Sometimes I think I should have been a nun instead of getting into marketing and social media. Not the kind of nun that sings, like on Sound of Music or Italy’s “The Voice,” but the kind in the 1950’s who walked around with a ruler, ready to smack children on the knuckles when they used crappy images on their social media posts!
There are only a few things that send me over the edge when it comes to how poorly some companies are using social media: One is when they don’t respond to a comment or question left for them on one of their social sites, proving they don’t really want people to talk to them, they simply want everyone to read their stuff.
Another is when people use those idiotic services like TrueTwit validation to make others on Twitter prove they are not robots by going to a robot site and jumping through a bunch of hoops. (See a past post for more on that rant here).
And the one that my team, here at SocialKNX, has heard me preach over and over again (with my ruler in hand) is when people and especially brands, use crappy images on their social media sites. I think my issue started back in the days when Microsoft’s Screen Bean characters were all the rage in corporate presentations and marketing material.
I wanted to rip things apart when I would see them. (Anger management courses have helped a bit.)
But today it’s even worse when great visuals are available everywhere and the cameras we carry in our back pockets take fantastic photos, there is just no excuse for poor images being used on our websites, blog posts or social media sites.
Every social platform allows for very large images and we want to take advantage of every pixel we can. I love using Canva to ensure we are sizing the images correctly. Their templates for social media sites are very helpful, and they do a pretty good job of keeping up with the ever-changing sizes.
Here are some of the types of images that will get knuckles cracked, and why:
Clip Art (of any kind)
These just have the same smell as my great grandmother’s TV room. They are old and stale. A great photo of an actual boy on a tricycle or a cool close up of a tricycle would be more intriguing and interesting than this one. Take a trip this weekend and snap some great photos to use instead.
Oh, these are bad on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to start! First, any of the overly staged, fake corporate team photos tell the world you don’t even try. You may have purchased these photos from Shutterstock or iStockPhoto, but you didn’t look past the first 3 or 4 choices. A personal favorite is the overly enthusiastic team meeting photo that shows everyone giving high fives around a flipchart! Come on! Show us, REAL people, doing real office activities. I know they are harder to find. You have to look at new collections or unique sites like Unsplash. Better yet, get your own team members to pose for a few shots, or look for great photos that depict the message you are trying to convey. The fake-looking, overly-staged pics are called corporate porn. They should be banned and someone should lose their job for even looking at them on company computers!
No explanation needed! You’re just embarrassing yourself if you are using these anywhere. Don’t make me get my ruler out.
Where to Get Great Images
So where do you go to find these GREAT images? Here are 12 stock photo libraries to get you started. You will still have to look through their collections to find the great ones.
The photographs from the first 8 sites are free from copyright restrictions or licensed under creative commons public domain dedication. This means you can copy, modify, distribute, and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
However, some photos may require attribution. We’ve done our best to identify which license they fall under but we still advise you to do your own research and determine how these images can be used.
The last 3 resources are paid stock photo sites that are great for those who blow through hundreds or thousands of images a month. You need more than one place to find just the right image to tell your stories!
Here you go:
Unsplash – This website offers amazing and beautiful photos absolutely free. It’s one of my favorites.
Pexels – Pexels is another great resource offering high quality and completely free stock photos licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.
StockSnap – This website offers many similar images to the paid subscription sites (probably the images that didn’t get purchased from them). They are free and free from copyright restrictions.
Life of Pix – a great collection of high-resolution images with no copyright restrictions.
BURST (by Shopify)– All photos are licensed under Creative Commons CC0 and can be used as you see fit.
Picography – Beautiful free images to use however you’d like.
PicJumbo – This site offers free images you can use without copyright restrictions and you will also find a “premium” level for more hidden gems.
StyledStock -This site offers free “feminine” stock photography for every woman entrepreneur. The collection is totally free for your commercial & personal works.
Pikwizard– This site offers over 100,000 completely free images on the site and over 20,000 are exclusive to Pikwizard. They have a lot of pictures of people in business settings which is helpful for corporate accounts.
Deposit Photos– a typical subscription stock photo site. You must pay for individual photos or buy a monthly subscription to download the images.
Shutterstock– a typical subscription stock photo site. You must pay for individual photos or buy a monthly subscription to download the images.
iStock Photos– a typical subscription stock photo site. You must pay for individual photos or buy a monthly subscription to download the images.
