Facebook Chatbot Guide for Photographers
This is a guide to the wonderful world of the Facebook Chatbot by Iain Sim from Nicechatletsbook. Learn how to use this amazing technology to make more money as a photographer, on autopilot.
Did you know that three of the top five social media platforms are instant messaging apps? (For those playing at home, it goes Facebook and YouTube, then WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Wechat, with Instagram coming in at number five).
There’s a worldwide shift in the way our clients are choosing to communicate. Each month, a combined 3.6 billion people are using those top three messaging apps to chat with friends, family and also with businesses, and that number is growing fast.
As smart photography studio owners, we should all be thinking about how this shift will impact our business.
You’ve probably noticed this change in your own community, right?
In this article, I’m going to focus on Facebook Messenger simply because at this moment it’s the easiest one for businesses to work with and it’s the one I’m using the most in my own studio.
Facebook Messenger is the most widely used chat app in the USA, Canada and Australia, whereas WhatsApp is the most popular almost everywhere else in the world.
I’m also going to talk in detail about Chatbots, but even if you hate the idea of automation, I’d still encourage you to consider how you can use instant messaging in your studio. Even without automation, the benefits of such a quick, responsive way to chat with your clients can be huge.
(Also, full disclosure – after seeing the difference that Messenger Marketing made in my own studio and getting a lot of questions from other photographers all over the world about what we were doing, I set up Nice Chat Let’s Book, where we train photographers and help them set up their own chatbots. I’ll include some details of my course and coaching below, but I hope this article will also help you if you’d prefer to DIY.)
What is a “Chatbot”?
Well, for one thing it’s a very vague and loaded term!
The short version is that a Chatbot is an automated way to help your clients have a conversation with your business over an instant messaging app.
When your client sends a message, they’ll get a response instantly, even if it’s 2am and you’re tucked up in bed.
You set the responses up in advance, and map out a series of messages and answers into a pre-planned conversation.
Still confused? That’s ok, we’re going to go into more detail below.
There was a time when you needed a programmer to set a Chatbot up, but they’re now much more accessible for small businesses, and not as complex as you might expect.
What are the Benefits of Chatbots for Photographers?
There are a lot, but the three main ways that I’ve been using Messenger in my studio are:
1. Lead Qualification
The biggest benefit I’ve seen so far is being able to ask my clients a series of questions and send them some information to make sure we’re a great match before they book their portrait session.
Because it’s structured as a conversation, they always reply, so I’m able to ask a lot more questions than I could on any other type of questionnaire.
Because we’re so well-matched, my shoots are generally more enjoyable now and my sales have been consistently higher too.
I’ll show you an example of this later on.
2. Time Saving
To save time for me and my clients, I’ve also set up our bot to be able to answer basic Frequently Asked Questions like “Can you please send me your price list?”, “What should I wear for my session?” or “Are you available to shoot my wedding on this date?”.
Clients love being able to get instant answers to these questions and I love that I only have to type them out once!
3. Production and Shoot details
Sometimes we all need a quick answer from a client, and I find that my clients reply much faster over Messenger than other channels.
For example, if I need a client to approve a design or answer a production question (eg. “Our album supplier is out of the cover fabric you requested. Can we swap it for something else?”) over email it can take weeks to get a reply and catching them on a phone call is tricky too, but if I send that question via Messenger I usually get a reply within an hour. Sometimes it’s only a few minutes!
Similarly, clients use it to send outfit ideas, let me know if they’re stuck in traffic on the way to the shoot or to reschedule their ordering appointment.
Our chatbot doesn’t do this for us, but it connects us with our clients on Messenger in the first place, and then we can follow up manually.
Common Messenger Marketing Myths
Myth #1: Chatbots are too impersonal for my brand
To be honest, I worried about this in the beginning too. Like a lot of photographers, my studio’s brand is quite personal and I like it that way.
When somebody contacts us, I want them to feel respected and understood, and I didn’t think a bot could do that.
I also want clients to connect with my personality so that we’re all comfortable together by the time we get to their shoot and their ordering appointment.
However, I quickly learned that because I’m “training” our bot myself, it’s really just sending my words to clients and sharing my personality with them. The only difference really is that I’m typing those words once and can re-use them for other clients.
Clients are used to chatting on Messenger in an informal way with their friends and family, so it’s a good idea for the tone of your bot to be less formal and more conversational than you would normally be on email.
It can also send gifs, emojis, pictures and videos, and all of those things help create a friendly, welcoming experience.
Myth #2: Chatbots are spammy
Your personal Messenger inbox is a more private place than your email inbox. If you receive an instant message from a business and are excited to receive it, that’s likely the start of a personal, one-on-one conversation with that business.
However, if that message smells at all like spam, we’re all quite fast to hit the unsubscribe button.
The reason is that we’ve gotten used to some spam in our email inbox. We all seem to have given up on trying to cure our email inboxes of their spam infection, and we now just manage the symptoms with spam folders or by ignoring it.
