Affordable Image Marketing Tools to Help Non-Profits Create Stunning Visuals

When you’re working on promoting your next fundraising event or a thank you initiative to long-time donors, you want to add a visual punch in your campaigns, to make it more exciting.

It’s been proven time and time again that people are more likely to engage with posts that contain photos and/or videos because the visual aspect makes the post more interesting to read. But if you’re on a budget, it can be tough to justify paying for platforms like Photoshop, especially if you don’t use it frequently and/or don’t have a graphic designer in house.

That’s why I’m sharing some of the most popular inexpensive and/or free marketing tools to help non-profits easily create stunning visuals to attract donors, engage fans and make events and campaigns more memorable.

 

Canva For Non-Profits

By far one of the most popular visual tools online today, Canva has a free premium version available for non-profits. You’ll be able to create any image, from infographics, e-books and Facebook ads to email headers and you don’t need to be a graphic designer to use it. It’s the intuitive visual platform even novices can use with an extensive selection of stock photos and other elements available for $1 each. You’ll also be able to upload your own logos and images to the site and incorporate them into your own designs. There are templates available if you’re looking for something more structured and several photo enhancing tools for any touch-ups you need.

Crello

Another popular option that’s free to sign up, Crello has over 65 million free stock images and over 10,000 free design templates. While there are some advanced design elements for $1/each, anyone can sign up and get started on the pre-loaded templates right away. They have designs for print, social media, animations, digital ads and just about anything you can think of that will work for non-profit events, e-newsletters and blogs. The inspiration community page with ideas from members will definitely get the creativity flowing.

Animoto

An affordable platform you can use to easily turn photos, graphics, and video clips into animated video slideshows, Animoto starts with a free two week trial with the paid version starting at $13/month. The basic package gives you over 700+ styles and 500 music tracks to choose from, for each video you create. It’s a platform that works to create great short form videos for Facebook and Instagram as it can easily convert the slideshow to the square format. You can add any images, clips and text you see fit, save it and share it to your respective platforms.

Boomerang from Instagram

You may have tried Boomerang by now, but in case you haven’t, you can use it to create mini-videos that will play a short burst of photos forwards and backwards. It’s a quick, free and quirky way to create a fun visual of a great fundraising event that will be undoubtedly catch the eye of fans and followers. You also have the flexibility to share it on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, not just directly inside Instagram.

Pablo by Buffer

Pablo by Buffer

Pablo by Buffer

Buffer, a well-known social media platform recently released Pablo, a graphic design tool specifically for social media. There is a selection of pre-uploaded photos and text overlays for your images to supplement any Facebook posts and Twitter status updates your organization may be posting. It’s also free to use so you don’t have to pay a fee to edit your photos or share them via social media to platforms such as Instagram as well as Facebook and Twitter.

PhotoPin

PhotoPin Stock Image Site

PhotoPin Image Site

This is a great search engine for images on Flickr that are marked under the Creative Commons license, which lets you use the photos for commercial and non-commercial use for free, as long as credit is given to the creator. Search results can be easily filtered and each image comes in a variety of downloadable sizes and contains the info how you can give the creator credit.

Infogr.am

This platform allows you to publish charts and infographics through a variety of templates. You’ll be able to add charts, maps, videos, images and anything else you and share it with the one-click share button or embed it into your blog. With the free plan, you’re given access to 37+ interactive charts, 13 map types and the ability to import data, run up to 10 projects with 3 pages/project. If you move up to the pro plan for $19/month, that expands to 500+ map types, 100 projects, 10 pages/project, privacy control and the ability to download HD images, gain access to 1 million images & icons, premium templates and live analytical data.

Lumen5

Lumen5 turns your blog posts, articles and any other long form content into a video. Upload the text into the platform, choose some photos and music to go with the text and then you can share it directly to Facebook or upload it to share wherever you like. The free version allows you to create unlimited videos and upload your own logo and photos for the videos you create. It also gives you access to 10,000,000+ free media files. For the pro account at $49/month, you’ll get all that plus the ability to upload your own watermark and outro with square videos, no credit scene and Lumen5 branding

Subscribe here for more marketing tips & fundraising ideas for non-profits, including cost-effective online fundraising ideas and creative & outside-the-box event ideas. Check back here often for more marketing strategies, social media tips and insights into PR.

Advertisements

What is Brand Journalism?

What is brand journalism?

What is Brand Journalism

 

Whether it’s a non-profit organization or a start-up, nearly everyone has a blog because they want to share important news on services/products and events with their audience.

Other companies, however, are starting to do more. On top of generating brand awareness and turning leads into paying customers through blogging, some companies believe they need to fill in the gaps left behind by traditional media.

Gaps due to the fact that traditional media is overwhelmed due to a lack of resources. As of 2010, there are officially 4.6 PR professionals for every journalist. Consequently, many companies are hiring journalists to build media operations in-house. Instead of waiting for media to cover stories, brands are generating their own stories and becoming their own journalists, hence brand journalism.

 

How to Encourage a Brand Journalism Program in Your Company

What makes a brand journalism program

How to create a compelling brand journalism program

Changing the culture as far as marketing goes can be daunting, but not impossible. PR & marketing teams play pivotal roles in educating the company’s senior management about the concept and best practices in order to get the approval from the top down.

Pick a team member to compile examples of brand journalism success such as case studies, white papers, social media and websites. Start slowly with one story and once the initial project has seen positive results, it’ll be much easier to sell senior executives on creating a brand journalism program.