If you are using a tool like Canva, they also have an incredible library of images you can access (many are coming from Unsplash and other sites listed here). They are included in your pro-level membership or may cost $1 each if you are using the free version of Canva.
Don’t forget that photographer inside of YOU. You can take some great pics with your mobile devices and then add a bit of pizazz with apps like WordSwag, A Beautiful Mess, or even Instagram. Don’t settle for boring images.
Do you have a type of image that makes you cringe? Do you have another great resource that you use for great images? I’d love to continue the conversation here in the comments or on our DIY.social Facebook Group. I also would love to know if you have a String Bean graphic.
You’re browsing the internet, trying to find the perfect image for your blog or your upcoming social media post, and you find it! So you schedule your post or publish your blog and go about your day. Then you check your email later and see a message from an attorney with a copyright infringement notice stating that you have illegally used an image. So what do you do now? (After you’ve taken a deep breath and calmed down!)
Finding the right images to use online can really mean the difference between “blah” and buzzworthy pages, ads, sites, and social media. Sourcing images for your website or social media posts isn’t always easy! The small print found in copyright image policies can be intimidating (and let’s be honest- how many people really sit down and read the fine print when they are searching for images in a hurry?). Words like fair use, attribution, non-commercial, no derivative are not something you see every day so they can definitely be confusing and hard to understand how they apply to you and your small business’ social media strategy. Unfortunately, “I didn’t know!” won’t fly as a valid defense, either.
Once you know the rules, though, it’s easy to follow them! There are also a ton of free stock photo sites that make finding photos a breeze.
So, what is image copyright?
The simple definition is that image copyright is image ownership- whoever took the photo is who owns the image. Image copyright is a form of legal protection that is automatically given to a creator as soon as an image is snapped. Anything from digital art, photographs, paintings, drawings are all subject to image copyright. If your friend takes a selfie with you using her phone, texts it to you, and you post it on Instagram. Technically you needed to ask for her permission to repost that photo since she was the original creator of that image.
How can I tell if I can use an image on social media?
Image copyright covers any image you want to use on social media. If you want to use an image that isn’t yours, you must obtain permission to use it- that may be through a license or obtaining permission directly from the creator. If you are given permission to use the image, be sure to keep a record on hand for future reference, just in case.
Just because a company or an individual has shared an image on a public account, it doesn’t make the image public domain. He/she/the company still very much owns the copyright! That being said, there are some unique ways copyright images can still be shared on your social media page.
It’s typically ok to share images within the various social media platforms, as things like retweets, reshares, repins, or reposts automatically credit the creator of the post/image. Instagram is one of the platforms that this can be tricky – since there is no built-in feature that allows reposting, you must ask for permission. You can do this by sending a direct message or even commenting on the post to make sure the creator is ok with you sharing. Alternatively, there is also an app called Repost that allows you to repost your favorite images or videos on your own feed while giving credit to the original creator.
What about websites?
The same rules apply to images you want to use on your websites. You must be sure to get permission from the creator if there is a specific image you want to use that wasn’t found on free stock photo sites.
OK, so where can I find images to use?
Traditional stock photo sites like Shutterstock, Getty Images, iStock Photo, and Adobe Stock Images are great if you have the ability to pay for your photos. However, there are some great free sites like Unsplash, RawPixel, Pexels, StockSnap, and ReShot are just a few. The images on these sites are creative, eye-catching, and you won’t have to worry about image copyright issues! Although, it is always great to credit some of the creators of the images if you can – a simple tag on IG or “photo cred” in the caption. Additionally, if you use Canva to create your social media images for your posts, Canva has some free photos that you can use in the amazing visuals you’re creating.
Feeling a little overwhelmed by all of this information? SocialKNX can help with that! Our team of marketing rockstars can help you out by creating visual content for your social media that will complement your business and your brand. Reach out to us today to see how we can help!
Instagram recently turned 10. It’s hard to believe this platform has only been around for 10 years. It is such a big part of so many lives, and yet still so many find it confusing and still ignore this powerful marketing platform. There are so many new features that we thought it was time to put out the Ultimate Instagram Guide for 2021. This is a BEEFY post so you may want to bookmark this so you can come back and use it as a reference.
