Posts By: Nikki Blews

Facebook "Like" Button

Is The Facebook Like Button Ruining Your Life?

What if every time you hit the Facebook like button you had to call the respective business and tell them their products interest you and then ask them for other recommendations of similar businesses so you could call them and tell them of your impending interest in their products or services?  Sounds crazy, right?  I think so!  So, why are we so apt to dole out this information on Facebook and do we fully understand the impact this can have on our lives?

To start, let me say – “I get it” – the Facebook “like” button can be a sexy beast.  It’s so easy, quick, and mindless.  It allows people to show support, sympathy, interest, approval, humor, or agreement just to name a few.  But something we all need to understand is that every time we click “like” we are sending information back to Facebook so they can alter the algorithm that’s responsible for the information they spit out to us.

The 48-Hour Test of the Like Button

Matt Honan recently wrote an article about his experience and resulting effect from liking everything on Facebook within a 48-hour period.  The results were astonishing and quite disturbing to be honest.  I’ll let you read the article in full (it’s a worthy investment of your time) but in a nut shell his Facebook feed was overrun by everything commercial, even more specifically, news sites.  He saw fewer and fewer of his friends’ posts (despite liking all of his friends posts during the time period) and he found himself pigeon-holed into a newsfeed that would swing from tea-party conservative to the most liberal of left-wingers.  This was because Facebook took the information he was giving them through his “likes” and started pushing more targeted ads to him.  Now, why they removed his friends posts and only showed him predominantly commercial stuff – I think that’s pretty obvious – money talks – and that’s all I think we need to mention on that front!

Ironically, Facebook became a place he didn’t “like” very much and from the sounds of it – it wasn’t very “social” at all….hmmmm.  Even more disheartening was the point that Honan touched on about the potential pitfall of surrounding yourself with ideology that fits so nicely into your little box of personal preferences.  I think anytime you surround yourself with so much of what you “want” to hear you start missing out on what you “need” to hear.

The Like Button Is Not a Good Confidant

Now, if you’re thinking “no big deal if my newsfeed gets overrun with stuff I’m interested in, I’m OK with that” then super for you, but are you also comfortable with those “likes” revealing things about your identity that you don’t feel are necessarily “public knowledge”?  Raphael Satter wrote an article back in 2013 highlighting a study by the National Academy of Sciences regarding the assumptions derived from 58,000 Facebook user’s “like” patterns.  Here are a couple excerpts of interest:

“The study found that Facebook likes were linked to sexual orientation, gender, age, ethnicity, IQ, religion, politics and cigarette, drug or alcohol use. The likes also mapped to relationship status, number of Facebook friends, as well as a half-dozen different personality traits.”

“Among the more poignant insights was the apparent preoccupation of children of divorce with relationship issues. For example, those who expressed support for statements such as “Never Apologize For What You Feel It’s Like Saying Sorry For Being Real” or “I’m The Type Of Girl Who Can Be So Hurt But Still Look At You & Smile” were slightly more likely to have seen their parents split before their 21st birthday.”

While Facebook’s Frederick Wolens downplayed the significance of the study, others applauded it.  I’m sure there’s some truth, or rationale, to both sides but it does beg the question, “Are we revealing too much?”

I think there’s multiple ways to look at this phenomenon and no which way is “right” or “wrong” but rather a measure of personal allowance.  I’m not comfortable with Facebook or BuzzFeed or Kohl’s knowing my personal preferences and for that reason, I withhold MANY “likes” from businesses I do frequent just to maintain a certain level of privacy.  But other people may revel in the fact that their newsfeed is 100% republican news sources or that they always know the drink specials at their favorite downtown bars – to each his own! The main thing we all need to understand is that even the smallest of acts – like hitting “like” – has a BIG impact on your target-ability and may, over time, get you sequestered to a small niche of business and personal information that isn’t necessarily representative of the world around us.  It’s certainly food for thought!

Of course there’s always a “healthy” dose of “likes” to be had and if you’re looking to run a healthy business campaign to attract potential customers, we’ve got you covered in our blog about “How to Get Facebook Page Likes”

What’s your thoughts about the “like” button? Share them below!

By Nikki Blews


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What Social Media Sites Should My Business Be On?

What Social Media Sites Should My Business Be On?

