Finding Images for Free or Cheap

I’ve been running into the issue of using and trying to find non-licensed pictures. This is an issue I’m sure others have as well. I must admit it gets tSpokane at Nighto be a challenge. In trying to be very careful I’m going a little crazy. I have purchased pictures (rather affordable, around $1) from photos.com. But free is almost always better. I came across another great resource from SociallyStacked.com You can click here to read the entire article and get links to the suggested sites. I found this image of Spokane using an advanced Google search.

Recently we’ve received a ton of questions about best practices for finding photos for Facebook posts and blog articles. One of the reasons is that there has been a lot of coverage about the fact that photos in the News Feed receive better engagement than a general status update. Facebook’s redesigned News Feed which emphasizes larger photos proves the point!

But how do you avoid violating copyright when using images? The general preference is to use a photo that you’ve taken yourself, but sometimes that’s not an option. With easy access to millions of photos it can be tempting to pull a photo from Google Images and use it to assist your blog or Facebook post. However, this is not a suggested or best practice. We recommend using images with defined licensing to save yourself a copyright-violations headache.

Use these tips for finding beautiful images for Facebook and blog posts:

1. Search under Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License are licenses that allow photographers to choose which rights they reserve and which rights they waive for their work. Some websites offer photos that fall under the Creative Commons License which have been approved by the original creator to be used by a third-party. The owners of the photos have chosen whether they want attribution or not when their photos are used, and these photos are available for use as long as you abide by the Creative Commons License. Flickr includes more than 17 million photos licensed under Creative Commons License. There are several other Creative Commons Licensed images than can be found from a simple Google search.

2. Search Google’s Publicly Reusable Images

In Google’s Advanced Image Search you can filter your image search by licensed for public reuse. When you open the Advanced Image Search an option appears at the bottom to choose Usage Rights. You can use the drop down menu to choose how you’d like to filter your Images. You can choose from “free” to use or “share,” “free to use or share, even commercially,” “free to use or share or modify,”and “free to use, share, or modify, even commercially.” You know exactly what you’re getting when you use Google’s Advanced Image Search and there are several million photos to choose from.

3. Search Free Stock Photo Sites

There are a variety of affordable sites where you can find quality (and legal) stock photography. One of our personal favorites is ShutterStock where we have a monthly subscription and are allotted a certain amount of photos to use each day. A recent blog post from TheMarketingAgents.com provides a detailed list of 13 free and cheap stock photos. You can read the article here. We’ve listed out the thirteen sites below, but for details on photo prices and types of photos offered reference the original article.

4. Create your own images

As mentioned earlier, our number one recommendation for photos is to create your own. Obviously this isn’t always an option, but self-created images hold several benefits. You don’t have to worry about copyright laws, they’re more personal to your business, and you won’t get stuck using the typical stock images that we see far too often across the web.

Social Media Revolution

Weaving A Brand

Each time you post, tweet or make a comment on a blog, you are creating your personal brand. All these tiny pieces from around the web are woven together to create the impression that people make of you, they might see one tweet, your whole blog or your Facebook page but these should all match in tone and message.” Peg Fitzpatrick

 

5 Marketing Resources for REALTORS

I want to continue to emphasize the value of using various social media platforms as part of your marketing. The following are 5 different online marketing opportunities geared towards REALTORS that you can take advantage of AND the reasons WHY it is important to include them in your marketing campaigns. The article is written by Laura from Breezy Hill Marketing.

