For writer, photographer, and video producer David Chandler-Gick, Facebook is a practical tool. "On a recent cross-country excursion to work with Cathy Steffan of Parallel Media Productions, Facebook served as a central hub to keep me in contact with friends and colleagues," he writes. "Accessing Facebook kept me in touch with what was going on, last-minute changes, and more."
Don Lawler (www.donlawlerfilms.com) is currently working on a Ning (www.ning.com) site for his local PVA. (Ning is a social networking site that lets users create their own social network around a common theme, hobby, or industry.) "We're hoping to tie it into the existing website and give us a place to chat with brides, give helpful tips, invite them to our educational seminars, and provide the association with a forum and blog," he says.
One big advantage we have as videographers is that we're visual artists. In the social networking world, visuals rock! Ning plays to this common interest. The site states, "Our two most popular features in terms of usage across the social networks on Ning are photos and videos ... For a professional network, add video tutorials and blog posts with photos to make it visually interesting. Share these items via email as well as pop the embeddable video player and photo slideshows throughout the web, including on your MySpace or Facebook profiles." Do you see the opportunity here to generate additional income streams and offer value-added services?
Aaron Deckrow (www.capturedproductions.com), a Michigan-based wedding videographer, found a client through Facebook who was so excited about her upcoming wedding that she shared her experience with all her "friends" on the social networking site. In addition to shooting the wedding, Deckrow provided a Facebook trailer and a prerelease video. These, in turn, brought more publicity. Says Deckrow, "Once the bride posted her Facebook trailer, she got two comments right away and then a client inquiry within 24 hours, which ended up in a booking with no sales needed. Since then I have been able to network like this with other brides who can post, share, and talk about our work for many listening ears."
Popular event videographers Jason Magbanua (www.jasonmagbanua.com) and Steve Bailey (www.memoriesforevervideo.com) use similar methods to get their messages out. When Magbanua posts videos on his social networking sites, he expects them to be shared. "Some people have no way to reach your blog/site," he says. "Through these social networking applications, videos you make for their friends become available to them. Getting an audience and a following is key."
Bailey recommends using Facebook groups to build an opt-in list of people who are interested in you and your business. Once you've created a Facebook group for your business, he notes, post an update on your wall asking all of your Facebook friends to join the group. "Every time we publish a video on our blog, we also publish it on our Facebook group and, by doing so, all our subscribers to the Facebook group get to see the video," Bailey says.
Using social networking sites requires discipline. And for those who prefer face-to-face contact, it can seem a bit impersonal. There's also the puzzle of keeping your business life separate from your personal life. A good rule of thumb is to note the advice now given to young people looking for jobs: Don't post anything that you wouldn't want your parents/future employer/potential client to see.
As Ed Tworek (www.corpvid.com) says, "I don't want my business associates learning about my family relationships. Do you want your clients or prospects to know the names of your friends and relatives? I don't want to hear from family members that some guy wants to sell them the ‘widget' I just did a product launch video for."
Personally, I use different sites for different purposes. I've used MySpace for about 3 years. A lot of bands and musicians use the site to communicate with fans and peers, so it's where I hang my blues musician hat. I'm also on LinkedIn, which I find a static, businesslike place. And yes, I'm on Facebook. It's fun. It makes it easy to keep in touch and to let my tribe know when I have something new and exciting for them. I also use Twitter, but I'm not impressed by the unceasing efforts of thinly disguised salespeople who call your attention to their next "brand-new great moneymaking resource" every 10 minutes.
There are a number of resources available to help you navigate the whys, hows, and wheres of social networking sites. One that I recommend is www.whyfacebook.com, run by Mari Smith, author of Facebook for Professionals. She writes primarily about Facebook and Twitter, but the information she provides applies to other sites as well.
Some of you will choose to incorporate social networking sites into your marketing strategy; others will not. But I highly recommend that you not discount this newest phenomenon without first exploring the possibilities.
Steve Yankee (syankee at opinmarketing.com) has more than 35 years of video production and marketing experience and is the founder of The Video Business Advisor in East Lansing, Mich.