When it comes to social media, it seems all we hear these days is Facebook, facebook, facebook…and maybe a Google+ and Twitter every now and then. Facebook is the “popular” kid in high school, yet no one really knows why (or cares?) but they sure do want to be besties.  Of course, there’s the overwhelming stats like the fact that there’s 1.28 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “B”) users and 609 million daily users, as reported by TechCrunch, which is impressive for sure, but does that mean Facebook is right for you and your business?

In order to answer this question correctly, you need to ask yourself “Where are my customers?” If you don’t know the answer to this, stop reading, figure it out, and then come back.  The reason for that is obvious – you can be the best marketer in the world, but if you’re speaking to an audience that isn’t interested, you may as well pack up your marbles and head home.  I equate it to McDonald’s offering apple slices as a side to a burger – if I wanted to eat healthy, I wouldn’t be ordering a big mac from a fast food chain.  Their intentions and offering may be good, but they’re marketing it to the wrong clientele.  You take those same apple slices and sell them at a farmers market down the street – now you’ve got yourself some paying customers!

So, let’s get down to it…below is a breakdown of each of the following social sites: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, & Etsy.  I know Etsy isn’t really in the same class as the others, but I find it so valuable for small retail shops that it would be a crime not to mention it! Here goes…..

Facebook

Stats: (I already gave you their fancy numbers but here’s another one to ponder): 47% of Americans say Facebook is the top influencer of their buying decisions

We’ve already said that Facebook is the “it” place to be.  They have so many users, across so many countries and in so many different life stages that the platform really is hard to ignore altogether.  So, for that reason, your business needs to be on Facebook in some fashion, but before you start campaigning – keep reading.  Facebook, by design, is a very personal site.  The only reason people join Facebook is for personal reasons, whether it be to reconnect with old friends, keep up to date with current friends or stay connected with friends and family afar.  And while it’s true that many of these people that are on Facebook have jobs or careers that may be linked to your business, it most certainly doesn’t mean that those people want to see work-related posts or advertisements while browsing their news feed.

Example:

Let’s say you sell wholesale office supplies to small businesses around the country.  You might think advertising on facebook is a great idea because so many people need office supplies and many of the people on facebook may even be THE purchasing agents for their office – you think it’s a win-win.  I’d have to disagree…why you ask?…well, because, while I may be a purchasing agent for my office, I don’t want to log onto my Facebook news feed after a hard day’s work to see more of the same jargon I have flooding my inbox at work – it’s not FUN or entertaining and that’s why I’m on Facebook to begin with (or maybe it’s to see what protein shake my brother’s girlfriend had for breakfast??).  I’m not saying you can’t market your office supplies on Facebook but what I am saying is that if you are going to, you better make it worthwhile for people to give their thumbs a rest from scrolling and actually take the time to click on your post.  B2B businesses typically have the hardest time on Facebook because they struggle with creating campaigns that resonate with humans.  B2B companies do a great job marketing themselves to other businesses but have always lacked the human element of marketing…and social media marketing is no exception to that rule.

Google+:

Stats: 1.6 Billion accounts, 540 million active monthly users

Google will take over the world one day – we just don’t know when that “one day” will be…so, the lesson here is to be nice to the up and comer – they will rule Facebook eventually. I’ll be honest, I don’t know one person who uses Google+ on any kind of consistent basis.  Most people only know about it because they are automatically given a Google+ account when they open a Gmail account.  But what Google lacks in popularity, it more than makes up for in usefulness.  Google – the master of SEO rankings – utilizes social media presence, specifically from their social site, Google+, as a component of their SEO algorithm.  Just read to this little excerpt from New York Times about Starbucks and it should sum it up for you:

“Starbucks, for instance, has three million followers on Plus, meager compared with its 36 million “likes” on Facebook. Yet it updates its Google Plus page for the sake of good search placement, and takes advice from Google representatives on how to optimize Plus content for the search engine.

“When we think about posting on Google Plus, we think about how does it relate to our search efforts,” said Alex Wheeler, vice president of global digital marketing at Starbucks.”

Google+ also has things like Google Authorship that you can use to stake your claim to your work and help your website SEO.  So, truth be told, every business and everyone with a web presence needs to be active on Google+ for SEO purposes.

