5 Common Mistakes: Small Business Photography for Social Media

When you own a small business, you’re not only a small business owner.  
You wear many hats: customer service, accounting, human resources, product development, and social media management, just to name a few.

While I can’t make every job easier, I can at least make social media management a little easier.

Social media is a visual platform.  It’s all about the photo to capture your audience’s attention and stop them from scrolling on by. You’re competing with an average of 5000 advertisements that the public sees on a daily basis. 

What makes a great image for social media?  Why is it so hard to take great photos for Facebook and Instagram?  Are you frustrated with low engagement on the photos you DO post?

I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 most common mistakes that people make when taking photos for their social media and provided solutions on how to fix them (hooray!).

1)You're holding your phone wrong.
Yes! YOU!  I see it all the time.  You take out your phone, you hold it up in front of you and - SNAP.   Then you put the phone away, never giving any thought to the most basic thing that can make a huge difference in your photos: how you hold your phone!


Turning your phone to take a photo horizontally (instead of vertically) makes your image easier for your viewer’s eyes to read. It also takes advantage of the default image ratio for facebook - meaning it takes up more visual space. This allows your audience to see more of your photo when scrolling.

Most people hold their phone vertically (left image). When taking photos
(right image), hold your phone horizontally to allow for a greater visual impact on social media.

Left: Vertical Image
Right: Horizontal Image

Which one is easier for you to see as you scroll?

2)  Your zoomed-in photos are poor quality

Zooming in on your cell phone screen is a mistake because it actually zooms in on the pixels, causing zoomed images to lose their image quality. This will make your photo look pixely and grainy. 

Instead, let your feet be your zoom and just walk closer to the action (if possible).  Close up shots read better on social media!

Left Image: Zoomed in on phone
Right Image: Walked up to subject


Notice the difference in the image quality and the tones in light.

3) Your photos are too dark!

Making your photos easy to view is absolutely essential to great interaction on social media.  Bright, well-lit photos are more pleasing to the eyes and get more attention when scrolling. Be aware of where you light source is in relation to your subject.  If necessary, place your subject by a window (when indoors) or experiment with different angles to see how the light reflects on your subject.

4) Your subject isn’t clear:
Every photo should tell a story. If you're just snapping a photo without thinking about the who, what, where, why, then you are leaving a lot of interesting aspects out of your photo! Include people, products that are important to the message you are sharing. Instead of just taking a photo of a product, try photographing HOW the product is used, or WHO is the kind of person who will use the product? Focus only on what’s important and leave out of the frame anything that could be distracting. Fill the frame with your subject to make the story very clear to the viewer!

Focusing on the who, where, when, how, and being clear about your subject, will help your audience see your message clearly and quickly.

Before/After: Focusing on one subject

5) Unedited - or worse - OVER edited!

You’ve worked hard crafting the perfect image.  It’s a horizontal format, the lighting is bright, the subject tells the story of your product and it’s nice and close to the action.


The worst thing you can do to that photo is leave it unedited - or even worse - OVER EDITED. Every image you take on your phone should be edited, even if just a little bit. On Instagram, you can click “EDIT” on the bottom of the screen and adjust everything from shadows, contrast, and brightness to sharpness, highlights, and warmth.

If you add an Instagram filter to your photo, do you know that you can tap the filter a second time to bring up an opacity slider? Adjust the filter to 50% or less to enhance your photo without overpowering it. You want your audience to see your photo, not just the filter you used on it.

The left image shows the filter at 100%, whereas the right image shows the same filter used at 37% opacity.

Edit the image by only using manual edit controls under the “Edit” option at the bottom of the screen.

There are so many ways you can improve your social media images. The best thing you can do right now is to practice.  Now, grab that phone, turn it horizontally, and get snapping!  

5 Things You Need to Know About Google Drive When Working With a Team

As technology evolves, there are more and more online tools available so you can do everything you need to do from your laptop, tablet, or phone. It makes it easier to work from anywhere you want without having to carry around external hard drives or USB drives. Google Drive is one of the tools that replaced external storage devices, making it easier to access files without having to look through three or four different USB drives. The following points are reasons why Google Drive can boost your team’s productivity.

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1. Work with your team in real time

Google Drive makes collaborating with your team easy and effortless. There can be multiple team members working on the same document, and at the same time, without there being any issues. As your team works on the document in real time, you can see exactly who is doing what. Another benefit to collaborating on the same document is that you have the ability to review the changes that have been made, by whom, and at what time and date they made them.

