Category Archives: social media

Can I Use that Image from the Web?

The use of images in your marketing efforts can help draw attention to and build interest in your products and services, and it can make your brand more memorable.

But unless you are a photographer, pay one to take professional photos for you, or are satisfied with solely using amateurish pictures from your smartphone, you’ll likely find yourself using images created by someone else who has shared them online.

No problem, right?

Actually, it could be a big problem if you’re not careful.

Most Online Photos Aren’t Fair Game

Just because a photo is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s fair game to use in your own online communications. Using images without permission, without attribution, or without paying for them (or some combination of the three), could land you in trouble for infringing on copyright law.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.”

Photographs are protected by copyright law, and that gives creators the right to determine whether or not they can be re-used—and how they can be re-used—by others.

Creators of images don’t have to file anything legally to be protected by copyright law. While registration is needed to fully enforce rights of ownership, the creator doesn’t have to go through the process of registration to legally use the © to indicate an image is copyrighted.

And it’s important to know that if an image doesn’t have the copyright symbol associated with, it doesn’t mean it’s not protected.

 Do Your Homework Before Using A Photo That You Found Online

Before you use an image on your website, blog, social media, or in other marketing and advertising materials, it’s important to find the original source and find out if you can have license to use it. Some will allow you to use it for free with attribution (explicit credit given to the artist/owner of the work), while others might only allow use if you pay for it.

It’s well worth finding out the requirements before you download or save the image and use it for your own purposes. Penalties can be steep for copyright infringement, depending upon the particulars of a situation. They can range from $200 to $150,000.

Willful infringement typically results in higher penalties than unknowingly infringing on a copyright, but ignorance doesn’t get you off the hook.

That’s why it’s so very important to play it safe and ensure you know whether or not an image is OK to use.

Use Reputable Image Sources With Clear Guidelines

Luckily, there are a number of stock photography websites where the rules are clear about what you need to do to legally use the images available on them. Some allow you to download digital images on a transactional basis and others require you to subscribe to a plan.

Several that you may want to check out include:

Canva (Not only can you download professional images for $1 each, you can also create your own designs sized for blog graphics, various social media platforms, presentations, and posters.)

Freedigitalphotos.net (The Standard License allows you to use photos for free with attribution presented and placed according to their terms and conditions. Or you can purchase images in various sizes to use them without attribution.)

BIGSTOCK (Subscriptions for image plans start at $79 per month.)

Shutterstock (Options include “Pay As You Go” starting at $29 for two image downloads and monthly subscriptions for those with more robust needs.)

Morgue File (Provides photographs freely contributed by artists to be used in creative projects by visitors to the site. The site advises that before using images for business purposes, you should contact the photographers to ask permission and find out if and how they want attribution made.)

A Reminder

While it’s easy to download or copy images from any website or from Google Images, resist taking shortcuts. Remember, you could get slapped with a lofty fine, and even legal fees. When there are websites like those mentioned above and others, you have plenty of options to allow you to find and use images ethically and legally.

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How to Use # Hashtags

Although hashtags are seen on nearly every social media channel and promoted on just about every TV show, they still confound many small business owners. Marketers everywhere are using them to amplify their brand awareness, but how can they benefit your small business?

Hashtag Basics

According to Wikipedia, “a hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash character, #, to form a label.”

Hashtags help people identify what specific pieces of online content are about. By categorizing content, hashtags make it easier for readers to search for and find social media posts focused on the topics they have an interest in.

Where To Use Hashtags

Most major social media platforms give people the ability to search using hashtags to find relevant posts. They include:
• Twitter (the network that introduced us to hashtags)
• Facebook
• Pinterest
• Google Plus
• Instagram
• YouTube

When you click on a hashtag on these networks, you’re taken to a list of posts that have used that hashtag and presumably contain content related to the topic.

How can you use hashtags to drive more traffic to your social media posts? Here are a few ideas:

  • Include hashtags associated with keywords related to your industry, products, and services (for example: #jewelry or #lawncare) in your posts. First search on the social media platform to make sure you’ve selected a hashtag others are using to categorize posts. If you use a hashtag no one else is using, it won’t help you.
  • Use business and location hashtags together to help people find you. For example: #PortlandME #restaurants.
  • Create a hashtag for a special event you’re hosting, a marketing campaign, or your brand. But be careful when using hashtags for branding and promotional purposes. Look on Hashtags.org or Twubs.com and search on social networks and on search engines (such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo) to see if a hashtag might already be in use by another company. Using a hashtag already associated with another brand will potentially confuse people, and you might find yourself in legal hot water. As legal protections for hashtags representing brands are a mounting concern, consider consulting an attorney who’s knowledgeable about social media before creating and using a hashtag to promote your business or event.

