Posts

Make People See Your ‘It’, A 5-Step Approach

Here’s a short story on innovation from Seth Godin that I’d like to share. It brings home what we do and why it matters.

The sad, true tale of Otto Rohwedder'Wonder Bread' photo (c) 2005, Anthony Easton - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Otto Rohwedder invented sliced bread. He focused, like most inventers did, on the patent part and the making part.

The thing about the invention of sliced bread is this- for the first 15 years after sliced bread was available no one bought it, no one knew about it. It was a complete and total failure.

And the reason is that until Wonder came along and figured out how to spread the idea of sliced bread, no one wanted it.

They found that the idea of sliced bread like the success of almost everything is not always about what the patent is like, or what the factory is like, it’s about can you get your idea to spread, or not.

Ideas that spread, win.
(story as told by Seth Godin, SethGodin.com/sg)

 

I love this story and most things from Seth Godin. From a brand and social media perspective, he’s dead on. I think most people in medium to large-sized companies understand this story and how it relates to what they do quite easily. Medium-large-sized businesses usually employ agencies that help them ‘think out of the box’ and ‘stand out in the crowd’. They spend a lot of time and energy doing exactly that. At least that was my experience working with Cargill and Kimberly Clark. If you run a small business, I think it’s more difficult to understand where this fits in and how to act upon this little piece of wisdom.

Small businesses simply do not have the budgets to employ a New York or even an Appleton, WI ‘agency’. So what do you do?

1- Start by learning to understand your business from the ‘outside’.

How do your clients view your business? Take your blinders off. How do they see you in comparison to your competition?

2- How do you want them to see you?

Is there anything as special as ‘sliced bread’ about you or your business? What’s your niche?

3- Are you capitalizing on any special niche you have?

Pull together a small group of trusted clients, friends and family. People who care enough to be candid with you and care enough to get their heads around what you’re trying to do. Brainstorm on ways to stand out. Be remarkable. Be bold!

4- Put a plan into action.

Decide which idea or ideas you want to try out. Remember, the best ideas are not necessarily the most expensive. Don’t worry if your first attempts are not perfect. Wonder Bread probably didn’t get it right the first time either.

5- Evaluate.

Keep an eye on who and how many people are involved with your idea. Is it spreading? No? Then change it up. Do something different. Yes, it is spreading? Change it up again. Improve on what you’re doing based on feedback. Your audience expects and deserves it.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

The Dark Side Of The Cloud

I am often asked what cloud computing is. Most people know the buzzwords: working in the cloud, move to the cloud, life in the cloud, etc. Technically speaking, Wikipedia says cloud-computing means using multiple server computers via a digital network, as though they were one computer. Cloud computing, like regular computing, can be broken up into three layers: infrastructure, platform and application. Each layer has it’s own issues in cloud computing. For the most part this blog discussion is about the application side of cloud computing –consumer and business applications, but the principles pertain to the other layers, too.Cloud application relationships

In plain terms, you can tell that you are dealing with cloud computing when you have access to applications and data from a network device (smartphones, iPods, laptops, etc.). Cloud computing differs from the classic client-server model by providing applications that are executed and managed via a web browser, without an installed software program required. Google docs and Facebook are examples of cloud apps that get used everyday worldwide without anyone giving it a second thought.

Still don’t get it? Here’s a great simple video explanation.

There is a Saleforce.com video that says their cloud computing solution does away with businesses needing to purchase and implement their own databases, office space, servers and business apps. They don’t have to hire the staff to support the infrastructure. They claim that businesses will experience lower costs, more scalability and offer better security. Indeed cloud computing is a great concept, similar in nature to the Internet itself, just more capitalized. It’s all about consumer power and the benefits of using shared resources and technology.

There is no doubt that cloud computing is the wave of the future. Stopping the growth of cloud computing would be like stopping Internet expansion. Cloud computing can provide some very solid benefits like: lower costs, increased reach, collaboration, easy and stable software updates, no capital expenses, and working remotely. But there is a dark lining to many cloud apps and I’ve found a few things people should be watching for when deciding which ones to choose. Here’s my list of things to consider.