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2. Organization

Google Drive makes organization a breeze! You can start by creating a main folder for each department, client, or project and then organize each of those folders as needed for your team. This makes it efficient for you and your team to find the project you’re working on and for each person to see what they need to. When organizing folders or files, you can control the type of access your team has for each folder or project. Which brings us to…

3. Security: Control access level

Just because you work with a team, it doesn’t mean that everyone needs access to everything. Google Drive lets you control permissions on folders and documents. A document’s availability can be set for everyone in your organization, only specific people in your organization, or anyone else you may work with, such as clients or other contractors. You can do the same thing with folders. Some team members may only need access to certain folders or projects they are working on.

You can also edit what kind of access each person has within the folders or files they have access to. You can set them to view, view and comment, or edit the files. You can also share documents with anyone outside of your organization by sharing links.

4. Publicly Share Documents

Aside from sharing and collaborating with your team, you can also create documents and make them public by sharing them on the web. By doing this, you avoid having to give every individual that may need to see a document permissions or access. This also makes it easy to share with any clients that may not use GSuite. Simply send them the link and they can see it without having to sign in!

5. Search by person

When you work with teams, you probably send and receive a lot of documents. If you need to find a document that someone sent you, but you don’t remember the name of the file, you can search for it by searching for the person’s name or their email address. When you enter a search, the system will bring up a list of all the documents you and your team are working on. It makes it easier to find something you worked on three or four months ago!

We’ll put our team and tools to work for you with the help of Google Drive.

Yessel Iglesias

Executive Assistant/Back-Office Extraordinaire

There’s No Teamwork Without Accountability - Keeping It Real with a Robust Project Management Platform

A client’s enthusiasm for their prospective project energizes our team. And so does the challenge of helping them overcome their obstacles to meeting their goals. Working as a team toward the delivery of great products and services to our clients is tremendously rewarding, when everyone’s strengths are recognized and channeled towards the work each person loves to do and does well. The results are fantastic and people are happier than ever. My world of business operations and project management boils down to two things, tools and the fuel that energizes them.

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With any project, visual management is key. And when your team is rarely in the same physical space, then a virtual project management workspace, like Asana, can make all the difference in the world. Tasks need to be assigned and managed to deadlines so client expectations are met. What gets displayed and measured gets done!  The team depends on each team member to do their part, and at a glance each person knows what they are responsible for and can support each other with great communication. Asana enables us to set boundaries and hold each other accountable.

Imagine the scenario of publishing 100 social media posts each month. Let’s break down the areas of expertise, tasks, and talents needed to do this and do it well for 6 different clients. There are three distinct skill sets required and as many as 15 main tasks involved just to create one quality social post.

Strategy - What is the client’s intention and purpose of their social media presence, taking into account their vision and goals? They develop relationships, network, meet with clients and stakeholders, gather data and research, develop strategy, write proposals, and understand industry trends.

Talents - This individual must think strategically, market, problem solve, lead, and communicator with excellence.


Project Management and Administrative Support - Plan the work. Work the plan. They observe and anticipate the needs of the team. These individuals must facilitate client communications, set appointments, organize details, document tasks and notes, proofread, monitor performance, report to client, create processes and standards, research and apply tools.

Talents - These individuals maintain attention to detail, is organized, prompt, problem solver, observant, diplomatic, and a great communicator.


Creative Content Creation - We’re sharing a story with the audience. Know. Feel. Do. These individuals must do onsite photography, create graphics, write post copy to match visuals, tell stories and convey necessary details, monitoring conversations and engaging with the audience.

Talents - These individuals excel at graphic design, photography, creative content, thinking outside of the box, storytelling, marketing, and communication.


Asana is so feature-rich that it gives you a lot of flexibility to structure your projects and tasks that best meet the preferences of the team and each individual. But this also means your initial approach will be trial and error. The Unleashed team started with the free version of Asana, which served the team well for 6 months. As our clients’ needs evolved and our team grew, it made sense to invest in a paid plan, giving us access to more features.

We have made it a practice to agree on a project structure, frequently evaluating if it is working, and making adjustments as we go.

With Asana, Unleashed Consultants, divvies out the portions and eats the elephant one bite at a time.  What each team member loves about Asana speaks to the strengths each of us brings to the team. Asana fits the bill for Unleashed Consultants and is crucial to serving our clients.

This is what each Unleashed team member loves about Asana.

Kim says, “One task can reside in multiple projects, so each can be organized differently based on each team member’s focus and needs. For example, the client project manager needs to see all of the tasks for the client, organized by various criteria. They want to view the big picture.”

All editorial communication tasks for one client.

All editorial communication tasks for one client.

The photographer/social media manager’s talent is storytelling. She wants to see all planned social media posts for all of their clients. She directs her creative energy toward one client (or column, as you can see below) at a time. It is inspiring when her photographs show up in our tasks. We think to ourselves, “We couldn’t do that, but we can arrange everything to make it possible for her to be at that moment to take that photo.”

