Picture Perfect? Facts on Free Photo Usage for Blogs & Social Media

Facts on Free Photo Usage for Blogs & Social Media

Photo: Ryan McGuire of Bells Design

When it comes to your marketing efforts, words alone are not going to be enough to attract your target audience. Visual content, such as photos and graphics, enhance your blog and drive traffic to your website. They are also essential to running successful email marketing and social media campaigns that inspire commentary and sharing.

The reason? Images process quickly and people are drawn to them.  We are all designed to communicate visually –it’s science.

New research even shows that the human brain can achieve the remarkable feat of processing an image seen for just 13 milliseconds. That’s pretty incredible, and coupled with a study that shows the human’s average attention span is 8 seconds, it’s clear that we need to get smarter about staying top-of-mind with daily marketing that is rich in visual content.

Unfortunately, many nonprofits and small businesses have limited budgets and are unable to consistently hire  professional photographers or purchase stock photos. So how can you find images that are okay to use without having to pull out your credit card?

At inBLOOM, we’ve discovered several photo sites that offer high quality downloadable images for free. Some you have to register for and others you can access without logging in.

When using photos in your marketing campaigns, it’s important to respect copyright laws. Although it’s tempting to grab something right off Google Images, tweak it and call it your own, it’s not considered fair use; in fact, it’s stealing.

Here are some of our favorite free photo databases along with guidelines for using them:

Getty Images

Getty Images has made over 35 million photo images from its inventory available for free online use by anyone. Getty’s new policy provides a select group of images for free via an embedding feature that provides attribution and a link back to the Getty Images website.

The new Getty policy doesn’t permit all types of use, though. The images cannot be used for any commercial purpose (advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship. They may be used only for editorial, non-commercial purposes, meaning any events that are newsworthy or of public interest. Otherwise, users will need to purchase a license.

You can find the free images right here. Search for the type of image you’re looking for by using keywords or phrases. Let’s say you need an image to go along with a blog post on tips for exercising with your pet, you could search for something like “dog running with owner.” When you find an image, place your pointer over it and click the </> icon. Then copy and paste the code into your website or blog.

Flickr

Flickr is a fantastic place to find images, especially ones that don’t look so commercial. Just like with Getty Images, search for the type of image you’re looking for by using keywords or phrases. Let’s say this time you wrote a blog post on ways to get over writer’s block. You could search for something like “writers block” or “writing” and see what comes up.

After you search, click where it says “Any License” and choose “Creative Commons Only”.  This is where you’ll find images that have a Creative Commons license, which allows the creator to retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work. Every Creative Commons license also ensures licensors get the credit for their work they deserve. Licensors may also choose to grant additional permissions when deciding how they want their work to be used. After you confirm the image is free, you can download it for use as allowed by its license.

Picjumbo

Picjumbo offers a variety of free photos for any kind of use—free of charge with no registration required. There is no search function, but you can narrow down your search through the categories. All photos are by photographer Viktor Hanacek. He mentions in his terms that he greatly appreciates attribution when using his photos.

Gratisography

Gratisography is a collection of free high-resolution images by Ryan McGuire of Bells Design for personal or commercial use. You can choose from his selection of new photos that are added weekly. Simply find the photo you like and click to download. All photos are free of copyright restrictions.

Keep in mind, there is no search option, you can only browse through whatever is there. These photos are very artistic and unlike any stock photo you’ll find. You may not always find what you’re looking for but it’s worth a try.

iStock

iStock releases a new batch of royalty-free photos, illustration, video, audio and editorial files each week. You will need to sign up for a free membership in order to download these images. This is another site where you may not always find what you’re looking for but it’s worth a look see.

Death to The Stock Photo

Death to The Stock Photo offers free high-resolution photos for commercial use, blog posts, social accounts and mockups, sent to your inbox every month. All you need to do is give them your email address. They even give you a file of free images once you sign up.

This site was created by two photographers, Allison Lehman and David Sherry, after they noticed that many brands, bloggers, and other freelancers had trouble consistently getting photography that was authentic and quality enough to use in production. All of the images they provide you with are their own photography. Their license states that you must include a copy of, or reference to, the license with every copy of the photograph that you distribute or display.

