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20 Ways You Can Get More Likes On Your Facebook Page

Think it’s hard to get more Facebook Likes? Try out these twenty tactics to get more likes on your Facebook Page for life.

  1. Add a “Like” button to your website.
  2. Put your Facebook Page link on your business card.
  3. Put a QR code (pointing to your Facebook Page) on any printed advertisement.
  4. Interact with another page on Facebook (while logged into your Page).
  5. Post more content on your Facebook Page.
  6. Embed a Facebook post on your blog or website.
  7. Put a “follow” button at the top of every website page.
  8. Put a “follow” button at the bottom of every blog post.
  9. Add a Facebook share button to every blog post and website page.
  10. Share your Facebook Page content to your personal Facebook profile.
  11. Add your Facebook Page link to your invoices (especially if you send them by email).
  12. Add a paragraph about what fans will get if they like your Page (i.e. coupons, free tips, updates on new products or services) to the about section.
  13. Write a post that’s controversial.
  14. Use Facebook ads to get more Likes to your Page.
  15. Add a “follow” button to your marketing emails.
  16. Add a link to your Facebook Page to the signature of your emails.
  17. Share your Facebook link on your other social media sites.
  18. Promote or “boost” a post from your Facebook Page. Bonus points if you promote a post that got a lot of engagement.
  19. Add a “Like” box to your website or blog.
  20. Promote a Facebook post that did well, by linking to it on your other social media networks.

Why Voice is So Important in Your Social Media Plan

Your voice matters. I can’t say that enough. In fact, let me say it again. Your. Voice. Matters. When you separate out the words like that, it not only looks more important, it sounds different. There’s a reason for this. Each word means something all by itself. Let’s tackle them one by one to get a deeper meaning.

Your.

This is an obvious word, but does bare a deeper look. First of all your voice will be different than anyone else’s. I think this should go without saying, but sometimes saying it helps us to understand that each of us has something unique to say. Let’s look at an example. We have two different business owners: Steve and Bob. Steve and Bob are the same age. They both grew up in the same small town. They went to the same school, and they had (for the most part) the same friends. They graduated in the same year and went to the same college in a neighboring city. Early on, they both realized that they loved to cook. So, when they got out of college they both started restaurants. But Steve and Bob are different people. Steve’s family life was not so great. He had a brother and a sister, and a mother and father who fought a lot. So, he learned to cook at an early age because that was his job and it was how he kept his family together. Bob is an only child. His parents were like a dream come true. In fact, they are his best friends. Bob learned to cook from his uncle who was a chef and used to visit in between trips around the world. Bob was fascinated by the dishes his uncle prepared, which were often exotic. Bob grew up trying to imitate the dishes his uncle would create during his visits. Steve’s necessity in cooking grew into a love of providing food to bring people closer together. Bob’s love of cooking grew into a passion for introducing exotic food to his small town. Can you start to see how each of these two men would not only open a different kind of restaurant but how they might have a completely different opinion on what to serve in those restaurants? Now imagine what each of these men’s blogs would be about. Do you think they would be different? Do you think they might even cover different subjects? Maybe Steve would write about his own budding family and how he is teaching his children to cook and prepare meals in a family setting. Maybe Bob would showcase a different meal he’s prepared each week.

The point is that each person is different for many different reasons. And that’s a good thing, because that means that content written by each person would not be a carbon-copy of someone else’s. Can you imagine what it would be like if you landed on a blog about cooking and found that it was almost exactly like another blog that you read about cooking? How boring and annoying would that be?

Find out what sets you apart or makes you different, and then put that into whatever you write.

Voice.

Voice itself is important because voice, sometimes even more than opinion, is what sets you apart from someone else. This can be influenced by opinion, but is more to do with your writing style and the words you use. I write in a more conversational tone. Someone else might write in a more formal one. Even if we wrote an article about the same subject, it would read in a completely different way because we used different words. You should choose a voice that feels comfortable to you when you write. If you like to tell jokes, then make sure you put jokes in your writing. It will make it much easier to produce content because it comes more naturally to you. Whatever you do, make sure your voice is consistent. That doesn’t mean that you can’t deviate occasionally. What it does mean is that your content will be recognizable to people across different platforms (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, your blog). It also means that someone who is used to reading what you write does not have to work as hard to understand what you’re saying. When you remove that obstacle, it makes reading much more enjoyable and they will be more likely to come back for more.

