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3 Ways to Create Better Images for Your Blog Posts

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Without a doubt, creating images for blog posts ranks pretty low on my list of favorite tasks. Yet, I’ve found that having compelling images, not just stock photography, is important for getting social shares and keeping my readers interested, especially with longer posts.

I’m not a very good photographer, though. It certainly isn’t a passion of mine, and I don’t own a DSLR. However, I’ve still come up with a few ways to add compelling images to my blog posts. Here are my three best methods:

1. The Title Image

One of my favorite types of images to create is what I call the “title image.” I like this type of image for my blog posts because they look professional and are readily shared on Facebook and Pinterest. They’re also easy to make using stock photography. Here’s how to make a title image:

  • STEP ONE: Find some stock photography with licensing that allows you to edit it.

The image should be related to your post, but since you’re going to be adding text, the relationship can be looser than if you were only going to use the image. It’s very important that you look not just for Creative Commons images, but also images where the owner stated that it’s okay to alter, because you will be adding text to it. For our example, I’m going to use this image from NMX 2013. Since NMX owns the image, I know that I’m allowed to use it in this blog post and to alter the image with text.

title image example 1

It’s great if you can find an image, like this one of Tom Webster, that has a big blank spot. If you can’t, however, not to worry! Focus on finding a nice shot that fits your post topic rather than an image that is so-so image with a blank spot. I’ll show you in the next step what to do if there’s not a big blank spot.

  • STEP TWO: In your favorite photo-editing program, add your title.

I’m going to show you using PicMonkey, which is free and easy to use. You don’t even have to download anything; it’s an online editing program. You could use Photoshop or whatever other program you have that allows you to add text.

Select a font you like and add the text. It usually works to either center the text, adding breaks so it fits nicely, or to justify the text left or right depending where it is located on the image. If I justified the text in this image, I would left-justify because it’s on the left side. But let’s go with centering the text for now:

title image example 2

This is a nice font for our silly made-up title, but the line in the background is a little distracting. So, a bolder font would probably work better. I’m also going to add a shadow in a contrasting white color to make the words really pop.

title image example 3

That looks pretty nice, and it only took me a few minutes. You can also play around with using different fonts and sizes to make certain words stand out. Remember to create something that represents your brand and your niche well. Here’s an example of a more playful look:

title image example 4

This one took a little longer, but gives you a completely different look. There’s no formula for choosing the right font, size, and colors; you just have to play around with it until you get a look that you like.

But let’s say that your image didn’t have a nice open spot like this picture of Tom. Let’s say instead you have this picture of the crowd watching a session:

title image example 5

In this case, any place you add the text, the busy background will distract you and make it hard to read. So, I suggestion added a faded block of color behind the text. I usually use either black or white and fade to between 30% and 50% depending on how distracting the background is.

title image example 6

You can of course also make it snazzy with drop shadows, fun fonts and colors, etc. but keep in mind that this technique looks best when the title is on a single line, so longer titles don’t work will with this method.

2. The Collage

Another option you have if you want to make a highly-sharable image is to do a collage. I most commonly add the title of my post to these as well, but how you use a college is really up to you. This method is great for list posts or when you’re talking about several tips/products/etc. throughout the course of your post. It allows you to highly several images at once this way.

For example, let’s say I was writing a post called “NMX Speakers Who Make Glasses Look Cool.” I could do this:

collage example 1

Cliff Ravenscraft certainly does make glasses look cool…but if I want to highlight several different speakers in my post, an image of Cliff alone might not be the way to go. So instead, a collage will work well.

  • STEP ONE: Find images to illustrate all of your points.

In this case, I’m going to find images of lots of NMX speakers who wear glasses. As always, remember to use images under the Creative Commons license where the owner allows you to alter.

  • STEP TWO: Open PicMonkey in collage mode.

You can definitely use other image editing programs as well, but PicMonkey is hands down my favorite tool in this case because it has a mode specifically for collages.

  • STEP THREE: Choose a layout that will allow you to highlight your text and add images.

There’s no one right way to do this. You could, for example, choose to have a large box for the text (to add later) or you could create a college where you’ll later add the text over top of the images, like with the title slide.

