Five last minute Mother’s Day tips for small retailers

Five last minute Mother’s Day tips for small retailers

I haven’t shopped for Mother’s Day yet, and I bet I’m not alone. There’s still time! Americans are expected to spend nearly $175 on mom this year, up $10 from last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s Mother’s Day Spending … Continue reading

4 tips from the self-dubbed family photographer

I recently uploadeda photo album to my Facebook page highlighting the many smiles and laughter shared during our annual summer family gathering. The album includes photos snapped by me and my father-in-law throughout the holiday weekend. As the kids whip out their iPhones to capture moments, we reach for our 35 mm digital cameras (mine a Canon Rebel, dad’s a Canon Sureshot). The younger generation could view us as outdated, but instead they greet us with happy grins when asking them to smile and pose.

FB album

Granted smartphones offer an easy option to photography these days. And the many editing apps available allow for a whole new level of creativity in online photography.  I also whip out my iPhone 5 often to shoot, upload, edit and post to social media. But there’s still no replacement for a photo taken with a real camera.

My love for cameras and photography is something I inherited from my dad, who in turn got it from his dad. Grandpa spent his career surrounded by the latest photography equipment of the day as a camera buyer for the former J.L. Hudson Company. We grew up lining up and squeezing together for group photos at every event and blinded by the bright lights of the old movie cameras while blowing out birthday candles.We moaned and groaned in counting to three and saying cheese for what seemed like a million times at every family gathering. However, to this day the photo albums filled with these pictures are the favorite things when visiting my parent’s house.

Following our family get-togethers my dad was known for dashing off to Walmart to get his photos developed and quickly placed in an album to show off the latest activity. He even had a numbering system where the back of each photo was marked so the matching negative could be identified, in case someone wanted copies.

Nowadays those photo albums lined up on my parent’s fireplace hearth have been replaced with digital photo albums posted online. I feel as though I’ve stepped into my dad’s role as our family’s chief photographer. I’m armed with my camera and snapping pictures at our many life events and activities and then hurrying to upload, edit, post and share them.

Luckily the task no longer requires a trip to Walmart for processing. As the family photographer there are a few tricks I’ve learned about capturing moments, editing photos and posting and sharing. Perhaps these four tips will be helpful to other family photographers. If you play the role of photographer in your family, I’d love to hear any tricks you’ve learned.

4 family photographer tips

  • Capture smiles in action: perhaps it’s a result of all those years lining up, squeezing together and saying cheese, but I tend to avoid forced group photos. I opt for a bit more spontaneity and go for a stop in the midst of action shots.

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  • Less is usually more:  I find photos with two to three people turn out better and are preferred over photos with larger groups. You can just plain see a couple people’s faces, expressions and emotions better when there’s just a few in the photo.

GPA camera 017

 

  • People are preferred: I use the term “peoplize” in working clients to create content. My point … include people always (or as often as possible). People prefer seeing people in photos. Test this theory yourself, look at a collection of photos and see which ones your eye is drawn to. I’m betting on the people pics.

 

  • A little editing goes a long way: I recently discovered picmonkey.com and I run every photo through the easy-to-use online editing suit before posting. Regardless of how perfect the shot, I’ve found a dash of color and a pinch sharpening can enhance any photo. If you haven’t tried a photo editor, picmonkey.com is free and very user-friendly. If you’re a Mac user, it compares to iPhoto. Can’t say enough about photo editing.

Blogs – the new morning paper

Sometimes another blogger’s post prompts further thoughts and a blog post of my own. Actually, that happens a lot. That was the case recently when I read a post by a fellow local, Mt. Pleasant-based blogger Jack White. In his Navigate Jack blog, he wrote about his Sunday morning routine involving the morning paper.

The paper he reads however is not delivered to his doorstep. Instead to his computer screen. Rather than peruse the harsh headlines in the daily newspaper, Jack opts to start his day reviewing something more engaging … a collection of favorite blogs. I, too, have migrated in this direction, and have come to know and appreciate a handful of talented writers online.

Unlike journalists who are  required to deliver the who, what, when and where in an objective manner, bloggers are everyday, ordinary people writing about things they care about. They tell passionate stories of experiences that have moved them and offer advice from what they’ve learned along the way.

As a subscriber, I’ve come to know these bloggers personally. Their posts inspire, motivate, educate, inform and expand me. In some cases, like Navigate Jack’s blog post, prompt me to take action Reading Jack’s blog post encouraged me to chime in with applause for bloggers.

Like Jack, I’m always on the look out for interesting blogs to follow. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite blogs, in turn, hopefully you’ll pass along a few of your favorites, too.

52 Cups of Coffee

One girl’s year-long experiment with caffeine and conversation. As a senior at Michigan State University, Megan embarked on a yearlong project to share a cup of coffee with someone she doesn’t know and write about what she learns along the way. She’s currently in week 44 of her 52 week journey. It’s been enlightening to follow her journey.

