Why do you need professional photos on your website?

Tips for taking your own photos for social media and how to avoid copyright issues….

I am really pleased to bring you a guest blog by Pennie Withers of Photos By Pennie.

Are you having a new website built for your business? Or perhaps you have a great looking website, but are looking to freshen it up? Either way – you will need some cracking, beautiful website photos to really give it that WOW! Factor. You may also need photos for your social media posts.  Read on for some top tips as to how to get the best photos for your business.

Now obviously, I’m hoping you’ll look at my website (that’s http://www.photosbypennie.co.uk by the way!), immediately pick up the phone and book me for your business photos. However, even if you don’t book me, I would love to at least be able to convince you WHY you need professional photos on your site (and while I’m on my soap box, on your social media too!). If I’ve piqued your interest…..here’s why:

Apparently, our brains react differently to visual stimuli. This is because the brain deciphers images instantly, whereas words take more time to process. Photos or images are in fact, processed 60,000 times faster than text.

So – why should this matter to you?

Well, you can spend hours and hours creating a new website with fantastic, eloquent words, but I hate to break this to you, people rarely read website content word for word. However, have fantastic, professional photos on there and immediately, you are creating the impression that your business is professional. The photos reinforce your brand, they can show what you have to offer and in a nutshell, enable your business to create the right impression. In turn, people will want to do business with you. That’s good, right?!

On top of this – don’t forget that if you have a set of professional photos of your business, you can also use them in your social media. It’s a win:win – 2 jobs for the price of one! And if you don’t believe me, here’s some figures…..According to Media Blog – tweets that include a photograph, are 35% more likely to be retweeted. Add to this the fact that Facebook posts that have a photograph in will obtain on average, 87% more interaction. Make sense?

In case you’re not convinced, look at the photos below.  My client was Alison Harmer, a copywriter and. She was having a new website built and didn’t want generic stock images. So, we spent a couple of hours setting up specific shots and hey presto…..a unique website with striking professional photos. http://harmereditorial.co.uk/

So – hopefully you’re now fully convinced of the need for professional photographs on your website and social media posts. If you’d like to have a chat about how I might be able to help you, please give me a call on 07715 889457 or click here to send me an email.

While you’re here however – I promised to give you some tips for topping up your professional photos with some of your own which you can use on your blogs and social media posts. So, here goes:

Tip 1 – The rule of thirds: images where the subject is off centre are always much more interesting.  Divide your camera frame into 9 squares (see below) and place your subject on one of the intersecting lines – instantly your photo will look much better. E.g.;

Tip 2 – Use leading lines to create interest in your shot.  So – a bit like the rule of thirds, you are basically just making your shots that little bit more creative than just photographing from straight on. Here are some examples where things like walls, horizontal lines and a pathway are used to add that interest:

Tip 3 – Do NOT use flash!  If you are using a phone, the  flash is never any good and the photos end up looking really rubbish.  So – take my advice, take your photos on overcast days – you won’t get any shadows or rings under the eyes.  Or – if you can’t avoid a bright, sunny day, head for some top-shade.  This is created either by doorways or under trees.  Your subject will still be lit beautifully but won’t be blinded by the sun.

Tip 4 – on the same subject as top 3 (i.e. – lighting….) try to shoot your photos during the ‘golden hour’.  This is the time either shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which almost all photos look absolutely gorgeous.  (Think those holiday photos early evening when the sun is going down). E.g.:

pic 7

Tip 5 – Control Exposure. This is fairly limited on smart phones, but can still make a big difference. On I-phones when you have a photo you’d like to take, simply tap and hold the screen and you will see a slider, which allows you to increase/decrease exposure, and lock it. This can also lock focus – so you can decide what is in focus and what is not.

Tip 6 – minimize your editing effects. I’m a sucker for a filter on Instagram, and it can be fun to apply them but before you do it, ask yourself is it necessary?  Is it possible they detract from the image?  Sometimes, a simple crop, good lighting and composition are all that is necessary. Here is a photo that has been edited way too much!

pic 8

Finally, Tip 7 – Keep your lens clean! It may sound really obvious, but you’d be amazed what I see…..your phone sits in your pocket, your handbag, on your desk etc. and gathers finger prints and goodness knows what else in the process.  Before you take a photo – give it a little wipe and you’ll be guaranteed crystal clear photos every time!

pic 9

And now onto the thorny subject of Copyright.

