You need to stop hesitating, postponing, finding excuses and stalling – your small business needs an online presence, no question about it. Right now in 2018, we are facing a period of online reckoning – social media platforms are oversaturated with content, engagement rates for Facebook and Instagram are dropping, pay-to-play options gain on importance, and the online reviews are treated with mistrust.
Yet, despite all of the aforementioned and many more reasons, a small business like yours simply cannot do well without establishing at least a single online touchpoint.
In this article, I am sharing with you the most important reasons why your small business needs an online presence to survive in 2018.
There is plenty of free tools you can use to make your online presence building faster, better and easier. Don’t believe that every small business has to start off with custom solutions and trailblaze their strategy – that approach is virtually impossible and way too ambitious! (I am not even mentioning how big of a waste of time that is too). How about making use of the existing resources prepared by professionals and shared online freely?
If you want more free resources including document templates and checklists to support your small business online presence, subscribe to my free Library of Resources.
Instagram has so far been the only platform that does not enable in-app post re-sharing functions but 2017 beta tests of a native regram button (regramming is a Instagram word for ‘reposting’ or ‘resharing’) indicate that this might change in the future. While it’s exciting for some, it’s worth noting that there has already been a lot of confusion about permission and copyright laws applying to Instagram. If you are a small business on Instagram one mistake on Instagram can hurt your reputation quickly. Are you wondering how to repost user posts to your Instagram business account without breaching someone’s copyright or violating Instagram policy? You can clear the confusion with my Instagram copyright and reposting guide now!
You cannot NOT honour your mum customers and ignore Mother’s Day! In this day and age, a small business rooted in the local community can’t afford to stand on the sidelines when the whole world is having a conversation about celebrating women more. Motherhood is one of the topics in marketing that gets companies salivating when they think of profits but rarely anybody gets the messages right. In this spirit, let’s look at the ingredients needed to make your Mother’s Day social media campaign not only relevant to your customers’ needs but also successful in attracting attention.
In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know about using Instagram hashtags successfully to increase your followers’ count and be an IG babe. Or an IG surfer. The Gandalf of IG? You get me.
In addition, I will let you in on Instagram terminology, what a shadowban is (frustratingly, an increasingly common problem, which happened to me too) and how to create an optimal hashtag cloud to increase engagement. You will also get a bonus: a free Instagram Hashtag Strategy Workbook in a Google Docs format. Lessgo.
You know the visual side of your blog, website and social media matter. So you either take photography crash course or you start searching for stock photography websites. However, there is plenty of issues regarding online image sourcing and how to do it legally.
The misconceptions stop people from accessing the incredible number of 100% free public domain photos or have them using images found on Google Search (a hint: this gets you into serious trouble). When building a strong online presence, make sure you not only create visually stunning channels but also avoid the holes in the bumpy road of copyright.
The four most common online photo sourcing mistakes:
Using images found on social media and crediting image source as said social media. Despite people thinking Pinterest to be a free image repository, the platform does not hold the copyright to any content published on it. You have to dig deeper to find the author.
Using images found on Google Search result pages. Similarly to Pinterest, Google does not own the rights to any image indexed – Google simply pulls the images together in response to your keyword search.
Not understanding different licenses or copyright. People do not realise they do not hold the copyright to the photos of them commissioned from a photographer or that most Creative Commons licenses require attribution. This causes issues in form of sharing uncredited photos or adjusting images with a photo filter when the author prohibited it.
Taking without asking. Many people use content created by others unknowingly taking crediting the author (so-called ‘hat tip’ or ‘shout out’) is enough of a payment. More and more content creators require their written permissions to republish their content.
What is copyright?
Copyright is, as explained in Wikipedia, ‘a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution.’ By creating a photo or a song you automatically become the copyright holder (copyright protects the intellectual property) unless other legal circumstances apply. The only licenses which indicate the original copyright holder waived their rights to their creation are Creative Commons Zero (CC0) or Public Domain license.