If LinkedIn is the serious business platform for sharing articles, finding jobs, and congratulating people on their recent promotions, Instagram is the peek behind that stodgy curtain where we get to see a more relaxed side of you, and your business. We know it’s true that people buy from those they know, like, and trust, so it makes sense that Instagram is the platform that allows you to invite your audience a little closer to get to know you better, and hopefully they will like what they see.
If you have been dragging your feet on embracing this tool, or find all of its parts just too confusing, this guide will give you all the information you need to finally get moving. There is a lot of information in here so get comfy.
I’m going to break this into segments for you since there is so much to cover. Consider this a guide that you will refer back to over and over.
We will do a deep dive into the 4 types of posts that live on Instagram:
GRID STORIES and LIVE STREAMS REELS IGTV
Next, we will explore the 3 parts to your posts:
CAPTION PHOTOS FREQUENCY (how often you should be posting, which is a question we get almost daily at SocialKNX.)
We’ll wrap up with the different types of content you can rotate in. You don’t want everything to be promotional and as a business owner, you certainly aren’t on Instagram to just share photos of your dogs (although if you are, be sure to drop the name of your account…I love following those accounts). By rotating in different categories or types of content you will have a well-balanced feed or collection of posts.
Let’s take a look at the 4 types of posts on Instagram:
1. Your GRID (AKA: your feed)
This is the hub, the main posts on your Instagram account. The photos here are typically a bit more staged and planned. Consider this the place for your BEST SELF to show up. Your feed is a mix of real images of you, your team, and the occasional (beautiful) stock images or graphics. A carousel post (one that has 2-10 images) can be loaded into one post and will give you more opportunities to have that post seen. If someone sees only the first photo and scrolls by, Instagram will show that post again but start on image 2 or 3 where the person stopped, so your chances are better to grab someone’s attention. Keep this in mind when loading multiple images too. Put those eye-catching images first!
2. STORIES and LIVE Streaming
Stories are those short blips that look as if it is a visual diary of someone’s day at times.If you post only one image or short video, you will see one long continuous line across the top. Each segment of your story is a dash. When I look at someone’s story and see tiny dots, it seems like a big commitment and I usually pass but if it’s great content I will click through each one. Watch your analytics to see if you are overwhelming people with too many segments here.
Stories are where a brand can be more casual, funny, authentic, and it is where you can definitely point people to your other content. Use stories to promote your latest podcast, blog post, or even your latest Instagram post (Grid post). You can also go LIVE in your stories area. When you go to add a post from your home page, you will notice several options- POST-STORY-REELS-LIVE.
Instagram recently extended the amount of time you can go LIVE from 1 hour to 4 hours. My thought is, who is watching a LIVE for 4 hours? This happened during COVID quarantine time, so I believe it was to accommodate all of the classes and events that suddenly went online. 4-hours is also the limit on Facebook LIVES so it makes sense. When you finish your Instagram LIVE, you will be asked if you want to save or download the video. This allows you to edit it or chop it into small sharable pieces for IGTV, Stories or even on your other social platforms.
Another feature that is tied to your Stories, is the highlight button. You may notice that some people have little circles under their bio. These can be categorized and created by you to save segments of your Stories that otherwise will disappear after 24-hours. You may create a button for EVENTS, LAUNCHES, TESTIMONIALS, TEAM MEMBERS, etc. After you create some Story segments you will start to see which pieces you want to tuck away in your highlight buttons. You can always go later and clean out old segments.
Use a tool like Canva to create cute buttons and brand them with your colors.
Reels is the latest roll out and it’s Instagram’s response to TikTok. With fun video effects, you can create educational or just entertaining 30-second videos. The best part of Reels, at least at the time I’m writing this post, is that Instagram is giving special treatment to these video clips as they are trying to get more people to catch on.
When you record a Reel video, it goes onto your feed with a special Reels icon. People can click on the Reels icon on your profile (under the highlight buttons) to watch more of your Reels, and better yet, if someone is watching a Reels video from someone else, Instagram will prompt them to watch more Reels (from other people) and your content is more likely to be found. [Read more on the differences between TikTok and Reels HERE]
This is your space for Long-form video. Let’s just say that this is Instagram’s response to YouTube. Anytime a video post goes over 60 seconds it will show the first 60 seconds in your feed and then have the KEEP WATCHING option that takes people to the IGTV section of your profile.
