As a small business it's not easy to get in front of your audience online and deliver tangible marketing results.
So when Derek Brown achieved a 5% increase in followers in five days from his latest Facebook campaign, while booking himself solid for two months, we had to know how he did it.
We sat down with Derek, the owner of Studio Soi 6, to get the insider scoop of what he did to create such an engaging campaign, the lessons he’s learned over his years of advertising, and why he specifically used Facebook for his campaign.
So without any further delay, let’s dive into the interview.
Who is Derek Brown and what is Studio Soi Six?
My day job is co-founder and Managing Director of Pronto Marketing. We’re located in Bangkok, serving over 1,500 customers around the world, with a team of about 120 marketing professionals. I’ve lived in Bangkok for about 12 years and before founding Pronto in 2008 I worked for Microsoft Thailand, as well as back at HQ in Seattle.
The flip side of me is as a photographer, specifically a portrait photographer. I enjoy the creative challenges, and meeting and working with people in different contexts than I might on the business side of things.
About three years ago I decided to take up portrait photography and remodeled part of my building to be a photography studio - which I named Studio Soi Six (The studio address is Pradipat Soi 6). For the first year or so it was just learning, but as time went on I got more serious about my photography - and more people started contacting me for portraits.
What was the motivation behind deciding to run an advertising campaign?
I wanted to do a portrait photography project with a specific theme. I’ve been developing several ideas and one was around the tomboy style in Bangkok. Everywhere you go in Bangkok, you see tomboys of all ages and styles - they are a bit of the talk of the town. I see them on the train or at the mall, sometimes with their pretty girlfriends, and I thought with their sense of individuality and style they would make interesting subjects and a compelling project.
I’d like to build an audience for my work - be that via website, social media and eventually in a gallery or other sort of exhibit. Social media is ideal in that it’s an easy and cost-effective way to build awareness and get subjects into the studio. Then it’s just natural to loop around and share that work on social media channels, like Facebook and Instagram. And of course my subjects like to share their photos from the photo shoots as well. A bit down the road I’d like to pull the best work from the project together for an exhibit or a book.
Why did you choose to use Facebook advertising rather than other advertising platforms, like Google?
My potential customers, or the subjects I want to photograph, are all on Facebook and it seemed ideal for showing and sharing my portrait photography. Thailand ranks in the top ten worldwide for Facebook usage - and Bangkok is the largest Facebook city with over 27 million users. Also, the the amount of time each day Thais spend on Facebook is one of the highest in the world. So when I thought of a tomboy style in Bangkok project, I knew my target audience was online, on Facebook.
What was your prior experience with social media before your latest campaign? Was it difficult to get everything set up?
I’ve been doing this for a while. It’s easy to set up. There’s some trial and error but it’s easy to correct. I’m not a social media expert but I try to be aware of what’s working. I don’t pander or change my style to suit what gets the most clicks. That said, I know from Instagram which of my photos get the most engagement, so I might to want to feature those in Facebook promotions. And I have to say that while it’s easy - I am fortunate to have expert friends to ask questions, just to be sure I’m really doing it right.
What opportunities have you gained from your most recent Facebook campaign?
Wow this last ad, a promoted post on Facebook, went bonkers. I was planning on running it for 5 days but had my studio calendar booked for most of a month in 2 days - so I paused the ad. What really got me excited was the level of engagement - comments, shares, likes - all higher than I’ve ever seen before. It was great to get that level of response. But perhaps even more important was seeing amount of excitement in the community for my body of work. This got my excitement up and really got me to commit to doing something special.
What metrics did you use to measure your success?
For this specific promotion I had about a 5% increase in followers, from about 4,200 to over 4,400. - That’s a solid increase from just a few days of promotion. Though likes and followers weren’t my primary focus.
My primary marketing objective was to get suitable subjects to come to Studio Soi Six for a portrait sitting. More page followers was a good secondary outcome. For my marketing objective there are a few steps in the conversion funnel, with the first being to send a message to the studio Line chat account. From there we collect information, select subjects, and schedule portrait sessions.
The ad performance exceeded expectations in this regard; we got engagement with our target audience. A high percentage of the people who contacted us were a good fit for the project. And of the ones that went from screening to invite, a very high percentage accepted and scheduled a photo shoot.
I'm sure that part of this very strong result was driven by the comments and shares, which helped greatly with visibility and reach. Most of the comments were in fact a type of share: the user tagging a friend in the comment and saying something like, “You should do this." But there was a good community endorsement in a way - someone arriving to the post could see excitement and affirmation, which likely helped people feel comfortable and take the action to contact us.
What challenges did you encounter with this campaign? What did you learn in overcoming them?
Because of the strong response, it took longer than expected to respond to everyone. I guess this is a good problem to have. We could have been more prepared with some standard, cut-and-paste, response that clarified the process to the people who contacted us. I have done campaigns in the past that were not successful and this experience made me realize the importance of targeting and making sure my messaging is spot-on for that segment.
What is your advice for a small business looking to get real results online?
I always start with the customer - really have a focus on who’s your target customer and how to speak to them. I got help with my copywriting by someone who could speak authentically to my particular target audience in this project.
Then I think it’s important to have a professional, consistently updated online presence. How exactly to do this isn’t the same for every business, but there should be consistency. I know Instagram is important so I’ve worked with an Instagram consultant to ensure I have daily updates with the proper hashtags. Maybe for another business it’s a blog on their website, or Pinterest, or another channel. But do something, do it consistently, and do it well to keep your audience informed and engaged.
What’s next for Studio Soi Six?
This current project, "Bangkok Tom Style," will take most of my time for the next several months. These young women that come in to the studio for the tomboy project are a lot of fun to work with and represent a great slice of the diversity in Bangkok. I love how they stand tall for who they are. I’ll be looking for venues, online and offline, to share the work and stories of the women who have participated in the project.
Once this is done I’d be interested in more projects to highlight diversity and different subcultures around us. It’s a colorful world and I love to celebrate it - even if I do work in black and white photography most of the time. 🙂
So what can we learn from Derek’s experience?
Derek knew his audience intimately and made an educated guess on which platform they would most likely be found. In his Facebook promotion, he used a targeted approach with his creative and messaging in order to book out Studio Soi Six for more than two months with qualified candidates.
So no matter what industry you’re in, your target audience should be driving your choice of advertising platform and your creative direction.
Make your efforts worth the investment. Buckle down and start mapping out your ideal customer persona. Knowing this, you'll be on solid ground when creating effective campaigns that drive tangible business results.
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