A Few Other Hashtag Tips

When using hashtags in your social media posts, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Don’t use too many hashtags at once. One or two is best. Three is OK, but don’t go beyond that. More makes posts look cluttered—and a bit desperate for attention.
  • Place hashtags at the end of your posts rather than mixed into the main message. Posts with hashtags in the middle of their sentences are harder to read because the flow of words is interrupted with the #.
  • Don’t use hashtags that aren’t relevant to the content in your post. You’ll disappoint—and maybe even anger readers—if you use a popular hashtag to draw attention to a post that has nothing to do with the topic.

#Finalthought

It may take some time and trial and error to learn to use hashtags effectively, but they’re worth the effort because they can help you expand awareness of your small business and draw more of your target audience to you.

3 Tips to Boost Your Linked In Profile

With over 300 million users, it’s no secret that LinkedIn is one of the most effective online social networking platforms around. But could you be missing out by not paying attention to some simple details? Even if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to interacting on LinkedIn, tending to some basic “housekeeping” on the platform can help boost your credibility and make people more inclined to connect with you.

  1. Put a face to your name. Use a professional-looking headshot. Other professionals are more likely to connect with you if you’ve taken the few minutes it requires to replace that generic shadowy silhouette with your photo. A profile with a photo is 11 times more likely to be viewed than one without. It’s a rookie mistake not to have a photo. Likewise, steer clear of using profile pictures like couple’s photos, glamour shots, and anything excessively casual (e.g. wearing a t-shirt and baseball cap while proudly holding up a 4-foot sailfish).Need help?  Check out the pointers for choosing the best LinkedIn profile photo in this SlideShare from SUCCEED Powered by Staples.
  1. Use first-person voice. Yes, LinkedIn is a professional platform, but that doesn’t mean you need to sound overly formal. Your profile is YOU sharing your professional experience. Avoid sounding aloof by writing it in third person. Which of the samples below sounds more open and engaging?  For over fifteen years, Joe Smith has worked with clients, helping them increase sales and improve productivity. He is dedicated to educating and empowering business professionals with game-changing knowledge, tools, and resources.orFor over fifteen years, I have worked with clients, helping them increase sales and improve productivity. I’m dedicated to educating and empowering business professionals with game-changing knowledge, tools, and resources.Your LinkedIn profile’s purpose is for you to connect one-to-one with other professionals. You’ll risk appearing disconnected if your profile reads like you didn’t write it yourself.
  1. Include your contact info. Nothing is more frustrating than looking up a public LinkedIn profile in search of a phone number or an email address and discovering the person hasn’t included those things. Go to your profile RIGHT NOW and add that info if it’s not already there. Remember, it’s not just your first-level contacts who might seek someone with your credentials and expertise. Make it as easy as possible for any prospective clients to find and contact you.

While none of the above action items take a lot of time or effort to tackle, they can make a big difference in how others perceive you on LinkedIn. They’ll make you more approachable and accessible to other professionals, so don’t wait if your profile needs those basic updates. And remember, SCORE mentors are here to provide feedback and advice as you hone your presence on LinkedIn and your other social media platforms.
In fact, we’re here to help you with all aspects of starting and running a business. Learn more about SCORE’s FREE mentoring, affordable workshops, and other resources.

Build Your Brand through Face-to-Face and Online Networking

Networking – face-to-face and online – is essential for not only building awareness of and trust in your brand, but also in you as a small business owner. According to a survey referenced on the Business Networking by Dr. Ivan Misner blog, professionals who said they spend a little over six hours a week networking gained nearly 47 percent of their business via networking activities and referrals. Wow!

The not-so-secret benefits of what networking can do for you:

• Raise awareness of your business and what you do.

• Build credibility.

• Let people get to know the face behind your brand. (Remember, people do business with people.)

• Extend your reach and can lead to referrals. (Expand the possibility of you knowing someone who knows someone who can use your services.)

Combining face-to-face and online networking optimizes business development efforts.
Your involvement in networking in person and your online networking support and reinforce each other. When your contacts cross over from one realm to the other, you build multidimensional relationships. That gives you more options for interacting – and it makes it easier to stay top of mind with prospective clients and existing customers.