Effective Brand Journalism=Strong Storytelling

Building a successful brand journalism program comes down to the strong stories that you develop. One of the most effective ways to help create strong stories is to adopt a ‘newsroom mentality’ among your media team. Your team of marketing, PR and traditional journalists sit down and have pitch meetings, develop editorial calendars and regular ‘beats’ or areas of coverage are assigned. Even if you have a small team or work for a non-profit organization, you can still manage a brand journalism program.

 

Not all Stories Make Great Brand Journalism

Elements that make a really good story

What makes a strong story?

 

Just like in traditional journalism, your team needs an ongoing selection of compelling stories to drive buzz for your brand, but not every story will fit the brand journalism guidelines. Criteria is as follows:

-Focus on the audience (Always consider what they care about and how they’ll benefit).

-Find a voice by featuring a real person who tells the story. Having someone that the audience can relate to makes the story more compelling. Some great examples would be having community leaders share their perspectives, business leaders share their experiences and notable influencers to give their expertise. Remember that the person audiences connect to will rarely be your company’s top executives or media spokesperson.

-Tying your content to larger big picture issues and/or statistics from well-respected organizations can help to give your content some creditability and make it more newsworthy

-Keep your message simple. Do away with any corporate jargon and use plain language where possible to make sure you audience understands what you’re talking about

-Add visuals. As audiences naturally gravitate to visuals, make sure to include photos, videos, slideshows, infographics and any other visuals you can think of to raise engagement levels with your content

-Un-brand your content. This means removing all branding that doesn’t fit seamlessly into the content. In other words, your company name may not appear in the headline as it does in a typical news release. It’s much more likely to be mentioned in affiliation with your expert who features in the story. Keep any and all branding subtle

Create content with your audience in mind, with a simple message that‘s visually stunning and allow the real people in your organization to tell their stories, without putting the company brand front and center.

 

Getting Your Brand Journalism Program Out There

 

How to Pitch a Strong Story

Story Pitching

Distributing brand journalism content starts much the same way it would with traditional media relations: you find the right journalists, build those relationships and share the stories. The difference between brand journalism and traditional media relations is all about attitude; it’s less about ‘story pitching’ as it is ‘content sharing’. Building strong relationships with journalists who trust you means that they will view your brand journalism program as a source of valuable content, rather than just another PR campaign.

When you distribute brand journalism content, make sure that it’s easily accessible to the journalists you’re sending it to. Make the content easily downloadable, the photos & videos easy to save and brand elements (if relevant) such as high resolution logos easily available. You want to make it as easy as possible for journalists to share your content through social media, websites and alike, increasing the chance of you growing your own audience.

When it comes to getting your brand journalism content out there through your company channels, it’s important to keep each platform’s audience in mind. Best practices include re-purposing said content for several different social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter by shortening it or making it into infographic. Doing this helps to amplify your message across platforms and increases ROI.

Sometimes, companies choose to create separate website hubs to act as news media sites to host their brand journalism content as well.

However you choose to distribute your brand journalism content, developing such a program will allow you to deliver buzz for your brand, amplify messages you create and increase ROI-without relying on the constraints of traditional media.

Stay tuned for more informative posts and infographics on brand journalism, thought leadership, content marketing, social media and everything having to do with PR and marketing.

CASE STUDY: Unit Publicity and Media Relations Campaign for Short Horror Film Heartless

Heartless Poster

 

THE CHALLENGE

 As a unit publicist with experience running public relations campaigns for short films, an actor at a film festival and a horror film moving through a competition, this film presented challenges I hadn’t previously dealt with in my other projects. For my other short films, I’d had the benefit of support through the film event I was working on (see my Crazy 8s case study) or it was a one-off event such as the TIFF strategy for Peter Dacunha or helping Black Land through the Cinecoup competition.

Heartless is my first American-directed and produced short horror film where I didn’t have a film event, competition or team behind me as a jumping off point and a sense of urgency to make the publicity campaign flow easier. Heartless, and by extension, the film’s award-winning production company, Sunshine Boy Productions, also has the distinction of being the first film I’d actively pursued for publicity.

An unintended benefit of this being my first major solo unit publicity campaign, however, was the ease in obtaining film reviews where it had previously been difficult for my other film projects. Not only did the fact that Heartless is a horror film make it much easier to obtain reviews, Kevin & Jennifer Sluder, the film’s director & executive producer (and owners of Sunshine Boy Productions) have also been readily available for interviews as the production company is their primary business, rather than a side venture.

THE SOLUTION

Focusing on local media (newspapers, magazines, blogs), indie film podcasts, blogs and horror review outlets, I updated my media database based on the region the film was screening at on the festival circuit. As a result, I was able to pitch Heartless to countless local media in regions such as Lansing, MI, Durham, NC, Calgary, Alberta and the greater Los Angeles area.

In addition, I was also able to pitch interviews and reviews for Heartless with numerous horror and indie film media outlets worldwide such as Ready, Steady, Cut out of the UK, Rue Morgue Magazine out of Toronto, Canada, Promote Horror out of the US, Dave Bullis’s Indie Film podcast out of the US and Popcorn Horror out of Scotland.

For results and subsequent press coverage, please read my Case Studies and see my Unit Publicity Portfolio for more project examples.

Online Team Collaboration and Organization Tools Part 2

Whether it’s the mad rush of the Christmas season or the busy summer sales rearing their heads, it can be tough enough to manage staff, new inventory and customer inquiries, without the added task of hiring new staff.