Here’s the an example with the former:

collage example 2

And the latter:

collage example 3

  • STEP THREE: Add text to your college if desired.

To actually achieve the look you get with the above two images in PicMonkey, you have to save the collage and reopen in regular editing mode to add the text. This is where I also added the blue boxes in both cases. Adding text gives you more of the “title image” look, but a pure collage without text might work well for your needs.

3. The Quote Image

Lastly, a really easy type of image that is usually shared a lot is what I call the quote image. I’m taking a page from print design for this one! When you’re reading a story, especially in a magazine, there are often pull quotes – quotes from the actual text that have been pulled out and made into larger images because they are interesting or important.

This is so easy I’m not even going to break it down into steps for you. All you do is paste a line from your post into a photo editing program. You can use an image or texture for a background or use a simple colored background that coordinates with your blog’s theme.

Here’s an example of a quote I used for an image in a post featuring NMX speaker Dino Dogan:

dino dogan quote

Even better, you can connect an image like that to Click to Tweet and tell your readers via the caption to click on the quote to share it. A good quote is irresistible to share!

So there you have it, my three favorite ways to create images for my blog posts even though I’m not a photographer and don’t know much about editing images. How do you add images to your blog posts? If you have a great method to share or have tried any of the above methods, leave a comment!

Putting Pen to Paper: P H O T O G R A P H Y

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Have you ever had a challenging time coming up with a blog topic? Everyone has a different way to jumpstart their juices. I simply take notes (yes, actually take to paper, pen in hand) and jot what comes to mind. So if you’re at a complete stop, simply grab a piece of paper, then start jotting anything that comes to you. Every dot is a powerful connector.

I love photography, so I decided to jot down each letter to jumpstart this post about my inspiration for taking photographs. Perhaps one of the letters will stick-to-mind on your next jaunt into the world of photography, or in your own writing discovery.

P-H-O-T-O-G-R-A-P-H-Y

Passion: everything that gives this little planet a voice excites me. I am always present-minded aware that life is fleeting. It gives me that sense of urgency to capture unique moments of truth.

 Autumn Rainbow

 

Honesty: many people ask me if I “stage” my subject. I am a true believer in what you see in that moment is truth, and I want to snap it and share it, exactly how it presents in front of me.

Asbury Park Americana

 

Opportunity: opportunity is all around you. Look down, to the side, up. Frame a spot catching your eye. And snap the shot. Right place, right time.

Three Umbrellas

 

Timing: sometimes you’re simply in the right place at the right time. And, sometimes you’re not. So create that timing. When you anticipate that perfect moment wait, patiently… patiently.. patiently… then snap your shot!

Tent Sweet Tent

OOH!: it’s that feeling: “STOP THE CAR” ~ you just *have* to stop what you’re doing, grab your camera and take the shot. There’s nothing like the feeling that you captured a moment no one else had the chance to see, and immediate need to share it!

Sandy Moment

 

Gratitude: when I’m in the right place at the right time; when I upload my photos to my computer then discover the camera captured something I didn’t see, I say “thank you” aloud to The Universe.

Kiss

Readiness: goes without saying.  A photographer is *always* ready to take the shot. Whether it be camera-in-hand or simply cell phone with camera, anything with a lens, and memory.

Grandfather

Amazement: I truly am amazed by life. Its design, texture, color, shape, expression. Everyday is a day of wonderment and inspiration to capture that moment.

Celebration

 

Patience: admittedly, not my strongest ability, though, interestingly, if I anticipate that perfect shot, I can hold tight and still for as long as it takes.

Effervescent Rainbow

 

Happy: the moment I have the opportunity of time to grab my camera and head outdoors to shoot, I’m happy, and all in the world is good.

Serenity

 

Yay! The feeling of sharing my photos and seeing a person’s eyes light up and say “Wow! I love this!” It gives me complete joy to evoke emotion with a photograph. It gives me a true sense of accomplishment and confirmation of purpose in the art of photography.