When a professional photographer takes a photograph, they own the copyright.  Unless they explicitly give over the copyright (usually in return for a fee), they retain it.  All the images that I take are supplied to my clients with a full and unrestricted license to use them in any media over any time period. I retain the copyright ALWAYS. I have never found this to be an issue with any of my clients and indeed, have been fortunate enough never to find anyone using any of my images without permission.

One question you may ask however is, how can you find professional photos which you don’t have to pay for.  Whilst I wouldn’t particularly want to encourage this (!), I have to accept that sometimes there is a need for this kind of thing.  So – here are a few suggestions.

Dreamstime.com – you may have to pay for some of these, but they also have free ones. Pixabay – there are also some Shutterstock images on their site, which you must pay for but that is how they finance offering free ones. FreeImages.co.uk – this site is financed by paid for advertising however again, the images are free.

So again, I hope this was useful.  If you have any questions or would like to have a chat about photographs for your website or social media, do give me a call on 07715 8895457 or drop me an email on pennie@photosbypennie.co.uk.

Is your LinkedIn profile working for you?

When I ask for a show of hands for how many people have a LinkedIn profile it normally has a good response.  After all, at some point or another we have all signed up for a profile.  However, the question is – are we really taking this social media platform seriously?

Here are some statistics I have recently found on-line:

  • There are approximately 467 million users worldwide with 258 million in Europe/Africa.
  • 71% of professionals feel LinkedIn is a credible source for professional content.
  • 80% of all B2B leads that come from social media are from LinkedIn
  • Nearly 50% of LinkedIn members have decision making authority for their companies.

So, I think it is clear that LinkedIn is THE social media network for professionals.

Many people have no idea what LinkedIn is supposed to be used for or how they might benefit from being on it.  That is why there are so many abandoned profiles that haven’t been updated since they were created.

Here are my top tips for updating your profile so that you can start taking advantage of the power of LinkedIn.

Put a face to a name

I am sure you have all heard this before but first impressions count so make sure you have a professional profile picture.  Members that do have a picture receive 14 more views than those without.  But it is important to make sure that the photo really represents who you are.  Let me give you an example. I recently met someone who used to have a senior corporate role but now is a driving instructor.  His picture on LinkedIn was ‘suited and booted’ and did not reflect the image he was trying to create as a friendly, approachable instructor.

Create a punchy headline

Your headline is the first thing people will see after your picture.  It defaults to your current position but you can edit it.  You need to think about including keywords and make sure that it speaks directly to your target audience.  Don’t restrict yourself to one company or title – let your audience know who you are at your very core

Contact Information

You want your target audience to be able to contact you right?  So, have you filled out all the information in the contact section?  Make it easy for people to get in touch.  You can also add up to 3 websites so don’t forget to include not just your company website but your blog and your Facebook page as well.

Tell your professional story

Demonstrate your expertise in the summary section.  This is a great way to tell your story of why you are motivated to do the work you are doing.  You have up to 2000 character so you don’t need to restrict yourself but do remember to use keywords and phrases. This will help improve visibility on LinkedIn and Google search results.  Be aware though, that only the 1st two lines are visible on your profile so make sure they work the hardest to encourage someone to read more.

Showcase your work

Nothing shows your quality of work to potential business contacts better than rich tangible examples.  LinkedIn allows you to upload or link to work such as blog posts, presentations, images and websites, and give people a reason to engage with you. So think what visual content you could use.

So why not log into your LinkedIn profile today and do some small updates that could make a big difference.

Look out for my next blog focusing on what you can do to engage with your audience.

You may also be interested in my blog – Are you making all your testimonials work for you? This has a great tip for adding written testimonials to your LinkedIn profile. https://littleacornmarketing.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/are-you-making-all-your-testimonials-work-for-you/

Got any questions?  Please email karen@littleacornmarketing.co.uk

Email – the dreaded ‘delivery status notification (failure)

This week I am welcoming my first guest blogger – Holly Thorne from Virtual Angels

UNDELIVERABLE: your email

Imagine: you’ve spent ages composing an email. Pressed send and then… in a matter of seconds, back comes the dreaded ‘delivery status notification (failure)’.  That’s not so bad if it’s just one email, but what if you’ve just sent your latest email campaign and it’s not just one bounce but a large percentage of your campaign list.  You might be losing out on valuable customers.