With so many people trying to manage new inventory and internal CRM systems, keeping everyone on task and on the same page can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. If you’ve been following my blog, there’s no doubt you’ve probably read my previous post on Top 10 Social Media Apps to Improve Productivity and Organization, but I thought I’d add a few more affordable/free options that you may not have heard of before but go above and beyond to give teams easy to use collaboration & organization platforms.

On the Same Page

With a cloud-based collaboration platform like Same Page, business owners can sign up for free and log into their team account on their phones, laptops or tablets, increasing organizational efficiency.

‘Team owners’ can directly message staff, post in team chat windows and even use video calling to host remote conferences with staff members to assist businesses with stores situated in different locations.

Staff who are added as team members can easily upload diagrams and charts that show sales progress and even upload videos and photos of new products & services on the team page. Tasks can be given due dates and reminders can be assigned to relevant members, while the team task list can filter duties accordingly so they can be evenly distributed.

Staff members are able to keep track of their progress with the official task tracker and calendars – both team and individual – are available so everyone is aware of deadlines, meetings and special events.

Stress-Free Freedcamp

Freedcamp prides itself on being an all-in-one solution for team collaboration and organization. Business owners can have discussions with their staff in one place instead of dealing with scattered email threads and staff members can organize files in a state-of-the-art file system, backing up all information offline. Managers can also control staff rosters, tracking time on multiple staff members across multiple days.

Freedcamp gives staff members the option to assign tasks and set a goal by a certain date, notifying the team with progress updates as the goal moves closer as well. The software allows retailers to duplicate project templates, which increases productivity and eliminates the need to spend time and energy recreating homogeneous project types. This platform also has unlimited storage and allows for unlimited projects. Business owners and team members can take the tool on the go through the iOS app on Apple products.

Fleep

Known as the ultimate platform for project communication, Fleep gives you email compatibility just by adding someone to Fleep teams (and their conversations) with their email address. They’ll still be able to see the conversations as normal emails if they’ve not Fleep members as well. It’s an open platform, so anyone who’s a Fleep user can send messages to you, whether they’re a member of your organization or not, making it one of the easiest platforms to use for cross-team project collaboration.

You can create, assign, search and track tasks within the Fleep task management system and the native pinboard allows you to pin and edit notes on the side of each conversation. Every conversation’s photos and other files  can be found to the side in a conversation specific file drawer and you’ll be able to integrate video and audio calls. You’ll be able to have full message history, unlimited conversations & teams, unlimited integrations, 10 GB of file storage and  native apps for iPhone, Android, Mac & Windows with the free account. For 5 €/user/month to be billed annually, you’ll have everything free in Fleep, 100 GB of file storage, the ability for your company name & logo to be shown, managed accounts & messages. It’s also flexible with API and integrations from Dropbox, appear.in, to Slack and Google Drive.

Notion

This platform is known as the ‘unified, collaborative workspace’ for wikis, notes and tasks. Unified with Slack, you’ll be able to manage anything. On the document side, you can organize the pages by nesting the pages inside one another to keep things clean and organized at the same time. For wikis, you can drag and drop or embed 30+ different types content from anywhere and the wiki will update in real time. Content you can put in the wiki includes PDFs, iFrames, videos, Google Docs & Google Maps. For tasks, you can also build the perfect visual task board and integrate it with Slack.

If you sign up for the free account, you’ll get 600 blocks (blocks are drag & drop content such as photos, videos, text blocks etc.) for the desktop version, unlimited blocks for mobile use, unlimited members/guest & 5 MB/file upload. If you choose the $8/user/month option, you’ll have unlimited usage/control over your workspace, unlimited blocks for desktop and mobile use, unlimited members/guests, no file upload limit, admin tools and priority support.

Scoro

This last platform’s probably the most expensive out of this list but it’s also the most comprehensive. For 19€/user/month with a minimum of 5 users, you’ll be able to manage everything about a project on one page from invoices and expenses, planned tasks/meetings and manage your project portfolio by using configurable statuses (such as in progress) and tags.  You’ll also have access to the company news feed, file management and sharing, custom fields for multiple projects, CRM & quote management, financial & work reports, Calendar, Toogl, Dropbox & Mailchimp integrations.

If you spring for the premium package at 29€/user/month with a minimum of 5 users, you’ll get access to all that plus the ability to schedule tasks & projects to individual team members, schedule team meetings into the calendar and have completed tasks go directly into the work reports, eliminating the need for timesheets. You can also schedule invoicing and send out late invoice reminders along with tracking billable hours and have integrations with both Quickbooks and Xero.

With the right team collaboration and organization tools, retailers can better manage staff tasks. The aim is to avoid drop-offs in productivity by allowing staff members to spend time on what matters: keeping their customers happy during the holiday rush and expanding business.

Investing a little time and energy in the short term to find the best team collaboration tools will pay dividends in the long term and ensure the holiday rush is smoother and far jollier.

 

How to Find & Develop Relationships with Social Media Influencers

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably read my posts on how unit publicity helps indie film, great advertising campaigns and tips on great tools to use to help manage social media and save time.

But with the rise of influencer marketing and platforms to help you manage said campaigns recent years, I’ve been asked about the best ways to develop influencer campaigns affordably.

If done correctly, influencer campaigns can drive word-of-mouth marketing and consumer growth, leading to influencers becoming brand ambassadors for companies. Brand ambassadors can help to generate fun and engaging organic content for your brand on a consistent basis, lead campaigns through email, social and advertising and help to elevate events you participate in.

In order to avoid missteps and choosing someone just based on their number of followers, make sure you outline goals you want the influencer campaign to accomplish and do your research on influencers.