1. Assess the software or service carefully and have ‘an exit plan’

I started a couple of years ago with a new free cloud-based service called iCyte. It’s a bookmarking site that allows you to annotate and organize your web searches. After about a year and a half into using this software, they started charging a monthly fee. I decided not to pay the fee, but found the best I could do to export my vast collection of data was to export it to a very messy .csv file (aka spreadsheet). Lesson learned. I don’t give up info, pictures, and/or even clicks until I find out if I can get that info OUT in a usable manner. Test it early.

2. Does it fit the scope of your business?

When I ‘tested’ Salesforce.com within a small business, I found that although it may have been a good solution for a medium-sized business that had database-knowledgeable staff ready to customize these apps, it was not as easy as they portrayed. Most small businesses would not have the know-how or man-hours needed to get Salesforce.com or many other cloud apps to work easily for them.

3. Sales guys never think about security

Although the sales guys may tell you that cloud computing is safer, the proof is in the news recently. From Citigroup to Sony, this article explains how, in fact, there is cause for great alarm and  describes the vulnerability of cloud computing.

4. How supporting is your support personnel?

Do they even have support personnel? Can you get a  REAL PERSON on the phone to help? One of the first things that I check before choosing a cloud computing vendor is who will be the support team and if it offers live support. Since I speak only American, then they need to, too. Simple as that. If they do not speak American English, as in the same syntax, slang, etc. then I know when I get frustrated with an issue that I will not be able to get my point across. I’ve tried and tried it and now it is simply –my choice.

5. Beware the ‘free trial’

After the ‘free trial’ is done, businesses that ‘tested it out’ find difficulty in recovering the info and getting it back in house. If it’s a one month or 3-month trial, BEWARE. The longer you use a trial, that you decide later is not worth it, the more time and data you have added to someone else’s software. I suggest, in the event of the trial not working out, that you first assess (see point #1) how you will export the info out of their site and back into your system OR run dual processes (work in both places) while you test their system.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

5 Social Media Must Haves

Here are the 5 things every business must do to build a community online and bring in clients via social media.

1. Website

It’s your web basecamp, start here.
Work in Progressphoto © 2006 Grant Kwok | more info (via: Wylio)

2. Blog, forum, or some way of delivering active audience-focused content.

I have a few clients that really do not want to blog. They know they should to get the best online results, but they do not have time to create a post daily, weekly or sometimes even monthly. Hmmm, what to do? Well, number one, you can try NOT calling it a blog. Call it News and Events, or Random Thoughts. It gives you the ability to post when YOU want to without hearing the tapping of your audience’s foot waiting for a post sent out at strictly timed intervals. Sure, you might not get astronomical SEO, but you will get the liberty of posting at a time that is right for you and your business while still building your SEO. Forums, yes, forums. Great audience-generated content. Sit back and engage with your audience in a forum on your site. Glean that great content for use in blogs, I mean a ‘Random Thoughts’ column, new product ideas or your next promotion. Downside? Monitoring the forum for the wayword spammer or opinionated [expletive here] that maybe has ulterior motives or just wants to cause trouble. Other ideas? I’ve seen everything from ‘a quote of the day’ snippet to contests that involve the audience on a daily basis. I liked the later much more than the former. The key here is knowing your audience, using some imagination and creating something that entices people to involve themselves with your site regularly.

3. Social Media Networks

Facebook, Google, My Space, Google+, and Twitter are just a few of the networks where you may want to create a presence. Deciding which ones to join and how many you can be active with is a choice you will need to make, but usually the more the better.

4. Review Sites

Review sites like Trip Advisor, Yelp!, etc. are often overlooked, but surefire ways of getting great objective feedback. It’s always best when someone says something nice behind your back. They make it easy to ‘nudge’ those comments along with widgets that you can put on your website to show off your reviews. This is a free and easy way to make a big impact with your social network.

5. Visit the folks –other folks that is.

Find a forum or comment on someone’s blog (not your own) where your audience or fringe audience hangs out. You might learn what you should be doing and be able to offer some advice or help out. A couple of useful places to engage with an audience, whether niche or broad, is Quora and Alltop.

Integration

As you build this infrastructure, you’ll need to integrate as much as possible. From adding a Facebook ‘Like’ button to adding your website in your signature as often as possible there are countless possibilities for integration. The person that does this best wins.

