Which social media sites are best for your business?

social media with social squidsIt seems that every day a new social media platform arrives on the scene. Trying to figure out which ones work best for your business can be confusing. It does not matter whether your business is business-to-business or business-to-consumer. Here are some clues to help with the decisions.

Everyone can benefit from the mass appeal of Facebook and Twitter. There are so many people on these sites that you can use the shotgun approach to finding business. That is when you send you message to so many people, a percentage of them must be interested. You Tube also has a wide appeal, but you have to have to create interesting videos that people want to see.

If your business can show before and after” photos like home improvements, makeovers, dog grooming, etc., the more visually oriented platforms will work great. Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Vine are excellent ways to let the visuals do the talking. For businesses that are creative, like illustrators, photographers and web designers, the visually oriented apps are your best bet. Show off your work!

An accountant, lawyer or medical practice can benefit from using blogs. A blog can be more targeted, especially if you use appropriate bookmarking sites to spread the word. Blogs can have a mass appeal as well, especially if you have a topic that is appropriate for a wide audience. By offering tips, you let readers know you are an expert in your field.

All social media helps you get your business name in front of an audience every time you post. Conversely, if you only post occasionally, you are losing that audience. By using the right social media platforms, you will become a household name. Once that happens, people will begin to think of your business when they need to hire someone in your field or make a purchase.

Instagram, the inauguration and growing your business

make the most of instagramWhile those of us in Baltimore are still celebrating last night’s Ravens win, the rest of the country is getting watching the inauguration and enjoying MLK Day. According to CNN, this will be the biggest event in the history of Instagram. Never before have so many people been able to use their cell phones to send messages out to the while world.

As photo sharing programs grow in popularity, you too can take advantage of this media to share photos of your business. Millions of people are out there waiting to see your images. Make them interesting and engaging and you will surely succeed.

How do you accomplish that? One way is to add a comment that is a call to action. Pose a question that you hope will elicit responses. Put a photo of a product you sell and ask people about it. Try to make your photos interesting and not just a picture of an item with a plain background. Have someone hold it, shoot it from a bit of an angle, do something to make the photo come to life.

Blurry photos are never good. No matter what filters you add or what program you use, it will still be blurry. Take a little time to get it right.

A funny or amusing photo will often get people to comment or share the picture. Adorable animal photos are extremely popular as are funny baby pictures. Photo bombing pictures, where a person or animal seems to have popped up out of nowhere taking over the photo, are always a favorite.

If you are well-versed in Photoshop, it can make all the difference in the world. Using filters, special effects and cropping will enhance the picture. Effective use of Photoshop to add a humorous element to the photo will add a little magic to your image.

So on this inauguration day, think about ways you can engage and entertain your own audience with the passion that this day holds for Americans.

Instagram chief bends to pressure

instagram changing their policyThe people have spoken. After the deluge of people bombarding instagram over their recently announced policies to take ownership of all photos beginning Janaury 2013, they have scrapped the idea.

Instagram CEO, Kevin Systrom wrote, “The concerns we heard about from you the most focused on advertising, and what our changes might mean for you and your photos.”

While claiming that people misunderstood his intentions, Systrom continued, “Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010.”

Once again, this is proof of how powerful social media is. In just a matter of a couple days, the photo sharing app changed its plan. The announcement was made, people were appalled and began deleting the app or simply stopped using it.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, purchased the popular Instagram in 2012 for about a billion dollars in stock and cash. With over 100,000 million users, he could not afford for everyone to switch to another way to share photos.
Twitter is ramping up its photo sharing feature. It is now more flexible and user-friendly to compete with other apps. People can post pictures directly from the Twitter app. I often use this photo sharing feature when I am posting on Twitter.

When using a photo app to grow your business, there are so many options. During the past two days, I tried a number of other apps, but didn’t find anything that I liked as much as Instagram.

While Pinterest is a nice app, without the photo editing options Instagram has, it has a different focus. Pinterest is more about sharing photos you see on websites and less about promoting your own photos.