Contact details can be wrong for many reasons; the details were recorded incorrectly; the person has moved roles or companies; or maybe they’ve changed their name.  These are just some of the reasons but what can you do to keep information up to date?

Set up a Database

Create a database or consider signing up to a CRM system that’s suitable for your business.  If your contact details are all in one place, you’ll know where to find them. Many CRM systems can now integrate with your emails or other marketing tools to make updating contact information even simpler.  With a contact database you can make notes or create tags so that you can record information such as when you last contacted someone, their preferred name or where you met them.

When choosing a system, consider if you require restricted access (e.g. logins with password access), multiple user logins or customisable fields. If using an online CRM system, check where your data will be stored and how it will be kept safe.

Your contact database should be your ‘single source of truth’ when it comes to contact information and if you have other team members, you need to ensure they know this too. That way, if you’re off sick or a member of staff leaves, the rest of your team can still find relevant information – so contacts are still contactable.

Back it up!

If you’re keeping an electronic database, back it up at least once per week. Ensure the backup is secure and cannot be accessed by people who should not have access to it.

Maintain and Update

It’s really important that you regularly review and update your contact database, also known as ‘data cleaning’. The best trick for this is little and often – spot check contact records and as soon as you become aware of any changes, update them.

If someone’s email bounces, make a note of it the first time. If it bounces again, try contacting them in a different way to see if they are still using that email, or if they have an alternative one they would like you to use.

Ultimately, you can have the fanciest CRM system in the world, but it you don’t have good quality data you may as well have a carrier bag messily stuffed full of business cards!

Finally – The Data Protection Act 1998 outlines your legal obligations when you hold information. This includes keeping personal data accurate and up to date. If you’re unsure of your obligations, check out the ICO website for more information.

If you would like to learn more about setting up a CRM system, Holly would be happy to chat with you.  Her email is holly@virtualangels.co.uk.

So what shall I post today?

How long have you been sitting looking at your computer screen, totally lacking any inspiration?

Constantly thinking of new content to post onto your social media platforms can be daunting if you are not great at planning ahead.  You want to keep your followers engaged whether on your Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn or in fact any social media.

Don’t worry help is at hand. Here are six ideas to get you kick started.

  1. Images – people love visual content. This is a great way to showcase your products or services. Photographs will increase visibility and help potential customers get more familiar with what you offer. Think – is there a picture you can take today and post?

Not everything has to be specifically related to your company’s product or services.  Do a google search for something inspirational that would be relevant to your audience.  There are some great free photo editing websites that allow you to overlay text on an image – perhaps add a quote or thought for the day.  I really like PicMonkey and Canva

  1. Guest posts – how about a collaboration? You can swap posting with people for a day so that you have the opportunity to get in front of a different audience.  Think about some people you could approach who would complement your business.
  1. Questions – do you ever ask a question or ask for feedback? It is a great way to get audience engagement and increase your reach.  Recently I saw a friend posting about the launch of their new website and asking for feedback. She was inundated with comments, likes and the post was shared several times.  Is there something you could ask?
  1. Links to your blog – if you invest time in writing a blog then you want to get the maximum mileage out of your content. Look back and see which blogs are still relevant and share again.  Have you posted them onto LinkedIn as an article? This has the benefit of then appearing on your profile.
  1. Events – are you hosting an event? Have you set up an event page on Facebook? This automatically generates a post and you can share the link on other platforms.  If you are attending an event give it some visibility by sharing the event information, using the event hash tag etc.
  1. Don’t forget to regularly check out your incoming social media updates. Retweeting on twitter is a quick way of posting.  Can you add a comment or reply?  Sharing a post on Facebook is easy and shows you appreciate what people are posting.  You are more likely to then have your posts shared too!  Take a look at your page feed with posts from pages you have liked. Is there something you could share right now? Remember it is nice to like content too and add a comment!

Hopefully this had given you some fresh ideas for posting on social media.  Obviously it is not an exhausted list.  Check out my previous blog  https://littleacornmarketing.wordpress.com/2015/06/11/help-i-dont-know-what-social-media-content-to-post/ for some more ideas. Do you have any other suggestions for things that have worked really well for you?

To discuss how to generate a social media content calendar please get in touch on 07988 676219 or karen@littleacornmarketing.co.uk

Are you making all your testimonials work for you?

As a business owner you will know that LinkedIn is a great B2B social media platform and an excellent place to showcase your experience. One key way to do this is by having recommendations. These are totally independent but unfortunately they do have their limits.

You can only be given a recommendation by another LinkedIn member.  For many of us this is absolutely fine but for some businesses this can be very limiting.  It maybe the nature of your work is confidential or perhaps your clients are just simply not on LinkedIn. For example if your clients were predominantly aged 65 plus.

So what can you do if this is the case for your business? This is a question I am commonly asked when training on LinkedIn.

Well LinkedIn now allow you to attach files to you profile.  This means that you can still ask for a recommendation and attach it to your relevant work experience section or even your main profile summary.  Your clients can give a written testimonial, anonymously if necessary which you can scan in to your computer.

Whilst in ‘edit mode’ on your profile, just click on the symbol highlighted below and follow the instructions for uploading a file.

add document to LinkedIn Profile

So why not look back in your files – have you got a fabulous client testimonial that is gathering dust? Scan it today and get it up on your LinkedIn profile!

If you would like more tips on LinkedIn I am running my next workshop – LinkedIn for the Small Business Owner on 28th April 2016.  For more information click here.

The power of the spoken word

I spend a lot of time crafting written communication that has maximum impact, whether that be copy for a website, a case study or perhaps social media posts.

However last week I felt like a fish out of water when the communication became verbal not written, and even worse on video!

I consider myself a confident speaker and can happily stand up and present a 40 second business introduction or deliver a training course. But speak into a camera – nope that is way out of my comfort zone.

I was attending a Video Presenting Skills for Business course at Pinewood Studios with the aim of perfecting a 1 minute promotional video.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and I wanted to share some of the key things that I learnt.

There are 3 key elements of communication:

  1. The words you use – surprisingly not the most important part!
  2. Your tone of voice
  3. Body Language

When presenting you need to think about the most important words that you want to get across and make sure you emphasize them.

Don’t be afraid of silence – leave a pause – this can be very powerful.

Check your speed – even if you think you are speaking slowly the chances are you are not.

Even though you are not talking to someone in person you will be on video and the person will be watching you very closely. Look into the camera and be authentic, use eye contact.

Be passionate – it is your business so be proud!

And finally remember SMILE and your voice will too!

video presentation workshop

The course was run by http://www.tvtraining.org.uk/ and in conjunction with the 10-12 Business Club (Structured professional networking for business women) http://www.10-12businessclub.co.uk/

If you would like to learn more I would be happy to talk in more detail about my experience.  You can contact me via email karen@littleacornmarketing.co.uk

Back to basics – Communication

Get back to basics and communicate!

Get back to basics and communicate!

Over the years it has been fascinating to see how communications have changed and how we use language to communicate. I can remember spending many hours getting very frustrated with mail merge, printing off letters by the hundred and stuffing envelopes ready for post office. Now using systems such as Mailchimp we can send out correspondence to hundreds of contacts at the click of a button.

Even how we communicate with friends and family has changed. Once upon a time we would set aside time to write to a friend, probably having spent a lot of time at some point choosing just the right paper and envelopes. Now we send short text messages in ‘text’ speak, or quickly comment on or like a Facebook post. We even send birthday and Christmas cards electronically.

So have we evolved?  Sometimes I think we have abandoned traditional communication methods not necessarily for the best

That is why I am pleased to see that week commencing 21-27th Sept is National Thinking of You Week. The objective is to encourage people to ‘think’ of people they haven’t been in contact with and reach out to them. Do you remember the last time you sent a handwritten card or letter?  How do you feel when one arrives at home addressed to you? I bet you smile and feel just a little bit excited.

This doesn’t just have to be about friends and family. Think about your business – are there people on your database you have not interacted with for ages? Why not use this special week to focus a handful of contacts and connect back with them. Not by bulk email. Be daring – pick up the phone and talk! You really might be surprised at the results.