At this point, someone usually says –“That’s it! That’s all you have to do.” Or “You can do this all yourself practically for free.” Yes, you can. But if you decide to do all this on your own when will you have time to produce your product or deliver your actual service? Now, might be the time that you realize that there are some things you do and some things you get help for. Give us a call today! We’ll set up a social media system that fits your talents, what you need and what you can afford.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

The Pluses and Pitfalls of Partnerships

Many entrepreneurs and startups would never have been formed if it weren’t for partnerships –as in dual ownership of a business entity. Many depend on one partner contributing capital, while the other contributes intellectual capital; some depend on complementary skill sets, some depend on sharing time spent working on the business and multiplying what working together can do. No matter your reason, think long and hard before going into a partnership with someone.
partnership agreementphoto © 2010 o5com | more info (via: Wylio)

The reality of a partnership is that they are just like marriages, but many times, without the long vetting process of a courtship. Just like a marriage the percentages of survival are often against you. And just like in a marriage, a partnership involves balancing a huge mix of issues like: division of the work, who is the final decision-maker, work styles, money decisions, egos, perceptions & promises, and stress. Then as time goes by, uncover the skeletons in that person’s closet and you start to see why, in reality, it may have been better to go it alone.

If you’re still set on a partnership as the only way of making your entrepreneurial dream a reality then I suggest the first thing you do is see a business lawyer to protect yourself and your interest in the business. One of the things they may have you work through is a partnership agreement similar to the one on our Resources page. Leave a comment for me below (no need to post your email address), if you’d like it sent to you as a word document. If you think through as many of these things as possible you will no doubt improve your odds. I’d also advise you to be on guard if your future partner wants to gloss over any of the points in the agreement. Items like number 11, amount of time contributed, or item 13, whose decision will prevail, should be considered for all potential possibilities, as they will undoubtedly become important as your business evolves.

One thing that is not mentioned in this list is the idea of ‘full disclosure’. No matter how long you’ve known the person or even if they are related to you, I recommend having a background check done and credit score pulled for all involved parties. Finding out months into a partnership that your partner isn’t exactly what they claimed to be can be a rude shock and game changer, better to find out right away.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Small and Medium-Sized Business Tips On Raising Your Brand

I posted this article late last fall and today I think it needs repeating. Since posting, I’ve come to realize that small and medium-sized businesses have difficulty understanding the need of developing a recognizable brand. Why would Harry’s Garage in Green Bay or The Little Doz’ Inn in Appleton, WI need a brand? Because it pinpoints what you provide in images, words and actions. It helps your customers understand why and how you are different from your competition. It gives you a chance to stand out from the crowd. In today’s tough economy, how can that NOT be important?

Like Raising A Child, It Doesn’t Happen Overnight.

Building a brand is a little bit like raising a child. You start with a baby, an infant. You really might not feel much of an attachment right away, but slowly something magic starts to build. You feel something. You form that malleable little being into something that models yourself and those around you. You help define their morals, their judgement, their humor. It’s the same for a brand as it is with a child. Now, your child isn’t full-grown for many years, sometimes kids never grow up; the same with brands. Budget-wise you may spend a lot on both children and brands, but it is done slowly over time and just like with children you usually know pretty quickly when your money has been well spent. If you do it right, you’ll see it as the best money you’ve ever spent, giving you rewards far into the future.

Below is the original article from last fall, let me know what you think.

Wait! Don’t Forget Your Brand!

It’s hard to handle everything during the launch of a dynamic inbound marketing strategy, but don’t forget your brand along the way. It’s at the top of the marketing priority list of every successful business. Take Apple, for example. When a person buys an iPad or Mac they are buying the appeal, design and support of the Apple brand. They know it will be trendy and cutting edge. It will make them feel cool. That is the power of good brand creation and alignment.
future apple brand whorephoto © 2005 james keller | more info (via: Wylio)

Every marketing dollar you spend should support your brand. It’s how you stand out. It adds value to your product or company that can be measured in dollars. The brand is the story you tell people about what you provide. Below is a short overview on branding and some tips to be sure you don’t overlook your brand as you launch inbound marketing efforts.