With this post, I’ll be focusing on how to develop a plan for influencer marketing campaigns and how to find the best social media influencers for your brand.

Developing a Plan for Influencer Campaigns

As mentioned earlier, working with influencers can help to put a face to your brand and humanize the company. But how do you go about creating a plan to find influencers and run marketing campaigns with tangible goals?

You want to thoroughly plan out what you’re looking to do. Are you launching a new product or service? Is it an event you’re attending and/or organizing? Is it a promotion/contest you’re looking to gain more entries?  Who are you looking to influence to pay attention to this news, attend these events or enter a contest?

If you’re looking for an influencer to share a video helping to promote your indie film fundraiser, are you prepared to offer them exclusive tickets to the world premiere or a media screener with a small gift? What about offering them a chance to tour the set of your next film or perhaps a cameo on screen?

If you want an influencer to write a blog post, review your product or hype up an event, you have to think about what you’re willing to give influencers in-kind. Are you going to be sending them different products to review 3 times/year? Will you have exclusive VIP events that they’ll be invited to? Are you expecting them to post 4X/promotion via Twitter, Facebook and perhaps do an Instagram takeover for an event?

Once you have the general framework for influencer campaigns in place, you can tailor it to suit specific campaigns for certain influencers.

Next, I’ll be focusing on how to find the best social media influencers for your brand and the tools you can use to make it easier.

Finding the Right Social Influencers 

The right influencers can help you reach more of your core demographic by allowing you to piggyback on their follower base and they can also increase your SEO value by developing more backlinks to content you’ve posted.

As you search for influencers, you need to consider the criteria you’re looking for:

Relevance: Is the influencer is sharing content and do they have an audience that’s relevant to my brand? Would my own audience trust this person and be engaged with the content?

Reach:  Does the influencer have enough of an audience that the content we create/promote together will bring my brand value?

Make sure you also do your outreach slowly. Don’t approach influencers right off the bat with an offer of a brand partnership. Start by following them (if you’re not already), comment on conversations they’ve having and share their content.

 

How to Find Influencers Using Tools You (Probably) Already Have

On LinkedIn

As LinkedIn is already a great platform to discover secondary connections through groups and your own connections, you can use the search function to also find influencers. You can search for keywords such as “indie film” and “food bloggers” and pull up secondary connections that are relevant to your industry. Send them a message about their content (make sure you do your research about what they do) and ask them if they wouldn’t mind having a chat about it. Be honest about how you found them and start the conversation.

On Twitter

As you probably know, Twitter’s advanced search function is useful to look for the latest news items and notable Twitter handles. Pulling up any search using hashtags will allow you to see who’s talking about a certain subject such as #indiefilm or who identifies as a #techblogger. From there, you’ll have an idea of who is sharing content relevant to your brand and you can start following them, sharing their updates and making an effort to engage them in conversation.

Twitter’s also a great platform to find micro influencers among your own fans as well. Your own fans are already interested in your brand, so it’ll take less effort to convince them to work with you. Fans are already promoting your content and your brand without prompting, so why not make it a mutually beneficial partnership by formally giving them perks to help hype an event or write a review of some of your products that you’ll gift to them? Of course, fans being interested in and supporting your brand is only half the story, their audiences also have to be relevant to your company.

On Instagram

Looking through your Instagram followers is also great way to find micro influencers (you’d want the reach to be significant-between 1,000-10,000 followers). Take a look at what your followers are posting about, including the reach of their posts and if they’ve been sharing your updates. If they’re consistently posting about food & wine, indie film, sports/fitness and your brand is in those industries, they might be interested in partnering with your company.

Just like on Twitter, you can also search for influential hashtags such as #organicfood, #organicbeauty or #MMAfitness. You’ll get a list of top photos using any of those hashtags that have the most likes. Take a look at the accounts that posted these photos and see if they’d work as a micro influencer for your brand. If you’re a fitness brand or gym facility, you could consider giving them free passes to your facility to try out training and a few classes. If you make organic sauces, marinades and spices, consider giving the influencer a gift basket to try out your products and ask them to make a few of your tried and tested recipes.

 

Using Other Tools to Help Discover Influencers

FollowerWonk is a tool that can help you find Twitter influencers and you can add the first profile for free. Once you sign up, you can click on the ‘Search Bios’ tab and look into the advanced search options. You can tailor the search results based on location, number of followers and whether you’re searching for bloggers.

The social authority column is the best indicator of how influential someone is as it combines the number of followers with how much influence they wield over the followers. If you see low authority numbers that means they don’t engage their own audiences and aren’t worth your time.

Lastly, BuzzSumo is a great tool to help with influencer marketing. Though the pro option will set you back about $79/month, you’ll be able to search for Twitter influencers using specific keywords.

The number of followers will give you an idea of an influencer’s reach and the retweet/reply ratios will keep you informed of the influencer’s engagement rates. You’ll also be able to find influencers, bloggers, companies, journalists and regular people. You can also organize results by followers if you’re interested in reach or retweet/reply ratios. Sorting the results by authority will give you a good mix of reach & engagement. Those who have high page authority are seen as experts in their niche.

Let me know if you have recommendations for more affordable ways to find influencers & manage influencer campaigns! Keep it posted here for more content on marketing, PR and social media tools.

Top 10 Apps for Social Media Productivity and Organization

In working with clients across several industries such as tourism and hospitality and film and television, I’ve noticed a major trend.

With their priorities ranging from business development to film production and screenwriting, marketing is often an afterthought. They understand the importance of posting on social media, writing a blog post and marketing campaigns through online ads, websites, social and even print, but don’t often have time, energy and expertise to devote to marketing. And unfortunately, in the world of marketing, particularly social media, consistent content development is the key.