If you are creating long-form educational and informative video content, this is a great way to share it. After loading it on your feed and in your IGTV, you can make a short story to promote it. It creates a web of links crisscrossing from one area of Instagram to the others.
Now we can dive into the different parts to each post.
On your grid posts, you have lots of room to write, versus your stories, you can put some text (more like a headline) across the image or video, but let’s look at these 3 parts:
What helps you build the “know, like, and trust” factor on Instagram is your ability to connect with your followers. In your grid posts you have the opportunity to start a conversation—to share something and ask questions. This is your caption or copy.
You have a sentence and half before the READ MORE is shown, so make sure you have a strong headline or enticing first sentence. Your content can be broken into two types–CONVERSION-focused (education or informative with CTA) or CONVERSATION-focused (telling a story). You have 1,000 characters in this section.
Start your caption with one of these:
Question – “What can you do to make up income in 2021?” “Have you wondered how to build an online community from the ground up?”
Cliff Hanger – “Last year I made $350K doing this one simple thing” “My business chugged along until I made this one change”
After writing your post ask yourself these 3 questions:
Would my perfect customer find this INTERESTING or HELPFUL?
Are you giving them a reason to take action or respond? Have you asked for a response or call to action? Never leave the conversation hanging with “Fun time with our team.” Ask a question or tell people what you want them to do next. Don’t just say “LINK IN BIO” or worse… don’t put an unclickable link in the post! No one is going to do that kind of work! Give specific instructions: “If you’d like to join our group, click the link in the bio to get started today!” Or “To see how this actually works, click the video link in my bio and be amazed!”
Does it explain who I am or what I do?
Instagram started out as a photo editing platform with beautiful filters making even your boring backyard pics look as if it was a magical wonderland. It wasn’t until marketers got ahold of the platform that we saw the immediate decline in quality of photos.
People started posting horrific colored squares crammed with text promoting their products and services, and cringe-worthy stock images that turned Instagram into a virtual junkyard!
Images are the key on Instagram. Photos of people work best, and if they show your eyes and smiling face, you will see those get the most attention.
Look at any account that gets real engagement on Instagram, and you will notice they are filled with the person’s face or the brand’s products and users of the products up close.
I’m not saying you can’t use stock images, but make sure they are beautiful and fresh. Not the corny images of a sales team in business suits running on a track—JUST STOP THAT! [For help on finding better images, read STOP USING CRAPPY IMAGES]
We all have amazing cameras on our smartphones today so there is no excuse for not having good photos available. Get in the habit of snapping 5-10 images per week that you can use somewhere down the line on your social posts. You can load a single image or up to 10 in a carousel post. These are the posts that have dots underneath the images showing you how many you can swipe through to view.
As painful as it is, you need to take loads of photos of yourself and your team in action (drinking coffee, texting, typing at a desk, looking up at the sky or out a window in deep thought, chatting with someone). If you are stumped and don’t know what kind of images to take, download our 55+ photo shot ideas—Ultimate Photo Shot List to get you going.
Get closer than you think you should. Show the details of things- macro images on Instagram do very well. Instead of showing an item of clothing you are selling, zoom in and show us the buttons or quality stitching. Instead of your whole office, zoom in, and show us something on your desk.
We typically think of Instagram in squares. The photos that get posted on your “grid” or main profile are seen in batches of 9 squares, HOWEVER… when someone is scrolling through their newsfeed on Instagram, you can have your image show up in PORTRAIT mode (1920 x 1080 instead of 1080 x 1080). Just like posting an image to your stories, that portrait mode will take up more real estate, and hopefully grab more attention – Instagram will crop it on your grid so be sure to put your main image in the center. Since marketing is all about testing and tweaking, do some testing on this with your images and see for yourself.
Ok, you may need to sit down for this one… When it comes to frequency of posting on Instagram, daily is not necessarily the BEST for your feed (grid). I know… mind blown right there!
If you are a professional photographer, and you have thousands of beautiful images to share, you might be an exception here, but Instagram is a very visual platform, and just throwing up junk stock images or text-covered visuals is a complete waste of your time.