Five Tips on Social Media for Real Estatebrownstone steps

  1. Facebook. A Facebook page for your business can help you promote your properties and your business at the same time. Here are easy things that you can do to promote your business through Facebook: 1) Share your listings using photos, videos, and information. People love to see beautiful pictures and information about houses for sale in their neighborhood. Natural curiosity helps drive the activity on listing posts. And, listings posted on Facebook generate click through to your web site. 2) Create events in Facebook for all of your open houses. Make sure your open houses get the exposure that you want through the event feature in Facebook. You can even send invitations to specific people who you think might be interested in your open house. You can share the event on your personal account causing further engagement for the open house, the listing and your personal brand. 3) Help your search results in Google by having a Facebook page…as previously mentioned in this article, social media content is now searchable so everytime you post information about real estate for sale on your Facebook page, you are also adding Google search juice to your web site…. Nice benefit, isn’t it?!
  2. Twitter. Twitter is the fastest growing social media network and offers Realtors an opportunity to engage locally, nationally and internationally. Twitter can be a great way to promote properties to a broader audience and offers you the ability to get links and traffic to your site.When using Twitter, make sure to spend time listening to what people in your community and in your niche are talking about and what they are re-tweeting. This will help to guide your own communication so that you can comfortably engage in the conversation. Add a hashtag to your tweets so that they come up in searches performed by others. You can use hashtags for specific areas or for your specific niche, real estate. Most communities now have local hash tags (#btv = Burlington, Vermont) and this helps to focus your tweets locally and helps you to follow conversations.
  3. Blog. One of the best ways to be found online is to provide Internet users with rich content. A real estate blog provides you with an opportunity to develop rich content about your specialty and to continuously post the content to social media sites. Some topics than can be used on a real estate blog are: 1) Describe your real estate listings in further detail with information that is not available in an MLS form. 2) Provide further details about the different neighborhoods that you serve with your real estate firm. 3) Provide insight and direction on ways that buyers and sellers can improve their real estate experience.
  4. Craigslist. This is a wildly underused vehicle for creating great traffic to your web site and your listings. Craigslist is a constantly trolled web site where visitors are looking for the new and the interesting and always for the great opportunity so play to their instinct for a sweet deal or unique offering. Many web site companies offer Realtors an auto post to Craigslist function. Caution Weary Traveller!! People on Craigslist are not looking for your glossy ad, if they were they’d be on Realtor.com…. so make sure your posts LOOK like the raw, unformatted post of the for sale by owners etc.
  5. Realtor.com, Zillow, & Trulia. Real estate junkies like me troll these web sites for the latest listing and the best pictures. We are seeking the new offering, the thing we missed, the best investment, a vacation or retirement home. Make sure that your presence on the sites is fresh, up to date, and linked to all of your other profiles on the web. Each one of the sites offers the ability to build out your profile with additional information and links. Encourage your buyers and sellers to write references for you on one of the social media sites. The rule of thumb is to pick a site for references and direct your reference traffic there. Since Realtor.com is driving the most traffic, I recommend having your clients provide references for you on the Realtor.com page.

You can read the article in its entirety HERE.

Webinar for Google+

Kim Garst is hosting a webinar tomorrow, February 6th, on building your brand with Google+. This is definitely worth your time and attention! See you there! 7PM EST
Google Plus Kim Garst webinar

Video How-To: Facebook Advertising

Building Your Brand on LinkedIn

I’ve never understood how LinkedIn can be useful for a real estate business. All my connections are in the real estate business. There are of course others that I know personally in other fields. So, I just couldn’t figure out why I would do anything more than complete my profile if it’s all just B2B. Well, it’s occurred to me that one of the reasons I have and post on my Facebook Page is to be a useful resource AND to remind everyone that I’m a Realtor. Because nothing is worse than someone you know forgetting you’re a Realtor. So, why should LinkedIn be any different? It also occurs to me while doing all of this research to help Realtors understand and use social media that social media should be part of your marketing not all of it. I’ll write more about that latter. Today, I want to focus on LinkedIn. Again, I went to DeDe Watson’s site to get you some helpful tips. The following article is from turnitsocial.com 7 Tips to Build Your Best Personal Brand on LinkedIn; August 31, 2012 By Katie Leimkuehler

LinkedIn image graphic coffee cupLinkedIn is no doubt the most credible of all social media networks making it essential to demonstrate your best personal brand online. Remember that before your business meeting, client presentation, or interview most people will have already scoped out your LinkedIn profile and you want it to highlight your extraordinary professional accomplishments, work-ethic and expert knowledge.

1. Write an Awesome Headline for Your Profile

How do you stand out? What is your best skill or asset you bring to your work? Put those words in your headline. Don’t just list your current company and position that will still show up below. You want to catch people’s attention, for example “Dynamite Social Media Expert Will Build Your Brand in One Month.” You can bet people will click on that LinkedIn profile.