Since I am one of the multitude of Instagram users, I am thrilled that they will be changing their proposed plans. And I feel good about using the app again.

Instagram’s latest policy may cause them to go extinct

instagram will own photosAfter all of the great times we’ve had with Instagram, the latest news might be the end of the popular app. Starting mid-January, Instagram, which was recently purchased by Facebook, has the rights to use any photos posted on the app. They can even use the photos for the purposes of advertising their product or selling photos without even giving any credit to the person who took the photo. What’s up with that?

This is a perfect example of how social media can create change in a company. People have about a month to start bombarding Instagram with angry messages about how they want their photos to belong to them and not to be used or sold without compensation.

Recent updates have given more options to the Instagram app. They added another photo style and changed the look of the program. This is supposed to make it more attractive to users. But the idea of the program selling photos without compensating or even acknowledging their users seems a bit unfair. There are plenty of other companies, like Hipstimatic, will be happy to have new users switch to their product.

I noticed that a few of my Facebook friends posted that they closed their Instagram accounts today. National Geographic has suspended posting photos as of this evening. I have a friend who is a photographer for them and he makes crazy money on each photo. Knowing that Instragram can use photos for free that after they pay tons of money to their photographers is going to keep them from posting anything. Their pictures were honestly the most amazing things I’ve seen on Instagram [not including family stuff].

This situation is quite a big deal in the realm of social media. A lot of people promote their businesses by using this app, but are not going to give Instagram free access to photos they pay to use themselves.

You have until January 16, 2013 to quit using the app or accept the fact that your photos are no longer your own. There are other, not as popular photo apps, that can be used instead. Whether Instagram changes their policy may depend on complaints and whether or not people jump ship and stop using this app.

Twitter to make changes

What makes Instagram better than Twitter? Nothing soon! Twitter is going to add Instragram-like photo editing features to the mobile page putting it in direct competition with the well-known photo app. So, how does this help Twitter? It gives people more incentive to stay on the site longer.

Any time you stay on a site or app, they benefit. Advertisers have a better chance to grab your business. And, at the same time, they are taking business away from other mobile apps.

All of these apps are trying to one-up each other. Guess who benefits? We do, as consumers. The apps are becoming more sophisticated and provide new options, as people get more attached to them. Many apps come in and out of popularity, but Twitter has had staying power.

Right now, many people including Twitter VIPs, actors and athletes, are taking a photo with their phone, manipulating it in Instagram and then posting it to social media. By giving users the option to edit the photo right in the Twitter app, it saves a step. In the settings section, users can set up their Twitter page to post everything on both Facebook and Twitter. That saves social media people like me, precious time and effort. Removing the need for Instagram would make things even easier.

I’ve been a huge fan of Twitter from the first time I used it because of the 140 character limit. While some people see that as a negative, I love it. I feel like you should be able to sum up anything with 140 characters. It eliminates the fluff and reduces your message to the real facts.

Too bad social media can’t change the weather

While the weather can change social media, it’s too bad it can’t be the other way around. Of course, Hurricane Sandy is trending and so is FEMA while the wind whips around my house and knocks branches off the trees. Just as I typed this, a big gust of wind hit and my dog went flying upstairs to hide.

In Baltimore, we’re bracing for heavy-duty winds from now until about 2 a.m. I can only hope my power holds out through the worst of it. My neighborhood has above ground lines so we lose power quite often during bad storms.

Social media is obviously abuzz over this storm. Not only are people posting about power outages, weather updates, but crazy photos of Godzilla walking in New York Harbor and the State of Liberty with a ominous looking, swirling cloud have been Photoshopped. Don’t believe everything you see, people!

Some of us, who are considered technically savvy people, look at every photo with a little bit of skepticism. We’ve manipulated photos enough to look the way we want them that we are naturally looking for shadows that don’t all go in the same direction or other signs of photo altering.

Knowing that people are home from work, and surfing cyberspace to wait out the storm, gives some of us the opportunity to reach people who don’t always see what we post. And, it’s nice to know that I can look on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Google+ and see that my friends are “hunkered down” as Baltimore’s mayor told us to do. I’m sure all of social media is working with higher than normal traffic.

