branding, Facebook, Instagram, small business, social media

5 Best Free Stock Photo Sites

Great photos are the basis of any social media. Whether it’s every day posts or an ad campaign, you need to have images that capture attention. Even if you have a knack for taking great shots it’s hard to keep up. If you’re not particularly good with a camera, it’s even harder. So how do make sure you always have great images for your content? Stock photos! Yes, most social media accounts that post regularly use them at some point or another. Some even use them most of the time.

While there are some great stock photo sites you can pay to download photos, there are many sites you can find free stock photos to use. Here are my 5 favorite free stock photo sites:

Unsplash – This is one of the larger free photo sites. You can find just about any type of photo here. If you need some inspiration you can also browse collections to get ideas. Along with a variety of photos, you will also find free wallpaper for desktops and phones as well as textures and patterns that can make stunning backgrounds for social media posts like quotes.

Pixabay – You can find some amazing photos here. What I like best about this site is that you can sort your search by all images or just look at photos, vector graphics, illustrations, and even videos. The variety of image types on Pixabay makes it one of my favorites!

Pexels – Another great site for free images. Pexels mostly sticks with regular photos and often has less of a selection than the above two sites but it is worth a look. You can find high quality attention grabbing images here. They also have an Explore feature where you can look through popular searches and photos to get ideas.

Canva – While this is not a typical photo site, if you use Canva to create your social media posts, make sure you search their free images too. They have a wide variety and often pull from other free photo sites, so you get a variety of photos all in one place. You can also sort your photo search findings into photos or illustrations. So far, I’ve found Canva to have heo best variety of illustrations.

Burst – While I find the previously mentioned sites often have some of the same photos, I usually find unique images on Burst. I also love that once you search for a category, they give you other category ideas to try if you don’t find the image you are looking for. They also give you the Collections options like many of the others if you need some inspiration.

Overall, I love these 5 free photo sites and use them weekly for both my own social media and my clients. They are a great way to keep new high quality images on your social media feeds. There are times though that I can not find the right photo for my content. When that happens, I do purchase images. Some of my favorite ways to buy images is by finding deals on sites like Mashable and Groupon. At different times during the year, you will find a set of images for a set price. For example, I just got a deal (that is sold out now, sorry!) on Mashable for $49 for 100 images on a popular photo site. I bought that and will use those images (you can choose and download them at any time) throughout the year when I can’t find free images to use.

The holiday season is a great time of year to find deals on photo download packages so keep an eye out for them. Just make sure you check out the photo site before you purchase a deal like this. You want to check that they have a variety of images that would work for you before buying it. Some photo sites are better than others for particular industries, but you should get a feel for what they have by visiting their website.

Now that you have many resources for your social media images, I can’t wait to see how you use them. Feel free to tag me on Facebook or Instagram so I can see what you do!

Have any questions? Feel free to reach out to me: LoriCaralis@gmail.com

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Facebook, Instagram, marketing, Pinterest, small business, social media

The Top 3 Challenges for Small Businesses on Social Media

Challenge #1: Not Enough Time

Whether your business is pulling you in different directions and you never sit down to plan your social media or just being on social media alone distracts you, finding time is hard. That adorable picture of your neighbor’s dog or your friend’s nephew is just too cute not to comment! You also have to fight the urge to check every notification and message while on social media. It’s hard to focus on the task at hand.

Solution 1: Put it in your calendar! Yes, simple but effective. Block out several times in a week to work on social media content, engagement, and strategic planning. Set a reminder in your calendar and treat it like you would any other appointment. Make a point not to look at those notifications and messages until you are done!

Solution 2: For the planning and posting part of your task, use a planner. You still have to go into the platform to engage but you can plan out and create your content off of social media and all the distractions it brings. Many have free and low costs plans. Some I’ve tried and liked are Loomly and Hootsuite.

Challenge #2: No Formal Social Media Strategy

Throwing posts out there without being consistent and considering your audience is a shot in the dark. You may get lucky occasionally but overall you will be putting in a LOT of work for very little return. You need to have a consistent social media strategy to see real results.

Solution 1: Sit down the beginning of each year and create a formal plan just like you would for any other part of your business. It should include:

• Business goals
• Audience you are trying to reach
• What your competitors are doing
• Social media channels you will use
• Content type
• Weekly/monthly content themes
• Metrics for tracking success

Solution 2: Invest in having a social media strategist create a plan for you to implement. Many small businesses can’t afford to hire someone to do all their social media but hiring a social media strategist once a year to give you a plan to follow can be well worth the minor investment.

