August 29, 2010
One of the oft-overlooked elements in the routine of blogging is image selection. Now, not every blogger uses images, charts, graphs, or other visuals as part of their storytelling approach (Seth Godin, most notably, is almost always a text-only blogger). But for those of us who do, our photos can be just as important and compelling as our written copy.
The art of communications and marketing is largely one of storytelling. As someone with small children, I can appreciate the necessity of images to help tell stories. Images can help to set expectations, evoke emotional responses, draw attention, provokelaughter, or symbolize irony, among hundreds of other things.
So you see, the cavalier approach to image selection simply won't do for blogging. Or shouldn't. Similarly, the sources and the rights of images needs to be taken just as seriously as choosing an image. This post is designed to help you think about where and how you choose images for your blog (or site, or brochure, or whatever), with some bonus content thrown in.
Let's start with the basics. You need an image for a blog post. Where should you look? There are a number of great resources that are either low-cost or free:
Flickr The grand-daddy of all image sites. Flickr is a very powerful community with millions of photos at your disposal. There's an advanced search capability that makes it easy to pinpoint what you're looking for. Check out their Outstanding Shots,
everystockphoto.com Is just that. A full range of free images with various levels of licensing.
StockVault, according to its site, is a stock photo sharing site where photographers, designers and students can share their photographs and images with each other. Its sole purpose is to collect and archive medium and high resolution photos that designers and students can share and use for personal and non-commercial designs.
OpenPhoto A little more barebones than the other sites, but with a variety of content that is sourced in a wiki-like way.
Two great tools to help refine the image searching process:
Compfightwill help you find images by text or by tag and will allow you to change the settings on licensing, original photos and safe search. The visual layout of the images is impressive and will help you more quickly assess what works and what doesn't.
FlickrStormis a brainstorming tool that lays out the images based on a search term that you enter and that also lets you change the settings on image rights. You can add images to your tray as you're browsing, so you can compare them later.
A note about using Flickr photos: if you plan to embed a Flickr photo in your site, there are guidelines that you need to follow. Namely, you need to use the HTML code available from the "Share this" link and provide a link back to the original photo. Please be sure to abide by Flickr's community guidelines.
What's all this talk about rights?
Just because an image appears on the Internet doesn't mean it's yours for the taking. Many images have copyrights associated with them. In fact, there have even been examples of companies that have gotten into trouble, as they didn't seek permission to use Flickr-hosted images before they used them in official advertising.
I'm not a lawyer (I don't even play one on TV), but I can tell you that many online images are covered by a Creative Commons license. What's Creative Commons? It's a nonprofit organization that offers free tools that help to increase collaboration and sharing. You can find out more about them here.
If you learn anything about Creative Commons, it's that they have a number of levels of licenses that authors, designers, bloggers, photographers and others can assign to their work. The categories basically come down to Attribution (giving credit), Share Alike (distribution), Non-Commercial, Derivatives (original vs. changed material). There are symbols that signify each category, and taken as a whole, you can tell what they mean. In my case, this site is governed by an Attribution-Non-Commerical-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
Attribution cc by
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered, in terms of what others can do with your works licensed under Attribution.
Attribution Share-Alike cc by-sa
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.
Attribution No Derivatives cc by-nd
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.
Attribution Non-Commerical cc by-nc
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike cc by-nc-sa
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. Others can download and redistribute your work just like the by-nc-nd license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on your work. All new work based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.
Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives cc by-nc-nd
This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, allowing redistribution. This license is often called the “free advertising” license because it allows others to download your works and share them with others as long as they mention you and link back to you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.
It's important to understand how CC works and how it applies to your own content as well as to others'.
If you want a few quick suggestions for editing and other useful tools, check these out.
Picnik Use this tool for quick editing of your Flickr photos, directly online.
Splashup An online alternative to Photoshop or the GIMP
FotoFlexer Self-branded as "the world's most advanced online photo editor." And highly recommedned by me.
ResizR Powerful and easy to use tool that will resize your .jpg images online.