In order to keep your fan base relevant, you have to interact with them, get them into conversation about what interests them and let them know what’s going on with your brand. If you don’t, audiences will shrink and interest in your brand drops.

Here’s the good news: although content will always have to have your stamp of approval on it, whether you work with a publicist or social media marketer, there ARE apps and platforms that can make your life easier.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 social media apps to help you stay organized & keep your productivity up!

 

 

The 411: This platform is specifically built to help you manage Instagram.  You can arrange how your feed will look with the exclusive Drag & Drop feature, schedule content & captions days/weeks/months in advance (you’ll get reminders when it’s time to post) and it even gives you analytics that will show who has interacted with your most popular posts. The built-in scheduler allows you to schedule not just photos but videos and gifs too and you can use the just-announced hashtag manager allows you to create different groups of hashtags for each post. It also makes it that much easier for you to search for UGC (user-generated content) that use your custom hashtags.

The free version gives you the option of uploading and scheduling 30 photos/month, with a month’s worth of analytics stored but if you move to the duo option for $15/month USD, you’ll be able to manage 2 accounts with unlimited photo, video and gif uploads and analytics history saved for up to a year. You have the option of adding the ‘Shoppable’ package which embeds the gallery onto your website, tags products on every post and tracks performance based on how many people purchase the item.

 

 

The 411: Basically the easiest way to manage your Twitter timeline, in a nutshell. It keeps unread tweets in sync between apps on different devices, helps eliminate duplicate notifications and allows you to stop notifications on a sleep period. No matter whether you choose the iPhone, Android, iPad or Mac version, you’ll be able to view timeline photos and videos in full screen and see all the tweet details by tapping the tweet and open links without the app.

Site streams deliver tweets in real time with LiveLinks on your timeline and you’ll be able to tweet over 140 characters as well. The Android version also has dashboard widgets that allow you to access the most used Twitter features without leaving the home screen.

 

The 411: The free version gives you a ton of flexibility beyond simply scheduling tweets. You can set up alerts to track keywords in your public stream so you can follow what everyone is talking about. You can shorten your links, purge tweets and your inbox to start over and use up to 5 Twitter accounts with it.

The professional version ups the ante by letting you vet new followers, apply SPAM protection, filter spammy profiles and sort them into Twitter lists. You can also use the tool with unlimited Facebook profiles, schedule Facebook status updates, upload photos for Pinterest, schedule shares for LinkedIn and have unlimited LinkedIn and Pinterest as well. You can even use it to publish and schedule blog posts.

 

The 411: This platform is a social media organization tool that focuses more on audience monitoring, analytics and statistics in real time. They replace arbitrary scheduling with actionable data on what your target audiences are engaging with at any given moment. You enter the content into the queue and the software uses real time data along with business rules that you can customize, to determine when is the best time to publish content to your social media platforms. They support organic publishing for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & LinkedIn and monitor aspects such as geo-tracking clicks, number of clicks, likes and comments.

On the social media advertising end, the tech makes recommendations on keywords, audiences and even ad spend so that you have the right insights to optimize campaigns.

 

The 411: In a nutshell, this platform makes it easy to pull together and sift through content from different sources such as YouTube, Instagram, Flickr & RSS feeds to publish it across all the social media platforms. You’re also able to customize the content to suit the style and audience of each social media platforms and modify them, depending on the platform to add/remove hashtags and @mentions.

The free option gives you the ability to connect one account on each platform such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ & LinkedIn and allows you to integrate content from 3 feeds such as Instagram, YouTube and RSS feeds. As you move up to the other options, you’ll be able to connect multiple accounts on the platforms and integrate content from up to 15 feeds.

 

The 411: A tool that makes team collaboration easy. You can use the customizable boards to plan out your social media content calendar, plan a campaign or organize ideas you’ve brainstormed. It’s completely up to you on how you want to customize it, as you can organize posts by a given week on a specific platform on a particular topic.

You can also add checklists to the boards which allows you to cross off items as they’re completed, making it easier to track campaign progress. Different team members can be assigned different tasks with customized labels and different publication statuses so team members can see what social media status update is on which platform and when they’re due.

 

The 411: This platform has multiple functions that make content development easy such as the ability to schedule and repost your content as you see fit and content recommendations based on a list of keywords you’ve previously selected, straight to your dashboard. There are also feeds that you can add to select content from and the app allows you to add a certain number of hashtags and re-post your content over a period of time so the queue is never empty.

You can manage multiple social media accounts and link your blog updates to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and with the iPhone and Android apps, you can keep your productivity up even on the go. The new Chrome extension allows you to share the stories you’re reading without leaving the browser.  The starter package is $15/month allows you to have 3 social media accounts, 10 posts/day/account, 3 content streams and custom scheduling.

 

The 411: It places the emphasis on who you should be following and who you shouldn’t follow by listing users in 3 different groups: Influencers, Supporters and Engaged Members, which allows you to target your audience more efficiently. It also provides free Twitter analytics, allowing team members to manage your accounts and recommends people you should respond to.

Influencers, Supporters and Engaged Members are determined by followers/following ratios, engagement history, retweets and brand mentions, identifying these valuable people for you to follow.  You’ll also be able to manage multiple Twitter accounts and focus on your top influencers and supporters.

 

The 411: A visual tool that lets you easily turn ideas to visuals. You’ll be able to create images with quotes, conversation bubbles, custom icons and stickers. You have a wide variety of filters and effects to choose from and the ability to re-size images any way you see fit. It also has a ton of customizable layouts that can be changed.