2. Copy the Masters

If you’re wondering what your profile should look like find several people who have the jobs you want or work in the same field and mimic their profile. Notice the key words they use for their specialty skills, look at what applications they’re using and the number of recommendations they have. This will be a good point of reference for how you should design your profile.

3. Lead the Way as an Industry Expert

One of the goals of being on LinkedIn is to show that you’re an expert in your field.  This includes adding your blog, portfolio, and presentation applications to your profile; not just the links. This will show people the type of work you excel at and where you can help. Highlight your professional achievements and share press releases or articles written about you—it’s okay to brag. You’ve earned.

4. Get Recommendations

One of the best and most valuable ways to build up your profile is through recommendations. Whoever recommends you is giving you their personal endorsement. This is huge for your brand development. If you have more than 10 recommendations people will take notice and chances are they’ll want to work with someone so highly recommended.

5. Participate in Group Discussions

It’s important not to just join groups of interest, but to actively engage in them. Start off by introducing yourself to your fellow members. Give some background on yourself, what you do and what you hope to learn by joining the group. Next ask a question. What is a trend you’ve noticed in your office or company? What changes are taking place? Make sure the question is not something you could discover by Googling it. Ask a question that will get a discussion stirring and then comment on current conversations. If you’re vocal about your opinion people will regularly seek you out for it and it will build your credibility in the professional world.

6. Share Your Knowledge

The moment someone sees you as a resource your value on LinkedIn spikes. By posting great content articles in your status update or engaging with others by commenting on their posts you are strengthening your credibility. People will want your advice or knowledge if you constantly share good information.

7. Earn Recognition for Your Expertise

The best way to become an expert is to show you’re an expert. Answer questions posted by other people in the Ask a Question area and you will earn a profile badge that highlights your expertise. It will also show all of the questions and your answers. It’s best to answer questions in variety of different areas so people can see the extent of knowledge. Answering these questions will help build up your authority and again demonstrate that you’re an expert.

Twitter Best Practices

It’s important to understand how using social media can promote your business and part of that is understanding how best to use the different social media outlets. If it isn’t something you can commit to then you need to determine if you can delegate it to your personal assistant or if hiring a social media “butler” would work better. It isn’t enough to just sign-up; you must also make the time commitment to use your chosen social outlet. You can contact me with any interests you may have in my social media business services. The following article, by Craig H. Collins, honestly spells out what you need to do to make Twitter work for your business.

Twitter Best Practices

from craighcollins.com by Craig H. Collins on August 29, 2011

Learning how to leverage social media sites like Twitter is simple – but not always easy to become effective. While that may initially sound like a contradiction, the evidence is clear; many small business owners establish a Twitter account and send out sporadic tweets but fail to garner the loyalty of clients or gather new converts. The results are predictable – wasted time and effort that leaves everyone feeling frustrated. In fact, it may cause more harm than good in the loss of goodwill and reputation.

Simple Doesn’t = Easy

The simplicity of establishing a new account and getting involved in social media sites like Twitter are partially to blame; simple doesn’t always mean easy. Yes, the technical considerations are indeed quite simple but it isn’t easy to establish meaningful content that connects with clients. It’s even more difficult to create original information that gets retweeted. Building a thriving online presence is hard work!

Best Practices

Today we are going to cover some of the best practices in taking your Twitter activity to the next level. Some might sound like common sense but research shows the vast majority of users fail to implement these standards on a regular basis.

1. Real Time Messages – Twitter operates in real time so make that work for your small business. Understand the need for immediate response in real-time. Don’t neglect the value of spontaneous tweets that relate to the world around you and your business routine.

2. Tweet the Horn – Bragging about others is good business! Send out a virtual congratulations whenever possible to other business owners, service persons or just to recognize that special somebody.

3. Pause – Sooner or later someone will tweet a negative about you or your business. Take time to carefully consider your response prior to posting…whenever possible, put a friendly and helpful spin on the response without wasting time on negatives.

4. Spontaneous – Register for automated alerts when others Tweet about you or your company then make a practice of dropping in and responding in real-time. Whether it is a simple “thank you for thinking about us” or a more meaningful gesture like a small gift certificate, it makes a great impression!