If you can create better images a few times a week you will have a more beautiful and well-balanced grid to represent your brand. If you have loads of great content, then go for it, but keep in mind that the Instagram algorithm favors NEW CONTENT, so it will continue to show your post for 48-hrs+/- unless you post again shortly after, then the new post will take over. We always suggest testing things in marketing, so do another test here. For a month, post each day and then the following month, post every 2-3 days. Gather some data and then make that decision for yourself.
As you plan your content, keep in mind you don’t want it to all be promotional. Most people get stuck here wondering what type of content to actually post. We have a monthly service for folks who need caption prompts that can be customized and come with fabulous images for Instagram. Check out DIYsocial for more information.
I have 8 categories listed here that we use when writing content in our DIYsocial program as well as for our clients. These should get the ideas flowing for you. At the end of this post, I have a sample content calendar that you can copy and use if you find it helpful.
Categories of Posts
ME/TEAM – These are the nice images you either have a photographer take or you collect [download our 50+ images you need…]. They are photos of your team or yourself in different settings. People love seeing faces and these posts will generally do better than most others.
HOME– Family, pets, cooking, sitting by the fire, etc. These posts are for you to share a little about yourself and things you enjoy doing on the weekend or evenings. You certainly don’t have to share photos of your kids or personal life, but if you can let your hair down a bit, it will draw people in.
LIFESTYLE– Coffee, Tea, Cocktails, Food (real or stock image). You are not necessarily talking about coffee or cocktails but perhaps you are sharing something about your day, or your business. Think of these posts as if you were meeting your prospects or clients for coffee or cocktails and having a conversation.
WORKSPACE– Flat-lay images of your desk, journals, computer or tablet, etc. Clean up that workspace and show people where the action takes place!
PROMOTION– a clear promo post telling people how they can work with you and what you can do to help them. Promote your podcast, new product, classes or service offerings.
BOOK or PODCAST What are you reading or listening to? Show photos of books and podcasts along with a nugget or two that you think others will find helpful or interesting.
QUOTES– Do you have a quote that speaks to you or inspires you? Don’t fill your feed with just text, but when you have a quote or funny quip that moves you… share it with your community.
EVENTS or TRAVEL– Whether you host events, attend events or just love to travel. These can be posts and images to share that love of learning.
Lastly, let’s talk about hashtags!
Hashtags allow people to find content they are interested in and therefore the more you use, the greater the opportunity for more people to find your content. Here are 4 tips for using hashtags on Instagram:
Use 30 on all posts…that’s right THIRTY! The more you use, the greater the opportunity for people to find your content. If you can’t think of 30 hashtags right away, start a list and continue to add to it.
Create a few lists and then you can copy and paste them into your posts- don’t use the same group of hashtags on each post—mix it up.
You can place your hashtags at the end of your caption, or in the first comment. There is a reason for this inconvenient action. Hashtags are hyperlinks so if they are in your post, you may be sending people off of your post and onto other people’s content. They can still see your hashtags in the first comment but by the time they are in your comments they are either commenting or at least reading your comments.
Pay attention to how many people are using that hashtag—If there are too few (12 people using that tag), the hashtag isn’t going to attract anyone, and if there are too many people using a hashtag (20 million), your post will be lost in the masses. Do some research and aim for hashtags between 100,000 and 2 million.
If you have survived reading this resource post, you certainly have what it takes to persevere and the stamina to stay consistent with your Instagram marketing strategy. If your head exploded halfway through this post and you need help managing it all, reach out to our team…it’s what we LOVE TO DO!
Be sure to connect with us on Instagram @SocialKNX and let us know what your biggest take away was. We’ll share your post in our stories and love you forever!
Blogging Services Blogging has become one of the most powerful SEO tools for businesses. Fresh content filled with keywords and searched for answers coming from your site on a regular basis. Whether you are creating the blog posts and need help optimizing them and...
The homepage of your website invites visitors to “join our mailing list” or “subscribe” and yet there is nothing on your site that evokes enough trust for people to want to give away their contact information.
How can you begin a relationship with your potential customers the moment they land on your website? We have 6 tips to help you start establishing trust:
If you want to earn someone’s trust, offer to help them … for free. Provide helpful resources, informative articles or blog posts, and invitations to contact you to help further. This is the stuff that relationships are built on. After all, if I find you to be smart and helpful with your website content and then I decided I need to hire a team, why would I go anywhere else? You don’t have to “sell me” on what you can do if you show me first how helpful you are.