No matter which package and version (Web, iPhone or iPad) you choose, you’ll have access to over 8,000 templates and access millions of photos for $1 each. The Canva website also has a ton of informative tutorials and ideas on how to use the app, along with actual design courses that you can take.

 

The 411: This platform takes things one step further by extending the report monitoring to PPC, SEO and social media marketing campaigns. You can automate all the reporting for all the digital campaigns and include performance metrics from Adwords, Analytics, Facebook, Twitter ads and more.

You also have the option to use the site auditor to automatically crawl your website and gather data about key pages and fix any SEO problems your website may have.

Interested in more social media related tools to make running your business or promoting your film a little easier? Check out my posts on the top tools to create infographics and the top 10 unique ways to promote your film, TV or web project!

 

 

Freelance Writing: Social Media Monitoring Made Easy for Jeweller Magazine

Hello All,

My latest freelance contribution to Jeweller Magazine across the pond in Melbourne, Australia focuses on the best social media monitoring tools out on the market for jewellers to use that are A) free, B) easy to use and C) provide metrics for all kinds of social media platforms.

Check it out here or at the direct link, if you’d like and let me know what you think and if you’ve come across other tools that are just as awesome!

Remember, keep it locked here for more in marketing, PR & indie film!

BONUS: Day 8-The Best Apps & Websites for Planning Your Dream Honeymoon

jade-mountain-569

Planning a vacation should be about enjoying the journey of discovering all the options of destinations, attractions and activities available to you-and avoiding the stress of last-minute cramming and rushing.

Even after you decide on a destination, you have to make a decision on transportation (flight, road trip, cruise etc.) and decide on what kind of accommodations you’d like to stay in during your vacation and the types of attractions & landmarks you want to experience.

Overall, planning a fun, exciting and possibly romantic trip is all about making decisions. But, the key element to creating the best itinerary for any vacation is a stress-free, seamless decision making process. How do you go about having a seamless vacation planning process? By choosing the right websites and apps, of course. Although large vacation sites such as Expedia and Travelocity have their place, don’t be fooled into thinking that these are the best-or the only-websites for your travel planning.

So which apps and websites should you turn to? Well, I’m glad you asked! As an extra bonus for brides and grooms mired in wedding planning, I’m going to expand my usual top 5 list for this blog series to include NINE of the best apps & websites that I’ve discovered that will help you plan the perfect honeymoon with the itinerary of your dreams!

After all, with all the work you’ve been doing to plan your wedding, you deserve a well-earned, fun, adventurous and romantic honeymoon. Without further ado, here’s the list of top 9 (in no particular order) of the best apps and websites for planning your honeymoon.

1) TripIt Travel Organizer


Why It’s Awesome: TripIt magically organizes all of your travel plans in one place so you can access them anytime, anywhere—in the airport or on the road (even when you don’t have an Internet connection.) Just hit forward to send the team all of your hotel, airline, car rental, and restaurant reservations and they’ll take care of it. Want to add a few notes, links, or recommendations? Just click Add Plans and enter away. The TripIt master itinerary has all the details you need, plus maps, directions and weather, so you can keep calm and carry on. It keeps all of your travel plans in one spot and stay organized with separate itineraries for every destination—ideal for frequent travelers. You can access trip details whenever and wherever you need them—on your smartphone, tablet or online at tripit.com. You can also easily add or edit plans manually right from the app or on tripit.com and receive daily weather forecasts, directions and maps for each destination as well as use map-based search to find restaurants, businesses and attractions, then add them to your trip itinerary in one click.

2) Jetsetter for iPad Hotels & Exclusive Travel Deals

jetsetter
Why It’s Awesome: Jetsetter provides insider access to the world’s greatest hotels, vacation homes and tour packages. With the app you can enjoy panoramic photography, first-hand reviews, and access Jetsetter’s exclusive flash sales — up to 50% off daily. Browse panoramic pictures and 360-degree room tours, read first-hand reviews and grab insider tips and search and discover hundreds of the world’s greatest vacations, from boutique hotels in New York City to charming villas in Tuscany. You can also access Jetsetter’s members-only deals at up to 50% off and iPad exclusive offers without having to join.

3) Dwellable Vacation Rentals

Dwellable_Vacation_Rentals
Why It’s Awesome: Find the perfect vacation rental with this app! Compare thousands of dream rentals right on your iPhone/iPad. It covers all US destinations, including hot spots like Hawaii, Cape Cod, Gatlinburg, Orlando, Outer Banks, San Diego and many others. There are over 80,000 vacation rentals and 1,000,000 photos that you can browse through the regional map and your search results will be automatically filtered by date, beds, price or amenity.

4) Utrip

UTrip
Why It’s Awesome: It’s a European vacation, complete with an interactive map! You decide on your travel dates and it takes you to an interactive map of Europe where you can choose the county and/or city you want to travel to. Then an interactive menu pops up where you can choose your lodging for the trip. Each menu not only has photos of the hotel, descriptions of the amenities and ratings, but once you click to book a room, an interactive map will pop up. The map shows you the locations of all the restaurants, attractions, landmarks and amenities in the area with icons, descriptions, photos, ratings and reviews of each place. It’ll even give you general price ranges that you can expect to spend at each place.