HubSpot

Although marketing platform HubSpot is not a photo database, it offers a package of 75 free stock photos in exchange for your email address and information about your company. These images are free to use in blog posts, social media networks, landing pages, emails or wherever you’d like –no royalties and no fees. Once you sign up, HubSpot will send you a zip file containing the photos. You can sign up right here.

Facts on Free Photo Usage for Blogs & Social MediaPhoto: Viktor Hanáček

I hope you found this post helpful in your search for free images. It’s important that you start maintaining a library of photos that will enhance your marketing efforts. The right image can draw your reader in and help you to effectively tell your story.

It’s important that you also recognize the value of hiring professional photographers to take quality and creative images. Their work is key to persuading your target market to learn more about who you are and what you offer.

“Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes one photograph, or a group of them, can lure our sense of awareness.” W. Eugene Smith, 1918-1978

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5 Ways to Secure Media Coverage: Tips from an Editor

5 Ways to Secure Media Coverage

The average American attention span in 2013 was about 8 seconds. The average attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds. And, unless you’re a goldfish, whose average attention span is 9 seconds you’re probably already done reading this introductory paragraph.

If you’re still with me, let’s get to the good stuff.

These numbers are SHOCKING and the media is keenly aware that their time is precious. It’s important to understand the pressures editors and reporters are under in order to constantly push out content. If you can help them along by following some simple steps, you’re going to be ahead of the hundreds of people who email and pitch them daily.

The public relations field has also expanded in recent years to a degree that media relations specialists now outnumber reporters by nearly 5 to 1, so it’s key that you develop relationships with media and provide them with quality, dependable content in a timely manner.

One factor behind the increase in public relations jobs has been digital technology. Businesses are now able to reach out directly to the public in any number of ways and they’re hiring public relations specialists like inBLOOM to assist them. With so many businesses and charities competing for visibility in the media, public relations professionals are working harder than ever to set themselves and their clients apart from the sea of stories.

Lisa Schofield, magazine editor, copy editor and writer, shares her advice on contacting the media with story ideas. Her five tips may just help you secure exciting coverage for your next event or news.

Lisa advises you to…

1. Avoid Being Too Cute for Words

Don’t try to be too cutesy or edgy. A strong release is one that delivers all the key facts along with insightful and compelling quotes and prose. Let the editorial team be the creative ones.

2. Clearly State Your Lead

Similarly, don’t bury what should be the lead element of the news. Don’t write a feature story, again, let the editors do that. Editors do not have the luxury of time to sift through a release that reads like a feature in order to derive the nuggets of facts.

3. Hide Your Sloth-like Sources

Ensure your sources will be available and can speak in-depth about the topic. It is frustrating to an editor who wants to dive more deeply into the angle with the source — who is monosyllabic and lazy in his/her responses.

4. Know Your Media’s Needs

Know your media, each one, so you can sculpt your pitch and release to its particular audience and editorial style when you are contacted for more information.

5. Proofread for Accuracy

Proofread your release for accuracy in spelling of key names (brands, people, etc.) as well as contact information. Frankly, most editors don’t care (or shouldn’t) if a release has a few grammatical errors or typos. They use the release for the facts, for the information, and as a potential resource for larger features. But if a name is spelled two ways or a phone number is wrong by one digit, this will frustrate the editor who has to get ahold of you to double check.

For more information on building the value of your media relations, read inBLOOM’s post Attract Publicity with the Right Social Media Strategy.

More about Lisa Lisa Schofield is a professional magazine editor, copy editor and writer. She began her career in 1985 interviewing and profiling famous rock musicians for several popular music magazines. She has been editing and writing independently for 11 years and enjoys a wide diversity of projects.

Sources: National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, The Associated Press, Pew Journalism Research Project

photo: Jamie Henderson

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3 Ways to Curate Content with Confidence

3 Ways to Curate Content with Confidence

If you’re blogging for a business or organization, you probably have a content marketing strategy that involves posting daily or weekly. In fact to successfully drive traffic to your website, you should publish content at least every seven days.

According to HubSpot, nearly 40% of US companies use blogs for marketing purposes, and companies that blog have 55% more website visitors. That’s a lot of writing and no doubt these companies are searching the Web for content that’s on trend and of interest to their readers. In fact, they often curate content.

When you curate content, you’re finding and sharing relevant, high quality content on a specific topic from an outside source for your target audience.

