Thirteen years ago Steve Brooks was a husband, and a new father, married to a synchronized swimming coach. As a graduate of Sheridan College’s Graphic Design diploma program, Steve had taken many photography elective courses and was now a camera and photography hobbyist. Steve enthusiastically took photos of his wife’s synchronized swimming teams to help with the local club’s promotional material. This is how Brooks Photography began.
Recognizing that parents enjoyed seeing action photos of their athletes, then Markham Synchro president, Nancy Chan, suggested Steve take pictures of all competitors at the upcoming Central & Northern Ontario regional championships. The photos were a great hit, and soon Steve was at all Synchro Ontario competitions as the official photographer of Synchro Swim Ontario.
Taking action shots at synchronized swimming events began to make Brooks Photography a household name in synchronized swimming households. Parents and athletes alike followed Brooks Photography on Facebook. Wanting to take the business further, Steve started as second shooter at weddings. Once he started sharing those photos on Facebook, he began getting phone calls requesting him to be the main photographer for weddings.
Over the last 13 years, each step of the business has used social media to gauge people’s reactions to new photography ideas. Steve tries out the ideas with some willing volunteers and posts the photos online to his social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). If the newest project gets a great reaction from his followers, Steve moves forward with the idea.
A great example of this is Brooks Photography’s newest venture: Flour Photo Sessions.
“We’ve turned our garage into a photography studio…. one that can get messy, very messy” said Steve Brooks.
“I got the idea over Christmas holidays while surfing the internet. My oldest daughter is a dancer so I had her recruit a friend for an afternoon of trial and error.” The resulting images are gorgeous and when posted online Steve says the reactions were greater than he’s ever had.
Given the positive reaction, Steve and his wife decided to offer mini sessions: 20 minute sessions for a lower cost. They opened up 24 time slots over the course of a weekend, and within 36 hours were full and opening up some times through the week to accommodate all the interest. A total off 33 athletes (dancers, gymnasts, cheerleaders and synchronized swimmers) attend those first mini sessions and another round is schedule for this coming weekend.
Are all Steve’s concepts and ideas this successful? “No, unfortunately, for every great idea we have at least two or three that flop. For example, I thought we had a great concept for Valentine’s Day Photo Cards this year that just didn’t go over at all. Moving forward, we won’t try that idea again.”
Steve also says he uses analytics to help him gauge follower feedback. “Analytics gives instant feedback on whether people are engaging with what I’m posting. Lower engagement most likely means the ideas isn’t that popular. “
Lessons for Others
Social media can be a great place to test out new ideas and products before investing a lot of time and money into their development. Followers are not afraid to speak their minds on social media and you can generally get a good idea of whether a product or service idea is going to be successful. Create an environment on social media that is open and safe for your followers to share their thoughts and opinions and then use that feedback to put you time, energy and money into ideas that have a greater chance of success.
Name of Organization Contact: Steve Brooks
Authored by: Carey Brooks
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