5 Lessons From My First Day of School Pictures


I have posted thousands of ideas, pictures, thoughts, and marketing messages in the last eight years but nothing has been more clickable, fun and easy as my "tongue-in-cheek" first day of school pics. Yes, yes...I know that I am frequently seen as just a "big ol' kid, " and this blog might feel a little self-serving, but there is a helpful social media and content marketing lesson in this public puffery.

So class, pay attention and listen up:

1. Have fun with your social media.

In this day of the vitriol and vicious tone on social media, loosen up and give the world some positivity and a smile. Your readers, viewers, and customers will appreciate it and they will be able to see another side of your personality.

2. Be inspired and don't miss an opportunity.

In 2013, I was being "snarky" with these pictures. At the time I told Sarah Greer Bumgarner, my social media sidekick, I was "tired of seeing all these school kiddie pictures on my newsfeed." So, being the smartass that I am blessed and cursed to be, I decided to spoof all these cute school-ready kids and their proud parents. Quickly, I went home and put on what I remembered being my Catholic grade school uniform, put on my backpack, and grabbed one of my collectible lunch boxes (which today's kids would never use.) We took the pic and immediately posted it on facebook before it felt "too late." Surprisingly, instead of being seen as "snarky" most people found this absurd (but timely) picture of a grown-up acting re-enacting a child's first school day funny and entertaining. Like that, I was now part of the current story and the tradition of the "first day of school" pics on facebook. Looking back, I fondly remember how fun it was making this photo and the joy of my surprise in seeing the positive reaction from my friends, clients, and online community.

3. Connecting with your community and customers.

Are these social media pictures and posts genius marketing? Hell no, and since I had no plan or proper website to use this 500% social increase in engagement to convert viewers to new customers, email sign-ups, or business leads it could be considered a marketing failure. However, over the years I cannot tell you how many people mention these "first day of school" pictures to me, tell me they look forward to them and enjoy them. Many new biz leads have come from someone that has walked up to me at a networking event and said, "I love your school day pictures." Five years after my first picture I am still doing them, and now I'm writing a blog about these silly pictures and finally asking you to sign up for my email list to stay connected to you.

{Editor's Note: A lifelong friend and one of the strongest people I know, Dunn Chandler, says she looks forward each year to seeing this picture and how it puts a smile on her face. Thanks Dunn for your support and strength. I think about your kind words every time I grab my new metal lunchbox for a pic.}

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4. Sometimes don't over-think it.

This silly and simple idea did not cost any money to plan, concept, execute and analyze like most marketing initiatives. On the fly, no budget, and with very little effort you can reach 10,000+ people with something you want to say, sell or share. That's some powerful marketing mojo.

5. Show the real you.

My first day of school pictures presents just a small and genuine moment and glimpse into a full tapestry and story of who I am as a person and personal brand. I show the world that I'm not just that "selling salesman" all the time. I am also that goofy guy that is willing to be a little silly, act like a kid again, and make myself vulnerable. Don't be scared to "be you" and share all sides of your personality. I believe this is the secret sauce to improving your salesmanship, brand building, and customer connectivity.

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Did these pictures improve my overall brand?

YES! For 8 years I have consistently posted all types of content about myself, my businesses, passions, and my work. This post that gets shared 500% more than any other post I make gets a lot of new people to visit my web pages. Hopefully, these new eyes took the time to look at the previous three posts under my school pics. Those earlier posts were probably not as fun, but they were more than likely selling one of many Deep Fried Threads' t-shirts, or a blog on my business or my philosophy on design or how I think other companies should communicate. Plus, I recall the first year photo was mentioned and featured by the ModMobilian website which has a much larger facebook and internet footprint than "little Johnny." And just this year Michelle Stancil used my school pic for one of her financial client's blog. That's a marketing win in my school book.

So what's the point, Johnny?

OK! This blog is not about me "playing dress up" and being a class clown on social media. The lesson is that when we have the right opportunity, we are alert to see it and get our heads out of the daily grind of our businesses, anyone can do fun, engaging, and simple marketing messages that aid in getting us noticed in a noisy online world. And the biggest lesson of all is that how important it is to use this new found Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter fame to lead to more website clicks, email captures, and a stronger connection with our community, customers and those profitable new business leads. This is "the real ROI" of content and social marketing.

Little Johnny thanks you for all the likes, views and shares and will see you all next year on facebook's annual first day of school picture-pa-.

Who's Johnny?

Johnny Gwin is a part-time blogger and once upon a time bass player in a traveling americana rock band. When rock stardom failed to launch he threw himself into to the world of advertising & design. After 16 years of the ups and downs of agency life he has found balance in his two lives. One life entails being a creative and graphic designer at 1Horse Design. The other is Content Director, Podcast Host and Producer at Deep Fried Studios - Mobile, Alabama's only podcast production studio dedicated to creating the smartest, most compelling and entertaining podcasts possible.

Recently, Johnny has launched a t-shirt and apparel company called Deep Fried Threads.

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Johnny Gwin | Creative | Podcaster | Graphic Designer | 251-219-0498   //  Mobile, Alabama

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