Twitter:

Stats: 550 million registered users and 215 million monthly active users, 34% of marketers use Twitter for lead generation

Twitter is a hard one to figure out because it’s so prevalent in our daily lives that it creates the illusion of being necessary.  Any TV station you watch or event you attend, you can hear the words “tweet this” or “tweet us at” so it makes you think it’s this lady-in-waiting to Facebook.  BUT, the main thing you need to understand about Twitter is this – it’s fast-paced and loud.  Moz reports that the lifespan of a tweet is 18 minutes and I’m not so sure that’s current-day estimations.  Moz also give you some really cool graphs in this article, like this one here that shows you the correlation between your tweeting pace and the lifespan of a given tweet:

So, for this reason, I think Twitter can be good for many business types, like news outlets, social events, restaurants, retail stores and more – so long as the content being tweeted is real-time valuable.  A good example of this would be a registration for an upcoming webinar, a limited-time retail promotion, or a product launch.

YouTube:

Stats: More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month, 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network

If you’ve got something worth watching, make sure you put it on YouTube – plain and simple.  I think YouTube is undervalued from a marketing standpoint because most people think they have to produce an oscar-worthy clip in order for it to resonate with people – not true, my friends, not true.  YouTube is the equivalent to Googling and everyone googles stuff – everyone – just ask my Gramps, he’s 86 and uses Google daily! People go on YouTube to learn how to fix their blinds (that was me!), watch a crazy dance move, or watch last year’s Super Bowl Budweiser commercial.  Point is, many people are visual learners and YouTube gives you the outlet to educate, entertain, and yes, SELL your products.  Unlike Facebook where people are perusing for entertainment, many people are going to YouTube for something specific – directions, information, education – so be there and make it interesting.  If you sell ice cream equipment, make a video about ice cream production or even a funny video about enjoying ice cream.  If you sell nail polish, make a video about different ways to apply the product.  If you sell baby strollers, make a video about how to properly use the stroller and highlight all of its features. Lastly, if you sell a service, like, say a general contractor specializing in bathroom remodels, make a video about how to properly lay tile in a shower – the sky really is the limit with this social platform.

Pinterest & Etsy

Pinterest Stats: 40 million monthly active users, 23% of Pinterest users use it at least once per day

I lumped these two together because this blog post is getting long and I’m in need of a glass of wine (just kidding, not really).  No, I lumped them together because they are so tightly-knit that I often find myself redirected to Etsy when browsing and clicking around on Pinterest.  These two sites are THE place to be for retail shops – hands down. If you are selling clothes, handbags, etc. and you’re not on these sites – run, FAST, and start your page. BUT, Pinterest also lends itself very nicely to the service industry – photographers are the first to come to mind but party planners and caterers are a great fit as well.  I once believed that Pinterest was only good for pictures of meticulously well-planned parties but it has evolved into so much more for me as a consumer.  I now look on there for organizational tips, recipes, wardrobe suggestions, picture ideas, decorating ideas (90% of my house is designed around Pinterest Pins – sad, but true). The important thing to remember about Pinterest is that, unlike YouTube where people may be searching for something really specific, Pinterest users are many times browsing in a sea of pins so you’ll need to standout.  That doesn’t mean all your pins have to be professional quality but make them unique or attractive in some way in order to captivate your audience.  Check out this article for some tips to get you started!

There ya have it….Do you have any unusual success stories you’d like to share about your business on these social sites?  We’d love to hear it!


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Promoted Post or Boosted Post

Promoted Post or Boosted Post – Which is better?

Let’s be honest – between promoted posts, boosted posts, dark posts, page likes and more it’s hard to determine what’s considered “the best”.  Through much research, here’s what I’ve determined the answer to be: “depends on your needs”.

Thank you – have a nice night!

Just kidding….kinda.  The answer “depends on your needs” is a legit answer but it’s far from adequate.  According to Facebook, “Boosted posts appear higher in News Feed, so there’s a better chance your audience will see them” and “Promoting your Page is a way to create ads that will show in News Feed and on the right side of Facebook.”  What you may have gathered by this point is that sadly, your page posts reach far less people than you’d hoped and no where near what Facebook tells you they reach.  Sorry, I know…the truth hurts! Let’s break down these posts into more detail.