Networking opportunities to consider as a small business owner:

Face-to-face networking groups
Availability of networking groups can vary depending on where you live and your specific industry. Here are a few types of networking groups to consider:

• Chambers of commerce
• Industry and trade associations
• Small local networking groups
• Community service organizations (like Rotary clubs, Lions Club, etc.)

Online networking opportunities

As you know, there’s no shortage of social media networks available to businesses. Which networks will give you the most return on your investments of time and effort depends on a number of factors, including your type of business. Most likely, you’re already using one or more of these platforms:

• LinkedIn (the one network we encourage every professional to consider)

• Facebook

• Twitter

• Pinterest

• Google Plus

• Instagram

• SnapChat

• YouTube

• Vine

• Foursquare

When networking inperson or online, you’ll want to get the most from the time and energy you spend. Here are a few tips for making the most of your networking efforts:

Think of networking as a process, not as an event.
Networking is about building relationships. You can’t do that by attending one or two meetings or mixers. Only through consistency of involvement will you reap the rewards that networking offers. This is true of both face-to-face and online networking.

Cross-connect when possible.
Whenever possible, connect with face-to-face networking connections via social media. Vice versa, if you have an opportunity to have coffee with a social media contact, take it! Cross-connecting will give you more opportunities to stay top of mind with contacts.

Choose platforms and organizations carefully.
Research which will provide the most opportunities for you to interact with your target market. Also, consider how much time you have available for networking and when you’re available to network. Not all online social networks demand the same amount of time and attention. Some networking groups require substantial time commitment and attendance at meetings. Before joining, find out if they hold their functions primarily during the work day or in the evenings. Which work best with your schedule?

Also, find out how much of a financial investment you’ll need to make. Some networking organizations require membership fees which then enable you to attend certain events “for free” as a member, but you might also have to pay for some events and activities. Make sure a group is within your budget so you can actively participate.

Be genuine – and genuinely interested.
People can detect a fake. Be real; be you when networking. Also, make your interactions about them not you in the beginning. Make it a point to ask questions and show an interest in other people before you jump in to share about yourself. It builds goodwill and makes a great first impression.

Follow up.
After meeting face to face, connect on social media (particularly LinkedIn) or send a friendly email. By doing so, you can build on that one-time meeting and open the door to communicating on an ongoing basis.

While successful networking comes easier to some business owners than others, it’s rare – if not impossible – to build a brand without it as part of a business’s strategy. If you’re not sure which networking groups, platforms, and activities might work best for your business, reach out to a SCORE mentor for guidance. We’re here to help!

Mobile Apps: Small Business Owners, Don’t Leave the Office Without Them!

Managing time – and finding enough of it – stands as one of the biggest challenges small business owners face. With the demands of running all aspects of your business, it takes more than just time to accomplish all that you need to do; it also takes tools. Mobile apps can be a life saver for on-the-go entrepreneurs. There’s a plethora of free apps available for both Android and iOS mobile devices to help you take care of business no matter where you are. Best of all, you can turn what might otherwise be wasted time (waiting for a client or standing in line at the local deli) into productive time by having some key apps on hand.

Consider these mobile apps for your business:

Social Media Management Apps
No matter which social networks use in your marketing efforts, there are mobile apps for them. Facebook Pages Manager, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram…all have free apps you can download to your smartphone or tablet. Capabilities vary from app to app, but they all give you the ability to post updates to your social accounts and monitor and interact with the activity of others in your newsfeed.

You might also want to check out Hootsuite and Buffer. Both are social media management tools that enable you to not only post to social networks in real time, but to also schedule future posts.

Blogging Apps
Both WordPress and Blogger enable you to create new blog posts, edit existing posts, upload images to your blog, manage comments, and publish posts directly from your mobile device. From crafting new posts to putting the finish touches on drafts, you can tend to your blog from anywhere.

Note-taking Apps
For capturing ideas and making to do lists, check out Evernote or Microsoft OneNote. Both enable you to create text notes, audio notes, and check lists that you can tag and organize into notebooks for easy reference and retrieval. From within the apps, you can take photos of documents, receipts, post-it notes, etc. to store them electronically and eliminate the clutter of paper in your office.

The beauty of all these apps is that they sync across all the devices you access them from so you can effortlessly and conveniently stay on top of things no matter where you are. It’s a very good reason not to leave the office without them!

What mobile apps have helped you manage your business on the go?