Guest post: how a Winnipeg photographer used social media as a gift


This post was written by Ian McCausland.

He’s a super talented Canadian photographer who I’ve know for a few years now. I’ve always admired his craft but was totally impressed when a message about ‘Foto Friday’ landed in my inbox a while back.

Ian decided to host Facebook Foto Friday. He would essentially be giving away a photo to anyone that turned up at his studio on the given date.

The catch?

The photo had to be used on all social networks.


Of course I turned up with my husband and – obviously – I asked Ian to write about the whole thing. Why? Because Ian runs one of the first Winnipeg businesses I’ve seen using social media to effectively market his business. More than that. Ian absolutely embraced and understood the value in doing this. Golden rule of marketing: give before you take.


For years before any of this social media stuff – before the internet even – I’ve enjoyed gifting my work, usually to clients.

Clients who have kids get free baby portraits, for example. Or if clients wanted to enter their own design work in competitions, I’d shoot it for them. With the move to digital, it’s been even easier to gift my work.

Since Facebook, it’s been great to watch people respond to my work.

Whenever a portrait I’ve done is used on profile shots, people ask “who did this?” Clients who stand in for me while I set up the lighting, before the impatient CEO arrives, ask for the shot to be sent to them only for it to appear the next day as their profile shot!

Meanwhile a good portion of my 700+ friends on Facebook continue to use the worst photos imaginable as their profile shots.

Rather than waste time on creating a “fan” page for my work, I wanted to find a way for people to value my friendship on Facebook. Some of those friends were mere connections I had yet to meet face to face.

What better way than to give them amazing looking profile shots?

So an invite to the first “Facebook Foto Friday” event was sent. This is what I wrote:

My first ever Facebook Foto Friday

What is it?
It’s a opportunity for you to get a new Facebook profile photo. For Free. It’s only open to my Facebook friends as of now.

I dunno, thought it would be a fun opportunity to meet with some friends, and ensure everyone looks good on Facebook.

Whats the catch?
Simple stuff, really:
– Only use the image for profiles on social networks, Facebook, Twitter,Flickr, etc.
– Please don’t crop out my logo, and a credit would be nice.

How’s it gonna go down?
Drop by the studio between the times listed. Feel free to bring a few different changes of clothing or props. Please no guests, animals, children,etc. Keep it simple! We’ll take a few snaps, and one image will be selected and sent to you big enough to use as your profile image.

What if I want more than one?
Hmmm, well we’ll have to talk about that if that’s the case.

What if I can’t make it?
Don’t worry, I might do this again, if it turns out to be fun!

I have no idea why, but I cringed when I sent the invite. I felt nervous and scared to do this.

To give away what you do, the basis of your business for free, in any form is a scary thing. This was new territory for me and I had no clue what would happen.

Would all 700 friends show up? Would no one show up?

Fortunately right away my fears were dashed with the overwhelming response.

People seemed impressed that I felt strongly about their profile images that I would do it for free. Even people who weren’t able to make it still expressed their gratitude. The power in the gift doesn’t even rely on anyone taking you up on the offer. Over the next few weeks I reminded people with my status updates of the event. People who weren’t my friends on Facebook, but were on Twitter were asking if they could come anyway.

The day of the event, we had approximately 40 people show up.

It became not only a photo shoot but a networking event. Rather than mingle in the waiting area as I intended, everyone hung out in the studio to encourage each other, egg each on, and enjoy the antics.

Some people brought props, some sat for a photo when they hadn’t planned on it, some just hung out and chatted. Jamie and Lisanne of BlinkWorks shot a behind the scenes video which in turn, had people interested in their business.

Facebook Friday – Ian McCausland from BlinkWorks on Vimeo.

For me the real pay off was watching the reactions and all over Facebook as everyone changed their profile pictures. For the last few days, the comments have been constant, the new friends adds about three to four a day, and the amount of goodwill generated is priceless. I will probably do another one down the road, Twitter Tuesday anyone?

Ian McCausland is a commercial photographer in Winnipeg Manitoba. He’s embraced the social aspect of the internet since 1992, before the web! (Check his URL. This man bought up the domain before folks even knew what domains were). Find Ian on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

1 Comment

  1. Glynis says

    The idea for the event was brilliant, the photos are great and the video was a super idea! Congratulations to Ian for thinking of it, and to his friends who embraced it!

Comments are closed.