Snowswept Beach

 

So if you find yourself at full-stop on ideas for starting your post, or you’re a budding photographer interested in looking for a way, or reason to begin, simply grab your pen, and sheet of paper. Your mind already knows the answer; it just needs the pen and paper to jot the “how to” and then, you’re on your way!

Do you have more tricks for coming up with, and moving ideas ahead?

Free Gift: “Picture This” Photography Guide from Aaron Hockley [12 Days of Giveaways]

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A free gift from NMX Speaker Aaron Hockley: Picture This: Proven Techniques for More Impact and Attention with Photos for Blogging and Social Media

Here at NMX, planning for our January event is in full swing…but that doesn’t mean we don’t have time for the holidays! That’s why, every day from now through December 25, we’re featuring a brand new giveaway for the entire NMX community!

Images are becoming more and more important online, especially with the rise of social networks like Pinterest. In this guide from photographer Aaron Hockley, you’ll learn all about using pictures online. His guide covers:

  • Photo copyright for bloggers
  • Where to find pictures for your posts
  • Using visual social media (Instagram, Pinterest, etc)
  • Image use for SEO
  • How to edit/prepare pictures for the web

And more! If you’ve been struggling with using images in conjunction with your online activities, this is the giveaway for you!

Like all of our 12 Days of Giveaways gifts, Aaron’s guide is completely free for members of our brand new community, NMX University. (Don’t worry – membership there is also free!) You can download the free PDF for a limited time!

Find out more about this guide and register for NMXU here, of if you are already a member, simply log in to NMXU here to download your free copy today!

The Photography Wars Heat Up

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My entire life I’ve enjoyed taking photos. Follow me on Instagram and you’ll see that I’m constantly capturing moments from my life and sharing them with the world. This allows people to connect with me in a way that my blog, podcast or other mediums have never allowed.

Most of us leave the house every day with a camera in our pocket (aka a phone) and yet businesses big and small seem to be ignoring or not fully realizing the power of photography when they plan out their marketing efforts.

Repeat after me: Photography MUST Be Part of Your Marketing Plans.

I’ve been saying it for years and yet not everyone was listening. We even dedicated a whole chapter to photography in Content Rules because Ann and I knew that no matter what business you were in, images are important.

This week we’ve seen the battle for photography heating up online as Instagram pulled their images from Twitter, Flickr unveiled a major update and Twitter added editing capabilities to their native app.

It is easier than ever to take a photo, post it online and get reactions to it. Take one minute to look at your social network of choice and you’ll see photos throughout.

Images are the most important content you can create to get attention online.

I’m not discounting other forms of content, but I am telling you that if you are not creating and sharing images as part of your marketing mix you are in trouble.

Humans enjoy looking at photos. They stand out and get attention from even the most click happy of web surfers.

During my session at NMX I’ll be discussing the importance of photography, but I’ll also be sharing tips on how anyone can find, take and share images that people will enjoy.

While I won’t have time to teach a full photography class, I do plan on sharing my personal workflow and plan on everyone leaving thinking and taking photos in a new light compared to when they walked in.

Three Design Trends to Watch for in 2013

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As we close out 2012, I can safely say that it has been a milestone year for designers.  New technologies are popping up every day that make our lives easier and allow us to stretch our talents further.  Over the course of the year, a few recurring trends have popped up among some of the major site redesigns.  The good news: most of these can be implemented by blog and website owners with very little effort or code knowledge.  Here are a few of my favorite trends to watch out for in the coming year:

By the way: this is in no means an exhaustive list, but merely meant to be a snapshot of things to come.

1. Dynamic Typography

Gone are the days when Helvetica, Arial, Times, and Georgia ruled the roost when it comes to fonts.  While not necessarily unique to 2012, the use of non-standard web fonts (fonts that are not included with an operating system) has increased dramatically as new and innovative ways of serving them have been created.  Here are a few of my favorite web-font sources:

Google Fonts

With a massive library of fonts, and a price tag that can’t be beat (free!), Google has become a go-to resource for web designers.  Their web font directory is completely searchable by style, weight, and thickness; you’re guaranteed to find a font that will suit your needs.  Implementation is even easier: simply drop a piece of JavaScript into your <head> section.  Once that’s done, call the font family in your stylesheet, and you’re done!