A brand

• Expresses your company name and essence visually through a logo

• Extends throughout an organization’s communications and includes all functions of a company, product development through sales, as integral pieces of your brand

• Includes how customers perceive the company and the inherent value they place on your business

• Provides something that consistently draws attention and focus

• Is distinguished – your brand should give your audience something it wants but is not getting from your competitors

Defining your brand identity

• Determine your company’s positioning and core values

• Understand your strengths and weaknesses through honest analysis

• Know the why. Why will people want what your offer?

• Discovery — Getting to the brand’s essence takes introspection, participation and work.

Building brand equity requires a team that can create a consistent, predictable approach that stands out every time. No matter how brand efforts are scaled to fit the size and scope of the business, ignoring brand principles places businesses in peril and does not capitalize on its benefits. As a brand-experienced Inbound Marketing Coach, I would love the opportunity to help align your brand, while getting your inbound marketing efforts underway. Give me a call today!

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Vanity Suffixes For Your Domain, Small Businesses Need Not Apply

This week in Singapore, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is the Internet body that oversees domain names, voted to open the control of domain suffixes a.k.a. gTLD (generic top-level domains) like .com, .net, .biz, etc. In the past they have allowed a total of only 22 suffixes. Going forward, companies will be able to apply for their own “vanity” suffixes or top-level domains.domain-suffixes

Mom and Pop, hold on! Don’t get too excited, this is probably a little bit out of your league and whether that’s a good thing or not will likely be a matter for future debate. By and large, this should not affect business in Appleton or Green Bay, WI. Let me use an example, likely new suffixes will be .coke, .ford, .canon, and maybe .kc –you get the idea. This move by ICANN is designed for the BIG BOYS and the brands that can afford it, not small or medium-sized businesses.

How Are They Targeted for the Big Brands?

Prices start with a $185,000 non-refundable application fee, plus an additional $25,000 annually just to operate the registry. Ouch! Now, that will keep a lot of businesses out, won’t it? Add in the whole legal cost of paying off cybersquatters to protect those trademarks and maybe Mom and Pop should be happy not to have been invited to this game.

The first round of applications will begin acceptance from next January to April (2012) and start appearing on the Internet by the end of 2012. ICANN will require those applying show a legitimate claim to the name they intend on buying and are hiring hundreds of consultants to adjudicate all of these claims. For those that apply and get turned down, please note that I said ‘non-refundable’ above. That’s right, if you get refused on whatever grounds, you lose $185,000.

Internet interest has of course spiked within all of the social media networks for this subject. The main concern seems to be that corporate interests are once again winning out over the general populace. Some of the other concerns are: 1) user confusion on the URL structure, 2) that there will not be any way to validate URL structures or emails without trying first them, 3) how search engines may be further manipulated, 4) the introduction of offensive domains like perhaps .nazi. and finally 5) those that invested in expensive .com domains will find the value of these assets greatly diminished.

Time will tell if this is a good thing, a bad thing or if it truly even matters. Right now, it looks like our kids will someday wonder what a .com even was.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Who Should Be Your Next ‘Go To’ Employee?

“So I have a website –now what?” That is the question I often get when a client is asking why the website they either made themselves or ‘had a friend’ design isn’t getting any results. And I mean it –ANY RESULTS. So many small business owners are not getting the point. A website is only one piece of the online marketing puzzle but its potential to help your business is the secret to solving that puzzle. Your website is not the place to CHEAP OUT.
INTERNETS: ON/OFFphoto © 2005 mikael altemark | more info (via: Wylio)

Many entrepreneurial business people consider a website an afterthought and as not really that important to the success of their company. They are quickly being proven wrong. Inbound marketing which starts with having a website, is the most affordable method of marketing your business and is most likely to get you the best results. Using a pull strategy in Inbound, a.k.a. Online Marketing, you interact with people through many social media networks, then pull them into your online business realm via a website or social media platform specific to your business.

What a website isn’t

It should not be a static online brochure, a website that after you’ve given people your web address they can pull it up and… what? Gawk at it? Exclaim of its beauty? See all the ‘stuff’ you’re trying to sell? It should DO more than that.

So what should a website do for a business?