Understanding different photo licenses
When talking about stock photography licensing and free/paid availability of the photos, we can distinguish three different models of licensing:
Free but Attribution Required
-> Paid licenses
There are two dominant models of paid image licensing used by the biggest stock photography providers: Rights Managed (RM) and Royalty-Free (RF).
Rights Managed license, or RM, in photography and the stock photo industry, refers to a ‘copyright license which, if purchased by a user, allows the one-time use of the photo as specified by the license. If the user wants to use the photo for other uses an additional license needs to be purchased’ (Source: Wikipedia). It’s an old model of licensing calculating licence charge on the basis of specific use, medium, period of time, print run, placement, size of content, territory selected and so on. Sites such as Getty Images uses this particular type of license.
Royalty Free license, or RF, refers to ‘the right to use copyright material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use or per volume sold, or some time period of use or sales’ (Source: Wikipedia). This particular license is used by Shutterstock, which offers all images as Royalty-Free split into different subscription-based models.
Exclusive and non-exclusive licenses
There are also two extensions of RM and RF licenses – exclusive and non-exclusive. The exclusive one ‘means that during the period that exclusive rights are granted, you agree that rights to use that image will not be sold to anyone else‘ (Source). Based on that, license exclusivity is pretty expensive and can only be applied to RM images. RF images can be licensed on non-exclusive basis since the royalty-free license gives the buyer freedom of use by default. Stock photography is primarily non-exclusive (although Getty Images allows exclusivity upon additional fee payment), while commissioned projects tend to be exclusive.
-> Free but Attribution Required
Creative Commons (CC) is a fairly recent development in the copyright licensing world – it was created in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, Hal Abelson, and Eric Eldred with the support of Center for the Public Domain based in the US. Some criticise its ‘justice movement’ aspirations and blame CC for the increase in copyright infringement cases.
CC enables content creators to license their images under one of the seven available license types, communication what rights are reserved by the copyright holder and which are waived for the benefit of potential users. Creative Commons licenses mean the photos are used on unpaid basis but six out of seven of them require the content to be attributed, which means providing author credits. Thanks to living in a digitized world it usually comes down to clearly stating the name of the author and adding a link to the original image source (attribution formats are usually provided on the site from which you download the image, for example, Freepik generates HTML attribution you can copy and paste into your blog post).
Licenses are written to conform with international copyright treaties and have been adapted to the local law of over 50 different countries. Thanks to this pretty much anybody can generate a legally binding licence via the official website. For more detailed information, visit their FAQ section.
Each license is ‘built’ by the original creators through choosing from these set conditions (Source: Creative Commons):
Attribution (by) – All CC licenses require that others who use your work in any way must give you credit the way you request, but not in a way that suggests you endorse them or their use. If they want to use your work without giving you credit or for endorsement purposes, they must get your permission first.
ShareAlike (sa) – You let others copy, distribute, display, perform, and modify your work, as long as they distribute any modified work on the same terms. If they want to distribute modified works under other terms, they must get your permission first.
NonCommercial (nc) – You let others copy, distribute, display, perform, and (unless you have chosen NoDerivatives) modify and use your work for any purpose other than commercially unless they get your permission first.
NoDerivatives (nd) – You let others copy, distribute, display and perform only original copies of your work. If they want to modify your work, they must get your permission first.
Public domain work (also referred to as CC0 as it’s the last of the seven Creative Commons licenses) is free for use by anyone for any purpose without restriction under copyright law. ‘Public domain is the purest form of open/free since no one owns or controls the material in any way’ (Source: Creative Commons Wiki). Work can be licensed under public domain by the creator or fall under the public domain license after the original copyright had expired. The latter is often filed under Public Domain Mark, a tool announced in 2010 by Creative Commons used for ‘works that are no longer restricted by copyright to be marked as such in a standard and simple way, making them easily discoverable and available to others’ (Source: Creative Commons).
If the website you used does not explicitly state who is the copyright owner, you can check the copyright statement and other details by looking at image EXIF (Exchangeable Image Format) metadata. There are two ways to do it.