Matters.

Your voice does matter. What you say matters. The way you say it matters. And if you want to do something that matters, then using your unique voice to talk about it is the only way to connect with people. You don’t have to change the world to do something that matters. You just need to do something that matters to you. Once you know what that is, making sure that it shows up in your writing is key. In other words, write whatever you are passionate about. Writing about things that matter to you will also make the writing easier, because you already know and are excited about the subject. People also connect better with someone who writes passionately about a subject, because they can read that in your writing.

How Can You Apply This to Your Social Media Plan?

There is nothing better you can do for your social media plan than to find your unique voice and subject matter. It is one of the main things that will make you stand out from your competitors. Just posting is not enough you have to stand out. Use these three steps below to create content for your social media plan and you’ll see results.

1. Find your.

Figure out what makes you different. Write those facts down and use that angle to make what you say unique to you.

2. Your Voice.

Choose a voice that you’re comfortable with. You don’t need to win a Pulitzer with your voice. That would be awesome, though, right? You just need to find a voice that fits you and your audience.

3. What Matters.

Even with their similarities, the two men in the example above had different things that mattered to them. It’s part of what would set their different content apart. Find out what matters to you and make sure you write about it.

I’d like to know your results.

If you will or have implemented these steps, let me know what your results are in the comments below.

20 Questions You Must Answer to Make your Next Facebook Contest a Success!

Contests are one of those marketing endeavors that can take a lot of work. There are several details that you need to get sorted out before you can even launch your contest! I’ve found that the easiest way to get all these details sorted out is to form them into questions, and then answer them. By doing that, you’ll have a clear picture of what you need to know and how that information impacts the success of your contest.

Below are 20 of the top questions I ask when planning a contest. There are more than this, and sometimes even more sub-questions that popup once you start answering these questions. But these 20 questions will get you started.

To make the list easier to digest, I’ve broken them up into four different sections.

Planning Phase

As they say “if you fail to plan, then plan to fail”! This is even more true for a contest, where you will (hopefully) have lots of people that you’re interacting with. Not figuring out a detail now can cause lots of stress and mean comments later.

  1. What is the start date?

Obviously you need to know this so you know when to launch your contest. But not knowing this can lead to confusion for anyone who wants to enter the contest and can cause problems with your marketing.

  1. What is the end date?

Again, another obvious question, but  it is important to get this information down before you start your contest.

  1. Will there be any restrictions on who can enter?

This question is a little bit more advanced. If you’re dealing with a brick and mortar business that has only one or a few local locations, you’ll want to make sure that people understand if they can enter or not. Also, if you’re awarding a prize that is meant for a certain age-group, you’ll want to restrict the age of the person who enters by putting it in your official rules and maybe even adding a box on your form that people can enter their age into. A little note on the age restriction. Most states only allow people 18 years and older to enter a contest. So, if your prize is meant for a younger crowd, you’ll want to make sure that parents know they should enter on their child’s behalf.

  1. What does someone need to do to enter?

Most states also have rules governing what someone has to do to enter so that your contest is not in violation. For instance, you’ll want to find out if someone needs to do more than just give you their email address to enter. If so, then you need to build that requirement into your contest. Keep in mind, though, that the more you ask someone to do to enter, the less likely they are to enter.

  1. What are the contest rules for the states I’m running my contest in?

And speaking of rules, if you are running a contest in multiple states (even if it’s online) or a national contest, you really want to know which states are going to give you the most trouble with their requirements. Some states have fairly lax rules regarding contests while others are very strict. You might even consider making residents from those trouble states not eligible for entry.

  1. What is the prize?

This question, too, may seem like it deserves a “duh” answer, but choosing the correct prize can influence the success of your contest. A prize that’s worth little will not motivate people to enter. A prize that has nothing to do with your business might not create the brand recognition you’re looking to achieve. And a prize that you have to pay for on your own (as opposed to partnering with another business who’s offering part or all of the prize) and you have a lot more up-front cost added to your contest.