Promoted Post

A promoted post is a post you create as an ad, likely in PowerEditor, that can be distributed in many forms, ie. in the news feed, right hand ad, mobile only, etc.  The power of a promoted post is that you have far more options when it comes to targeting your audience and how you spend your money.  Check out the options below (you can compare them to the boosted post options later):

Promoted Post Options

Promoted Post Options

Boosted Post

A boosted post is an existing post you’ve already put out there in your timeline that you want to see get more exposure. The “boost post” button is on the bottom right of your post:

Boosted post

Boosted Post Screen Shot

Then when you click on it, here’s what it looks like:

Boosted Post Options

Boosted post options

The boosted post only gives you two options for reach – 1. people who like your page and their friends and 2. People you choose through targeting.  The latter then lets you specify country, age, gender, & interests (up to 4).

So, what I feel it boils down to is what you are trying to achieve.  If you want a quick way (and I emphasize “quick” because that is a big draw to doing the boosted post) to get more attention from your existing fans and their audience base – do the boosted post.  But also understand that just because people are friends with your fans, doesn’t mean they have the same interests – so it’s a gamble going that route.  Andrea Vahl suggests going with a promoted post even if your goal is to reach your current fan base – check it out. She also gives a more in depth look at the two posts with great insight.  Alternatively, if you want to expand your reach and attract NEW fans, leads, etc, I’d go with the promoted post because you have a much larger pool of applicants to work with AND those applicants can be more clearly defined and targeted.

There ya have it – a quick run down of a promoted post vs a boosted post.

Which have you had more success with?  Please share!

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Inbound Marketing Process

Need help with your inbound marketing process [infographic]?

“The inbound marketing process is just a bunch of “fluff” for internet based businesses.”

“Why do I need to change my marketing style – it’s worked for years!”

“My business is just fine the way it is.”

If there’s an excuse out there, people will use it.  Truth is, the inbound marketing process isn’t a fad, tailored to a certain industry, nor is it to be considered a secondary approach.  Inbound marketing defies the laws of traditional marketing and seeks to attract and then convert visitors into paying customers.  The main difference, as you may have heard by now, is that inbound marketing works as a magnet to pull people into your website via useful & attractive information whereas outbound, or traditional marketing, takes the opposite approach to push products and services on people – through advertisements, direct mail, etc.

Check out this article to learn more about the differences between the two.

If you’re looking to start an inbound marketing campaign OR just need more direction on where to go from here, check out the infographic below from Sons of Thunder marketing – it gives a lot of great stats as well as a chain-of-events look at the inbound marketing sequence.

By Nikki Blews

Inbound Marketing Process

Inbound Marketing Process


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How long does my blog post need to be?

How long does my blog post need to be?

There are many answers to this popular, yet frustrating, question – How long does my blog post need to be?  The first is around 1,000 words or more, the second is about 300 words and my personal favorite is “however long it needs to be to offer value to your readers” – or some variation of that response. The last is my favorite because it’s the only response that directly correlates to the reason you are writing a blog post to begin with – for your readers’ benefit! Although it’s tempting, you should not be writing a blog post for the Google machine or for aesthetics, it should be to educate your readers.  If you’re not addressing your readers’ concerns or giving them valuable information in your blog post, then it’s useless to them, won’t be shared or viewed and in turn won’t be the big SEO cheerleader you anticipated.

Answer #1: 1,000 words or more

The longer-blog-post theory usually lends itself to great SEO value…greater keyword density, increased chance of linkbacks, more information, etc.  But before you go slapping thousands of words down on a blog post thinking Google will increase your ranking, understand that Google is smarter than you think (and getting smarter each day) and they actually crawl your post for relevancy. One thing that may surprise you about a long post is that, according to John Rampton at Forbes, “posts which contain more then 1,500 words gained 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more facebook likes”.  Maybe it’s because they appear more “meaty” or because all things seem more legit when cumbersome – who knows – but that’s a fact, Jack.

Answer #2: About 300 Words

Again, Rampton points out that shorter blog posts are great for converting on product or service offerings.  This is because you’re giving the reader a short, but exciting, snippet of information about the product or service and then leaving them wanting more, thus prompting them to engage your call-to-action.  Short blog posts are also argued to be more attractive to today’s reader – who are usually short on time, hungry for information and not willing to invest 30 minutes to find what they hope is an easy answer.

 Answer #3: Whatever amount you need

So, that brings us to the last option which states a blog post should be however long you need it to be in order to achieve your goal.  Your goal may be to write about the inner workings of a wind turbine – aimed to educate your readers about wind energy, looking to entice them to join your mailing list for all things wind turbine related.  Or, you may want to write a blog post about the best local hotels for holiday weekend stays – with a goal of increasing holiday reservations.  Point is, if you need 2500 words to achieve your goal AND offer value to your readers, you type your little heart out.  If you only need 125 words to offer value and convert leads – kudos! Just make the words count! No matter the length of your blog post, MAKE SURE IT’S RELEVANT, VALUABLE, and INSIGHTFUL.  The SEO, shareability, and conversion rate will speak for itself.

This blog post is 483 words – just in case you were counting! :)

Need more tips on blogging? – check out the secret sauce here!

By Nikki Blews

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Business Tips for Pinterest

10 Pinterest Business Tips

Pinterest has this crazy effect on people….it turns them into a consumer on crack!  I don’t know why, but I’ve fallen victim to it many a time. You can’t help yourself but envision you living in that crazy treehouse or rocking that Polyvore outfit.  People spend hours searching the site for ideas AND products for a birthday party, charitable function, closet organizer, backyard oasis, etc.  You name it, they are searching it.  So, how can you make Pinterest work to your advantage as a business?

Here’s a quick list of Pinterest business tips to help guide you in the right direction….enjoy!

1. Fill out your profile in its entirety.

Despite this sounding a bit like, oh I donno, common sense…it’s rarely followed.  Make sure to jazz up your profile picture but keep it consistent with your company logo so people can easily identify you.  Always include your website and social profile links as well.  You need to make it as easy as possible for people to follow you on other networks and most importantly, to your website.  Also, make sure you verify your site.

2. Get the “Pin It” button.

Make sure you have the “Pin It” button on your website AND blog.  You can easily download this button on the Pinterest Goodies page.  Even if you don’t sell retail items – which symbolize the golden child of Pinterest traffic – still install the “Pin It” button.  People pin all kinds of things – infographics, white papers, blog posts and links to articles, just to name a few.

3. Get fans.

Leverage your existing social media platforms to gather followers on Pinterest. In other words, link your profiles. Amylynn Andrews gives some good ideas on how to gather more followers.  For instance, just asking works quite well!  In addition, post coupons for Pinterest fans only, create exclusive boards to stir interest in following your brand and pin seasonal content that tends to generate high traffic.

4.  Label pins with a description.

When pinning your own products, be as descriptive as possible, but don’t go overboard.  Remember that Pinterest is for the visual consumer and you need to cater to that.  An awesome picture with no description will blow a bleh picture with a great description out of the water….every time.  That being said, a great picture with a descriptive explanation and a price is like hitting the jackpot for the consumer — which leads me to the next tip…pricing.

5. Price it!

This tip is compliments of Shopify.  Be sure to add a price to your products.  Pinterest has a great “gift” feed that people can click on and that feed is categorized by price.  Pinterest randomly selects the items that appear in this feed, but without a price, you won’t even be considered (this reeks of not being picked for the grade school kickball team because you can’t tie your shoelaces).  This feature is an absolute MUST for retail related industries, especially Etsy shops.  And if you’re promoting movies, recipes, products, places or articles, check out Rich Pins.

6. Know who your customers are.

You need a full understanding of who these people are…what they like, where they shop, and what influences them.  Once you’ve found them, interact with them — daily.  Lilach Bullock discussed these hot topics in her post on Mari Smith’s site.  She has them listed separate for greater detail but I’ve lumped them together because, well, that’s what I feel like doing! :) Just like with any other business initiative, you need to know who you are marketing to in order to appeal to them.  You can’t force your brand on people who don’t want it, nor should you want to try to.  So take the time to find the right people and get to know them, comment on their pins and re-pin their pins. Her other tip of knowing who your competition is and what they are up to is always a good idea.  Consider it saavy snooping – “market research” sounds plain ole boring!

7. Create Re-Pin Boards.

Re-pin boards are re-pins of things you think your followers will find useful, relevant or interesting.  To be clear, these are NOT your own pins or products.  Cynthia Sanchez wrote a fabulously informative blog about the re-pin process.  While it seems easy enough, there is a method she recommends which involves a mix of verifying the validity of the pin, the follower base of the person you are pinning from and the relevance to your own brand.  We all know you are on Pinerest for business but you can’t be “all business” 100% of the time.  Show your brand’s humor, humanity and personality by creating a well-rounded persona on Pinterest — one that coincides with your customer’s persona.  The idea behind this is to be a central hub for all things of interest to your customers…it’s a form of inbound marketing on a much more passive scale.  Oh and be sure to tag people when re-pinning their pins.  It’s the equivalent of calling someone out by name at a party and telling them they have excellent taste.  Who doesn’t love that?  Check out the article.

8. Pinterst Analytics – use it!

This is a great tool to understand what is being pinned from your site, the most pinned items, which pins get the most clicks, etc.  It does fall short when proving ROI though.  But Google Analytics can tackle this for you and show you what sales are being generated from those Pinterest clicks.  Brian Honigman from Social Media Examiner goes into great detail on these analytics for you.

9. SEO

Don’t forget your SEO training when you hop on Pinterest.  Just because it’s a visual marketplace, don’t discount the use of keywords and links in your descriptions.  An interesting note about descriptions comes from Hubspot:

“Social Media Scientist Dan Zarrella researched 11,000 pins and found that the most re-pinned and commented on items were accompanied by descriptions ranging from 200-310 words.”

So, get to describing.  Using alt tags when uploading your images is a MUST as well.  It’s important to note that backlinks from Pinterest are nothing more than plain ole links since the Google machine doesn’t consider them “legit”…yet.  But, according to Chipper Nicodemus, some other search engines, like Bing, are using Pinterest images in their image search results.  I’d be willing to bet Google will be following suit soon.

10. Size matters!

The last tip is purely visual and that is to size your pins properly.  It’s very frustrating to click on what you think is a cool picture, product, etc. only to find out that the image doesn’t enlarge or size itself just right and you’re left with the feeling you missed out.  Don’t be that company!  Here’s a great article by Socially Sorted – complete with sizing cheat sheet!

Happy Pinning Peeps! :)

By Nikki Blews


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Paid stock photo site winners

Paid Stock Photo Site Winners!

Searching for stock photos is one of those time consuming activities that you look up from your computer and a whole day has passed you by, you’re still in your pajamas, and your eyes actually feel weird as a result of the movement away from the computer screen.  It’s true, sad, but true.  Things like this drive me crazy! Stock photos don’t have to be that hard to find (or afford – but we’ll talk about that later).  So, I’ve listed my pick of the best paid stock photo sites below and why I like each…hopefully they’ll help you in your search through the dark abyss.

#1 Shutterstock

Easy to use, economical (most images range from $9-$15) but you can get a monthly subscription if you download a ton, and the price per image plummets to just pennies per image – but, full disclosure, you have to be a serial stock photo downloader to make these subscriptions worth your while.  I like this site because you can search for photos based upon primary color, artist name, demographics and number of people in the image, etc, and as a bonus, they offer video – not everyone does.  And, if you’re feeling especially saucy, they came out with a new site called Off Set that’s filled with fancy images from snazzy artists around the world.  I haven’t downloaded anything from there yet as the images are much more expensive so you’d have to be after something real specific and worth the money to splurge on the image.

#2 Big Stock

Big Stock doesn’t have quite the search-ability that Shutterstock has but their pricing is hard to beat – we use the $69 a month plan and you get 5 images per day – ah-waitforit-mazing! $0.44 per image? Don’t mind if I do! They have a great selection but you won’t find super sophisticated images on here – I think Shutterstock is a bit better for that.   The main drawback of this site, I feel, is the search capabilities, however, given their fantastic rates, I think this is a fair tradeoff.  We use this site for quick everyday images, like the one in this blog post.  They do not offer video on this site either.

 #3 IStock Photo

IStock Photo is owned by Getty Images – which is super pricey, but IStock appears to be it’s tamed, frugal sibling.  Images range from $1.40 per credit to $1.67 per credit and images range from 1-30 credits, but many can be upwards of 75 credits.  Now, on to the juicy stuff and the reason they landed themselves on this exclusive best paid stock photo sites list – you can search the shiz outta these images – a lot of the same features as Shutterstock with one awesome difference, you can select pictures based upon where you plan to apply your text overlay.  It’s like setting yourself up for a high five before it’s time (think about it)…Nothing pays like being prepared and nothing’s worse than finding a GREAT image, adding it to your cart and exhaling the proverbial curse words because the text overlay just won’t work! Lastly, IStock offers video – I thank you, kind people!

Now, each of these sites offer free stock photos as promotional giveaways, but you’re going to have a limited selection.  So, if you’re after lots of free images, check out this blog post for the heavy hitters in that arena.

Which paid stock photo sites do you find the most useful?  Come on – spill it!

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Free Stock Photos by DeathtotheStockPhoto.com

Free Stock Photo Sites that Rock!

Free stock photos, good ones, are harder to come by than one might think.  Not to mention, you pretty much have to be a lawyer to understand what you can and cannot do with these images.  Worry not my friends, here’s my list of 3 free stock photo sites that will allow you to search and purchase just like in the good ole days, sans a fancy degree.  Disclaimer: This is by no means a comprehensive list, there are a TON of free stock photo sites out there that cater to different customer needs, these are just the 3 that I’ve found the most appealing.

#1 Dreamstime

Dreamstime has been around since 2000, has more than 19 million images with nearly 175,000 added this week alone! (Tip: not all are royalty-free…you have to select that option) They also have a sister site called Stock Free Images.  Both sites require you to sign up – but come on – buck up, it’s how they advertise cool new stuff to you in the future, so just do it! One pretty sweet tidbit shared by Photoshop Tutorials  — “Dreamstime has nearly 10,000 royalty-free images licensed under their Limited Royalty Free License (RF-LL) that gives you the same terms as their regular Royalty Free license but with a maximum amount of 10,000 copies. If 10,000 copies isn’t enough for you, you can still purchase the image under the regular RF license.”  Thank you Photoshop!

#2 rgbstock

rgbstock is a new crowd favorite.  They have almost 90,000 completely free stock photos to date.  Decent quality, but you won’t find a ton of options to choose from.  They allow you to sign up through your existing email client (yahoo, hotmail, google) and even Facebook, which is nice.  They also have a board called lightbox, where you can compile images into one folder by category, project, client, etc.  I love to organize so this is especially useful!

#3 Stock.xchng

Holy cats – over 400,000 FREE images…. and backed by istockphoto, Stock.xchng was created in 2001 and certainly has a stronghold on the market.  Besides the vast selection of images, what keeps me going back to this site is the advanced search functions – they aren’t anything to write home about but they are much better than most free sites.  You can search by resolution, photographer, and date range to name a few.

BONUS:

Death to the Stock Photo, which I found courtesy of Mihir at App Storm, seems like it’s run by people you want to spend the afternoon bar hopping with.  They are laid back, love photography and produce professional work.  Sign up to receive 10 free images a month and do what you want with ‘em!  That’s right – ANYTHING YOU WANT!  And, their logo is pretty badass, just sayin’!  The photo at the top of this article is theirs – pretty sweet!

What’s your favorite free stock photo site?  And what do you like best about it?  Tell me about it in the comments below.

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Is Content Marketing Really King

Content Marketing – Is it Really King?

We all know one thing for certain – Cash is King – but is Content Marketing King too? Can there be two Kings? Do they live in the same house? Where’s the Queens?

Content Marketing is, in essence, marketing without advertising – and it’s everywhere. How frequently do you see companies airing commercials featuring their low prices and vast selection of products with no “story”? OK, maybe more often than I’d like to discuss for the purposes of this article – but in any event, you get my point. Instead, you see Publix running commercials like this one (PS – I have that maternity shirt – the gals got style) and how about this Carter’s Commercial – awe, tear! I’m not sure if I love them or hate them for making me cry at 8:30 in the morning – but I’m thinking about them and that’s all that matters. This is content marketing at it’s finest because it’s so subtle you’re not even sure it is considered marketing propaganda. These companies are producing thought provoking, no scratch that, emotion evoking material that is so much bigger than their brand could ever be. Everyone knows that Publix sells great food products and that Carter’s sells children’s clothing but in order for them to stand out amongst the crowd, they have to make you feel something – whether that be trust, loyalty, empathy or belonging. Those feelings turn into sales which translates into ingenious marketing.

Now, before you slam down your computer in frustration – content marketing isn’t just for the big guys and it isn’t just for sappy feel-good stories, it’s for everyone, you just have to tweak it to suit your business and customers. Need an example so you don’t think I’m lying? …I’ll take that as a yes…Social Media Examiner recently showcased an Auto Repair Shop that started offering video advice to it’s customers – like how to change wiper fluid.  Simple?  Absolutely. (the idea, not the act – I have no idea how to change wiper fluid)  But it’s what their customers needed help with…simple, everyday tasks that could enrich their lives, save them time, and make them feel more capable. They also became involved in their community, shared employee bios, asked car related questions that created conversations and opened up the forum for them to offer advice amongst the chatter. Overtime they became a trusted source for all things car. They didn’t inundate their customers with the weekly special on an oil change or brag about their speedy turn around time, instead they offered content that was of value and interest to their customers and in turn, those customers rewarded them with loyalty and increased business. This example is completely different than the Publix and Carer’s example but it’s still the same idea – be bigger than what you do! Once you stop marketing yourself and start focusing on your customers needs, the sales will follow.

Joe Pulizzi was recently on a podcast with Michael Stelzner discussing this very issue and he brought to light a few key questions to ask when practicing content marketing: who’s your buyer, what’s your objective, and what’s the outcome for the buyer? Once you determine the answers to those questions, make yourself the master of that domain. Read it, breathe it, sleep it, eat it, BE IT!

So, be valuable, be relevant, be sincere and stop talking about yourself. Oh, and to answer my own question, yes, apparently there are two Kings and they appear to be playing for the same team.

By Nikki Blews

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Social Media Influencer

Social Media Influencers – The Big 3

With all the so called “experts” out there it’s easy to get lost in the amount of social media advice being spewed these days.  So, to help you narrow down the creme de la creme of social media influencers I have outlined 3 people below that I think offer the most value and a little tidbit about each of them…and just for the record, I’m no expert on these experts, but they helped me – maybe they can teach you a thing or two.

Mari Smith

Social Media Influencer #1 Mari Smith

Mari Smith is a master marketer for her brand – herself.  Her expertise is in Facebook but she’s well versed in many social platforms.  She offers tons of advice, webinars, training, etc.  She seems truly interested in helping people learn the business, but just a fair warning, she likes to use examples, good or bad, of her followers in her webinars.  So if you’re easily embarrassed, be sure to slap on an extra layer of skin that day. Overall though, she is a very bubbly person.  You can expect a lot of “hee hee” and giggles from her.  She’s down to earth, knows her stuff and values the balance between work and life – which is depicted in her inspirational quotes (posted every morning) and her personal anecdotes. I also love her accent!  She’s a social media influencer that’s sure to be around for many years to come!

Mike Stelzner

Social Media Influencer #2 Michael Stelzner and Social Media Examiner

This guy is the king of content!  He founded Social Media Examiner, which is, by far, one of the most, if not THE most, valuable blog out there on social media.  Sometimes he has so many tips in his blog posts I have to read it in two sittings – no joke!  He and Mari seem to team up quite a bit – mostly on podcasts and things of that sort.  Michael, and Social Media Examiner, is pretty big on interviewing other experts in their respective fields, allowing you to get the information straight from the horses mouth – kudos, Michael! He just recently started a new blog “My Kids Adventures” which I subscribe to as well – it’s a nice change of pace.  That blog is about creating adventurous and fun activities for your kids in rather unlikely or mundane spots – like your living room on a rainy day….good stuff if you have antsy kids.  Expect big things form this social media influencer…he’s intelligent, extremely helpful and creative!

AMy porterfield

Social Media Influencer #3 Amy Porterfield

If you don’t want to mess around with small talk or marketing fluff, this is your girl!  She’s fresh, well-versed and has a great resume to back her up.  She actually launched Social Media Examiners Facebook page.  She’s big on webinars and is great at them.  She tells you what she’s going to talk about and then actually talks about it–which is much more than what some webinars offer.  She’s earned the number three spot on the social media influencer list because she’s a fabulous teacher, direct, and effective.  If you see a webinar she’s hosting – don’t miss out!

There’s a host of other people you can follow who offer great content, advice and know-how.  It’s just a matter of finding people that are qualified and you enjoy listening to.  These three people fit the bill for me…Good luck to you!

Who do you routinely look to in the social media world for advice?  Give them a shout-out in the comments below!

By Nikki Blews

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