5. Remain Positive – It can be tough to remain positive in a world filled with negative news but unless you have solutions to problems like politics, economics or religion it is best to avoid those things which you cannot change. People are searching for solutions and reasons to remain upbeat – make it part of your corporate and personal philosophy to be the solution – not part of the problem.

More People Going Online to Start Home Search

When I came across this News Release from the NAR I felt compelled (to say the least) to share this with you. Part of my mission with this site is to help REALTORS understand the VALUE in establishing an online presence. The more interconnected your online presence is, the more findable and accessible you will become to online buyers and sellers, and the more likely you are going to be the one they will reach out to. This will build your business!

Joint NAR/Google Study Shows More People Use Internet to Research Homes for Sale

WASHINGTON (January 7, 2013) – Real estate-related searches on Google.com have grown 253 percent over the past four years, according to a joint study from the National Association of Realtors® and Google.

“These results parallel the trends shown in NAR’s economic research reports,” said NAR President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty in Villa Park, Calif. “As home sales and prices continue to trend up, more people are regaining confidence to invest in their future through homeownership.”

The Digital House Hunt: Consumer and Market Trends in Real Estate is a joint report from NAR and Google that examines the connection between consumer Internet use and online home search and shopping patterns. The study leverages NAR’s custom research and Google’s proprietary and third-party research. Google collaborated with Compete in 2011 and 2012 to survey and analyze the behaviors of people in the market for new and existing homes. That research focused on people who had completed an online “conversion”– taking the next step of contacting an agent or requesting additional information from a real estate brand’s website.

According to the analysis, buyers used specific online tools at different points during their home search process. Buyers tend to rely on search engines and general websites when they begin their search, use maps more in the middle of the process, and engage mobile applications most toward the end of their search. READ FULL ARTICLE

5 Easy Tips for Website Maintenence

With 90% of consumers going to the internet first to research real estate (realtor.org), your website is the first impression you are going to make. And we all know what they say… “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Nothing is a bigger annoyance than going to a website to find a plethora of unfriendly issues. So, when I  come across a website that is user unfriendly I leave and go look elsewhere. I often go do DeDe Watson for advice and insight into social media marketing. She is so very knowledgeable and makes social media very accessible for those who don’t think they have the time for it. I was of course on her site turnitsocial.com and saw this post from DeDe and I absolutely had to share it! Your website is not a “set it and forget it” type of media. It requires some attention and monitoring. But not to worry! DeDe Watson has some wonderful and easy tips on how to maintain your website to make that stellar first impression!

5 Easy Tips for Maintaining Your Website

from turnitsocial.com October 11, 2012 By Dede Watson

Building a website can be very time consuming and financially draining. So, you want to be sure that you have carefully thought out both what you are trying to convey on your site and that it is user friendly!

Top 5 Tips for Maintaining Your Website

1. No clear message as to who or what you are from visiting your home page. I cannot even tell you how many sites that I have visited where there is no visible clue as to what a company offers. You have perhaps 5-10 seconds to gain someone’s attention. You might have an amazing company, but if there is no visible benefit for the viewer, your opportunity will be missed!

2. There is no homepage link or it is broken. Be sure that you have a visible homepage link. The best advice is that it says “home.” If someone begins browsing through your site and wants to go back to your homepage, it must be easily accessible for them to return. Also, make sure that it works!!

3. Make sure that your site works on multiple browsers and MOBILE!!! Your site must be easily viewed on mobile networks as a significant percentage of your viewers will be checking your site from their cell phones.

4. Too much flash is not your friend! Flash can be an exciting feature to add to your website but, it is not seo friendly, can slow down your website and can actually detract from people viewing your website. A little is okay but don’t make your homepage all flash and no content!

5. Don’t allow your website go stale. This can happen when businesses are not web savvy or have very little interest in their website maintenance. Sometimes, products no longer exist, contact information changes, links are not working or worse yet, a website can go down! Even if your website does not require constant updating, it is important to check in frequently to make sure everything is up to date and working properly.

I hope that these tips will help you to keep your website running smoothly!!