If you find content that’s valuable to both you and your audience, don’t ever hesitate to curate. It can enhance your created content and benefit your blog, email marketing and social media. Not only will it attract readers, it will help you build relationships with other writers and bloggers, and also establish you as an online leader. Essentially, curating content is a way to build “know, like and trust.”

People don’t like to spend precious time searching for valuable information; they want to find it easily and they do so by going to their favorite reliable resources. You can become the go-to resource in your industry by consistently curating content. Your blog and social media pages will attract more readers and followers if you’re consistently sharing valuable content from others.

Now that you have a grip on what content curation is, how should you go about doing it and how can you become a successful content curator? Let’s review a few ways.

WAYS TO CURATE

Each day, take time to do some reading. When you come across something that really interests you and is worth sharing, save the link and any information from the article. Then what do you do? There are a few ways you can curate the content you find.

1. Curate content on social media.

Write a bit about your thoughts on the content or give a brief summary and share it on social media, making sure to link to the resource and author. By adding your thoughts to what you share, you demonstrate your expertise on the content’s topic and also share your point of view. This is what will help you stand out from the rest and establish yourself as a thought leader.

Just as you would avoid posting only promotional content on social media, do the same for curated content. Your social media posts should be a mix of original created content, content from others, and personal/ non-work related commentary. If you only post curated content on social media, you start to look like a robot.

2. Curate content on your blog.

You can either write your own summary of the content or re-post an excerpt while adding annotation and commentary –avoid copying and pasting content from the entire article onto your blog.

According to Nieman Journalism Lab, you should reproduce only those portions of the headline or article that are necessary to make your point or to identify the story. Always credit the author and link to the original source – don’t be a content thief!

If you attend a webinar or summit, you can take notes and quotes from the speakers and curate them in a blog post. An example of this would be our blog post on Visual Content Marketing from our experience at the Business Development Institute & PRNewswire Visual Content Marketing & Communications Summit.

Try to establish relationships with the people from which you are curating content. It’s good to let them know you appreciate their work so much that you wanted to share it. You can also make them aware that you’re trying to broaden your audience, which is probably something on their agenda as well. They may just curate your content, too! After all sharing is caring.

3. Curate content in an email newsletter.

Highlight content from your own blog as well as the other blogs and news sources you enjoy reading in a weekly newsletter. This content should be recent and trending in your industry. Include the article’s title, source, synopsis and link, and if you’d like you can add a thumbnail photo.

Some of our favorite sources are Constant Contact, Buffer, Copyblogger, Social Media Today, Business 2 Community, NPR, Jeff Bullas, Inc. Magazine, Mashable and The Huffington Post.

WAYS TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT CURATING

It takes time and effort to curate, so in order to be successful make it a priority. Schedule reading into your day just as you would schedule a meeting. Try and consistently do this at a time when you know you won’t be interrupted. Maybe it’s first thing in the morning before you start answering emails, or maybe it’s the last thing you do. If it’s easier, take short breaks throughout the day to read a bit and take notes.

The key is to be on top of current trends and demands, specifically in your industry. You need to be committed and strategic. As you’re curating you may feel a sort of information overload – there are so many valuable resources generating content and it’s impossible for you to check every single one (unless it’s your job, of course). Find your favorite resources, follow them and subscribe.

There are also many tools available to help you bring in content and push it out. With tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite, you can schedule posts featuring curated content to be published throughout the day.  For keeping track of content, there’s the app Evernote that helps you collect inspirational ideas and interesting articles.

Consider hiring a social media manager to curate content for posting on social media throughout the day. inBLOOM will incorporate posts shared from others into your social media strategy. If you have any questions or need help, contact us.

photo: Chung Ho Leung

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5 Ways To Appreciate and Reward Your Customers

5 Ways To Appreciate and Reward Your Customers

You’re busy preparing for an exciting season of events and promotions and efforts are mounting to come up with engaging ways to attract new customers. You’re planning parties, offering discounts, and have designed some of your best ads and emails yet. One question: With all this planning and rush to please the newbies, have you overlooked the value and potential of your existing customers?

These are the people who shop or use your services often, who like and share your content on social media, those who have left you glowing reviews on directories, and the faithful who send you cookie trays at holiday time.

We often take these people for granted. They get lost in the sauce of the rush to sell. So, how do you plan ahead and make sure your customers feel warm and fuzzy by the start of the busy shopping season? Thank them starting now and continue to do so consistently and on a regular basis moving forward.