#1 Check copyright notice in image properties. This is not the best way when the image is not downloaded from its original source as the metadata could have been manipulated and resaved.
Download the image to your computer and right click on it. Select ‘Properties’ and go to ‘Details’ tab. You can see in the screenshot below that the copyright field is filled and attributed.
Holidays are like honey to the bears of the online marketing world. Aside from the well-known (and impossible to miss) dates like Christmas Day or Valentine’s Day, there is a bunch of cool and begging for creative execution unofficial observances.
Your social media content plan should be inclusive of all the relevant and quirky dates to leverage your engagement. It doesn’t matter that you never owned a pug- if you are a business, who relies on their audience’s engagement and can sway this topic, you better start loving their flat wrinkly faces. Mind you, I am not saying to go loco and celebrate everything starting from the World Book Day to International Meatballs Day, oh no! You aren’t a hormone-ridden teenager to be pouncing on every lol worthy holiday after all. Be relevant, not desperate.
To help you out, I compiled this list of unofficial holidays you might consider adding to your social media content plan asap. Some events are weird, some downright ridiculous, but using them to increase your brand awareness will make your followers love you even more.
Unofficial Holidays Celebrated on Social Media
Pro tip: I did not include the ‘regular’ holidays, which you should be also factoring in. To be up to date with all the local, national holidays, I recommend you subscribe to a range of free calendars on Google Calendar. This amazing tool (which I already talked about in the context of project management in my post titled ‘Using Google Calendar as a Project Management Tool’) has country-specific calendars with all major celebrations. To subscribe to for example holidays in Austria, go to your browser Google Calendar view. Click on the arrow next to ‘Other Calendars’ and select ‘Browse interesting calendars’. Click ‘Subscribe’ to add selected calendars to your view. You can turn them on or off anytime.
1st January – Z Day, National Hangover Day, Happy Mew Year Day For Cats
Instagram’s multiple photos and videos posts are a great storytelling opportunity that can produce more engaging content on Instagram. If you struggle with finding ideas on how to utilise this format for your brand, have a look at my 10 content inspirations for Instagram multiple photos posts.
How to add multiple photos or videos posts?
When uploading to your feed, you will see additional option to select multiple photos and videos. Instagram wrote on their official blog that ‘It’s easy to control exactly how your post will look. You can tap and hold to change the order, apply a filter to everything at once or edit one by one. These posts have a single caption and are square-only for now’.
On your profile photo grid, you’ll notice the first photo or video of your post has a little icon in the top left right corner, and in individual post views, there will be a line of horizontal dots, which means there’s more to see.
#1 Step by Step Guides
Such as cake recipes, how to pack for a weekend getaway walkthrough, a manual on how to use your product. You could:
do a typical product demonstration
show how to use your new mobile application
publish 10 ideas how to wear that scarf
show off the complete hair transformation
let your followers in on your secret of effectively writing a blog post
Now you can show your audience what it takes to produce that watercolour graphic or a long to a short haircut. This is a perfect idea for service industry – here you can go crazy on talking your viewers by hand and showing them transformations, makeovers, processes. For example:
a hair salon can show how their new hair treatment works
a bakery can teach their audience how to decorate a cupcake
a painter can show the journey from sketching to finishing touches
a barista can be spied on as he prepares a luscious cappuccino or cold brew
a makeup artist can create a mini make up tutorial
Now you can share your lists of favourite places, books, quotes, related memes, inspiring Instagram accounts in one post. For businesses, optimise this space for showcasing your most popular services, your customer testimonials or photos from a recent event. You can use this space to remind your followers about the posts you have published recently and really loved. You can also round up your Insta Stories of the week or stories related to a particular topic.
Use carousel posts to feature the user-generated photos, which used your unique hashtag. Reward your followers or people you admire by picking the best photos from their feeds and telling a story on the subject of why these guys need some extra love.
#5 Consumer-focused & Followers-focused
I mentioned testimonials already but if you are a business this post can be used specifically to showcase people, who used your product and shared their experience or top engaging fans of the week on your account. In fact, you can use it to announce winners of your recent competitions!