Challenge #3: What platforms should I be on?

• 2.5 billion – the number of social media users worldwide
• 2.9 million – the number of social media users in the U.S.

(statistics from statista.com)

No matter your business, your customers are on social media. There are so many places to be on social media though, how do you know which ones are right for your business? Do you do them all or just a few? Just deciding where to be can be overwhelming.

Solution 1: The advice I give my clients is start small. Do one platform well and once you have that down and are comfortable with it, add another. Most small businesses don’t need to be on more than 2-3 platforms total.

Solution 2: Go where your audience is. Most businesses have an audience on Facebook so you can always start there. Whether you need to be on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, or any others really depends on your business and who you are looking to sell to. Where do those people hang out? To find out more demographic information on each platform, check out Spout Social’s report.

Doing social media well can be tough for a busy business owner but it is an important marketing tool that can no longer be ignored or done without a strategy. Schedule time to do it, stick to a strategy, and find where your audience hangs out and you will start reaping the rewards.

 

Have any questions? Feel free to reach out to me: LoriCaralis@gmail.com

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branding, Facebook, Instagram, small business, social media

How To Create A Content Calendar

Do you plan out your social media content, just post randomly when you get a chance, or something in between? Posting once per day for 5 days a week will bring better results than posting 5 times in one day and nothing the rest of the week.

If you are looking to grow your brand on social media, creating a consistent, strategic content plan can help. Sitting down for 15 minutes at the beginning of the week to plan out your posts makes being consistent a lot easier. Then make sure to set aside a little time each day to post or you can use a post planner and do it for the week all at once. Pro Tip: If you use a post planner, you still need to engage. Don’t just set it and forget it!

My advice is always to focus on doing 2 social media platforms well first. You are better off killing it on Facebook and Instagram and neglecting the other platforms then spreading yourself so thin you aren’t doing any of them well.

If you are new to business social media or are feeling overwhelmed trying to be on 5 different platforms, pick the two that are the best places to reach your target audience and focus on only those two. Once you get the hang of posting consistently, it does get easier and you can add on a third or maybe even fourth social media platform if you feel up to it.

It’s always good to experiment with your own audience to see what works best but if you are struggling with how often to post, here are some general guidelines:

Instagram                          1-2x day               5-7 days a week

Instagram Stories             1-5 day                 3-7 days a week

Facebook                            1-2x day               5-7 days a week

Facebook Live                   1x day                  1-3 days a week

Linked In                            1x day                  3-5 days a week

Pinterest                             10+ pins day       3 days a week /pins and repins

Twitter                                3-5x day               5-7 days a week/tweet and retweets

It’s also good to note that if you really don’t have enough content to post 5 Instagram Stories for 5 days a week than don’t. Do what you have enough good content to do. It’s better to be consistent but do a little less, than to post something off brand or not interesting to your audience just to fill space. It might mean a little slower growth but keep it authentic and you’ll attract the right followers.

Now that you have an idea of how many social media platforms you should start with and how many times a week to post, it’s time to plan it all out! Use my Google Sheet template to input all your post ideas and keep you on track all week long: Download my free Content Calendar Template.

 

Need some guidance on how to create great content? Read 3 Tips to Create Quality Social Media Content

Have any questions? Feel free to reach out to me: LoriCaralis@gmail.com

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram

blogging, branding, marketing, small business, social media

Turn Your Blog Into Marketing Gold In 4 Easy Steps

Do you have a blog for your business? If you do, congrats! It’s one of the best ways to establish your expertise in your industry and bring people to your website. If not, here are some reasons you should consider it:

  1. Over 409 million people view more than 20.7 billion blog pages each month. (WordPress)
  2. 6 out of 10 U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog. (Huffington Post)
  3. Small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog. (Hub Spot)
  4. Companies that blog receive 55% more website traffic than companies that don’t and they have 434% more indexed pages compared to those that don’t. (Simple Marketing Now)
  5. SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate. (Search Engine Journal)

There’s no denying the importance of a business blog but what’s the best way to leverage it? It takes a lot of time and effort (or money if you pay someone to do it) so make sure you are getting the most out of your blog posts. Having this original content to use in your marketing plan is gold. Here are my 4 steps to leverage your blog posts and turn them into marketing gold!

