Stock photos don’t make you stand out
I’ve seen it happen a lot recently – friends, family, acquaintances have rushed to open up social media accounts and new ecommerce sites for their business.
Great idea right?
Well, it would be, except that the content they share is… generic.
They’ve shared glossy stock photos with the clear aim to inspire but, unfortunately, it’s more likely to make folk scroll on through.
When instead they could go for a much easier & cheaper approach that would work so much better…
We are already overwhelmed with “inspiring” graphics
You see, it’s not that inspiring photos aren’t effective, but we are literally saturated with them. There are so many that the ones that stand out and make you click “like” or “share” do something extra.
Maybe they were taken by that individual, maybe they are incredibly unusual or trick the eye, maybe they’re also funny?
Just “ok” inspiring photos aren’t going to do the trick.
This goes the same with B2B accounts where instead of stock photos of nature you’re likely to see some of the old business clichés: handshakes, chess boards, a bull’s eye.
Clichés can be a useful shorthand but they don’t make you stop in your tracks. They don’t add anything further to the conversation. They’re the wallflower at the party who’d like to have a dance but isn’t sure how to freestyle.
Glossy marketing says nothing about your company
A common error with startups and SMEs who don’t have the budget of multinationals is to try and give themselves the air of a multinational, rather than playing to their strength.
But none of this shows what makes your company different from the millions of others, or why your ideal customer should care.
Put the ‘you’ back into your marketing
So what should you do instead if using stock images is so “wrong”?
Well…. You need to inject a little bit of “you” into the mix.
Being a small team is a blessing not a curse. You are the David to the Goliaths’, making your way through business in challenging circumstances.Being a small team is a blessing not a curse. You are the David to the Goliaths’, making your way through business in challenging circumstances. Click To Tweet
People buy people. Humans relate to other humans. This isn’t a new concept.
For customers to care about your business, they have to care about you.
Instead of hiding behind glossy images that say nothing, why not show yourself and your company in all its imperfections.
This can mean livestreaming once a week, or sharing regular behind the scenes videos, or using humour to help people relate to your story.
Finding the “You” in your USP doesn’t necessarily mean plastering your face everywhere.
It’s about working out what makes your company different, looking at your strengths, and finding out how you can connect with your customers. It’s going to look different for every company (otherwise might as well stick with the glossy pictures).
Is it scary?
Yes, it can be.
Will it pay off dividends?
Provided you follow a solid plan, absolutely.
Here are my top tips to pull this off:
Start with your assets: who is on your team, how comfortable are they in front of the camera, or at writing? Where are they working from? Is there an interesting origin story to the company or a theme to how you work?
Then move on to your audience: who are they? What are they watching? Has any of your past content connected with them and why?
Use these to generate some ideas for how you could inject more personality into your communications.
Here is an example:
Company A is a one-woman company run by Rose, who sells homemade bags and other objects to reduce waste. She’s confident teaching to sew but a novice online. She has a quirky sense of humour and her creations are often whimsical. She has a small but loyal following on Instagram.
What she could do: livestream a sewing class every week OR make a fun stopmotion storytelling video using her creations as different characters releasing an episode every week OR simply do a selfie video every week discussing her business and sharing creations she’s created.
Each example I gave above shows a different level of commitment:
Out of the three, this is perhaps the scariest and yet requires the least commitment. Rose could coincide the livestream with a project she is working on anyway. For example, a client has ordered a bag, she can use the opportunity to demonstrate her skills and personality at the same time.
You might worry that this approach is great for people wanting to appropriate her techniques but, less face it, there are loads of bag making tutorials out there for free, it doesn’t mean I’m going to start a bag making company! People like to watch livestreams for all sorts of reasons, crafty ones can be soothing as well as interesting. Doing this regularly should bring her a loyal following & convert them into customers.
Whilst making stopmotion videos isn’t difficult it is time consuming – but if you get it right, what an impact!
I suggested it because it’s a great way to a) put across Rose’s quirky approach and sensibility and b) showcase the stuff she creates. It also has viral potential depending on how successful the storytelling is.
Here is my guide to making stopmotion videos for free.
Selfie Video Behind the Scenes
This last suggestion sits between the two in terms of commitment. The more you do these types of videos the faster you get at the process of filming, editing (if needed) and sharing, but at the start it might take a little longer and also require a list of topics to cover, so you’re never short of ideas.
For example, Rose might want to build out a content calendar to help keep herself on track.
For example, week 1: bestsellers and why; week 2: how I package my creations; week 3: what I wish I’d known when I started my business, etc.
The key to these types of videos is consistency & giving yourself a brief to stick to. For example:
- 1 video a week of 2 minutes or less
- minimal editing but do add subtitles (yourself or through Rev)
- and add a thumbnail from your template (for example, below is a GIF of two thumbnails I’ve used for LinkedIn videos).
Make a plan and create processes
Now you’ve got some ideas, you need a plan to make sure they get done.
The key to success here is to integrate these ideas into your everyday so that it becomes an ingrained habit.
You therefore have to be realistic.
The all-singing, all-dancing livestream video idea I shared earlier is unlikely to happen every week unless you are a bigger team, but you could realistically schedule it as a monthly event.
On the other hand, you could make it a part of your schedule to livestream every week or release a video on a particular day.
These will vary depending on your resources (and those of your team, if you have one).
Create a system for success
One way to ensure that Shit Gets Done™ is to have a system in place for how you create your content.
This might include things like:
- a template for your thumbnail
- a structure for your video content
- brand assets in a handy folder (logos, colours, hashtags…)
- a sequence for your creation process (for example: film, edit, publish on Facebook)
- a sequence for your distribution process (for example, repost video on other social channels, share in Facebook group, Reddit, Quora, etc).
- a sequence for measuring your success (for example: one week after posting, make a note of views, shares, traffic, followers, messages etc)
Your mileage may vary depending on what you are posting and where of course!
Here are some great tools to create these processes:
- Canva. For creating graphic templates. Unless you’re living under a rock, you are probably familiar with Canva, the easy-to-use graphic design software. It happens to have a template for video thumbnails, so you can create a master copy for how it should look, using your brand colours, and then make sure your subsequent ones use the same model.
- Airtable is like a spreadsheet but better. It’s intuitive, integrates with lots of tools, and makes building processes and keeping track of them actually fun. There’s a great post here on why content marketers love Airtable if you want some inspiration.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
You’ve got ideas, you’ve got a plan, now you just need to Do The Thing.
Trust me, you might feel a bit wobbly the first few times, putting yourself out there can be scary! But it does get better. And better. And better.
Practice does make (nearly) perfect after all.
If public speaking is something that scares you, there’s a great blog post here on how to change your mindset, with some really practical tips!
The keys to success can be summarised by the very sexy acronym BARF (because acronyms are kind of barf-worthy, right?)
- Be consistent
- know your Assets
- Remember your audience and,
- Find the “you” in your USP
So, are you ready to let go of generic images and put yourself out there?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need more ideas!
*Disclaimer for this entire blog post: used wisely there’s no harm in using stock photos, but they shouldn’t be the only way you communicate about your brand.
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