You can also give love back to your followers by featuring your favourite posts from them or do a round of shout-outs.
#6 Product Bonanza
Use the carousel post the same way you (hopefully) used Instagram Stories- to showcase new arrivals, promotions, best products of the week, best sellers, customer’s favourite, and so on. You can also tell your product’s story, for example where the coffee you just received comes from or how do you source your fabric.
If you are a fashion blogger you can post a full OOTD shot followed by photos of individual products you wore with price tags and brand logos.
Even if you are a regular consumer, you can give back to your favourite brands by sharing your top five brands for gloomy weather or a list of products that changed your life.
#7 Tour Guide
Now you can give people a tour of your workspace, office, flat, shop, or the place you are currently ad with engaging videos, which (as opposed to Instagram Stories or Snapchat) will not disappear.
When I saw the news about this particular update, I immediately thought of Steller app. True, Instagram carousel post is nowhere as robust, but it offers mini-stories opportunities for bloggers. Especially travel bloggers or locals, who are discovering their cities. You can create a series of graphics about your trip to x promising your audience there is more beautiful content nested on your blog. You can also tell a visual story (comics, graphics, screenshots), which will complement your new blog post.
If you are a food blogger, this is the update you have been waiting for. Recipes the likes of Buzzfeed Tasty can be minified into a short visual or video story. You can also do a round up of your favourite recipes based on celebration and repurpose your content, for example ‘Top 5 Valentine’s Day Chocolate Recipe’ or ‘Four Salad Recipes to Welcome Spring’.
Do not despair if you are ‘just a foodie’. Make sure to track your weekly palate discoveries and share with your followers the dishes, which took your taste buds to Orlando.
If you are a food business, visuals have to be your native language. Post your weekly menu on Instagram or the current special offer with a lot of lavish graphics and photos. Preferably from every angle.
#10 Facts, tips, trends and info
Instead of listing funny facts about yourself in the caption or sharing your top tips for increasing productivity, tell your story with photos or videos. For example, Wikipedia always shares cool facts, and I would like them to share more user-centred content such as ‘the most popular articles among German readers this week’. A company specialising in trend reporting could do ‘Top 5 trends to look out for this week’. A fashion brand got to let the followers know whether glitter caps are still a thing so for them doing a series of ‘Up and coming spring trends’ should be a necessity.
It’s four days left until Valentine’s Day, one of the profitable occasions, which hijacks imagination of many social media manager. Are you on the same wagon or not there yet? Are struggling how to approach the subject because you just happen to share the Millennials’ views on V-Day being one big embarrassment? Let’s talk about the opportunities this renewed perception of the 14th of February offers to you.
The research from the last couple of years indicates that the Valentine’s Day, while still a money maker, isn’t perceived the same way as it used to be when our grandmas were the hot stuff. Our consumer society entered the land of cynical, pleasure-seeking and socially conscious. We reject globalisation and hail the power of individualism. We sneeze at the sight of mass-produced heart shaped mugs but open our wallets when an environmentally friendly new venture offers kitschy Valentine’s cards made of recycled paper with 10% proceeds going towards a social cause.
We, consumers, want to make an impact and we want brands to enable us to be impactful.
While millennials are still spending money on Valentine’s gifts – 45% claimed to be buying Valentine’s Day gifts in 2015 (source) – the nature of these gifts shifts away from the traditional hetero couple models. In fact, of those over 18 planning to celebrate, 47% will be spending on a gift for a family member or friend (source). Valentine’s stopped being primary about romance; they inspire community love (source).
Having that data in mind, take your perceptions for a spin around the neighbourhood of new and progressive ways of showing your community that you care with my six creative last minute Valentine’s Day social media post ideas.
#1 Focus on diversity
The diversified community we live in means focusing on the stale patriarchal model of a heterosexual couple is like making a new salad out of old lettuce. Celebrate the diversity alike to show you understand what your community is made up of. Hint: it’s not the traditional family model.