Kirt is beaming with new careerphoto © 2011 www.lancashire.gov.uk | more info (via: Wylio)

Every smart or lucky business has a ‘go to’ employee. Someone that takes on every challenge, is your best advocate, is the warehouse of much of your companys’ knowledge. That ‘go to’ employee, in this case, is your website and it’s vital that you prepare it for the challenge it is about to face. It will provide a foundation that you can use to venture into the social media network. This foundation should have SEO capabilities for every single thing that you publish. It should have reporting capabilities both short term and long term. It should nurture your leads or in other words help you convince consumers to buy or at least engage with your business. It should allow you to work the way you want to –either on a day-to-day basis or with scheduling far into the future. It should allow you and your business to grow.

What are the other pieces of this Internet puzzle?

“Build it and they will come” strategy may work for big brands like Disney, but if you have a small business, how are people going to find you? You need to chart out ‘how’ that is going to happen. Where are your potential customers now –online or off? What would make them visit you online –and keep them coming back? What would entice them into buying your offering?

Social Media sites

Sure, there is Facebook and it is not to be overlooked. But more specifically, there are social media sites that let you, as a small business owner, narrow your efforts to get closer to your niche. If you’re selling craft or gift items, then Esty.com may allow you the larger, targeted audience your business needs to sell successfully. For service companies, like automotive service or beauty salons, I like Yelp! Yelp! Is a review site for professional services offered in your area. Let your customers do the talking for you. That is far more powerful than tooting your own horn. For the travel industry, Trip Advisor is fast becoming the most respected of online travel sources because of the use of customer reviews.

Don’t forget email

internet explorerphoto © 2010 Sean MacEntee | more info (via: Wylio)

It’s not really glamorous, but small business owners should not forget email. Email offers a one-to-one relationship with your client and is of high value in the world of marketing, do not under-estimate its power. Plus, it’s affordable. Have you been collecting business cards for years and just use them to draw for a free dinner? It’s time to up the ante. Keep collecting those cards, but then start an email campaign that first gets them to ‘approve’ of you sending them these email messages from time to time. This would be called the ‘opt-in’. Then provides them periodic updates and offers to keep them interested and directly relating to your business over a period of time. Include links to your website that provides even more incentives and more info. An extra reason for keeping a solid email list is that it is an actual business asset. Think of it as an investment into your businesses future. –One more thing about email. Do you have your website address and social media handles at the bottom of your email signature? No? Do it today! It is a vital part of branding your business and should not be overlooked.

Integrate it!

With today’s popular mantra of “online marketing is where marketing is at”, one thing that seems to get overlooked, and is critical, is the integration of ALL your marketing efforts. On –AND Off line. Integration helps you get every bang for every buck. TV Advertising? Add in your web page. If you are planning on having a booth at a local farm market, be sure you have a brochure or business card that has your website on it –and maybe even add in how people may find extra value by looking your business up online.

Better yet, design a campaign that integrates some of the traditional advertising that you have done in the past and uses the website as a critical piece that drives excitement. Maybe it’s a TV campaign for a free prize that takes entries via your Facebook page, thus resulting in a large audience that ‘likes’ your site.

There are so many options and some, frankly, work better than others. Give us a call today, we’ll help you hone in on the audience you need and plan a strategy that will pull them to your business.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

In addition to building great dynamic websites, we do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

10 Things You Could Do Instead Of Going To Work Today

Beach Babyphoto © 2009 Marcy Kellar | more info (via: Wylio)

I’m on vacation at the beautiful boutique hotel of Posada Yum Kin in Tulum, Mexico. So while I’m whiling away my time walking the pristine beaches or snorkeling in one of the numerous cenotes in the area, I think you should take it easy, too.

Here are 10 things you could be doing instead of working. Ditch the job, just for the day!

  1. Go for a bike ride. Ride somewhere you’ve never gone before.
  2. Buy a fishing license. Take your gear and find that favorite fishing hole.
  3. Relax on your deck with a good book and as soon as it’s ‘noon somewhere’ enjoy a margarita.
  4. Rent a pontoon boat and lay out in the sun all day long.
  5. Plant your garden.
  6. Go see a matinee of that movie that you’ve wanted to catch.
  7. Visit your mom (and dad).
  8. Buy a kite and fly it as high as you can.
  9. Go for a long walk in one of your nearby parks.
  10. Plan a real vacation.

Life is short. As a friend of mine told me, “Don’t take life so seriously, it’s not permanent.”