  1. When are you awarding the prize?

Knowing when you’re awarding the prize is good to know, especially if it will take you a while to go through the results of the contest. You will want to build some padding into your award date to make sure that you have time to go through the results. This is especially true if your contest is a content-submission contest where people submit photos, videos, or other types of content.

  1. How are you awarding the prize?

This question ties in with what you are awarding. If it’s a physical product are you going to ship it or will the winner pick it up at your location or somewhere else? How will you send it to them if it’s a digital product or will you need to setup a download link if it’s a very large piece of digital content?

  1. How will you contact the winner?

You need to know the answer to this question because you will want to ask for that information on your contest form and make it a requirement in order to enter the contest. If you don’t, you’ll be left with no way to really contact the winner.

Marketing Phase

Once you have all the main details for your contest sorted out, you will need to tackle the marketing side. Below are the most important questions to ask to put together a good marketing plan.

  1. What are your marketing assets?

Your marketing assets include more than just your website. It can include printed pieces such as flyers, tv or radio spots, social media sites, your cashiers or sales people, any pay per click ads you run, and any other thing that you use to communicate with the public. All of these need to go on a list of your marketing assets and then you need to plan how to use that asset to promote your contest. Each asset will have it’s own strengths and weaknesses in communication, so you will want to note those as well. For instance, a website is a really great place to put a link directly to your contest page, but a radio ad is not.

  1. Do you have other companies, websites, or social media sites that will help promote this?

I love this question because it is one of those questions that people often overlook. You probably partner with other businesses on fundraisers and other events. But did you ever consider asking them to help promote your contest? Some companies will not be willing to do it unless you sweeten the pot with a similar offer to them, or unless you’re giving away one of their prizes. Still, partnering with another company or website can help you to extend your reach beyond what you can do on your own.

  1. When will you start marketing?

The date you start marketing your contest will most likely not be the date that you will launch your contest. You can use your website, social media sites, and even your email and text marketing lists to drop hints and tease about what your giving away and when the contest will start. This creates anticipation in your audience that will make them want to watch for more updates.

  1. How often will you market?

You need to know, also, how often you will use your marketing assets to put your marketing messages out. In the world of newspapers, radios, and tv ads this will affect your budget. In the digital world, it could affect how well your audience responds to the contest. Social media sites present the biggest chance to annoy your audience. If you post too much about your contest on Facebook, for example, you can receive nasty comments and your fans may even unlike your Page. But if you don’t post enough, you won’t get as many entries. So, experimenting with your posting can help determine the frequency you need to post on social media sites.

  1. Will you need any graphics made?

Contests don’t market themselves. In order to get the word out, you might need to hire a graphic designer to create flyers, a poster, your web graphics, or even your contest page. Keep this in mind when you’re planning your marketing, so you can allocate time and money to the project.

  1. Who is responsible for overseeing the marketing?

If you already have a marketing manager, then this question is pretty simple to answer. But if you don’t, then you’ll want to choose someone who is detail-oriented and organized.

  1. Who is responsible for executing the marketing?

In addition to someone who is making sure that all the moving parts are in place, you want to make sure that you have someone who knows how to actually get your marketing out there, such as posting flyers in your store location, getting the graphics up on your website, and posting to Facebook. This person may or may not be the same person who is overseeing the marketing.

Contest Phase

The contest phase can seem like it doesn’t need a lot of attention. But it is during this phase when you need to be extra vigilant. If something goes wrong with your contest (and believe me it can) you’ll want to make sure that you (or whoever is running the contest) are not out of touch.

  1. Who will watch and answer questions and comments?

The first question you want to answer is who will watch and answer questions and comments. This person may need to work after hours in order to answer these questions or comments so make sure that this is communicated.

  1. How will you handle bugs and issues that pop-up?

I have run a ton of Facebook contests and there were only a few that went off without a hitch. Sometimes the problem was tiny and didn’t really interrupt the contest, while other times, we needed to revamp the contest on the fly. Since we’re talking about running a contest in the digital space, your problems could range

After the Contest Phase

After the contest, can also seem like a time when you don’t need to do much work to make your contest a success. After all, it’s over, right? Not quite. You can harness the lingering excitement that happens during that time period after you finish a contest. Check out these last two questions to answer to find out how.