Femvertising isn’t anything new but learning the way women want to be talked to is a skill. OKCupid, an online dating website, conducted research in which they ‘discovered that only 20% of single women on OkCupid today believe that men should be the heads of their households. That’s down from 30% of women in 2008. Additionally, single women are feeling way less obligated to maintain social standards of beauty, too. While 43% of women said they believed women had to keep their legs shaved in 2007, only 20% feel that way nowadays.’ (source). Why am I even talking about shaving legs and households? Because this is exactly how women are being portrayed in the majority of advertisements: as trophy wives or caregivers. Women do not want to be patronised, they want to be appreciated.
Nike, a brand with one of the best social media teams ever, mastered the art of making a conversation rather than assuming they know them. Notice though that this particular brand does not tune in Valentine’s conversations.
#3 Celebrate those riding solo
In a research by Ypulse (source) conducted in 2015, 27% of millennials said they avoid going out in public on the V-Day, which paints a pretty image of private pyjama parties with Netflix and pizza. In fact, the cynical view of commercial festivities is so widespread that we can safely say the usual Valentine’s messages will fly over most of young people’s heads. (source).
Celebrate the fun and cool stuff your audience can do adding in a bit of humour to offset the common misconception of not celebrating Valentine’s equals extreme loserhood. You could also join in Valentine’s mocking crowd like Buzzfeed. This media brand does a great job of meme-ing everything, including the holy and the sacred, gathering a solid base of cynical followers, who feel equally unabashed about their love for cheese.
Back in October 2016 when IG stories broke 100 million daily active viewers score, we all knew that instant video messaging had to become part of the brand lingo. The casual nature of Snapchat and IG stories can be used to leverage your brand’s presence amongst young but influential audience with literally 0 budget.
How?You are sitting on a goldmine of resources namely your coworkers or employees. Get them to confess their: love stories or top five love movies they would watch with their loved one or their Valentine’s Day plans. (pssst! gentle persuasion is okay- forcing them to do what you want because you are in charge of the finances is not cool, man)
Employees are still one of the strongest social media content sources and if you are not utilising this aspect of your business yet then shame on you. The best part? The stories on Snapchat and IG will be gone after 24 hours, but the impression and intimate connection remain.
#5 Give back
Since we have grown to live in a world, where social media users rarely condone blind consumption, think about giving back to social causes on this particular day.I recently published a blog post on Impact Hub Vienna’s site discussing how to make Valentine’s impactful, rather than commercial, which tied in closely with what IHV’s core message is: to make a sustainable impact. This is a great example of content, which tunes in Valentine’s talk with an entirely fresh look
Another example is this recent Valentine’s campaign called Ugly & Forgotten created by Droga5 from the US, which used images of not-so-cute animals you would never see on a romantic franchise. You can choose from cards depicting a Proboscis monkey and a Purple pig-nosed frog to support Word Land Trust, a Babirusa for Yayasan Adudu Nantu Internasional, a Bald Uakari for Amazon Conservation Association, a Blobfish for Marine Conservation Institute or a Greater Adjutant for WaterBird Fund. Proceeds from every single card will go towards charities and wildlife conservation organisations that work to preserve the natural habitat of the ugly animals featured. (source).
Christmas advertising tearjerkers almost became a staple, but the fact is people want realistic, raw and true stories. They want stories they can immediately connect with, not aspire to.
You can get personal with your own love story. You could also touch on the dark side of love, which often gets pushed into the grey area (it doesn’t mean it’s forgotten, though) namely the aftermath of a love story. You could suggest top five top places in Vienna to went to visit to get over someone or your secret post-heartbreak comfort food recipe.
This spot from the Salvation Army addresses the issue of breaking up in a funny and soothing fashion, screaming: move on, you can do it.
With increasingly oversaturated social media channels, taking a unique approach to real-life events and communicating them with creative execution is a critical skill. The audience values authenticity and transparency which in order puts pressure on content creators to dig deep in search of captivating content. Remember always to stay true to what your brand stands for, inform your decisions and take the risk.