5) YourTour

yourtour
Why It’s Awesome: Not only does YourTour allow you to generate city trips on the spot, but it goes beyond the city setting to offer you visits to whole regions: after all, wouldn’t it be a shame to visit Paris and then find that your adviser never mentioned Versailles to you? YourTour is currently the only travel generator which covers all of a city, one or more regions or even a whole country. What’s more, YourTour will automatically plan hotels to suit your trip and you can make all your reservations in just one click. It’s the only tool that will generate you a real trip complete with reservations based on the preferences and budget you’ve indicated. The YourTour.com website is based on a unique calculation engine that combines mainly hotels and activities in order to generate several million tours in a few seconds. YourTour’s calculation engine matches the attractions and hotels to your tastes and preferences (modifiable in the “Personalize” tab), along with price, distance to be travelled, opening hours, availability, etc.

6) Hipmunk Flight & Hotel Search

hipmunk
Why It’s Awesome: This app is the fastest, easiest way to search for flights and hotels, by comparing all the top travel sites so you don’t have to. Unlike every other travel app out there, Hipmunk doesn’t just show you the cheapest flight first–the app sorts by “flight agony” instead, incorporating important factors like flight duration, number of layovers and price. Hotel results are shown on a map so you can see exactly where you’ll be staying in a destination. You can also read TripAdvisor reviews in the app and turn on heatmaps to see the best areas to stay in based on unique interests like food, landmarks, nightlife and more.

7) Room 77 – Hotel Deal Finder for 200K+ Hotels

room77
Why It’s Awesome: Room 77 is a hotel booking app that helps travelers find the most rates and book the best prices on 200,000+ hotels worldwide. In one search, travelers can compare rates across hundreds of leading travel sites, including Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, Booking.com, Hotels.com and hotels directly, so they can be sure they are seeing the widest selection of rates and availability to get the best deal. You can easily search and find your perfect hotel from 200,000+ hotels worldwide, see more rates and room categories than anywhere else, so you always get the best deals and save up to 50% with AAA Member and Senior rates. You can also get the inside scoop on the best rooms in each hotel and after you book with Room 77, the team goes behind-the-scenes to get you a room matching your preferences. Want a quiet room or one with a view? They’ll hook you up.

8) Turquoise Holidays Honeymoon Guide

Turquoise_Holidays
Why It’s Awesome: You can discover dream destinations, read top tips of where to go when, what to pack and golden rules from the experts on all things honeymoon. You can learn about Turquoise’s unique gift list service, where your guests can purchase gift cards that will go towards your honeymoon and enter a world of stunning landscapes, turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and once in a lifetime journeys. Features of this app include: honeymoon tips & ideas, interactive guides for 32 countries across the globe, packing tips, budget tips, destination guides including currency, visas and flight information, interactive maps, special offers, beautiful photos and accommodation photos & descriptions.

9) Cruise Ship Mate

quantum-of-the-seas
Why It’s Awesome: Now you can find all cruise ships itinerary in one app! Including the following cruise lines: Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America, MSC, Oceania, P&O, Cunard, Oceania and Azamara. No matter which cruise line you’re traveling with, you can access all of these features: Cruise countdown clock, roll call, deck plans & cruise ship info, cruise port info (history, maps, locations, weather), excursion info, postcards, cruise itineraries, deck cams, cruising packing list, cruise ship tracker, vacation picture gallery and cruising tips. You will NOT need internet service to use the app on the ship. You can put your phone on “airplane mode” and still use the majority of Ship Mate’s features.

Yours in Wedding & Honeymoon Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 7-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Creating Your Wedding Soundtrack

wedding music

When you’re planning a soundtrack for your wedding, there are three aspects you have to keep in mind: what kind of music do you and your future spouse like, what kind of music do you know that your guests love to dance to and MOST IMPORTANTLY, how do you incorporate both types of music to create a playlist that you AND your guests can have fun dancing to all night long?

If your tastes in music are anything like mine, you’d know in advance that NOT ALL the music that you enjoy listening to is music that you can dance to and there’s a chance that your guests may not agree with your music choices. Not only that, you may not agree with your guests’ musical choices either. How do you avoid a sticky situation where no one enjoys the music and they don’t want to dance?

Do your research into the songs that you enjoy, surely there must be a few rock, rap, pop or alternative songs that people could at least slow dance to. Then create a playlist with some of your favorites as well as some dance-worthy music that you don’t find cringe worthy. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Usher (mostly early 2000’s), old-school Boyz II Men and some Kanye West that could be considered dance-worthy.

So, what’s the easiest way to create your own playlist and have a guest or family member manage your wedding soundtrack for you? I’ve got top 5 of the best apps and websites for creating and managing your wedding soundtrack and getting you the kind of music you want for your reception.

1) Spotify

music-for-every-moment-spotify
Why It’s Awesome: After you download the app (for an iPod), make a playlist using your Spotify premium account OR make one from any account and subscribe to it later using a mobile device that’s logged into the premium account. Set the playlist so that it’s available offline on the mobile device of your choosing. If you’re using a iPod Touch, you need wi-fi long enough to “download” the playlist. Spotify lets you download temporary files to your iPod which last 30 days, at which point you’ll lose access and have to log back in and re-download. Test your setup wherever you plan to have the ceremony, preferably with some of the same songs you’ll be using to see how they sound and how loud they should be.

2) MyWeddingDJ

MyWeddingDJ
Why It’s Awesome: Great for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, you can play songs and playlists that are already on your iTunes! It helps you create a Music Plan using your songs and playlists, suggests parts of your wedding you need music for, there are no awkward silences as it fades gracefully for all pauses and stops and crossfades between songs and when you skip a track. It prevents accidental skipping or pausing, takes requests, waits between each song or playlist.