  1. How will you say “Congratulations” to the winner?

This question is related to the above question about how you will contact the winner. However, it is more about how you will capture the “congratulations” moment. That’s an important moment to the winner, and could also be an important moment to share with your fans and your customers. When you have the chance, try to get the winner to come in and accept the prize so that you can get a picture of that person accepting the prize. Don’t forget to post that picture to your Facebook Page, other social media sites, and somewhere in your location.

  1. Can you use any information or content in your future marketing?

The last question to ask is can you use any of the information that you’ve obtained from the contest in your future marketing. Some of the basic customer information you’ve captured can be used in your marketing. You do have to be careful about any emails or cell phone numbers you’ve captured, though. There’s some very strict rules about whether you can use them in future marketing. Make sure you know the rules before you ask for and use this information. If you’ve also asked people to submit pictures, videos, or other content, you might want to use these in your future marketing. However, you’ll want to make sure you get someone’s permission to use the content. Sometimes this can be as easy as adding that permission release into your official rules.

To make your contest a success, just ask 20 questions!

Optimize Your Facebook Business Page Description: An Excerpt from “31 Days to An Awesome Facebook Page”

Some of you may know that I am working on a book “31 Days to An Awesome Facebook Page”. I’ve been making progress, although it’s been slow. Last week I completely rewrote a page of the book because of an email conversation I was having. I won’t show you the old version, since I think it’s pretty terrible. But I will show you what I rewrote. I think it does a much better job of explaining the importance of the Facebook Page description and what you should accomplish with it. I’d like to get your opinion, though. If you think something should be added or taken out, let me know in the comments at the end of this blog post.

None of the text below has been edited. I wrote it on the fly, so please excuse any typos, misspellings, etc. Also, please note that this may not be the final version which will appear in the book. 

How important is your Facebook Page description? While I can’t tell you how many people will read it, I can tell you that it might be the deciding factor in whether someone Likes your page or even decides to do business with your company. A description of your company will not only tell your customers why they should Like your Page (don’t forget your compelling reason here) but it will also answer the question “Why should I care?” Your Facebook Page description can also aid you in being found when customers search for your services. So, optimizing it for this is a good idea.

Action for Today: Rewrite Your Facebook Page Description According To The Steps Below.

 So how do you write a Facebook Page description? The first thing you need to do is grab any “about” language you already have. This can usually be found on your home or about us page on your website.

Using your website “about us” or home page blurb is a good place to start for your Facebook Page description. However, most of these are filled with stiff, formal writing and take way too long to tell what your services actually are. They also, might not include all your services. If you have some text you can work with, then grab that and put it in your favorite word processing program. Read through it, speaking it out loud. Put yourself in your customer’s or potential customer’s shoes. Does it sound like something that would explain clearly, and in a conversational tone what you do? If not, then your job is to make it sound that way. This could take a while, so strap in.

Stiff Formal Language to Look For

  • Using the name of your business instead of “we” or “us”. It’s okay to use it a couple of times. After all, this helps with search engines. Just don’t always refer to yourself in the third person er…business.

  • Using big fancy words, industry language, or lengthy explanations to explain what you do. Just tell them what you do in the quickest and most concise way possible. Bad example: Team 3 Media uses superior tools and state-of-the-art technology to build innovative websites that position you as an industry leader. The only good that can be rescued from this sentence is that we build websites. However, we could have used less and better words to describe what we do. Good example: Want a website that fits your brand personality and moves you closer to your marketing goals? We can help you with that. Check out some of the work we’ve done… Also don’t use words like innovative or industry-leader. Although, there’s nothing wrong with tooting your own horn, it’s bad form to say that about yourself. If someone else has said it and posted it online, then link to it. A description like this always sounds better if it comes from someone else, and it’s more believeable.

  • Don’t tell, show. Another thing that can be learned from the bad example above is that it tells you what we do, but doesn’t really show you. Adding pictures to your Facebook description is out of the question. However, you can add links back to your website, or even a custom Facebook tab to show examples. Let the quality of your work speak for itself.