Referrals should be your number one source for attracting new business, and your customers need to feel appreciated in order to be compelled to care and share.

These statistics may drive home the need to boost your customer retention. 

5 Ways To Appreciate and Reward Your Customers

So with these statistics in mind, here are some fun ways companies are appreciating and rewarding their customers. These examples are simple enough to incorporate into any digital marketing strategy:

1. Send thank you cards through email.

Businesses can show their appreciation for customers with a thank you message and special coupons. If you use Constant Contact’s Toolkit for your email marketing, this is a snap: Go under Newsletters and Announcements, then choose the Card/Announcement Email, customize your message and graphics, and distribute. Be sure to maintain your visual branding so people recognize the email is coming from you and do not mark the email as spam.

2. Start a rewards program.

It’s always smart to thank the people who shop or use your services often and there are tons of great examples of reward programs. Our client, Purr’n Pooch Pet Resorts gives a free daycare pass for pet owners who purchase monthly packages and offers complimentary spa baths to pets that board often.

Here’s another one you may already be very familiar with: Dunkin Donuts has the DD Perks Rewards Program. Earn 5 points for every dollar you spend with your DD card and get a free medium beverage when you join, on your birthday, and when you reach 200 points (or spend $40).

3. Run a contest or sweepstakes.

At inBLOOM we love photo contents and the app Offerpop makes it easy to run them  directly on your Facebook page. There is a cost associated with using the app, and it depends on your number of page likes. Cost can range from $30-$150 dollars per contest. It’s worth the investment and encourages your existing fans to share your brand and also gives you the opportunity to thank them for their participation with prizes. Read our blog post, Integrating Photo Contests Into Your Social Media Marketing for details on how to run these types of contest.

Over the summer, the jewelry company Alex and Ani ran a Summer Beauty and Bangles Sweepstakes. Participants entered to win an Alex and Ani Bangle + Home Gift Set and TEMPTU Airbrush Makeup Kit. All the entrants needed to do was give their first name, email address, city and state, and agree to receive email alerts from Alex and Ani and TEMPTU about sales and special events. Not only was this sweepstakes a great way to thank customers, it also showcased their products, and increased awareness of their jewelry via the cross-marketing relationship with TEMPTU.

 3. Host a webinar and reward attendees.

Webinars do take a bit of work so this is definitely not the quick and easy way to go, but it’s well worth the planning if you seek to establish the people in your company as thought leaders and make them more relatable. People also count on the brands they love to educate them on industry trends and news. The innovative upcycling company TerraCycle recently hosted one of its “Ask Me Anything” webinars with its founder Tom Szaky. The first 50 people who joined the chat received a signed copy of Szaky’s new book, “Outsmart Waste.”  What a win, win! Attendees got the scoop on company news, enjoyed a Q&A with company leaders, and possibly received a free book. Spreecast is a great resource for running webinars and Google Hangout offers a video call, but you’ll need a Google+ account, which you should have already to set up the call.

4. Give away goods and services. 

Now this is a no brainer.  Give things away to thank people and simultaneously see how people feel about a new product. Surely you’ve been at the grocery store on sample day. Doesn’t it feel special to be treated to bite sized treats as you shop? Thanks to social media, you can now translate that same excitement virtually. For example, every Friday Modern Dog Magazine gives away freebies on its Facebook Page. To win the freebie, you must leave a comment on the post asking why you or your dog wants or needs the product. The person with the best answer wins the prize. Sounds pretty easy right? Yes, we like this one. Make sure you follow social media platform guidelines for promotions before launching any giveaways.

5. Offer digital discounts.

Offer your customers coupon codes for a discount in your physical store. They can print the coupon directly from your website or an email.  This will encourage new customers to sign up for emails, drive traffic to your website, and give you a bigger and more receptive customer base to send news and information. inBLOOM’s client Small Factory Productions builds their discount codes right into their class registration process, making it easy for parents to sign their child up for class online and get their special discount by entering the code during the payment process. By offering discounts to your existing customers, you help to retain them and may also attract their friends and family as customers. One of your digital codes could be for a special friends and family rate or discount.

Your existing customers are too important to ignore and their support of your business is incredibly valuable to attracting new customers. If you need some creative inspiration or assistance getting started, contact us.  inBLOOM Communications offers consulting and a variety of marketing services.

photo credit: Chia83 Flickr

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