Be sure your website copy isn’t all about you. If all the reader sees is you talking about you and how great you say you are, they probably won’t stick around for long. Often a website will look as if it were written by Captain Obvious, giving general information but offering nothing that shows that this company is uniquely qualified to help. “We are the best, most innovative solution-oriented…”
Your website copy should talk about your customers and the solutions you offer. Pack it with answers to customer’s most pressing questions about your products, services, and industry.
Does your copywriting match the personality of your brand? Does your website copy have a personality at all? When your copy sounds like a robot wrote it (or a really bad SEO company wrote it to appease the Google gods), or if it sounds like a technical manual, it will not engage the reader and evoke trust. When your writing is more conversational and very targeted, your reader will feel as if you are speaking directly to him.
So often web copy is written in an overly formal or technical tone. Write your website copy with a personal tone as if you are writing to a friend. I like to imagine sitting across the table from a good friend who has asked me for advice. If your friend asked you for advice, would you respond with “We set the industry standard for responsive customer service”? I hope not! Speak to your potential customers as friends. [See our recent post: Relationship Building with Your Buyer Persona]
Whether your business is made up of only you, or you have a team of 500, find ways to let your potential customers know who they will be working with. If your website is filled with only stock photos, and worse, most of them the corny stock images you see on every other website, the reader will question who they are actually dealing with or if you are a legit company at all. (If you have any of those images of perfectly diverse teams of smiling people giving each other a high five around the boardroom table, just know that we all know they’re not your real team members!)
Trust is built through transparency and authentic communication. Use real photos or at least a good mix of them on your website. There are so many great photo sources today, that there really is no excuse to use those horrible and very dated images on your website. [see our list of resources on: Stop Using Those Crappy Images On Your Website
If you feel you have to wait to share a photo of yourself until you color your hair, or lose 10 pounds, or buy a power suit, it’s time to get over that and realize that you can change out photos as often as you’d like. Stop waiting…get those photos loaded on your site.
While we are talking about getting real, let’s talk about posting some video on your site of you and your team answering the most frequently asked questions or interviewing customers and other experts. Video is the fastest way to establish trust if you can’t meet and spend time face-to-face. Don’t make them too overly-produced or they look like commercials that are trying to sell us something. Customers want to get to know you and like you. Video is a great tool to accomplish this.
WHAT DO OTHERS THINK ABOUT YOU?
You can tell me all day long how amazing you and your team are, but if I hear it from another customer of yours, it’s more believable. Share client testimonials and quotes. If they allow you to share their name and photo with the testimonial, it’s best. If you are using “Jane E” alongside a stock image of a businesswoman that just might be on that web visitor’s website, you’re busted!
Social proof comes from the mouths of others, not you. Sharing quotes, case studies, and video snippets from clients you have worked with will establish trust much faster than a paragraph of snappy copywriting about you.
Links to your social media accounts can also add to this social proof if you have people talking about your products and services there. Perhaps you have reviews left on Google My Business, Yelp, or even Facebook. Take a screenshot of those reviews and place them on your website.
SHOW WHERE YOU’VE BEEN FEATURED
Have you shared your expertise on other websites or on media outlets? Be sure to post those videos, links to podcast interviews, or even the logos to those media outlets you have been mentioned in or had articles or posts featured in. (Pro tip- put the logos in black and white to avoid issues around copyright infringement) You want to show that others trust you and so can your new viewers.
The original HTTPSprotocol was released in 1995 (Secure Socket Layer, or SSL, in case you’ve wondered what it actually stood for), and it enabled companies to handle credit card transactions online by protecting your payment details and helping to prove that the merchants you visited were who they said they were. Today many of the top search engines require you to have that SSL certificate on your site whether you deal with eCommerce or not, just to help weed out the riffraff spam sites. If you get the error message warning you that a site is not secure and to TURN BACK, you can relax a bit. Your computer is not about to explode. It’s just letting you know that the site you are trying to reach doesn’t have an updated SSL certificate.
To ensure your customers and readers don’t see that frightening warning message, make sure you have an updated SSL certificate. Most hosting companies can add that to your site for free or a small fee.