What Your Description Should Do

 Answer these questions for your customers.

  • Who are you? What makes you unique?

  • Where are you? Do you only do business locally, or are you available to work remotely?

  • What do you do?

  • How are you doing it? Do you use any tools to make you more efficient? Do you have knowledge that could make a difference in the service you provide? Do you look at a problem in a different way from others in your industry?

  • When did you start? Have you been working in this area for a while, and if not what sets you apart from your more experienced competition?

You get bonus points if you can answer these questions in story-form, especially if you’ve got a good one. Did your frustration with badly written web copy drive you to create a course to teach people to write better web copy? Then tell your customers that. It’s way more intimate and enlightening than just saying “I write good. Come take my ecourse on writing.”

 You can also provide an answer for the pain point you sooth, or the need you fill. What do they get out of it? Will their new website provide them with more traffic, make it easier for their customers to find the answers they need, and generate more sales for their company? Then make sure that goes in your description.

 Use Bullet Points, Headlines, and Lots of Paraghaphs

Don’t be afraid to use bullets, headlines, and lots of paragraphs to break the description up. This makes your description easier to read.

NOTE: the headlines will not come across as being bigger (or underlined or bolded) in your Facebook description but it will create some much-needed space that makes your description easier to read.

If you use Word to write your description, your bullet points will come across just fine. Though you may need to go back in and add an extra line between the paragraph before the bullet points. For some reason, copying and pasting from Word removes this.

Play Friendly With the Search Engines

If you are working towards search engine optimization, you have a unique opportunity to add in those keywords to your description. Be careful how many places you insert your keywords. You don’t want to stuff your description full of them. Not only is it bad for search engine optimization, but it’s also makes your description sound terrible!

While we’re on that subject, make sure that your description does not start to sound overly-formal or awkward when you add in the keywords. There’s a delicate balance between making your description readable and making sure the search engines like it.

Put Your Website Link Or Other Important Contact Info Within the First Couple of Lines

Do this only if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar location or you do most of your business from your website. By inserting a link or email address into the first part of your description, you’ll ensure that it appears (and is clickable) just below the cover photo on your Facebook Page.

Tips To Design Your Facebook Call To Action Cover Photo

Update: Facebook has done away with the 20% text rule for Cover Photos. You do still have to be careful if you’re running ads in the newsfeed though. If you are, then you’ll still want to be within the 20% text rule, as it might still apply.


 

Facebook has once again made a change to the guidelines for cover photos on your Facebook Page. When Facebook first launched the “Timeline” design for Pages, they decided to make it against the rules to put a “Call to Action” on the cover photo. This was a huge disappointment for a lot of businesses, because a cover photo is prime real estate that can be used to guide your followers to take an action on your Page, such as clicking on a custom tab, Facebook contest, or even getting them to call you. Marketers and businesses were forced to get clever with their “call to action” designs or they designed cover photos for branding purposes only. Now, Facebook has changed the rules again. You can not only put a call to action (such as an arrow with the words “click below to enter our contest”) but you can also add your contact information. Not allowing contact information on a cover photo was also a rule Facebook had.

Awesome! What Kind of Call to Action is Good for a Facebook Cover Photo?

Focus on what you want to promote. Are you running a Facebook or other contest? Are you having a sale? Do you have a newsletter sign up page or other custom app you would like to promote? Honestly, the options are endless here. It all comes down to making a decision and then getting the cover photo designed so that it looks great and your call to action will stand out!

But! There’s Always a But!

However, this change to the Faceboook Cover Photo guidelines also comes on the heels of their earlier change: covers may not include images with more than 20% text. This is a direct quote from their guidelines. So what does this mean? Basically, you can add your contact information and any calls to action you want, but you need to make sure that the information covers 20% or less of your image. For those of you without math or design backgrounds, that’s 1/5 of your photo or less.

What Happens If My Text Covers More Of My Cover Photo?

Good question. If you don’t run any ads on Facebook, the most that can happen, is that Facebook will remove your cover photo. At that point you can have it redesigned and reuploaded. But, if you are running ads on Facebook, you’ll want to make sure that your cover photo plays by the rules. Facebook reviews the ads that businesses make, so the chances of you getting it past the moderators is slim to none. Also, who wants to redesign something in the middle of a campaign (especially if that campaign has a time-limit on it)?