FontSquirrel

FontSquirrel has a great selection of off-beat fonts, separated for ease-of-discovery by grouping (grunge, retro, etc).  While the selection is good, the delivery method is a bit more complex: instead of hosting the font files on their server, you have to download them, store them on your server via FTP, and then link to where they are on the server.  Once that’s done, the rest is the same: call your font family in the stylesheet and you’re done.

TypeKit

Typekit was purchased by Adobe not too long ago, so one would argue that they’re the best.  They have a wide selection of professional font families available that other services don’t; classics like Gotham, for example.  They have a limited selection available for free, but to get to the majority of the collection you have to pay a fee.  Once you’ve selected your fonts, however, two lines of JavaScript will fix everything for you – you don’t have to call them manually from your stylesheet, call them inside of TypeKit instead.

My Favorite Fonts

I’ve chosen a few fonts from each service to showcase as some of my favorites:

Serif Fonts

Museo (TypeKit)

Vollkorn (Google Fonts)

Josefin Slab (Google Fonts)

Sans-Serif Fonts

Open Sans (FontSquirrel)

Proxima Nova (TypeKit)

Ubuntu (Google Fonts)

Display / Script Fonts

Girl Next Door (Google Fonts)

Pacifico (Google Fonts)

Special Elite (Google Fonts)

2. Large Photo Backgrounds

As internet connections get better, photos are becoming more and more prevalent – not just as accents to content, but as part of the design itself.  Couple that with the semi-new CSS3 standards, and designers are taking photography to a whole new level.  It’s not uncommon to see designs and blogs with photos spanning the width of the site itself.

How to Set a Large Photo Background

This is fairly easy, but it does require a bit of thinking.  Specifically, you have to make sure that the background is high enough resolution to accomplish what you need, but not so large that even high-bandwidth devices take too long to download it.  I recommend no more than 500k-700k for your file size – any more will be too large, and any less will be too compressed (and will look terrible).

Upload your photo, and use this code in your stylesheet:

body{background: url(images/image-file.jpg) no-repeat center top;}

This sets the background image, tells it to not repeat (or tile), and aligns it at the top-center of your site. If you want to scale the image, you can add the “background-size” attribute:

body{
background: url(images/image-file.jpg) no-repeat center top;
background-size: 100% auto;
}

This will cause the background image to always be 100% wide (and the height will scale accordingly) – great for responsive designs (which we’ll talk about momentarily).

Examples of Photo Background Sites

Here are a few sites I’ve designed or seen online that utilize a large photo background:

 

thirdoptionmen.org

mellowmushroom.com

bentlyreserve.com

3. Responsive Design

I want to go on record saying that responsive design is the most important thing to happen to web design in the recent years.  So important, in fact, that the W3C has recommended that all sites strive to be “one web” accessible by all devices – something in which responsive design excels.

Responsive (or adaptive design, as it’s sometimes called) means that a design will adjust itself depending on the size of your browser or the device you are viewing it on.  Meaning, instead of having a mobile website, you have one website that adapts itself and responds to the “viewport” (the size of your viewing device from edge to edge).  Responsive design is made possible through the use of @media queries.

What are @media Queries

A @media query is nothing new to web designers; we’ve been using them to attach stylesheets for years.  However, recently, designers have been utilizing its parameters (specifically, “max-width” and “min-width”) to allow different styles for different screen sizes.

A media query looks like this:

/* Smaller than standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
@media only screen and (max-width: 959px) {}

This tells the browser to apply styles to only devices 959px wide and below.  Anything above that will ignore any styles put here.