City Saunter

One woman’s quest to walk every street in the city of Lansing, Michigan. Along the way, Blogger Ariniko O’Meara hopes to patronize as many local businesses as she can. In doing so, she also intends offer media attention, publicity, and support to Lansing small businesses and draw attention to the Lansing area. Following her saunter through our state’s capital city is always enlightening with a fresh eye on the hidden gems in Lansing.

Chrisbrogan.com

Chris Brogan is the Godfather of blogging. With more than 11 years experience in online community, social media, and related technologies, his blog is in the Top 5 of the Advertising Age Power15o. But that’s not why I follow Chris. His writing is spot-on with advice learned from his own real-life experiences in the world of social media.

Around the Plate

Kati Mora is the “girl behind the plate”. She’s a registered dietician who couldn’t cook when she began her career. She figured if she could learn to cook healthy and tasty meals anyone could. She invited the Internet world to join her on the journey and Around the Plate blog was born. Kati shares lots of nutrition tips, along with her life as a mom, pastor’s wife and entrepreneur. It’s been fun getting to know the girl behind the plate.

Lessons learned from 5 most engaged brands in social media

Social media is all about being “social” — of course. Socializing in social media is really not all that different from doing it in person. Being social boils down to engaging in conversation — online or face-to-face.

For businesses, social media is an opportunity to engage in conversation with customers. It’s this kind of personal interaction that generates loyal customers.

In a recent blog Stephanie Marcus of Mashable pulled together a list of the 5 Most Engaged Brands in Social Media. Looking at the big name brands and the extent they go to to reach out to their customers and build their brands using social media, I thought a few things could be learned (and adapted) for small businesses.

Here’s the list of top 5 from Mashable and some input on what smaller sized businesses can do to use social media to grow their businesses. (note — for this post, I decided to focus on the efforts of the top 5 brands to use Facebook to engage customers.)

Starbucks

You’ll note the majority of messages posted on Starbucks wall are not from Starbucks. Instead, most comments are from customers. With 19 million “Likes”, it’s no wonder the traffic and comments they get from customers. Looking at Starbucks’ posts you’ll see they far more than just plug their products and shout out specials of the day. Asking simple questions, like “what’s brewing this weekend” generated almost 9,000 Likes and 1,224 comments. Posting photos and videos regularly also results in lots of activity.

Lesson Learned: Think beyond product postings & shout outs for specials of the day.

Coca-cola

With 22 million Likes it’s easy for Coke to get 20,000 Likes to a post. One thing Coke does on its Facebook page, too, is ask simple questions to prompt conversation. Take a recent question asked to Coca-cola’s Fans — Straw or no straw? It doesn’t get much simplier. That question gathered 3,379 people to Like it and 5,973 to comment on it.

Coke’s photo page is very popular, with almost 12,000 pictures posted by fans — and every one of them showcasing Coke products and people engaged with it.

Lesson Learned: Ask simple questions!

Oreo

The third most engaged brand, according to Famecount, has more than 16 million fans on its Facebook page. Recently the cookie was awarded by the Guiness Book of World Records for the most Likes on a Facebook post within 24 hours — making Oreo the most “Liked” cookie on record, as reported on its Facebook page.

Oreo’s profile image is one of the best ways the brand engages with its customers.  A fan of the week is showcased eating an Oreo in a customer-sent photo. How’s that for enticing customers to send photos. And, if you consider the viral opportunity of such a feature … if you were picked as fan of the week would you post it to your Facebook page to share with your friends? Bet you would!

They also capitalize on holidays in call for photos. Just last week Oreo posted a request to share with them an “Oreo Moment” photo showing fans eating Oreo with their dad with possibility Oreo might share it on Facebook on Father’s Day. In three days since this was posted, 705 people Liked it and 116 commented.

Lesson Learned: Enlist fans to share photos using your product.

Skittles

Skittles has successfully leveraged it 15 million Likes to bring fans together to do big things. Mob the Rainbow launched last year with a suggestion to send some love on Valentine’s Day to someone who doesn’t typically get much – parking enforcement officer. Following Skittles request, fans sent 43,037 cards to the officer. Mob the Rainbow’s current effort involves crashing an 85 year-old grandma’s birthday party. They’re shooting for 9 million Skittle fans to attend the event just by clicking an icon on their Facebook page.

Lesson Learned: Give your fans a chance to come together and do something big.

Red Bull

Red Bull

The wildly popular energy drink gives its 10 million-plus Facebook fans the opportunity to participate in fun, off-the-wall contests — all revolving around the product. They hosted a contest in 2009 called “Red Bull Stash” where they hid energy shots across the country and posted clues to find them on their Facebook wall. More recently, they’re sponsoring a scavenger hunt with the San Francisco Giants and tying Facebook Places into the contest. Photos of autographed baseballs were hidden throughout San Francisco.

Lesson Learned: Get creative! Offer chance for fans to participate in a contests, games, scavenger hunts.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Facebook activities of the 5 biggest brands in social media. Do you know of other brands doing big things with Facebook to successfully engage with fans?