Here’s a great resource that mirrors what Facebook uses to check a cover photo against their guidelines. All you need to do is upload your photo and then click the boxes where the text appears (make sure you click a box even if there’s a tiny bit of text in it). If your text appears in 5 boxes or less, you should be in the clear. If the text appears in more than 5 boxes, you’ll need to adjust the text.

We used this free resource to check a cover photo we designed very recently for a client who wanted to promote signing up to their newsletter. As you can see (in the screenshots below) it has a nice call-to-action near the bottom promoting the newsletter signup. The first picture is a screenshot of us checking the cover photo with the tool and finding out that the text covered too much of the photo. The second picture is a screenshot of us rechecking the cover photo and finding out that it’s now in the clear.

Cover Photo Not Within Parameters

Facebook Cover Photo

Cover Photo Within Parameters

Facebook Cover Photo

And Finally!

So, for those of you who want to save a little time, I have a nice resource for you! We created a Photoshop file based on the grid that you see in the online resource. If you use Photoshop, all you need to do is open it up and hide everything except the “Facebook Guides” group. We do also have the guides setup correctly in the file, if you like to use those. Hopefully this resource will save you even more time in determining whether your Cover Photos fit within the 20% rule. You can download this resource by putting in your email address below.

Download this free Photoshop template by filling out the form to the right.

Download this free Photoshop template by filling out the form to the right.

Put in your email address to download the free resource. We hate spam too! We'll only email you if you say we can. 🙂

 

The Correct Way to Use Pictures On Your Facebook Page

using photos on facebook the right wayAre you guilty of using those “previews” of pictures from the stock photo sites on your Facebook Page? You can see an example to the right. After all, it’s easy to “save image as” and then post it. You didn’t even have to pay for it!

Stop! Before you add that picture to your Facebook photos, you need to know a few things.

You Are Stealing Artist’s Work

Yes, that’s right. Artists depend on these stock photo sites to help them distribute their work to a wider audience. Every time you use a picture that you didn’t pay for (even if it’s the preview) you are taking money away from those artists. In other words, you’re stealing.
Let’s look at it in another light. What would you do if someone came into your store and shoplifted? You’d probably call the cops, right?
Don’t be swayed by the fact that a digital download of a photo is not a “physical item”. That doesn’t matter in the least. Stealing applies to digital as well as physical products.
 

You’re In Violation Of The Sites Terms of Service

You might not know it, but using a preview of a picture for marketing purposes is against those stock photo sites terms of service. This time the problem is with digital rights. Artists “sell” the digital right to their work to stock photo sites in exchange for royalties and increased promotion. By using the photos without paying for them you are committing copyright infringement.

 

What Can Happen?

Well, other than the obvious jail time and fines, you could also lose access to your Facebook Page. If someone reports you to Facebook, they have every right to take your Page down (check out #5-Protecting Other People’s Rights). Also, if some blogger or news organization finds out, you can kiss your reputation goodbye.

 

I Don’t Give A Damn About My Bad Reputation

I’ve seen what happens when businesses’ failures are subject to the internet’s share buttons. Not only is it bad news for any future marketing efforts, but you could lose a lot of money and business over something that is easily fixed.

 

How to Fix It

Use stock photos on Facebook the right way by following these three steps.
Step 1: Delete all offending photos from your Facebook Page. Yes, you’ll lose the impact, but that could be a good thing in this case.
Step 2: Purchase or find alternate free pictures to use. I wrote a blog post recently with links to some great free photo sites.
Step 3: Thank your lucky stars that you found out about this before someone else did.
P.S. Yes, I did take a screenshot of a Facebook Page that was doing just this and I have contacted them about it. We’ll see if it makes a difference…

Facebook Changes Layout of Mobile iOS App

Get Your Cover Photos Ready for Mobile and Other Updates You Need to Do

via Practical Ecommerce
Facebook recently changed the Pages layout in its Apple iOS mobile app. The reason for the change, according to Facebook, is that roughly 50 percent of Page visits come from mobile devices…