It's been well documented that people don't trust corporations as much as they used to. But who do they trust? It's largely people from two categories: third party experts (academics, some media sources, analysts, etc.) and "people like me."
But when it comes to social media, we've also heard that people don't trust bloggers (from Forrester, no less). I've often doubted that assertion, particularly because it seems rather misleading. While the category of bloggers as a whole may be untrusted, people develop relationships with the blogs they follow and read most closely, and therefore develop a sense of trust with them.
This is demonstrated rather well by a recent study highlighted over on eMarketer: "What Makes Social Media Trustworthy?" in which they look at which sources of information are trusted by users of social media:
Take great notice of the percentages above: 30% or less feel they trust a brand, product or company based on a Twitter feed or participation in an online community; less than 40% trust a brand's Facebook updates or blog posts. However over 60% trust blog posts and Facebook updates from someone they know.
What does this mean for marketers? It means you need to get out from behind that logo and letting your employees represent the company in a real and human way. Make it apparent that real people (dare I say, people just like your customers?) work for you and that they can represent your brand or product in an authentic manner in places where it matters to your target audience..
The platform and even the personality are one thing. But what about the way interaction is conducted over social networks? To me, it's more about what you do than where you participate; that is, it's about the value that you bring to your customers or users rather than how many platforms you're on. The respondents to the study would also seem to concur:
Take a look at these numbers closely: people are saying that they want an opportunity for two-way dialog - not one-way messaging from your brand and not a place where they can simply vent. They want conversation - and an honest one that's open to negatives as well as positives. After all, that's how real people speak, isn't it?
Your staff should actively prepare for this frenetic and fast-paced environment, too: 60% say that responsiveness is important to them. This not only means that the author of a post, tweet or comment responds, but does so in a timely manner. Interestingly, the volume of content seems less important, as only 42% care about that. But they don't fault the marketer for not having a lot of fans or for not participating for very long. To the customer, it's important that you are participating first and foremost.
These are just a few instances of ways to measure trust. It's an important concept to consider. As an additional resource, I highly recommend Chris Brogan & Julien Smith's Trust Agents, as you can learn a great deal about this area in much more depth.
At Ford, Scott heads up the social media function and holds the title Global Digital &
Multimedia Communications Manager. He is a strategic advisor on all social media activities across the company, from blogger
relations to marketing support, customer service to internal communications and more, as social media is being integrated into many
facets of Ford business.
Prior to joining Ford, Scott served as Consigliere for crayon
and spent a number of years with PJA Advertising + Marketing, a
boutique BtoB agency specializing in health sciences & high tech.
In addition to his professional responsibilities, Scott is an active blogger and podcaster. He writes about the intersection of
advertising, marketing and PR at ScottMonty.com and
also writes The Baker Street Blog and cohosts I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, two literary undertakings. Scott
has been featured in hundreds of news and business publications in print and on the web, in nearly dozens of books, and on a variety of
mainstream media, including NBC, NPR, CNN and The Wall Street Journal. Scott is a recognized thought leader in the social media industry and
frequently speaks at industry events.
Scott received his Master's in Medical Science from Boston University's School of Medicine concurrently with his MBA from BU's
Graduate School of Management. He lives in the greater Detroit area with his wife and two young sons, golfs all too infrequently, and
has a hidden talent for voice over work.
Scott speaks on social media at events, seminars and conferences around the world. His topic generally focuses on corporate use of social media, becoming an online spokesperson, and specifically on the progress that Ford has made in the recent past. If you're interested in booking Scott to speak at your event, please click here to submit a speaking request for Ford-related purposes or email me at speaking [AT] this site's URL (if you know what I mean) to send a general email request.. Scott's bio and headshot can be found in the "About Scott" tab above.
I'm Scott. I'm the global head of social media for Ford Motor Company. This is my personal blog, where I share my perspectives on business, technology, communications, marketing and the vast changes in the industry that impact leadership. This blog contains my personal views. My bio is available here and my headshots can be found here.