Social post creation project for all clients

Social post creation project for all clients

Megan says, “As the owner of a business, it's vital that I know what's going on without needing to micromanage my team. Once we figured out how to best use Asana (it did take a few months!), it has made my organization much faster, more flexible, and more focused. Each of my team members does what they do best. Using Asana means that I can concentrate on strategy, while Kim focuses on productivity and details. Each of us can organize all of our projects, both individually and as a team.. I don't wake up in the middle of the night anymore afraid that we dropped the ball or forgot an important detail. I can check into Asana on my mobile app and see the status of each project. It also allows me to go on vacation and take time off because I can check in once a day, answer any questions my team has, and be on my way. There’s no more going through hundreds of emails that aren't pertinent for me.”

Megan feels at ease traveling with a robust virtual project management tool fully implemented with her team.

Megan feels at ease traveling with a robust virtual project management tool fully implemented with her team.

Pam says, “I’m a visual organizer. I have endless handwritten lists that are always changing. I love Asana because it gives me a quick visual of what needs to be done, and it’s flexible enough to quickly arrange (and rearrange) to meet my needs that day.”

“Plus, I love the feeling of marking each task complete...because sometimes a unicorn goes flying by on a rainbow to celebrate. No, really! We all need a little magic in our day!”

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Breann says, “My favorite thing about Asana is that it not only has a list of the tasks that need to be completed, but I can also see very quickly any recent comments on jobs I've been assigned. It makes working from 1,300+ miles away so easy and organized!

Here’s a snapshot of one task which involved 28 comments over the course of creating a printed newsletter for a client. Comments included visual references and links to other resources. With Asana, there’s no need to toggle between emails, file folders, and calendars to understand the scope, deadlines, and feedback on progress.

Here’s a snapshot of one task which involved 28 comments over the course of creating a printed newsletter for a client. Comments included visual references and links to other resources. With Asana, there’s no need to toggle between emails, file folders, and calendars to understand the scope, deadlines, and feedback on progress.

Yessel says, “I love using Asana because makes it so easy to search for something when you need it! Just type in what you're looking for and refine the search by the person it was assigned to or date range.”

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The Unleashed Consultants team keeps it real and hold each accountable to getting the work done for our clients. We joke, “It’s like magic.” But in reality the magic is in the right team, the right tools, and the fuel that drives us. Together we plan the work and work the plan.

What would magic feel like for your organization, school or small business?

Kim Lampe - Process Manager/General Chaos Coordinator

Social Media Tips for the Holiday Season

Last month, we hosted the inaugural Social Media Happy Hour at Oliver's Wine Bar in Red Wing. It was awesome, and it turns out that talking about social media while drinking wine and eating amazing food makes it all the more fun.  We'll be having more of these kinds of events starting in January.

The Holidays are a perfect time to ramp up your social media efforts. Here is a pdf of the slides from the event. Please let us know if you have any questions or need help with your social media or other marketing efforts. 

Happy Holidays!

Download Social Media Tips for the Holiday Season PDF here:

Local Social Media Rock Stars

Photo from Kenyon (Mn) Police Department's Facebook Post

Photo from Kenyon (Mn) Police Department's Facebook Post

If you think you have to be a big business with a big marketing department and budget to be awesome at using social media, you are wrong.

Check out this Facebook post:

 

Bill Hanisch from Hanisch Bakery and Coffee Shop in Red Wing, MN and Chief Sjolander from the Kenyon (MN) Police Department in Kenyon, MN have thousands of Facebook followers. The Bakery has over 14,000 and the Chief has over 28,000.

How have they built such an amazing following, you ask? From what I can tell, it's two things: One, telling great stories and two, being totally authentic.

It's a winning combination in social media.

So how are you telling the story of your business and the people you serve? Are you doing it authentically, or are you worried about what people will think? Are you worried about being "on brand" or looking "professional"?

I've read hundreds of blogs from social media experts that will tell you all sorts of "best practices"...but I would guess neither of these two guys has ever read any of that sort of thing. They just post what feels right to them and it works.

What could you post today that will tell a story authentically???

The Power of Story for Local Business

It's Superbowl Sunday (ok, not really...but stay with me here...) and 50% of the people huddled around the television watching the big game don't give a darn who wins. They are there for the commercials. So why are the Superbowl commercials so much better during the game? 

Besides the fact that there are no prescription drug commercials that go on and on about side effects, these commercials all tell a story. 