Cassie Witt‘s insight:

Make sure you’re cover photos are ready for the mobile update. Android has been updated as well. 🙂

See the rest of the article on www.practicalecommerce.com

Great Resources for Using Online Photos the Right Way

Copyright license choice

Picture Via opensoursceway and flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4371001458/

So you’ve finished that blog post and now you want to find a great photo that will compel people to click on your link when they see it on Facebook. You pull up Google images and type in a word from your blog post, and lo-and-behold the internet dumps a treasure-trove of options onto your lap. You eagerly wade through the pictures, trying to find that one perfect photo that will make even the most click-weary want to read your blog post. Before you decide to “save as image” stop and ask yourself whether that picture can actually be used.

Say What?

Anyone who lived through the Napster era knows that copyright infringement happens. Sometimes we lament the loss of free services such as Napster, because it allowed us to get free content. But for the most part, we understand that copyright infringement is wrong.

The Problem

Do you remember when Google images first came into being? It was awesome. Suddenly, you could not only search for websites, you could search photos within those websites. Oh, how I loved this feature. It led to many hours of finding cool background images for my desktop. But it created a problem. Google’s indexing of pictures around the web made them seem incredibly accessible, where before they were not. Couple this with the fact that most photos published after March 1, 1989 do not require a copyright notice, and you have a recipe for easy copyright infringement. When was the last time you saw a photo from the internet with a copyright mark on it?  I believe that this has led to the belief that these pictures are “free to use”.

Now, I understand wanting to use these photos, especially since iStockphoto is so expensive. I mean, what’s the harm in putting it on a blog post?

The harm is that despite all rationalizations it is still wrong. You are still “stealing” someone’s work and using it without their persmission. It’s not just a moral issue, it’s a money issue. If you had paid for that picture, you could be contributing to the livelihood of an artist (something I feel very strong about). Instead, the picture is ripped off from a website and plastered all over the internet, making it hard for that artist to get paid for their work.

Is there a solution? Can you still find a way to use the photo you desire?

Absolutely.

The Solutions

First of all there is a site that you can use to trace all instances of a photo on the internet. It’s called TinEye and we use it when we want to know where an image originated from. For artists, it can also be used to track down instances of your work across the internet. Below is a screenshot of what the front-page of the website looks like. As you can see, you can upload an image, copy and paste url, or even drag and drop a photo from another open page directly onto the TinEye website.

Because I was curious, I took the screenshot I made of their website and dropped it into the search engine. I got 39 results back. That means that 39 other people took or used a previous screenshot of TinEye’s home page.

TinEye Reverse Image Search

How To Be Really Safe

There are other ways to be really safe, though. You can use free services that allow you to use their photos under a creative commons license. These are sites such as flickr and Creative Commons search that give you access to photos that can be readily used. Most of these photos only need an “attribution link” (a link back to the place where you found the photo). Though you should check the license just to be sure, as there is more than one version of the creative commons license.

There are actually many sites out there that index or host creative commons photos. Doing a Google search for creative commons images brings up a couple of sites and blog posts about the issue. One of our favorites is Photo Pin (which has a very unique interface). If you do decide to use Photo Pin and are only looking for free images, don’t click on the top row of images as they are sponsored results from iStockphoto.

Another great site is the free image search from 123rf (a stock photo site that is quickly becoming a favorite of mine). This site allows artists to upload and tag their photos as free to use. You can use their free image search to find these photos and add them to your website as long as you include the attribution link back to them.

Update!

I got into a conversation on the Small Business Forum at Social Media Examiner about this topic. Here’s a couple more resources for free (or cheap photos). First up is Comp Fight, which is actually a flickr search tool that searches only their creative commons commercial license photos . This is not that different than using flickr search itself, except that it makes searching those commercially available pictures much easier. Another great resource is this blog post by Rich Brooks where he covers 13 free or cheap stock photo sites. I love the last one (your smart phone). Which is a great free resource for photos that is probably with you 24/7! 🙂

So remember, before you use a photo that you found on the internet, make sure to check and see if you can actually use it. To be safe, always assume it is copyrighted unless it says otherwise.