I can at least see that my friends and family members are okay, when they are posting status updates and photos or forwarding someone else’s photos. Surfing and reading, that’s really a relaxing thing to do while you are “hunkering down.”

Cross your fingers, offer a good thought and let’s keep spirits up during Mother Nature’s latest attack on us. She seems really pissed today.

Photo sharing fun

Have you purchased anything that needs to be assembled lately? If so, you might have noticed that many things do not have words in their instructions. It’s all symbols and drawing. Maybe it is because the products are sold all over the world, but I wonder if it is not something else. It seems that today, sharing drawings, photos and videos is becoming just as important as sharing the written word.

Choosing a way to share your photos has become a competitive industry. There are many from which to choose: Hipstamatic, Pinterest, Instagram or a host of other apps that allow people to share their smart phone photos with the world. They are all easy to use, for the most part.

Unedited on left, edited version on right.
Unedited on left, edited version on right.

Hipstamatic wants people to find that artist within themselves. Pinterest seems to concentrate on style and fashion. Instagram became popular as a way to share food photos. Millions of people are using them, deciding which one(s) to use is a dilemma. It seems like just when I get used to using something, it falls out of favor and another has come to take its place. At the same time, I do not want to neglect the people I have already made a connection with. I end up dividing my time and photos among various photo sharing options.

Most of the photo sharing apps will allow the user to edit, crop and change the lighting. Many can make the photo look old-timey, artsy or have some special effect that makes a poor quality photo appear like the photographer did it on purpose (always good for my sad photography skills). Photos can be imported from the phone’s camera roll or taken through the app, manipulated and then exported to other social media sites. It is a way for people to share photos of every aspect of their lives, which seems to be important these days.

Unedited on the left, edited version on the right.
Unedited on the left, edited version on the right.

And, 300 words in, I get to the point. You can drive prospective clients to your website, blog or other page with your amazing photos. Allow people to get to know your brand. Use descriptions with hashtags making your photos searchable. Follow people who are in your target audience. They just might follow back. You can add text to the actual photo in some apps. Add your website. Give the people a way to find your business.

People are making money using these apps by funneling business to their more serious website, Facebook page, Twitter page, Google+ or blog.

Take some photos and give it a try. Who doesn’t like taking pictures? I took about 20 photos while walking my dog the other way to give a new app a try (see above). It is a fun way to get your message to the masses and grow your business.

Instagram for fun and profit

instagram for business growthWhile I’ve been an avid user of many social media sites, I only recently started using Instagram. As a rival to Pinterest, businesses can take advantage of this very visual medium to spread the word of their brand. Unlike Pinterest, users can edit their photos.

Last night I went to a happy hour event to say goodbye to a friend who is moving out of town. It just so happened there was a big rally for the Ravens going on at the same time. I snapped a photo of a car – Ravens purple – on display. Not bad, right?

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, take advantage and start posting. Whether you have photos of people, movie stars, athletes, food pics, crafting projects, flowers or whatever – you can spread a message visually. Use this free service to grow your business. Think of all the images that define who you are and what you do. Then go take some pictures.

Just about everyone has a camera on his/her phone. With Instagram, you can add a little flair to your pics and make them look old-timey or change the warmth of the photo. Essentially, you can make fairly awful pictures look pretty good – or at least make them look artsy!

Instagram started gaining popularity as a business tool with chefs showing off their delicious food. If you have ever taken a photo of food, it generally looks terrible – unless you have professional equipment and great lighting. Using the various tools on Instagram, you can make your dinner plate look much more appetizing.

Just like with Twitter and Pinterest, you can add hashtags to keywords in your descriptions. You should use descriptions of the photos when using Instagram for business purposes to help people find you when they search keywords or terms.

WordPress and other websites have Instagram widgets that can add up to 20 photos onto your web page. This keeps your site ever-changing as you regularly update photos. We all know how much people love to see new content. It gives your clients a reason to keep checking back with your site or your Instagram page.