To understand what Facebook means to Mike Anderson’s photography business, check out his voice mail:
“Listen. This is what I want you to do. I want you to hang up the phone. I want you to go to Facebook...Don’t do it right now, you won’t know what to do...Go to Facebook page, Michael A Anderson Photography...I live on Facebook. I breathe on Facebook...Let’s start our conversation there. It’s very easy, very simple. Let me know what I can do for ya.”
Now, hear it from him directly:
“I’m just a small-town guy who likes taking pictures,” says Anderson, 43, who started his business six years ago from his studio in downtown Concord, focusing on wedding, commercial, sporting, concert and travel photography.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
“Without Facebook, I would be nothing professionally... It built my business.”
He estimates he gets 80-85 percent of his business through the social media platform, which he uses to show off his personality and passion for his business. His page had about 3,000 fan likes in May 2014, he says. Today, there’s more than 23,000, “from all over the world...People in China love me, I don’t know why.”
And he’s on the social media giant’s radar, too, which selected him for a panel discussion in Concord last May about how small businesses can make the most of their pages.
They liked what they heard, so they picked him to be part of a national marketing campaign, and is now being considered for its national small- and medium-business council.
“Mike knows that money and time are precious to his business,” says Elisabeth Diana, Facebook’s director of corporate communications. “He’s really using Facebook effectively to reach the right customers.”
And he’s an “example of someone who is taking his passion for photography and turning it into a successful business.”
$3,000 on boost posts
Facebook came under criticism last year for adding a pay-to-play option, where small-business owners pay to get their posts to appear high in customers’ news feeds.
But Anderson’s a big fan of the Boost Post button, which costs businesses anywhere from $5 to thousands to use. He spent about $3,000 on boosts last year, and expects to double that budget this year, “because it was nothing but successful.” One such post, a 2015 in review featuring his favorite wedding shoots from the year, drew 900 likes and was shared over 100 times: “I got business off of that.”
He posts regularly to his page - photos from shoots, messages using his #HeyNow hashtag, discussions about his preferred lighting style, and selfies wearing his signature black fedora (his collection of 48 includes 12 gifted to him from clients, he says.)
He’s a big user of Messenger, too. “I can instantly talk to somebody interested in a service of mine.”
And with Insights, he gets feedback on how many people sees his posts. “It’s constantly reminding yourself as a business owner that your pages are really dynamic,” says Diana.
He’s not paid in his marketing agreement with Facebook: “They don’t have to,” Anderson says. His story is now used in Facebook presentations about small businesses. Business Insider, the technology news website, saw one of those presentations and picked up on his story.
I want them to see my work, I want them to see my personality. Facebook gives me that instantly.
Mike Anderson, Concord-based photographer
And he visited the Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters last September, for a tour and to participate with two other small-business owners in announcements about Facebook Messenger and its business pages.
Landing clients all over
Anderson says word of his voice mail message has spread to other marketers, who have called his number just to hear it. Most important to him, potential clients follow the advice.
“If I get them on Facebook, they’re looking at my pictures. They’re looking at my story.”
It helps that his former career was in sales and marketing. “I understand branding. I understand how you need to show yourself in the public’s eye, and that’s definitely helped me transition, and show the business.”
Anderson says he’s now getting speaking and writing requests, and one query that may spawn a side gig in mentoring: He’s hosting a photographer from south of Chicago for a day of coaching on social media, lighting, and other trade-related strategies.
Six years ago, when Anderson launched his business, he photographed six weddings. Now, Anderson says he’s doing 45-50 a year, all over the country. He’s going to the Caribbean at the end of March to shoot a wedding.
That connection came through Facebook, as did a shoot last January, in Key West. The clients weren’t from here -- they found him and contacted him through Facebook, then booked him online. He didn’t meet them until the day before their wedding, Anderson says.
“Facebook is an opportunity to get in people’s heads, in front of their face,” he says.
“I want them to see my work, I want them to see my personality. Facebook gives me that instantly.”