At the Showit United conference last year, Davey, of the brand strategy team Davey & Krista, shared a major piece of insight from a survey of wedding photographers. He had asked them what marketing tactics, including social media mediums, are most effective in getting new client leads. The most popular answers were creating content and cultivating relationships. As I listened to his talk, I had an “aha” moment: Developing and creating new and relevant content is my superpower because it doesn’t require massive amounts of socialization. Introverts can build strong business presence, but relationship-building takes more effort and intentional planning for introverts. We have a limit to how much social interaction we can handle to stay engaged.
It’s the silent truth us introverts sometimes fail to share because it’s not the norm in a world where louder personalities dominate most conversations and mediums. Showcasing one’s personality on social media is how you get more likes and engagement, but too much social interaction is emotionally and mentally draining for introverts. After some time, we need to retreat and be by ourselves to rejuvenate—sometimes in a ballroom stall, sometimes in a hotel room, sometimes with a brisk walk around the block.
[Read a personal account from portrait photographer Nick Fancher: “After a Year Off Social Media, I’m Back—Living an Uncurated Life”]
If you’re like me when I first started out, I had two questions:
1. How do you build a brand and stay true to yourself in a world that values networking and relationships?
2. Do you have to “fake it until you make it” and put on a big, showy personality, or can you find a way to connect that works for you?
Here are three tips I’ve learned as an introvert to grow your brand and business.
1. Be true to yourself on social media by focusing on your strengths
When I’m trying hard to fight the social interaction fatigue in order to appear engaging and fun, it’s obvious that I’m a fish out of water. It just never works.
When I stay in my lane and focus on my strengths—storytelling through words, photos and animated slideshows, dancing and the occasional nerdy post—I radiate good vibes, I connect better with my potential and current clients, creative partners and my audience on social media.
So as a brand, I try to be consistent by focusing on sharing the things that I’m good at.
The Takeaway: Figure out what you’re good at, focus on that and consistently share those strengths or passions on social media
2. Be up front and openly share your experience with others at networking events or conferences
As an introvert, networking at large professional events or conferences is a love-hate relationship. You know it’s good for business, but talking to people or engaging online for extended periods of time can be an exhausting. If I’m at the tail end of my social interaction capacity, I’ve been known to stumble over my words or blurt out random facts, or silently listen attentively but remain keenly aware of how awkward my silence is to others.
I’ve learned to prepare for these times by researching who I’m meeting, working the room alongside other extrovert friends and having a few key phrases shared at the beginning of a conversation, just in case I need to take a quick break.
I share who I am by saying something like, “Hello, nice to meet you. I’m so excited to talk to you and get to know you better. Just so you don’t feel offended, if I have to leave early, I’m an introvert and I’ve been socializing all day, so I might need to take a break after a bit.”
Just stating this takes the pressure off of having to be super engaging, fun and social when you don’t feel like you can. No one is offended, and I get to be true to myself. Win-win.
The Takeaway: Prepare for social events by identifying who will be there, work the room with at least one extrovert friend who can step up, chime in and keep the conversation flowing while you recharge, and let people know if you need some time to recharge.
3. Lean in to our current situation by networking online via webinar or Zoom
In the global pandemic and government-mandated stay-at-home policies, social and relationship-building activities are relegated to webinar and Zoom meetings. I’m going to just say what most introverts are probably thinking: What a time to be an introvert! We can socialize on our own schedules and in our own ways. You can more easily retreat from a conversation to recharge.
Before self-isolation, I could only manage a few in-person social events a month. Anything more was draining and unproductive for all involved. Currently, in a time where webinar and online meetings are the new normal because of social distancing, I happily attend a few events a week. Some are purely professional and for others, we just hang out and chill. I’ve become a Zoom social butterfly. I’ve made more connections with people around the world who I wouldn’t have ever met before, or who I would have shied away from in a large room because they would have otherwise been enveloped by a herd of people.
I show up to webinars, and when I feel the need to retreat or take a time out, I inform everyone and exit. And when I’m re-energized, I follow-up with a quick email, LinkedIn message or Facebook note to the host, speakers or webinar participants. If it makes sense, I can then follow-up to say hello on the channel that I think they are most active on—email, LinkedIn, Facebook, text message—to keep the conversation going.
The Takeaway: It’s possible to develop and build strong relationships online. Identify one or two key people from each online interaction to follow-up with in a way that works best for you and them.
Being an introvert is a gift. Most of us have built incredible brands as photographers, podcast hosts, speakers and writers through content creation. But elevating and scaling our businesses to the next level requires building relationships. It’s very possible to do that and still remain true to yourself by focusing on our strengths, having a support network of people who complement our strengths and being open about who we are.
Check out the following two books you can read or listen to that have helped me build a business and a brand as an entrepreneur:
● How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
● Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Petronella Lugemwa runs a New York-area based wedding and marriage proposal photography studio specializing in helping multicultural couples celebrate their love in a modern way. Chosen as a 30 Rising Star of Wedding Photography in 2018, she has also taught and mentored at WPPI.