(Ironically, even an angry ALL CAPS email reply doesn’t help anymore because it would probably just get stuck in the spammers junk folder!)
Our Messenger inboxes aren’t infected in that same way and Facebook are determined not to let that happen. They’re continually monitoring for any loopholes unethical marketers find so that they can be “plugged” and keep the platform as spam-free as possible for its users.
Practically, the main rule is that as a business, we’re only physically able to send a message to a person if they’ve chosen to send a message to us first (or if we pay to send the message as an ad, but I don’t recommend doing that).
Imagine how much less email spam there would be if the same rule applied! Similarly, imagine if you could send an email to a client and know for 100% certain that they’d see it!!
Myth #3: Only software developers can make chatbots
Not long ago, you would have needed advanced programming skills to build a chatbot for your photography studio, but there are now several great tools available which essentially do the coding for you, so that you can focus on how you want your chatbot’s conversations to flow.
The tool I use, teach and recommend for photographers is called ManyChat. It’s the leader in the field, and it’s got a highly visual interface which fits nicely with photographers because most of us tend to think visually.
These tools have really made it much easier to physically set up a chatbot. The bigger challenge now is how to create a great messenger marketing strategy that works for your business, what questions to ask your clients and how to answer their questions in a way which leads them towards booking you.
Myth #4: Bots are just like email marketing
There are a few big differences, actually:
- Email is basically one-way.
If you send an email newsletter to one thousand people and asked them all a question in the email, how many back-and-forth conversations would you expect to start? One? Zero? How many people would even see that email?
With Messenger, you can expect almost 100% of recipients to see your message and 80-90% to respond. (If you’re thinking of sending one message to 1000 people though, please scroll back up and re-read Myth #2 about spam!)
- Your chatbot can send different follow-up questions depending upon the client’s answer to the previous question.
For example, if you ask what type of session the client would like to use their voucher for and they answer Newborn, your chatbot could follow up with “How old is your bub?” or send them a link to a recent Newborn session. It’s instant and flows like a conversation.
- Email marketing is still a good way to introduce new people to your brand and encourage them to start a conversation with you.
Messenger is useful in that first phase of your marketing, but where it really excels is at the next stage, once the conversation starts. More on this below.
Myth #5: I have to anticipate every possible word or phrase a client might type
No you don’t ;-) Who’s got the time for that – we have a business to run!
It is possible to set up a Chatbot which reads typed questions from your clients and intelligently chooses from a set of available pre-programmed answers. However, this is very complex to set up, and for a small business, it’s not practical or necessary.
I recommend keeping it simpler than that.
My Chatbots (and those I’ve built for other studios) are usually based on multiple-choice questions so that clients simply have to click a button to answer, rather than typing. This makes it easier to set up, and importantly, easier and faster for the client to reply, which means it’s more likely they actually will reply.
If your Chatbot gets a question that it’s not set up to handle, it can send it on to you and let the person know that you’ll get back to them personally.
Where does Facebook Messenger fit into a Photographer’s Marketing Funnel?
I like to break marketing down into three stages for each client:
1. Awareness building
The aim here is to make sure that the client knows we exist, that we can help them get the photos they want and that we can be trusted.
I never send unsolicited messages and wouldn’t recommend that you do either, so in most cases this stage is too early for Messenger to help.
Facebook and Instagram ads, SEO, YouTube, email marketing and offline community marketing or third-party programs can all help with awareness building. Let’s leave their Messenger inboxes alone until we’re invited in.
When potential clients engage with these ads, we encourage them to connect with us on Messenger to ask questions or to receive some content such as a price list, a lead magnet or a free PDF. Once they do that, we can move to the next phase and begin a conversation.
At this stage, the client is interested but has questions. We also want to know more about them to make sure we’re well-matched and can do our best work for them (and ultimately make a good sale).
Your Chatbot is perfect for this phase because it’s quick and easy for the client, they can get lots of information at their convenience, and you can quickly build rapport and guide them through the process of booking.
3. Booking the job
Depending upon how your studio is set up, you might prefer to book a phone call, a meeting or go straight to booking a shoot.
Either way, when your client is ready to take that step, your Chatbot can smoothly lead them to a booking calendar and can even check in to see if they have more questions if they don’t book straight away.
3 Ways to Use Chatbots Successfully (with clickable examples!)
Ok, enough with the theory – let’s get into some examples. Here are three ways I’m using Messenger in my studio:
1. Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve set up an example FAQ so that you can see how easy it is for clients to get answers to common questions, and for you to resolve any objections which might be holding them back from booking.
This can be taken much further, by for example supplying different questions depending upon whether the person asking has a shoot booked already, and whether they’ve been tagged as showing interest in a specific type of shoot. Try clicking the image above to check it out.
2. The Wedding-Planning Quiz
The idea here is to run a Facebook or Instagram ad inviting newly engaged couples to participate in a quick, easy quiz and identify what they want their wedding to look like.