Step 1.  After your blog post is written, create a shortened version of it while making sure to leave out some key points to create a teaser leaving people wanting to read more. When you send out your next email about your product or service, lead with this shortened version of your blog post and invite your audience to read the entire post on your website. Make sure to include the link! Your email list is more likely to open the email if it contains new information they are interested in, not just a promotion or highlights about your product or service. Once they open it to read about your blog post they will likely see your product/promotion/service too.

Step 2. Go through your blog post and highlight important information, steps, or statistics. Typically, in a 400-600 word blog post you can expect to get 5-10 “highlights” that can be used on their own. Take these highlights and put them in a separate document.

Step 3. Create social media content with these highlights. You can use a free social media graphics software like Canva to create graphics for quotes, statistics, and tips using their stock photos or social media graphic templates. When you’re done you’ll have 5-10 graphics to use on your social media platforms. Make sure to use the correct sizes for each platform. You can easily create copies and edit sizes on Canva so you don’t have to recreate for each platform. If you are unsure of social media graphic sizes, check out my free download for every social media platform graphic size.

Step 4. Schedule these highlight graphics on your social media platforms. If you are on more than one platform, make sure to post them on different days. You do not want the same post on the same day on 3 different platforms. Stagger them throughout the month so you aren’t posting the same thing 5 days in a row too. For example, if you have 5 highlight graphics, on week 1 use graphic #1 on Facebook, graphic #2 on Instagram, and graphic #3 on Twitter. In week 2, use graphic #4 on Facebook, graphic #5 on Instagram, and graphic #1 on Twitter. Stagger them each week until you cycle through each graphic on each platform.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget blogs tend to do well on LinkedIn too! You can copy and paste the entire blog as an original article.

Many blog posts can be evergreen. If you get a great response from a post and it’s still relevant 2-3 months later, don’t be afraid to use it again. Blog posts/highlights can be shared 3-4 times a year as long as they are still relevant, and you get a good response from your audience. It may cost a little extra money for someone to write a blog for you or some extra time for you to write it yourself, but blogs can go a long way in your marketing plan. When using a blog strategy like this, make sure to link back to the post and/or website whenever appropriate and have a call to action on your website to collect potential customer information or a way to buy your products or services.

Now that you know how to turn your blog posts into marketing gold, what do you want to blog about? Need some blogging inspiration? Read my 5 Blog Ideas for Every Business.

 

Have any questions? Feel free to reach out to me: LoriCaralis@gmail.com

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram

branding, Facebook, Instagram, small business, social media

5 Steps To Writing Engaging Captions For Your Social Media Posts

What is a good caption? One that entertains or educates your audience, is consistent with your brand’s voice, and compels your audience to comment, like, or click. Notice I repeat the phrase YOUR audience. The first thing you need to do to write a good caption is understand your audience.

  1. KEEP YOUR AUDIENCE IN MIND. Who follows you on social media? Who buys your products or services? Do they appreciate a certain kind of humor? Are they looking to be educated on your industry? What life stages are they at? What types of things are trending in their world? What are their hopes and dreams? Where do they spend a lot of their time? Answering these questions will help you build an audience persona. Then make sure you write for that persona, so you can capture their attention.
  2. KEEP YOUR BRAND VOICE CONSISTENT. Make sure the voice and feel of your captions are consistent. For example, if you are a cutting-edge brand, your voice may sound modern and edgy. If your brand is for children’s clothing, your voice may be fun and whimsical. A consistent voice gives you wider recognition and loyalty among your audience.
  3. USE YOUR FIRST 2-3 LINES WISELY. Most social media platforms only show the first 2 or 3 lines of your caption. Your audience needs to tap “more” to read the rest. Either keep it brief and only use 2 lines or make sure those first 2 lines are compelling enough to make your audience tap “more”. Use words that convey emotions and compel your audience to act.  You need to hook them in to read more.
  4. ASK A QUESTION. This may feel weird at first but the more you do it, the more your audience will start responding. It can be an open-ended question or just a yes/no. Depending on the platform you can ask your audience to answer in emojis or gifs too. Make it interesting so your audience wants to get in on the fun!
  5. GIVE A SHOUT OUT. Have a customer who loves your product? Or a vendor that you partner with a lot? Give them a shout out by tagging them in your post (of course, the post must be relevant to them). People find it hard to ignore a shout out and will likely engage back with your post. This in turn will not only give your post more engagement but will likely put it in front of their audience too, giving you more reach.

Now you are ready to write! Try my 5 tips and let me know if you see more engagement.

Have any questions? Feel free to reach out to me: LoriCaralis@gmail.com