For example, close your eyes (but read this first, of course!) and imagine a lush green pasture where the cutest baby Clydesdale romps and plays with his yellow lab puppy friend. When someone adopts the puppy, the Clydesdale rallies all the other horses to stop the vehicle from leaving. The horse and puppy frolick in the horse pasture and, we presume, will live happily ever after. 

The commercial is for beer, people. Beer. Not horses, puppies, lush green pastures. It's a company that sells beer by using classic storytelling techniques. 

And they work. That beer ad scored huge with viewers. It's no surprise that storytelling works as we've been doing it for thousands of years. Storytelling evokes a strong neurological response in our brains, and we produce the stress hormone cortisol during intense moments of story which allows us to actually focus. And the cute-animal releasing hormone oxytocin is also released, and this makes us feel empathy and connection. Weave a happy ending into our stories, and our brains release dopamine, a hormone that makes us feel hopeful and optimistic.

The implication for businesses is huge. Get storytelling right, and you'll be way ahead of the game. For local businesses, there are ample stories to tell...yours, your clients, and your strategic partners. 

Look at your website and see, what stories do you tell in words and pictures? If you have a blog, how often are you talking at people vs. telling a story to explain your teaching?

And how about your social media...how often are you telling stories on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, among others? 

Need help telling your story? Let us know. We can help you connect with your customers in ways you never imagined.

(photo from http://money.cnn.com/2014/01/15/news/companies/anheuser-busch-super-bowl-ad/)

Unleash The Power of Social Media to Grow Your Local Business

 Is social media a valuable tool for local business? Is it worth the time investment? How do you measure the ROI? What will it do for my business?

Those are a few of the questions so many of my local business clients ask. We’ve heard it from all the experts, and there’s little doubt it’s true: local businesses need to be on social media. But, how does a local business approach the online world of likes, shares, favorites, and re-Tweets?  Let’s start by looking at some of the numbers associated with social media.

According to a study completed by Pew Research Center, in October of 2015, nearly two-thirds of adults were on social media. So, we know there are a ton of people on there. But how do social media users want to interact with businesses online? A survey conducted by Yodle in 2015 (http://www.yodle.com/company/press-releases/yodle-survey) tells us that more and more people are using the social media as we used the phone book 10 and 15 years ago. In Yodle’s survey, 75 out of every 100 people polled said they use the internet and social media to find or research a business.

Yodle’s survey also revealed that three out of every four people surveyed thought either online reviews for businesses were expected or that reviews gave local businesses a competitive advantage.

The data makes a compelling argument for what we already know to be true—local businesses need to have an online presence to engage a larger customer base in a way that is relevant to user behavior. So, how do you put your business on social media in a way that works for you and a local audience, without wasting time and money?

An incredible thing about local audiences on social media is that these audiences like to support their community by supporting area businesses. How is their social media use supporting local business? Think about what you see from your friends on Facebook. Have you seen a picture of someone’s dinner with a tag that shows which restaurant they are sitting in? Have you ever seen when someone has posted a check-in to a local venue? If you’ve seen it, then there are many other people who have as well.

While social media can eat someone’s time pretty quickly, local businesses have an advantage—you have an advantage. Why’s that? Because you have an audience eager to spread your message for you. As a local business, you don’t have to spend 10 hours on social media, marketing your little heart out. You can spend a few minutes a day publishing a post, showing your latest stock or creation or a behind-the-scenes look.

As a local business, you can provide a level of customization to your audience’s’ experience that online or big box stores can’t. For example, if you see that there will be a parade next Tuesday at noon, you can take to social media to let your customers know that the parade route is just down the block and to stop in for a cupcake after (or to cool down, or use the potty, or browse while they wait for traffic to disperse, etc.).   

So, how do you get customers to engage with your business on social media? By being exactly what you are—a local business—on social media.

How do you measure the success of your social media efforts? First, decide what you’d like to accomplish. Think about social media as part of the big picture. You may not have sales directly from Facebook or Twitter, but instead you may be driving foot traffic to your store which eventually results in higher sales. By being present on any given platform, you are raising awareness of your brand.

Is there only one right way to spread brand awareness and build a following on social media? Is there only one measurement of success? With any marketing campaign or strategy, the way to ensure it is worth your time and money is to make sure that above all else, your strategy aligns with your business values and goals. Only you can define exactly what you want to accomplish with social media for your business because it has to work for you in a way that flows with the rest of your business. Whether that goal is to bring in more foot traffic, book more appointments, or gain as many online reviews as possible is up to you. Your goals should be steering your strategy for social media, though, including which platform to choose.

The bottom line—social media is a great place to engage with people on neutral ground, where you both get to be yourselves and connect on a level that’s deeper than the typical customer-client connection.