When I’m engaged to talk about the fundamentals of effective, engaging social media strategy, there’s one query from the crowd that always comes up: what’s the first thing a business owner or brand should do when social media marketing is on their agenda?
My answer is: book a photographer.

Experience has shown me this isn’t the answer most people want to hear. They want to hear nifty secrets about hacking Facebook Business pages, or registering their own website – something that’s within their personal power that doesn’t involve upfront costs. Photography fits into neither or these categories, but it’s arguably the most important foundation element of your brand.

Photography lies at the beating heart of a brand’s digital identity – whether for an individual such as a coach or counsellor, an estate agency or law firm, or an online retailer or government body. It’s something I regularly invest in at Ruby Assembly, and it’s an investment we encourage our clients to make at least annually in their own businesses, too.

Here’s why investing in photography is non-negotiable for your business:

  • Professional photography asserts your legitimacy. It shows that you’re the real deal, and not some casual fly-by-nighter.

Whether you’re an individual wanting to enhance your identity online or a business launching into the digital space – having professional photographs taken of yourself, your team members, your workspace (or a space you can pretend you work in for the purposes of your shoot!), the community you serve and your physical products (if you’re in e-commerce) show the world you’re the real deal.

Here’s an example: Say you spot two LinkedIn profiles, both featuring individuals whose roles are CEO or Director. One’s profile picture is clearly a selfie, replete with flash lighting and party-scene background. Pleasant, but clearly not polished. The other’s profile picture is a warm, engaging and elegant professional image – in addition to a header image, picturing them at work, talking to clients.

It’s clear which individual looks more legitimate and senior, immediately. 

The same general rule applies for business identities, too. If you discover a brand’s website is devoid of images of real people – and is instead stuffed with generic officey-looking stock images – you’ll form an opinion about the relative success of that business. How good are they really? How legitimate is their assertion of expertise, if they’ve not bothered to take images of their business at work? This also applies to business social media accounts – if they’re chocka-block full of copyright infringing RGs and cheap and cheerful stock images, they not only merge into the morass of generic internet fodder – they don’t look like real businesses. 
Presenting generic images and denying your audience the chance to ‘meet’ you online comes at a huge cost to your business. First impressions count, and you don’t have long to form them with your clients.

  • Professional photography forges connection with your target market. 

In a globalised world where automation is our daily experience – from self-serve registers at the supermarket to helpdesks for our tech – our communities crave connection. They want authenticity, accountability: they yearn for the human touch. Happily, in a world of multinational domination, authenticity is as simple (and complex) as investing in photography. Some business owners explain their lack of investment in branding or photography by saying they are camera-shy, or protest that they don’t like having photographs taken. The reality of commerce is that we need to do things in our business that sometimes irk us (like going to the tax man, or taking out insurance). For some, photography falls into this category of the uncomfortable – but that doesn’t mean they should wriggle out of it!

Professional photography provides you with the core assets you need to connect with your audience, giving them the opportunity to put a face to a name or brand. It allows them to begin the process of trusting you and understanding your service or offering – as the more you share, the more transparent and accountable you will appear to the market. Of course, you should be genuinely transparent and accountable regardless – but photography’s power allows you to externalize your good qualities, helping your audience feel friendly towards you.

  • Professional photography allows you to express your values and personality.

What are you besides a great lawyer / baker / psychologist / estate agent / industrial designer / techie / insert trade here? Your professional photography suite helps captures aspects of your personality beyond your trade. After all, once people have found your website or visited your social media suite they understand what you do and expect you to be competent at it: now’s your chance to show them why they should use you and think of you next time they need a dentist / accountant / broker / childcare service! Photography effortlessly communicates so many of your values and interests – as everything from your location, your clothes, the surrounds you have yourself and your team captured against – they all tell a story and offer a point of connection.
Ensure the first thing on your social media agenda for 2018 is to engage a photographer – giving you the images and visual language you need to develop beautiful Instagram and Facebook feeds, blogs, eBooks, newsletters and websites. The immediate difference you’ll enjoy in audience interaction and brand recognition will impress!

Convinced that photography should be on your branding to-do list? Yaass! Stay tuned for Ruby Assembly’s upcoming blog: Collaborating with Creatives.

Photography: Kyle Larson
Location: Brunswick Velodrome