Using @media Queries

This is a bit more complex than some of the other things we’ve talked about, since you have to have knowledge of CSS to implement, but here are the basics.  First, we include this in the <head> section of our site:

<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1, maximum-scale=1″>

This code tells our site to scale according to the width of the device – it’s an important step in making sure things are appropriately sized.  Next, we include the media queries we want to use.  This is my favorite set – you can set them however you want, but I’ve included common breakpoints in device sizes:

/* Smaller than standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 959px) {}
/* Tablet Portrait size to standard 960 (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (min-width: 768px) and (max-width: 959px) {}
/* All Mobile Sizes (devices and browser) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 767px) {}
/* Mobile Landscape Size to Tablet Portrait (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (min-width: 480px) and (max-width: 767px) {}
/* Mobile Portrait Size to Mobile Landscape Size (devices and browsers) */
 @media only screen and (max-width: 479px) {}

This includes breakpoints for all mobile devices (under 959px – great for people who utilize a 960px grid system), tablets, all phones, landscape phones, and portrait phones.  Now, the hard part – apply the styles you want to get the site to look how you wish.

If it looks intimidating, that’s fine: there are a lot of pre-built themes and templates that have responsive elements built in.

Examples of Responsive Design

Here are a few examples of sites utilizing a responsive design

mickieandme.com

www.boogey.com

thirdoptionmen.org

Summary

2012 has been a fantastic year for web designers, by far.  And if these trends are anything to judge by, 2013 will be even better. These are but three of the emerging trends and resources we have at our disposal, and many of them can be implemented easily by site owners.  Between large photo backgrounds, dynamic typography, and responsive designs, we can create sites that function well and look amazing.

What other design trends do you see coming in your favorite websites and blogs?

 

Editor’s Note: Want to learn more about design from Mitch? Check out his session at NMX in January, entitled “Advanced Blog Design: The Latest Tools, Trends & Best Practices You Can Implement Today!

7 Ways to Inject More Creativity Into Your Photos

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It seems everyone’s a photographer now (and that’s kind of awesome) but I gotta be honest… not everyone is an interesting photographer. The good news is that photography isn’t a field of magic secrets and you don’t have to sacrifice any animals to make better pictures. I’ll be speaking at New Media Expo in January about photography tips for blogging and social media, and I wanted to offer up some quick suggestions how to inject more creativity into your photos.

  1. Get close – And when you think you’re close enough, get closer. We see too many snapshots from a very wide angle and the interesting subject is only a small bit of the scene. Very few photos have been ruined by moving closer to the subject.
  2. EmissionsCrop Creatively – Most cameras make images with a 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratio (the ratio of the long side to the short side of the image) and 1:1 ratios have taken off since Instagram became popular, but don’t hestitate to crop a photo into different dimensions. Have a wide, short subject? Make a wide panaorama. Something tall and skinny? Make a tall and skinny photo (this one might fit well alongside a blog post).
  3. Find the Light – Sure, you could get all fancy and use speedlights or other external lighting specifically for photography, but odds are that most of the photos you’re creating are happening under either natural outdoor light or the ambient light indoors. Look at that light. Look at the angles. Look where the light is hard and casting harsh shadows vs. where it’s soft and diffused. Move around. Place your subject where the light is better when you can. As a specific example, if there’s a window (not directly facing the sun) you’ll often find nice light coming through that window and nearby would be a great place for an indoor portrait.
  4. Fly High or Get Down – Far too many photographs suffer from “six foot guy with a camera to his eye” syndrome. They’re created in the most natural way as someone simply holds the camera up to their face and clicks the shutter. As a result, photos offen suffer from this similarity and lack of variance in perspective. Try something new… get down on the ground and shoot upward. Find a vantage point that’s up above the crowd. I’ve been known to bring a 6’ stepladder with me on some photo trips… it’s fascinating how just a few extra feet really change one’s ability to make a compelling image. Even without extra gear, holding your camera above your head can be a great way to change things up.
  5. Look for Reflections – I live near Portland, which means that a puddle of standing water is a frequent sight. Puddles aren’t the only option of course; great reflections can be made in lakes, fountains, or other bodies of water. Smooth water can make for some interesting straightforward reflections, but a rippled surface can also make for some interesting (although more abstract) patterns, especially at night.
  6. Leave Part of the Subject Out of the Frame – Most photos include the entire subject in the frame, but what if you left some of it out for a bit of mystery or to get your reader thinking a bit. Sure, you could write about a popular board game and include a photo of the game board… but what if, instead, you included a photo that only consisted of part of a recognizable game piece?
  7. Blur on Purpose – No, you probably don’t want to go out and create all of your photos blurry, but selective blur can be an interesting effect. Want to show motion as cars or people move by quickly? Put your camera on shutter priority mode (or use an iPhone app like Slow Shutter Cam) and set it to 1/2 or 1 second duration and see what results you get. Experiment.

These tips are a sampling of the sorts of things I’ll speak about in my Photography Tips for New Media session I’ll be leading at 2:15pm on the first day of NMX (Sunday, January 6th). In addition to the creative aspects, I’ll offer an overview of basic exposure and lighting, as well as a few things to keep in mind when shooting specifically for your blog or social media. I hope to see you at NMX!

10 Tips for Your Brand or Business to Get Started on Instagram

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instagram homepage

instagram homepage Photo-sharing app Instagram isn’t the first service to help brands and businesses share pictures from a mobile device to your community and it definitely won’t be the last.

Instagram, fresh from finalizing its acquisition by Facebook and crossing the 100 million users mark, has become the prominent dashboard for capturing, editing, and sharing images across the social web. With the growing importance and emphasis placed on images within social media, Instagram has become an optimal visual sharing mobile platform.

If your brand or business is ready to integrate Instagram into your content strategy and social media mix, here are 10 things you can do now to get started on the path.

GET STARTED

Reserve Your Instagram Name

Instagram is currently not set up to have brand/business accounts, but you can set up more than one personal account. If you already have a personal Instagram account, just make sure that you sign-up for another account using a different email address.

KEY TIP: If you are having difficulty securing a username, Instagram does have a trademark policy in place and by contacting Instagram you may have a chance at claiming your business Instagram name.

Set Up Your Profile

Instagram allows you to add a profile image, bio, and link to your website. Take advantage of filling these out and keep your information descriptive and simple.

KEY TIP: Since Instagram is rooted in mobile usage, make sure that the website that you decide to link your profile to is mobile friendly.

Sync Your Social Profiles

Instagram can be an excellent visual starting point for any photographic content that you wish to syndicate on other platforms. Take Facebook, for example, you can share your Instagram photos to brand pages, ensuring that your content displays larger and more prominent in Facebook streams than conventional shares and updates.

KEY TIP: Be sure to connect your account to Facebook, Twitter and any other third-party social sharing sites where you have an account (Profile > Edit sharing settings).

DEVELOP A STRATEGY

What’s Your Story

Instagram is a great platform to tell your brand story and can allow you to connect with your audience on a very emotional level. Spend time researching what Instagram consumers are most excited about, what type of content they engage with the most, and why consumers should even follow you on Instagram in the first place.

KEY TIP: Planning out your brand story and content strategy ahead of time will give you the insight into how and where your Instagram content will be distributed within your social media ecosystem.

Develop Your Editorial Calendar

Much like an editorial calendar for your blog, Twitter, or Facebook page, Instagram should be viewed with the same comprehensive tactics.

Brands can earn greater reach and results by investing in a journalistic approach to their content. Move your editorial calendar away from promotional messaging to the delivery of very useful, inspiring, and meaningful images that will drive engagement and positive viewing experiences.

You can define a schedule on how often you would like to update Instagram. At the beginning of the week you may decide to post behind-the-scenes images of your business, followed by new product updates mid-week, and finally ending with inspirational quotes or photos leading into the weekend.

KEY TIP: Entering a social platform takes commitment and consistency. Over time, your brand or business should be able to understand what type of images are most engaging within your community. You will also learn when is the optimal time your Instagram audience is most active.

Cross Platform Integration

Since Instagram is a tool that works best in conjunction with other social platforms, developing a strategy within a holistic social media strategy is a strong approach. Visually-emphasized sites such as Pinterest, Tumblr and Facebook can benefit from the additional photographic content that will help further the reach and engagement of your messaging.

KEY TIP: When re-publishing content across multiple platforms consider adjusting the copy on each platform’s post. Copy that is suited for Pinterest with a specific call to action may not work for Facebook.  Facebook and other social platforms may require a different call to action.

ENGAGEMENT TACTICS

Involve Your Staff and Employees

Sticking to a set Instagram editorial calendar can get overwhelming at times, especially when you find yourself with a shortage of visual content to update. This can be a perfect opportunity for your brand or business to begin involving your staff and employees.

Not only will empowering your staff in contributing to Instagram give them a stronger sense of ownership, it will also show your employees a more creative side of your business and how social media can play a valuable part.

KEY TIP: Like any other social platform it’s about defining a brand voice. Instagram is just a more visual medium. Behind-the-scenes photos from staff and employees can put additional faces to your brand or business, as well as show a holistic view of your brand.

Engage Your Community

Be sure that you stay engaged with your community even when at times you may feel like you have nothing to share. Just like any other social platform, remember that Instagram is a community too and that reciprocity is key! Reach out to your followers and other Instagram users by liking and commenting on photos, especially if they mention your brand or business. This can increase visibility and provide additional insights to defining your community. Responding back to comments can be viewed as active participation in the community and will continue to keep your consumers engaged and happy.

KEY TIP: Other engagement opportunities can include creating contests and promotions that encourage your community to talk about your brand or business. Feel free to share any promotions/contests you may have running on your other social profiles. This will help raise the awareness with your consumers that you are on Instagram and will be providing content that may be valuable to them as well.

Tag and Geo-Tag Your Photos

Incorporating hashtags (just like on Twitter) will help increase visibility. A great start can be as simple as using a hashtag for the photo’s subject matter, location, filters used, and maybe even additional inspirational descriptions. While hashtags can increase visibility and build context around your images, don’t go overboard.

Instagram now places additional emphasis on geo-located images with their integration of a map function in app, geo-tagging your photos can provide additional visibility.

KEY TIP: If you don’t like the look of all those hashtags in your photo caption, feel free to add hashtags in a comment below the caption. This will keep updates cleaner yet still prove functional within Instagram search queries. As for geo-tags, adding a location to your photos, whether it is a city or even your actual place of business, will provide greater context around your Instagram images that consumers can engage with.

MEASURE AND OPTIMIZE

Utilize Tools To Optimize Your Content

After all is said and done, gaining more insight into your community and content will keep you on the continued path of optimizing your photos. There are a number of different tools such as Statigram or SimplyMeasured that are available for brands and businesses that can shed light into your most engaged times to post during the day, best filter used, and even identifying your brand advocates who engage with your content the most.

KEY TIP: Define what your success metrics are when it comes to Instagram and developing your strategy. This will help you to know what goals you want to achieve and what you’ll need to optimize to get there.

Remember that Instagram should reflect your brand or business as a whole and not attempt to create it’s own identity. Instagram can be a positive investment within your social eco-system that you may be pleasantly surprised with later down the line.

Photo Credit: Bigstock

Who Swiped Photos from Your Blog? If You Care, These Tools Can Help

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You’re a savvy blogger who knows that it’s important to share not only words on your site, but photos as well. Visitors will be more likely to engage with an article that catches their eye with a great photograph, infographic, or drawing than they will with a wall of text.

Lady Against RedA wise blogger knows that you can’t just use any random photo you find online, so perhaps you’ve purchased some stock images or used Creative Commons photos on your blog.

But what about the opposite scenario? What if you’ve posted your own photos and you have this gut feeling that folks might be taking them or using them elsewhere?

Should You Care?

Before diving into how to police your images, it’s worth considering if you want to spend time doing this. Most interesting images that end up on the internet stand a good chance of being repurposed, reblogged, swiped for a personal blog post, or stolen for some other purpose. Technically most of these uses constitute copyright infringement and in theory the offender is liable for damages, but it’s also worth consideration if policing the web for unauthorized image use is the most productive use of your time. There’s no right answer to this question, but consider what you feel is the harm caused by a potential infringement versus the other work for your business that you could do in the time needed to monitor the usage.

Okay, Let’s Go Photo-Hunting

If you’ve decided it might be interesting to track some of your more interesting photos, there are a couple sites/services that I can recommend.

The leading service in this field is TinEye, which allows you to search for an image on the web from a variety of sources. In the example here, we’re curious about your photo that you originally posted to your website or photo sharing service. You can either upload the image to TinEye, or give it the source URL for your photo as a starting point. TinEye performs some analysis on the photo and then returns a list of results where it thinks it has found that same photo being used elsewhere on the internet. You can browse through the results and see which uses are legit and which might be the result of someone “borrowing” your work. In addition to ad hoc queries, TinEye offers commercial services if you’ll want to search for large amounts of your work on an ongoing basis.

Another good option for the occasional search is Google’s Search by Image feature, which allows for searching the web with the power of Google, except instead of starting with a text query, you start with an image. Much like TinEye, you can start with the image URL, a direct upload, or even use a browser extension to enable easier searching. Google then presents a Google search results page including other copies of the photo with contextual information about where it is being used.

Once you’ve found an offender, you can contact the blogger, webmaster, or even the web host and request either that the image be taken down, linked and credited, or licensed.

Do you police for your content elsewhere on the web? Do you consider the occasional image theft a cost of doing business? Do you use another service that folks should know about? Please share in a comment below.

Did You Miss Out on 44 Publicity Opportunities Last Week?

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Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a great resource for those looking to build up expertise and credibility in a field by offering information to reporters and PR professionals. The brainchild of Peter Shankman, HARO currently boasts over 200,000 sources as members, and I suspect that many of the savvy NMX blog readers are among those in this number. HARO provides a great opportunity for an individual (and sometimes a related business) to gain publicity and credibility via a variety of mainstream and alternative media outlets. When a reporter is looking for a source for a story, they post an inquiry to the HARO list, and folks can respond and offer their input. This can lead to being quoted in the story and often a backlink or referral from a highly-trafficked website (not to mention the ability to say “as seen in [insert well-known publication here]”.

Recently I started noticing a trend in the various HARO requests.

They want photos.

Lots of them.

Bloggers... with photos... at BlogWorld I counted… during a recent week, forty-four HARO requests asked for photographs. Sometimes it was of an office, product, or situation, but more commonly it was of you, the source. In order to get the free publicity (and arguably, credibility) that comes along with being published as a result of a HARO inquiry, you would need to submit a decent photo of yourself. For several years now we’ve heard that photos and graphics help drive reader engagement with our blog posts, and when a journalist or author is creating content of their own the same remains true. If they’re going to write about your experiences or cite you as an expert, there’s a good chance they’re going to want a photograph.

We often think of blogging as a text-centric medium, and we increasingly hear about vlogging and podcasts, but still photographs are an important bit of supporting material. If you don’t have some decent photos of yourself, I’d suggest that you should obtain some… they can be an important part of a blogger’s tool kit. As a professional photographer myself, I’m biased in suggesting that you find someone who knows what they’re doing to create your photos. You should be able to find someone near you who can create a professional business portrait for you. It doesn’t have to be stiff or formal…when I work with my clients we create images that reflect their personality and flair. If you don’t know a photographer or haven’t seen a recommendation from someone you trust, head over to the Professional Photographers of America’s Find a Photographer directory. You can search by location and find someone who’s a member of the professional organization. If you’re not in the US, see if there’s a professional photographer association in your locale.

Just as you’re probably prepared to give someone your elevator pitch, you should be ready to supply them with a photo if requested. Avoid disappointment of what would be an otherwise-great publicity opportunity because you don’t have a photo ready.

How to Create a Slow Motion Video Effect Using Only Images

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Adding special touches to your videos can make all the difference between a project looking super professional and looking like every other amateur video out there. Luckily, you don’t need a ton of special equipment to get started. Have you checked out this tutorial on creating a white background, for example? If you take the time to learn the tips, your videos can look stunning.

Another tutorial I wanted to share with you is this one about how to create a slow-motion effect. You don’t even need video for this! Using only images, you can create a really cool slow motion video. Check out some great examples and learn how to do it yourself:

Now that you know the basic technique, get a little creative! The possibilities are endless. How will you use this in your videos?

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