Along the way, they’ll connect with you on Messenger, see lots of your beautiful photos and get a sense of how experienced you are with weddings in general. Click the image above to see what I mean.
3. Qualifying leads from Facebook Ads
If you’ve ever run a model call ad or a giveaway you’ll know that the challenge is often in finding the great clients among the freebie hunters and time-wasters.
When I run ads like this, I expect only 30 percent of them to be well-matched with our studio and what we do, so we enlist our Chatbot to help in the search.
As you’ll see in the example if you click the image above, the Chatbot asks a few quick questions, answers their questions too and then offers phone appointments only to those people who seem like a great match.
This way, we don’t waste anybody’s time, and we spend our time on the phone with people who are very likely to be a great match.
How to Get Started with Facebook Chatbots
Step 1 – Keep it simple
If you’re not using Facebook Messenger to communicate with your clients at all, I’d start there.
Choose a few clients with upcoming shoots and ask them to send a message to your Facebook page to say Hi and connect.
Explain that you’re trialing Messenger as a way to stay in touch while planning the shoot and that it’s a quick way for them to ask you questions too.
Once you’re connected, Messenger becomes a quick, easy way of staying in touch. Without any automation at all, try out a few of these and you’ll see what I mean:
- In the lead up to the shoot, send a message to check in and ask if they have any questions about what to wear.
- On the day of the shoot, send a google maps link to help the client find the shoot location.
- If you’re an IPS studio, in the lead-up to the ordering appointment you could send a reminder of the details of that meeting, and ask if they have any questions about products and pricing.
- If you’re selling online, send the gallery link via Messenger and then check in later to see if they need help choosing their favourites.
Your clients will love you for this, and you’ll also see how different the replies are vs email.
Step 2 – The basics
Once you’re ready to set up a Chatbot I recommend checking out ManyChat, but there are other options.
My course and templates (available here) can help you get set up quickly and is focused on only the things you need for a photography studio, to help you stay focused on running your business. ManyChat also have a course available if all you need is help with the software itself, and here’s another great guide.
I recommend starting with these:
- A friendly welcome message which will be sent automatically when anybody sends a message to your Facebook page.
- Frequently Asked Questions so that you can save yourself and your clients’ time.
You shouldn’t expect either of those to dramatically change your business, but it’s worth having them in place before the next step.
Step 3 – Run an ad campaign
There are lots of ways to link ads up with your Chatbot, but the simplest way is with Facebook Ads.
Your Chatbot can be linked directly to your ad so that whenever somebody clicks “Send Message” under your ad or types a comment below it, it will open up in Messenger and begin the conversation that you’ve mapped out specifically for that ad.
If you’re not sure what I mean, scroll back up to the “Lead qualification” example above.
My Messenger Marketing Course + $90 DISCOUNT
Since many of you reading this may still be scratching your heads about the whole Chatbots thing, I should tell you about an online course called Nice Chat Let’s Book – I’ve created it to hold your hand through the process, and get you up and running quickly and easily.
In Nice Chat Let’s Book, you can learn how to send helpful info to potential clients and even take bookings, automagically!
The course is designed just for photographers, and will give you not only the skills but also a set of strategies that have been proven in our own photography business.
In six easy-to-follow video lessons, I’ll show you:
- how to set up your Chatbot
- how to link a Chatbot to your Facebook page and website
- how to automatically pre-qualify portrait and wedding clients and
the Messenger-based marketing strategies currently working well for our studio
The best part though is that the course includes a set of installable chat templates – just enter some basic details about your studio and your chat bot will be ready to automatically respond to client queries or qualify portrait leads over Messenger within a few minutes.
Finally, you’ll gain access to our Private Facebook Group – this is the place where we help each other by reviewing our bots and marketing campaigns, discuss marketing ideas and how to incorporate messenger into them, and where you can ask questions.
(Oh, and there’s a 14 day money back guarantee, so you can have a play around to see if it’s best for you and your studio – I’m confident it will be, though!)
If you use this link, you’ll get a $90 discount on the course, exclusive to Shotkit readers.
Messenger marketing and Facebook Chatbots may sound like some kind of slimy sales tactic to you, but when it’s done well it can be a helpful, efficient and effective way to give your clients the info they want as quickly as possible… and it also happens to be a great way for you to save time and make more money while you’re at it!
Whether you use a Chatbot to book more weddings, schedule portrait sessions, sell albums, answer FAQs or any number of other useful tasks, just make sure you have a go yourself.
Despite their effectiveness, there are still very few photographers using Chatbots, and those that do use them, probably aren’t using them to the best of their abilities! I highly recommend you hop onboard the platform before everyone else – your clients will love you for it, and you’ll stand out from every other photographer.
I can give you some more advice on any of the techniques I’ve described in this article, or answer questions regarding Nice Chat Let’s Book – please don’t hesitate to reach out (click here to chat in Messenger).
My studio can get quite busy at times, but I have a Chatbot which can help you when I’m not available :)
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.