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Attention, please

Chris Brogan

do not click here, not the video

Frazzled? Me, too. Leave it to Chris Brogan to help us find our ‘center’. Check out his short video entitled, “What Has Your Attention“. He sure set me straight. I think this is something that all entrepreneurs and small business folks struggle with. Sometimes there are so many choices of what you COULD do that you lose track of what you SHOULD do.

Now, it’s time to get down to work. I will do something that will make me profitable and happy. (Repeat 3 times softly)

My Focus

Here are five things I plan to do to make that happen; per his suggestion, three are work related and two are personal.

1. Write 3 blogs

2. Add a page to my web site, SocialEnergizer.com

3. Finish up with that ‘dangling’ client (you know the one that’s stuck and needs a gentle nudge)

4. Walk 1/2 hour

5. Pack for vacation

I’ll let you know how I do. How about you? What five things do you need to do TO GET THINGS DONE!

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

Free -and Legal- Images for Your Blog

Creative Commons Attribution Levels

from http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/

For basic tips on using images online, please see our blog, Image Basics for Bloggers, from last week.

What is Creative Commons?

In the past, buying photography was expensive and complicated. Royalties needed to be paid and photos were limited to many restrictions on how they could be used. Then along came Creative Commons in 2001, and everything changed. This non-profit corporation started with a cooperative effort between MIT and Harvard Law professors (among others) who realized that the digital revolution altered many past concepts on copyright theory. The ability to work collaboratively, globally, decentralized and create derivative works and collections that were low to no cost were all issues that were eased with the creation of Creative Commons licensing. Click on the following link for more information on Creative Commons licensing.

How do I use a Creative Commons image?

Things are much easier today in the world of social media and inbound marketing. How do you know if it’s legal and IF you’re placing it correctly?

  • Be sure the image you choose and the way you are using it, applies under the Creative Commons license category shown to the right.
  • Credit the photographer (a.k.a. attribution)
    • If saving the photo, add the contributors’ name into the file name of the image (when downloading or taking a screen shot).  example: pen_ParkerDuofoldNib_JanosFeher_Flickr.jpg
    • If using a link, HTML or BBCode, review the code to be sure the contributor’s name is included.
  • Link back to them when you can.

How do I find Creative Commons images?

Google Creative Commons

From Google Image interface

What do you need to do to add photos into your blog or website with little to no cost, legally? Here are a few suggestions.

Google Images offers an “Advanced Image Search” (found just to the right of the standard Google Image search button) that allows you to use images “labeled for commercial use” only. Just click on the blue link and a window similar to this Google image  appears. In a search for ‘pens’ you enter the word in the top field and make sure the “labeled for commercial use” is chosen in the field second from the bottom. Membership is not required. Attribution is required.

Flickr image options

from Flickr

Flickr has a nice interface for Creative Commons. You choose the level that works for you depending on if you blog to earn money or just for fun. To use an image in Flickr, you click on the bar above the image, as shown in this Flickr image, and grab the Link or HTML/BBCode. The problem with this is that the image is not physically loaded into your site, it’s called ‘hot-linked’ and means it is ‘linked’ to your site through the Internet and does not sit on your directly-accessible servers. Test it to see if your page takes too long to load. Membership is required. Attribution is required.

New, Wylio.com for Creative Commons Images

With all that said, THIS ONE GETS MY VOTE… Wylio.com!

Wylio.com

Wylio.com search for pens

Wylio is a slick, new image search engine that only searches for images offered under the Creative Common’s license. Users can be sure that all images offered are free for use. It’s a simple 3-step process: Search for an image, Resize and Position, and Copy and Paste the Code. Bloggers can easily grab the code to place in their blog posts, or for the low cost of $2.99 per month they can buy the premium version of Wylio.com and download the files.

Here’s the best part. Wylio inserts the photographer’s attribution into the code for you, no asking for permission, no wondering if you’re ‘covered’. Grab it and you’re done! With that said, I am testing this ‘hot-linking method’ today for download speeds and performance. Let me know, in the comments section below, if the pen image gives you any trouble. It is a ‘live’ test from Wylio.com.

Join the conversation on Twitter. How do you use images? Have you worried about your images?
Ballpoint Pensphoto © 2009 Jana Lehmann | more info (via: Wylio)

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