior to her cancer diagnosis.
In photographing Diane in the months following her cancer treatment and mastectomy, my understanding of beauty has been wholly reconstructed. My notions of what makes a photograph has been ground down and remade. Her tremendous strength has made me stronger, her openness has made me more open, and her great vulnerability has given me a greater capacity for empathy. She inspires me every time I see her.
It's been both an exercise in humility and my great honour to have documented this stage of Diane's journey.
The internet is full. It's full of buzzfeed personality tests and "experts" that don't site their sources and don't back up their advice with actual research (particularly with diet)... There's a fad going around that I find extraordinarily annoying - the fake cool news trend. Giant squid washing up on a beach, the freaking Hovr Board situation (PS - Funny or Die is still dead to me) and the last one I saw going around with an arial picture of a giant SOS call that was not in fact, from a woman stranded on an island for seven years, and was not, it would seem, saved by the good folks at Google Earth. The real image was taken above Kyrgyzstan in 2010 (according to the Independent article here )
I'm not saying "give up" I'm not saying "don't write" I'm saying make something original, put it out there and make some real content from real people and make that a thing. Fill the internet up with real things and experiences. Don't worry about cutting out the crap, overwhelm it with real life good stuff.
According to my friend who's an actual Nutritionist, that's a good approach to take with your diet too.
...but no one else was into it.
That's alright though, I'm trying to stretch myself a little - It's a process. I really like this image. For one thing, I love Amica, and here she looks so pensive, intense and relaxed at the same time. It's easy to get caught up in the really intense poses and arm balances when you go to shoot Amica, but the part that I really respect about her is the dedication. She was doing #yogaeverydamnday before it was a hashtag. She was doing yoga every day before Twitter was even an idea. Also I like the idea of light radiating out of her. So, you know... I like this.
I'm 36, I think you need to be about 21 to *really* know what's cool. I'm not 21 - but I remember the first time the 90's were actually cool so I have a pretty good grasp on the 90's trend that happening now. In fact, I feel pretty solid for even knowing that's a thing. I can make Instagram, Twitter and Facebook work. So if the words "social media" when put together make you vaguely nauseous, I can help you set up your accounts and link them so that all you have to do is snap the occasional Instagram photo and it'll populate everywhere else from your phone. Don't forget to hashtag. #hashtagsmakeit #gottabefunny #doyourownmedia
That was it.
Here's the situation - I love photography. It's what I do. When I think of the hours, the film, the training and time that other people have invested in making me a photographer, I get a little verklempt. For those of you who weren't watching "Coffee Talk" before Mike Myers got a little heavy and started showing up on Buzzfeed lists of crazy-ass celebrities, verklempt is to be "choked with emotion". I'm not kidding. Other people have invested loads of their precious time to help me do what I do.
So I start by photographing people and working on my craft and making images, learning to edit images, learning to shoot in the studio and manage all the lights and whatnot took years. I'm not kidding. There's a lot to know.
I also started putting my work up for review by other photographers. I'm not talking about Tumblr or any other myriad online photosharing sites, I'm talking about sitting in a room full of people that also do what you do and having my work taken apart in pieces and put back together again. It's honest and brutal and has to be akin to doing open mike comedy. It's how you learn, it's how you get better. It's practice.
In doing this work and talking to a lot of people that are changing the course of their lives and picking up a different kind of work and going out on their own, I came to realize that a lot of people need help building websites... and I thought "Oh, yeah. I know how to do that" and started offering it as a service at the most reasonable price that I could. Then I realized people needed some help with their graphic design... and I was like: "I definitely don't do that" but I do know someone that can - and I believe in his work and his work ethic. So this is a "go". I've spent the time and checked around... it's $500 for just the logo from a junior designer at most places. Really.
It's really not that I'm the best photographer that ever lived, and it's not that I'm a crazy good web designer, it's that I'm not overwhelmed with indecision when I look at photos of you. I just pick the good ones, clean them up and send them out. When I work on your website, I'm not going to spend hours wondering what colour green best represents the moment you decided to become a yoga teacher or an acupuncturist or real estate agent. I'm going to look at your content and figure out the best way to present it, and have it done in two weeks. That's the deal. I don't take meetings on website design - You send me your content and I make your site. I know it sounds a little "Soup Nazi", but that's what you're buying. It's 2014, if you don't have a website up yet, I'm willing to bet that you've thought about it several times probably kind of half started a couple of wordpress sites, but aren't really sure about linking it to your domain name. I know. I've been there. It's brutal. You have to ask yourself this: Do you want to spend hours and hours learning how to make websites, or do you want to teach yoga? How do you want to spend your time?
All I'm saying is that we both know you need to pull it together. I can help you with that.