3) Gig Masters

Gig_Masters
Why It’s Awesome: You can literally find any form of entertainment that will play any kind of music you like. From jazz and bluegrass bands to violin soloists, singers and DJs, you can find entertainment to fit your wedding music needs. You can even hire world bands who play Caribbean music, a Beatles tribute band and other entertainers as well such as impersonators, magicians and clowns. It’s definitely the go-to website to hire all kinds of musical and other entertainment.

4) Last.FM

Last.FM
Why It’s Awesome: You can search for all kinds of artists and play their albums for a fee through the Android and iPhone apps, listen to the radio, create playlists and it even has personalized radio stations based on music and playlists you’ve previously created. They have full albums available for all kinds of artists from Incubus to Imagine Dragons, Daft Punk to Kanye West.

5) Djay for iPad

Djay_for_iPad
Why It’s Awesome: For the budding DJ, djay gives you instant access to all your existing songs and playlists on your iPad. Browse your entire music library and easily play, mix, and scratch your favorite songs as an iPad DJ. In Automix mode, djay mixes your favorite iPod playlists with seamless DJ-style transitions. You can customize Automix to your liking by adjusting various transition options such as style, duration, shuffle, and auto-sync. djay’s sophisticated on-the-fly song analysis calculates the beats per minute (BPM) and exact location of each beat, laying the groundwork for a host of other features including Auto-Sync and beat-synchronized scratching. djay’s advanced audio wave form display gives you an overview of a song’s structure and allows you to visually cue to specific points to prepare the prefect transition. Auto-Cut Scratching automatically applies the rhythmic pattern of the currently playing song to your scratches in real-time. Simply touch and move the record with two fingers to create stunning effects and go beyond the possibilities of the analog world.

What makes these websites the best for creating an awesome soundtrack for your wedding? Well, it goes beyond just having a playlist and it incorporates everything from DJs to live bands and all genres of music that fits absolutely every wedding.

With the right tools and websites to help you expand and incorporate your wedding soundtrack, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about planning the perfect honeymoon?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for your BONUS post on ‘How Social Media Can Help You Plan the Perfect Honeymoon.’

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 6-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Wedding Décor & Wedding Favors

White-Wine-Wedding-Favors

Whether you’re searching for materials to create the perfect centerpieces for your wedding reception or personalizing bottles of wine or photo frames for your guests to take home after the wedding; it’s vital that you do your research.

When I talk about research, I don’t just mean researching what kind of décor and wedding favors are out there that will fit your overall theme. If you’re thinking about personalizing wedding favors or creating your own centerpieces and table runners, you need to do some extensive research to see whether or not it’s worth your time and energy to DIY some décor and wedding favors.

Depending on your creative skill, you might discover that a DIY wedding décor project that you take on may take too much time and energy. Planning all the elements of your wedding is supposed to be as stress-free as possible.

Keeping it in mind that shopping for and creating your wedding décor and favors should be as seamless, relaxing and fun as the rest of your wedding planning; here are the top 5 awesome websites (in no particular order) that I found that will help you find the perfect wedding décor and favors that will fit your theme and your culture, no matter what your culture is.

1) Beau-Coup

BeauCoup
Why It’s Awesome: You can order all kinds of personalized wedding décor and favors, from napkins to fans, wine glasses to photo frames. They also have an extensive section for Disney-themed wedding favors and you can also order edible wedding favors such as tea, wedding cookies and chocolates. In terms of décor, you can purchase lanterns, place card holders, bubbles and everything in between.

2) Wedzu

wedzu
Why It’s Awesome: This website is totally awesome because you can purchase handmade and indie wedding décor and favors from confetti to personalized coasters. You can also order monogrammed vases, place card numbers, wildflower seed wedding favors and spice kit wedding favors. You can also purchase handmade centerpieces.

3) Tree Beginnings

Tree_Beginnings
Why It’s Awesome: For nature and garden inspired weddings, you can come to this website to purchase seeds for wedding favors! You can give your guests thoughtful wedding favors of tree seedlings, sunflower, daises or forget-me-not seeds and even flower bulb favors. If you have gardening fans in your wedding, you can also give them herb wedding favors.

4) InspirAsian Creations

InspirAsian_Creations
Why It’s Awesome: For anyone like me who is looking to plan an Asian cultural wedding, this website is absolutely amazing! It’s got literally everything you could want for Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian weddings. You can purchase a double happiness stamp to stamp your invites, a bamboo gift box, takeout cartons for wedding favors and even Asian themed cake toppers. I was blown away to discover that you could even purchase chopsticks as a wedding favor! If you’re having an intercultural Asian wedding, I definitely recommend this website for wedding décor and favors!
5) Vintage Origami

Vintage_Origami
Why It’s Awesome: For the vintage inspired wedding, this website is definitely for you. You can rent everything from vintage glassware to decorate the tables at your reception to vintage luggage and typewriters to give your ceremony site some old-fashioned ambience. They also provide décor accents such as postcards, old-fashioned skeleton keys and candy bowls. Personally, I love any company that allows me to get my hands on vintage typewriter keys and even quill pens.

What makes these websites the best for adding cool and unique wedding décor and favors to your wedding? Well, it goes beyond just having décor and favors for your guests that fit your theme and it incorporates everything from ethnic cultures to garden items that fit absolutely every wedding.

With the right tools and websites to help you expand and incorporate fun wedding décor and favor ideas into your wedding, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding cool ways to create your own wedding soundtrack?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 7 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Creating Your Wedding Soundtrack.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue