LinkedIn Creates New Services Listing Option For Freelancers

LinkedIn rolled out a new feature that allows users to fill out a “Services” section and showcase the services that they offer, which may prove to be useful for freelancers as well as businesses seeking these services.

Listing Linkedin Freelance Work

The feature was first posted by Jane Manchun Wong, a well-known social media code hacker in the industry. In her screenshot it appears that users will fill out a new field that asks them to “Add services you offer”.

Jane Manchun Wong showcases potential service listing option feature for freelancers on LinkedIn.

After filling out this field, LinkedIn profile visitors will be able to view what services you provide beneath your LinkedIn bio. The services may also appear in relevant on-platform searches if you were to search for freelancers in your field.

With more than 56 million Americans working as freelancers, LinkedIn has been maximizing user data to assist users in find relevant matches for both recruiters and job-seeking professionals in the industry.

This new feature goes hand-in-hand with another post from Wong from what appears to be a “Find A Service Provider” option in LinkedIn’s post composer, which is similar to LinkedIn’s Profinder Tool for freelancers and simplifies listing freelance work on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has also taken steps to integrate new features in their platform, ranging from its Find Nearby Feature and QR code to connect with people at professional conferences.

LinkedIn Seeks To Emulate Services Like Fiverr

If LinkedIn launches the “Find A Service Provider” feature, it could provide competition to other similar online platforms such as Fiverr with its large userbase of 260 million active monthly users. However, it’s unclear if LinkedIn will create a revenue-generating model to take a cut from each successful transaction like it does with Profinder.

What is LinkedIn Profinder?

LinkedIn has its own freelance marketplace built into the platform that allows freelancers to match with members whose requests for work match your listed skills.

Freelancers are required to apply to become a service provider, but once approved they can view requests and submit proposals right from their LinkedIn inboxes.

The only downside to LinkedIn Profinder is that freelancers must pay $60 a month after submitting their first 10 proposals; a common workaround is to utilize the search feature and filter for contract and part-time positions.

Why LinkedIn Is Important For Job Seekers

The professional social networking group has launched other new features that will assist job-seekers in finding new jobs. As quoted by LinkedIn:

“We’ve rolled out some new features to help job-seekers be the first to see new job opportunities, discover key job title insights, and quickly find learning courses to help them on their job hunt.”

New Job Notifications

As soon as jobs are posted, job-seekers can sign up for mobile push notifications that will show them new jobs within minutes of them being posted so they can be the first to apply.

Job Title Highlights

If you’re searching for a job title on LinkedIn, users can now see the top skills and qualifications associated with those roles, aiding them in sprucing up applications and resumes based on those listed skills that are generated from other user profiles.

Users will also be able to see the top companies hiring for that role as well first-degree connections with that job title.

LinkedIn Learning

Anyone that needs to refresh or learn new skills now have the option to enroll in LinkedIn learning courses. When searching for a role, users will be met with several learning course options as personalized recommendations based on their individual needs.

13 SEO Trends and Predictions for 2019 - Laz's Lounge


2019 is going to be a big year for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). People are now connected to the internet wherever they are, thanks to the latest advancements in mobile technology and electronics.

More people are searching—whether it’s to make an online purchase, shop for a new car, place an order for pizza, or browse through funny memes.

This is our world now—made possible by online search engines. In fact, according to our friends over at SEOTribunal.com, there are 71,780 searches per second on average! In addition, 93% of all online experiences now begin with the use of a search engine, which is why Search Engine Optimization will continue to play a huge role.

Read on for the full scoop on the future of SEO predictions for 2019.

13 SEO Trends and Predictions for 2019 Infographic

Mobile Is the Way to Go

Mobile Users Are Outpacing PC Users For Search Results on Google

Mobile phone use far exceeded PC use this last year and continues to grow thanks to more mobile devices and smart technology. Search engines will continue to put a premium on mobile first sites, especially as on-the-go customers look for reviews and recommendations before making a purchase.

Organic Content Is Still Important

Nearly 80% of users ignore paid ads in search results

Nearly 80% of users ignore paid ads in search results. We are seeing more discerning consumers now—people who don't like being pitched or sold to. They ignore messages if they can tell they’re advertisements.  As marketers, this means two things—one, you should strive for genuine word-of-mouth, and continue to nurture organic content; and two, try to get more creative when it comes to content marketing.

New Ways to Search

By the year 2020, about half of all searches will be voice searches. Smart technology has gone a long way, and with improving speech recognition, typing onto a keypad may become a thing of the past.

Growth in Local Search Marketing

particularly those looking to gain a better market share over competitors who don't take search marketing seriously.

Not only is local search usage increasing, but trends also point to mobile devices influencing billions of dollars in local sales. This means local SEO will continue to be important for small businesses, particularly those looking to gain a better market share over competitors who don't take search marketing seriously.

Google Will Strive To Monetize Local Spaces

New lead-gen models may potentially be released in the future as Google aims to monetize more of the local and maps space via Google Adwords.

More SERP Features

In the same way that Google shows live scores, weather and flights in the search results, it’s expected that the company will experiment with new ways to keep customers on the search results page to enhance the user experience.

Video Content Is Expanding In Certain Niches

Video Carousels, Featured Videos and Suggested Clips will dominate certain niches that are instructional or DIY.

Business Proximity-to-Searcher Still Plays An Important Role For Local SEO

Websites Need To Be Designed With Responsive Design In Mind

Google has stressed that the proximity of a searcher to a local business will always take precedence compared to the quality of content in a local search. With mobile searches becoming the norm in 2019, relevance will be prioritized based on distance.

Answers and Featured Snippits Will Drive Search

With People Also Ask boxes exploding last year in 2018, it’s apparent that Google wants to answer questions across as many devices as possible, rewarding websites with succinct and well-structured answers. As marketers, we should be striving to focus on answers that will leave visitors wanting more quality content and establishing ourselves as credible brands based on user intent.

Organic Search Topics Will Replace Search Queries

In 2019 we’re going to experience a decline in individual search queries as Google aims to enhance the search experience in terms of satisfaction across entire topics, which will change how we got about performing keyword research.

Reviews Still Make A Competitive Difference

Generate Positive Reviews To Entice Customers To Choose Your Business

One third of local searches are made with the intent to read reviews. Local businesses will need to have a good brand reputation in order to stand out among other brands that don’t prioritize good customer service with reviews serving as a ranking factor for SEO.

Most SEO Is Off-Page

Most businesses believe on-page content is what makes up SEO when really it’s the backlinks, social signals, social media, directories, and other “off-page” practices that are proven to be the most valuable when getting your website to rank in the search results. Link building will still be one of the most important optimization techniques in 2019 to build site authority and rank well against the competition.

SEO Needs To Be Synergistic with PPC

Statistics show that using one approach isn’t enough when getting the best ROI for your SEO and paid search campaigns. To increase interaction and drive more clicks to your website, marketers will need to combine both organic and paid channels to capture as much of their target audience as possible in the search results.

What Will Be The Trending SEO Technique and Strategy For 2019?

Out of the 11 trends that I've listed, local search optimization will be the trending SEO technique for 2019. As more customers are gravitating to using smartphones for their searches, and Google's proximity relevance for ranking, businesses will need to step up their local optimization game by targeting specific locations rather than ranking for national keywords.

How Can I Improve My SEO In 2019? 

If you want to optimize your website for search engines, it's important to answer customer's questions through quality content that focuses on overall topics rather than individual search queries.

Where Is SEO Heading In 2019?

Beyond local marketing, Google is planning to offer more SERP features to offer searchers the best experience possible based on relevant content. Google is aiming to answer questions, with video serving as a huge media to quickly capture audience attention in the search results. While it hasn't evolved quite yet, voice search is trending to become a new way for customers to search, which will open up many optimization opportunities as we explore a brand new technology.

SEO 2019 Predictions and Trends Wrap-Up

I hope you enjoyed my predictions for SEO in 2019! What are your predictions or trends that you foresee happening in the future for SEO? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Infographic URL: https://seotribunal.com/blog/stats-to-understand-seo/

Why You Should Drop A Pin In Google Maps For Your Business Listing

One of the greatest assets to building your business exposure is by creating a Google My Business account. Whether customers are searching for your phone number, address, hours of operation or reviews, having a GMB listing properly set up is a great way to increase leads, exposure and sales. With 86% of people looking on Google Maps to find directions to a location, it’s frustrating as a business owner when GMB correctly lists your address, but the pin for your business location isn’t in the correct spot. Luckily this is a quick fix and this post will walk you through how to manually drop a pin for your business location on Google Maps.

Why Is My Business Pin In The Wrong Spot?

Google Maps doesn’t always place the pin location in the correct spot, even if the address that you’ve added to your Google My Business listing is correct. When Google can’t determine an exact pin location for your business, it’ll guess where it should be, leading to your pin being placed in the wrong location, whether it’s across the street or an adjacent building complex. As a corrective measure for inaccuracy, Google provides the option to manually drop pins on Google Maps specifically for your business listing.

How To Pin A Location On Google Maps

First, sign into your Google My Business. If you have multiple locations that you manage, open the location that you want to manage.

Next, click the Address field in the left-hand menu and check to make sure your address is correct.

On the right side of the window you’ll see Google Maps with a red pin that represents where your business is located. Here you can manually drag the pin to the correct spot, using the + and – buttons to zoom in and out for a more precise placement.

After verifying that your red pin is correctly placed in Google Maps, click the Apply button in the top-right corner of the page.

Note: the address box may change after manually moving the pin. This is normal! On the backend you’ll see the Google Maps address from the dragged pin, but the “Street” address is what you’ll see in the app. It may also take a few days for the change to process, become verified and go live on Google Maps.

How To Pin A Location On Google Maps
Attribution: NearPlace

Reasons Why Your Business Isn’t Showing In Google Maps

If you’ve noticed that your business isn’t showing at all in Google Maps, there are a few different reasons that it’s not showing properly, which I’ll cover below.

Google My Business Listing Isn’t Verified

Google My Business Listing Isn’t Verified
Attribution: Bipper Media

One of the biggest issues that users come across is their Google My Business Listing isn’t verified. Here’s how you can check to make sure your business listing is verified:

Type your business name, city and location into Google to pull up your Google My Business listing. Within the Knowledge Panel, you’ll see the “Suggest an Edit” hyperlink; if you don’t see a second link that says, “Own This Business?” then your GMB listing is verified. If you do see the “Own This Business?” hyperlink, then it isn’t verified in Google Maps.

GMB listings typically won’t show up at all if they haven’t been verified, but if you’ve come across this suggestion in the knowledge panel you should verify your business listing ASAP to make sure you aren’t losing out on visibility or customers. The most common way to verify your listing is through a postcard sent to your business address, which will have a hyperlink that you’ll visit to confirm the verification.

You can also verify your business listing by phone or email, although not all businesses are eligible for these options.

Your Google My Business Listing Doesn’t Rank Well

Just because your GMB listing is verified doesn’t always mean that it will rank in Google local search. If you’re located in a competitive local market, you’ll need to perform local SEO to get your GMB listing to rank in the local pack with your competitors. The most common methods are building business citations through high-quality business listing directories that include your business name, number, address and website, as well as backlink building to improve your authority.

These directories and backlinks serve as metaphorical “thumbs-up” to Google that your business is relevant and trustworthy to customers browsing on search engines. The more local authority your business has, the higher you’ll rank in Google local search and Google Maps, which equates to more traffic, phone calls and business you’re getting from people searching for your type of business, products and services.

Suspended Google My Business Listing?

Suspended Google My Business Listing?
Attribution: Bipper Media

If your GMB listing is no longer showing up in Google search, it may have been suspended. It’s a frustrating experience as a business owner to have this happen, but there are a few reasons as to why your Google My Business Listing was suspended:

When faced with this issue, the best way to quickly resolve it is by calling Google Adwords support and selecting the option for Google My Business.

You’ve Moved Your Business Location Or Changed The Address

Going back to your GMB listing getting suspended, if you’ve moved and haven’t notified Google of the location change, they’ll often suspend your GMB listing. In this case it’s as simple as changing your address in GMB once you’ve opened your doors at a new location and reverifying your new address.

Verify Your Google My Business Account
Attribution: Bipper Media

HOW TO CREATE A GOOGLE BUSINESS LISTING

Don’t have a Google My Business Account & Listing? If you don’t have either, it’s a quick and free to set up.

  1. Go to google.com/business and click Start now at the top right corner.
  2. Sign in to your Google Account, or create one if you don’t already use Google services.
  3. Enter the name of your business and click Next.
    Note: You can also select your business from the suggestions that appear as you enter information.
  4. Enter the street address of your business and click Next. You may also be asked to position a marker for the location of your business on a map.
    1. If you manage a service-area business, follow these extra steps:
      1. Check the box for I deliver goods and services to my customers. Optionally, check the box for Hide my address (it’s not a store) Only show region –.
      2. Click Next.
      3. Select a delivery area option and click Next.
  5. Use the search field to select a business category and click Next.
  6. Enter a phone number or website URL for your business, then click Next.
    Note: You’ll also have the option to create a free website based on your information.
  7. To complete sign-up and verify your connection to this business, click Continue.
  8. Select a verification option:
    1. To verify at another time, select Try a different method and click Later. If you’re not authorized to manage the business, find the person in your organization who’s authorized and continue the process.

Note: If you see a page that says “This listing has already been claimed,” click Request access and follow the directions to claim your business.

Guide On How To Set Up Google My Business Chat

Are you looking for a new way to engage with customers in the digital landscape using Google My Business Chat? In recent years email leads have declined as customers are increasingly reluctant to give up their email addresses when contacting businesses, making GMB chat a great option for meeting the needs of a changing customer base. Read my latest guide for a full breakdown on what Google click-to-message is, how it works and ways to set it up on your GMB listing.

OTHER RELEVANT POSTS ON GOOGLE TOOLS:

How To Set Up Google My Business Chat

It’s Official: Google+ Is Shutting Down After Massive Data Breach

Guide To Removing Referral Spam In Google Analytics

Setting Benchmarks To Compare Your Competition In Google Analytics

Adding Google Analytics User Permissions

Adding Google Analytics User Permissions For GA Access

Google Analytics allows you to assign specific permissions to users who are using your Google Analytics account. This lets the account owner keep a tight grip on how people can access your website's data and what they can do with it, whether it's adding events or dashboards to assist with analytics analysis. This leads to the question: how do you add Google Analytics User Permissions and who should you be providing access to? Luckily this post will walk through how to add a user to your Google Analytics account and what the different permissions allow users to do with their Google Analytics access.

How To Add User To Google Analytics Account

The first step in the process is to sign into your Google Analytics account and choose the site that you want to grant access. Then you’ll click the Google Analytics Admin option in the bottom left-hand corner of the GA dashboard.

You’ll notice that there are user management tabs under each column, which grants three different levels of access: Account, Property and View.

1. Account access grants users the ability to add other users, websites as well as link AdWords and AdSense data.

2. Property access lets users access your GA tracking code, the retargeting code and specific settings on that specific website

3. View access grants users the ability to view reports, add content groupings and goals.

How To Add User To Google Analytics Account

When I request access to Google Analytics accounts from my clients, I ask for Google Analytics user permissions on the account level. This allows me to have the most leeway on the account to set up new goals, dashboards, filters and other settings to deep-dive for new areas of opportunity regarding customer behavior. Being granted access on the Account level also grants Property and View-level access.

After clicking on the Google Analytics User Management under the account column, you’ll be taken to a new window showing the users that currently have account permissions. Click the blue + icon in the top right corner and select Add New Users under the dropdown menu.

Here is where you’ll add the user’s email address. Notice there are four different permission levels:

Edit Permissions allows a user to create and edit accounts, properties, views, filters and goals. Note that they cannot delete or add new users to the account.

Collaborate Permissions lets a user create and edit shared assets such as dashboards or adding annotations.

Read & Analyze Permissions are the lowest level, only granting users the ability to view reports and Google Analytics configuration data.

Manage Permissions allows a user to add and delete users alongside changing their user permissions.

User Permissions For Google Analytics

I always ask to be granted Edit, Collaborate and Read & Analyze Permissions for a client’s Google Analytics account. This allows me to have as much flexibility as possible when fleshing out Google Analytics dashboards, filters and goals for their account.

After granting Google Analytics Account Access to specific permissions, click the Add Button in the top right-hand corner. Leave the Notify New Users By Email box checked; this will notify a new user when they’ve been granted GA access as an email sent to their inbox.

Do Users Need A Gmail Account To Access Google Analytics?

It's a common misconception that you need to have a gmail account to be granted access to Google Analytics. This isn't the case, although you need to have a Google Account. Here's how you can register your current email address with a new Google Account:

Do Users Need A Gmail Account To Access Google Analytics?

Google Analytics User Types and Permissions

You may be asking yourself, in what situations should be granting the right level of GA access? It largely depends on who is requesting access, but below are a few situations that will help define what permission levels you should be granting a user.

Edit Permissions In Google Analytics

Inside of the Google Analytics, a best practice is to apply filters that assist in cleaning up your data, filtering out unwanted traffic and separating your data into different views. While applying filters only requires view-level access, you need to have account-level edit access to create new filters on GA.

On another note, linking any kinds of accounts to Google Analytics requires access at the property level; examples include Google AdWords and Search Console.

Only a few people need edit access, notably advanced individuals on your team who use Google Analytics daily or an agency that you’re using for digital marketing and social media campaigns.

Collaborate Permissions In Google Analytics

The people who would require this level of permissions are those who don’t work as extensively with Google Analytics compared to those who need Edit Permissions but would benefit from sharing certain data with other departments.

Collaborate Permissions allow users to create custom segments or dashboards that they can share with those departments without accidentally corrupting Google Analytics data. These assets can also be edited as they’re shared, so if a dashboard’s data doesn’t look right you can go into that dashboard and make corrections to get it functioning as intended. If you’re looking for a way to spice up your reports, Google Data Studio might be worth checking out.

Read & Analyze Permissions in Google Analytics

This permission only allows users to read data in Google Analytics, such as higher-ups who want to keep tabs on how a campaign is performing or how much traffic their website is getting. Granting this level of permissions also allows someone to create secondary dimensions or custom segments if they want to dive a little deeper into their analytics.

Google Analytics Access Levels

Like I mentioned earlier you might be wondering about the different access levels for Google Analytics permissions, ranging from Account, Property and View. Below is a breakdown of these different levels of access:

View Level Access

This is the most basic level, allowing users to access Google Analytics reports without being able to change anything within the account.

Property Level Access

This is the next step up from the View Level. You may have multiple domains or websites nested within GA that you don’t want to grant a user access to; the Property Level lets users only track a single domain or website that’s associated with the property.

 Account Level Access

Account Level Access grants the most information for Google Analytics, allowing a user to view multiple domains or websites associated with that GA account. My recommendation would be to never provide someone account level access with a Manage Users Permission, which is the equivalent to giving someone full clemency to your GA account.

Google Analytics Course and Certification

I hope that you found this guide to be helpful in distinguishing the different types of Google Analytics user access and in what situations to give permission, access to view dashboards adding multiple Google Analytics users. If you’re looking to get more knowledge on how to explore Google Analytics, I would highly recommend earning a Google Analytics certification or taking online courses to become more familiar with the functionality of GA. Be sure to check out my roadmap on successfully earning your Google Analytics certification and passing the Google Analytics Individual Qualification Exam!

OTHER RELEVANT POSTS ON GOOGLE TOOLS:

How To Set Up Google My Business Chat

Guide To Removing Referral Spam In Google Analytics

Setting Benchmarks To Compare Your Competition In Google Analytics

How To Drop A Pin For Your Google My Business Listing In Google Maps

Guide On Passing The Google Analytics Exam

It's Official: Google+ Is Shutting Down After Massive Data Breach

Why You Should Be Using Google My Business Chat

Looking for a new way to engage with customers in the digital landscape using Google My Business Chat? In recent years email leads have declined as customers are increasingly reluctant to give up their email addresses when contacting businesses, making GMB chat a great option for meeting the needs of a changing customer base. Read on for a full breakdown of what Google click-to-message is, how it works and ways to set it up on your GMB listing.

Google My Business Chat Feature

Google processes more than 5 billion searches each day; most of that traffic is attributed to mobile users. With form leads on the decline and customers becoming increasingly comfortable texting a business, Google created its click-to-message app as a way for businesses to adapt to this shift in the way customers communicate with businesses.

Nowadays almost 90% of consumers want to communicate with businesses through text messaging, but less than 50% of businesses aren’t equipped to handle any kind of messaging.

Luckily for us Google has launched a new way for users to text message businesses via their Google My Business listings within the search engine results.

How To Set Up Google Text Messaging

Once you sign into your GMB account, you’ll click on the “messaging” tab, where you’ll be brought to a screen prompting you to add a textable phone number. The only caveat is you need to have Owner or Manager-level permissions to set up messaging for your GMB listing. It’s also only available to U.S. dashboards, with support coming to Brazil and India shortly.

How To Set Up Google My Business Chat Photo One
Attribution: Text Request

From there you’ll have the option to set up a custom welcome message that auto-sends to customers after they text you from the search results.

How To Set Up Google Text Messaging
Attribution: Text Request

After setting up the proper information in GMB, Google will text you a confirmation number; once you enter that code, you’ll be able to receive text messages through your Google Business Listing!

Google Messenger Features

All GMB users have the capability to add Messaging to their listing, but how does it work?

After setting it up through your GMB account, a message button will appear on your Google My Business Listing that customers can click on to directly message the number that you inputted via the messaging tab. They will be taken to their native messaging app to compose their message to your business.

Google Messenger Features
Attribution: Text Request

On the other side, Google will show customers a proxy number, or a different number than the one you initially provided, to protect your confidentiality if you aren’t using a business-only phone. The messages will be correctly forwarded to the number you inputted.

There are analytics available in the GMB dashboard for click-to-message, allowing you to track whether the feature is worth using and areas of opportunity for lead management.

Right now Google doesn’t have the option to turn off messaging based on your business’s hours, which can be troublesome as your average response time is displayed on your GMB listing, or if you aren’t equipped to handle leads after hours. A workaround is to manually toggle off the Message feature, which will remove the message icon from your Google search results listing.

Turning Off Google My Business Chat Photo
Attribution: Callrail

Users can mute messages from a contact by replying with IGNORE, which will prevent further messages from that specific contact being sent to you. There’s also a way to mark messages as spam by replying with SPAM, which flags the contact to Google and prevents further messages from being sent via that contact.

You can also turn off all messages by replying with STOP, which will opt you out of the messaging feature.

Instant Messaging On Google Aims To Replicate Facebook Messenger’s Success

With Facebook Messenger on Facebook Business Pages, owners have taken advantage of the connection where customers can opt in to receive messages like shipping notifications or automatic orders and reply to these messages if they have questions or issues.

GMB messaging isn’t quite as robust, but it’s a step in the right direction for enhancing the experience of low-funnel customers who are looking to schedule an appointment or make a purchase.

While GMB click-to-message is easy to set up, the user experience can be frustrating as there isn’t a concise message across different versions of the feature as it’s named different things in different places.

When you click to turn the feature on, it’s named messenger; if businesses elect to turn it off, it’s called chat; a third variation is Google SMS.

The feature should be available via the desktop login of GMB, but some of my clients have been directed to download the GMB app to their smartphones and don’t have an option to turn on messaging via their desktop.

There are also three different ways to connect with customers with this app; via SMS, Allo and App Preview Messages on Android. Allo is Google’s attempt at creating a cross platform Android iMessage.

Users have experienced issues with their Welcome Messages not being sent through on SMS, only being available on Allo or App Preview Messages, which aren’t as widely used as SMS. 

Issues With Google My Business Chat Welcome Message
Attribution: Callrail

Issues With Google’s New Texting App

With GMB click-to-message you would think that you could use the feature in tandem with getting more phone calls. On the business-side it’s not exactly intuitive for converting messaging to phone call leads.

For example, if you’re texting a customer you may want to call them to provide more details regarding an appointment or reservation. Through the GMB messenger app setup, the messages come from an unknown number with the actual customer phone number provided in the body of the very first text message.

The business owner would have to scroll up to the first message, copy the number, open a dialer, paste the number and then call the customer, which isn’t the most user-friendly experience.

On the customer’s side, if they were to call via GMB messenger they would be met with a message stating “We could not complete your call. Please try again.”

GMB messenger uses a Google forwarding number that isn’t an assigned number for the business or verified for use with the business’s main phone number on GMB. It also has a different area code than the business and the searcher, which can lead to confusion and a missed lead opportunity.

For searchers GMB messenger labels this feature as “Google SMS” in its auto reply, which may confuse the consumer and is different from how GMB’s click-to-call function works.

Issues With Google’s New Texting App Photo
Attribution: Callrail

GMB click-to-message at this time offers a single number to be used, which can be troublesome if you’re on vacation or only have a single phone to dedicate among your employees. You can change the number that’s used at any time, but it may take some additional planning to determine who’s in charge of answering customer messages on a day-to-day basis.

It’s also only available to Android users; the feature won’t pop up for anyone surfing with an Apple device, which is frustrating when that information isn’t provided. Lastly, the chat button only appears on the GMB listing and isn't available on Google Maps.

Google Click To Message Privacy Concerns

While the above observations are rather nit-picky, the bigger problems that GMB messenger faces stem from a lack of privacy and HIPAA compliance issues.

There’s no consent about how it works as far as collecting information goes or consent opt-in option available. This is especially troublesome with businesses in the medical field who are using the feature, as their text message interactions most likely contain Protected Health Information, which is strictly regulated under HIPAA laws.

Even for non-healthcare businesses, no explicit information is offered in that a searcher can’t call the number they’re texting and a 3rd party number is used in place of a business-verified one, causing potential legal ramifications if employees are requesting private information from customers via GMB messenger.

Best Practices For Communicating With Customers On Your Google Business Listing

Below are a few messaging guidelines from Google on best practices for communicating with customers:

Make sure that you don’t provide or request sensitive information during a chat with customers. Sensitive information includes, but is not limited to:

Avoiding sensitive content during chats keeps your and your customers’ information safe. Using personal information in ways that the other party has not consented to is strictly not allowed.

Slow or unreasonable response times to messages received from users represent a bad user experience for your customer. For example:

It is also unacceptable to send irrelevant or unwanted messages to users who have contacted you. For example:

Do not impersonate an organization or individual. Do not make false statements about your identity or qualifications, such as falsely claiming to be an authorized representative of a company.

Do not provide inaccurate promotion information that omits or obfuscates how the user will be billed or charged.

Conversations should be focused on the business and services offered, avoiding any inappropriate content, including:

Chat is intended for quality conversations between merchants and users.

Why You Should Try Out Google Text Messaging

GMB click-to-message is another way to communicate with your customers and drive leads to your business. It’s not fully fleshed out and is only available on desktop, mobile browsers and the search app on Android, limiting your overall audience, but the convenience of the feature is promising.

I would note that this feature isn’t for every business, especially those that handle private information, but it has its merits for a few different scenarios:

Google Messaging Tips and Best Practices

Here are my personal tips on how to maximize your click-to-message on your GMB listing:

How To Create A Google Business Listing

Don’t have a Google My Business Account & Listing? If you don’t have either, it’s a quick and free to set up.

  1. Go to google.com/business and click Start now at the top right corner.
  2. Sign in to your Google Account, or create one if you don’t already use Google services.
  3. Enter the name of your business and click Next.
    Note: You can also select your business from the suggestions that appear as you enter information.
  4. Enter the street address of your business and click Next. You may also be asked to position a marker for the location of your business on a map.
    1. If you manage a service-area business, follow these extra steps:
      1. Check the box for I deliver goods and services to my customers. Optionally, check the box for Hide my address (it's not a store) Only show region –.
      2. Click Next.
      3. Select a delivery area option and click Next.
  5. Use the search field to select a business category and click Next.
  6. Enter a phone number or website URL for your business, then click Next.
    Note: You'll also have the option to create a free website based on your information.
  7. To complete sign-up and verify your connection to this business, click Continue.
  8. Select a verification option:
    1. To verify at another time, select Try a different method and click Later. If you’re not authorized to manage the business, find the person in your organization who’s authorized and continue the process.

Note: If you see a page that says “This listing has already been claimed,” click Request access and follow the directions to claim your business.

If you haven't already, be sure to check out my latest post on Google+ permanently shutting down in 2019.

Davinci Resolve Review: Best Free Video Editing Software On The Market

When I first started in the world of public relations and digital marketing one of the greatest challenges was content creation. As a journalist I was a strong writer and a pretty shoddy photographer, but the use of the Adobe Creative Suite was a foreign concept that pulled many hairs for months. It also costs $50 a month for full access to the suite, which is over budget when taking a poor college student’s budget into consideration. Blackmagic Davinci Resolve 15 is a great free alternative to Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut X Pro as a robust video and audio editor. Read on for my full Davinci Resolve review as the best free video editing software on the market.

Davinci Resolve vs Premiere Pro

My first time using Davinci Resolve 15 was when I job shadowed at Friendly Chevrolet as part of my training at General Motors. During the training the district digital managers were tasked with creating a video of what we learned during our shadowing.

By this point I had a bit of experience using Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro X, but I couldn’t bring my entire editing set up with me to Minnesota. I did have my work laptop, a Dell Latitude with an i5 dual core processor and 6gb of RAM, which isn’t well-suited to intensive editing work. It also wasn’t loaded with any editing software, leaving me with performing edits on my phone or the YouTube editor, which is subpar at best.

I searched around for a copy of Windows Movie Maker, which I couldn’t find with dubious authenticity, but I stumbled upon Davinci Resolve 15 and it saved the day for my video editing.

Davinci Resolve 15 Review

Read on for my full Davinci Resolve review as the best free video editing software on the market photo 1

Like I mentioned before, Davinci Resolve 15 is a free editing software alongside a $300 resolve studio version that offers extra features for the more engaged editor. The studio version lets users post houses and creative teams without further fees or licensing agreements, which expands the options available for editors, colorists, audio engineers and visual effects artists for simultaneous access to studio projects. The project server software manager also allows for the ability to track edits and changes alongside a built-in chat messaging system.

For most people doing light video editing or audio touch up work the free version is well equipped to take on the task, although the free version is a fully functional software with no limitations imposed on the user.

The interface is modern, although there is a learning curve that may warrant the viewing of one or two tutorial videos. It offers presets to make it look like other editing softwares in layout. Overall it seems as though Blackmagic kept the overall look of the platform familiar for older editors while adding enough new features to pique the interest of a younger demographic as the best video editor for youtube.

At my disposal is a gaming computer that serves as a multipurpose editing workstation when working from home. One of my biggest gripes with Adobe Premiere is how intensive it is to use. Even my gaming computer chugs along and freezes when I try to edit short clips, so I was impressed when my underpowered work laptop ran the Davinci video editor effortlessly. Playback on Adobe Premiere takes a lot of time for frames to buffer, whereas Davinci Resolve plays video almost instantaneously.

Here's a quick look at DaVinci Resolve 15's interface and color correction capabilities.

Here's a quick look at DaVinci Resolve 15's interface and color correction capabilities.

New Features for Davinci Resolve 15

Compared to the previous edition, more than 300 new features and enhancements have been added to the Media, Edit, Color, Fairlight and Deliver pages including:

Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design, wrote in a press release:

“Customers get an incredibly mature and fast set of editing and trimming tools that rivals all other systems, the world’s most advanced color correction tools, a completely integrated digital audio workstation, and now Fusion visual effects and motion graphics. It’s unlike any other software out there and is redefining professional multi user workflows in Hollywood and around the world! Now teams of editors, colorists, sound engineers and VFX artists can all collaborate and work together on the same project at the same time, all in the same software application.”

Davinci Resolve Color Grading

Davinci Resolve Review Color Grading and Color Correction Photo

One of the greatest benefits to using Davinci Resolve 15 is its color correction and grading capabilities, which are bar-none compared to Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro X as the editing app was originally a color correction tool. I was able to pick certain hues and colors and adjust them with precision while using the software, although my color correction was admittedly minimal when testing the product.

The program also offers a “live save” option to prevent losing edits on a project if the program were to suddenly crash, which does happen from time to time. This feature lets you specify how often to save a new project backup, whether you want specify minute, hourly or daily backups.

Users can also utilize nodes to layer changes to images while turning off individual nodes and orders to change the picture presented on screen. There are also keying and masking capabilities to correct the image as precisely as possible, although the color correction curves and bars aren’t user-friendly.

Colorists get an entirely new LUT browser for quickly previewing and applying LUTs alongside newly shared nodes to streamline individual changes across all nodes.

Davinci Resolve Audio Editing with Fairlight

Davinci Resolve Audio Editing with Fairlight Photo

Regarding audio editing Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 15 is similar in capability to Adobe Audition. The software offers a full professional mixer, several plug-in effects, equalization and dynamics, editing and automation, making it great for anyone who is interested in entering the world of podcasting.

Blackmagic Design originally introduced the integrated audio features of Fairlight in 2017 with the launch of Davinci Resolve 14 after acquiring it in September 2016, which is a smart move instead of making it a standalone feature.

Performing dissolves or audio fades is an easy process and if you need to perform any extensive audio edits, the dedicated Fairlight audio editor is much easier compared to toggling back and forth between Adobe Premiere and Audition.

Fairlight offers 13 new audio effects including repair audio plugins; added effects to simulate various spaces; access to reverb, hum removal, vocal channel and de-esser; improvements to stabilization, noise reductions and up-rezzing; audio normalization; pitch correction and more.

Best Free Video Editor Features

Davinci Resolve Video Editing Features Photo

For editing and rendering clips, DaVinci Resolve 15 features a video-playback engine with CPU and GPU optimization, allowing for a smoother editing process and quicker render times without bogging down your computer. My underequipped laptop had no issues running and editing in DaVanci Resolve 15, which is significant given its unimpressive specs.

Playback is surprisingly peppy when toggling back and forth using the spacebar shortcut keys, which is a significant improvement when compared to previous editions where playback wasn’t nearly as seamless. I prefer Resolve’s cutting tools when compared to Premiere Pro, which is intuitive and easy to use when trimming clips.

The boost in playback can be attributed to Resolve’s GPU Acceleration for video stabilization, ResolveFX Match Move, Super Scaling and more. Blackmagic boasted up to 6 times improvement compared to Davinci Resolve 14.3 on a late 2014 Macbook Retina.

I spent nearly two hours editing my General Motors vlog without a single instance of crashing, which is leaps and bounds ahead of the Adobe Creative Suite where I’ve had Adobe Audition and Premiere Pro crash on several occasions within 10 minutes of use. While I haven’t had to use it, the autosave function is a lifesaver where users don’t lose large chunks of work in the event of a crash from heavy video editing.

Compared to jumping in and out of programs that serve different purposes, Blackmagic hit it out of the park as Davinci Resolve has four modules housed in one place: editing, color correction, audio effects and visual effects.

“DaVinci Resolve 15 is a huge and exciting leap forward for post production because it’s the world’s first solution to combine editing, color, audio and now visual effects into a single software application,” wrote Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design, in a press release. “We’ve listened to the incredible feedback we get from customers and have worked really hard to innovate as quickly possible. DaVinci Resolve 15 gives customers unlimited creative power to do things they’ve never been able to do before. It’s finally possible to bring teams of editors, colorists, sound engineers and VFX artists together so they can collaborate on the same project at the same time, all in the same software application!”

At the time of launch Blackmagic also revealed a Pocket Cinema 4K Camera and the company made sure its video editor could handle large files from the 4K camera without hitches or crashes.

Davinci Fusion Visual Effects App

Davinci Fusion Visual Effects App Photo

Davinci Resolve 15 comes equipped with Fusion, a powerful visual effects app that’s used in Hollywood films like The Martian and Avengers: Age of Ultron, which serves as a great alternative to Adobe After Effects although it’s sold as a standalone app for $300 and has nearly all the same tools such as 3D compositing, particle effects, 3D text tools and more.

It’s embedded in the video editor and uses a node-based system to layer effects and clips that’s akin to linking Legos. Like I mentioned, Fusion was designed for special effects work in big-budget Hollywood films, making it overkill for the average user with a steep learning curve, but Blackmagic offers numerous tutorials and guides to mitigate any initial frustration.

The Fusion toolbar houses more than 250 tools including the following features:

Blackmagic Design has also added support for Apple Metal, multiple GPUs and CUDA acceleration, making Fusion perform even faster.

Davinci Resolve vs Final Cut Pro

Davinci Resolve vs Final Cut Pro

As far as Davinci Resolve goes when stacked up against Final Cut Pro, I would argue that both programs do a great job for video editing purposes. Final Cut Pro is also quite peppy when performing video playback and has a more lenient learning curve compared to Davinci Resolve.

Both perform great color editing with different interfaces, so it’s up to the individual editor when it comes to their personal preference.

Final Cut Pro is a Mac-only software with a one-time purchase fee of $299, which isn’t an option for me to utilize as I’m a windows user. On the other hand, Davinci Resolve is available on Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems, which is great news for most editors out there.

DaVinci Resolve Pricing Options

If you’re looking to edit in higher frame rates above 60fps or better quality than 1080p, I would suggest using the paid version of DaVinci Resolve 15, which offer those settings. For light and medium-duty editors the free version of the software, Davinci Resolve lite, is fantastic for color editing and on par with Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Flash Cut Pro X for non-linear editing.

The paid version involves a one-time fee of $300, which is a fantastic deal compared to other subscription-based services given how robust the program is and offers more filters such as lens correction and a noise reduction filter. Below are other features available on the studio version the Davinci video editor:

Davinci Resolve Free Download and Guidebook

Davinci Resolve is a good free video editing software and arguably the best video editing apps out there, whether you’re on a budget or looking to enhance the quality of your videos. If you’re looking to learn more about what’s possible on the platform, Blackmagic released an official step-by-step training handbook “The Definitive Guide to DaVinci Resolve 15” that’s worth checking out.

DaVinci Resolve 15 is available on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Click here for the davinci resolve free download.

It's Official: Google+ Is Shutting Down After Massive Data Breach

The Google+ shut down is officially occurring in response to a disclosed security flaw, exposing the data of 500,000 accounts including things such as name, occupation and age.

Google+ is shutting down over a span of 10 months with access closed permanently by August 2019.

In previous years Google+ was regarded by many users as a dead platform with no relevance in the social media industry, an apt statement as public posts garnered seemingly no engagement, falling prey to a digital vacuum to be unread and forgotten.

After its initial flare from 2011-2013, Google Plus began to die down among users where it evolved into a community for professionals and serious hobbyists, somewhat akin to LinkedIn’s user base.

It’s no surprise that news of the Google+ shutdown was met with indifference by social media users, viewed as one of Google’s massive flops that attempted to challenge Facebook through the sharing of unique and relevant content among users.

Out of 2.2 billion Google users, Google+ boasts 111 million accounts; out of that number, only 6.7 million have posted more than 50 times and 3.5 million have 50+ posts in the past 30 days.

Google Plus History

Google decided to open the social media platform to a select number of users through an invitation-only basis in June 2011, spurring huge demand for access to the platform. Existing users were granted 150 invitations to give away until September 2011, at which point the social platform would become open to the public.

The availability of limited invitations and exclusivity created a positive media buzz that greatly expanded the number of Google Plus accounts registered; by October 2011 more than 40 million users registered on Google+ with that number surging to 90 million by the end of the year with 600,000 users registering daily.

How To Use Google+

The way in which Google+ is used deviates from traditional social media norms, where friend requests are sent and accepted to view one another’s newsfeeds, in favor of users organizing their connections in private circles of “family” or “acquaintances.”

These circles proved to be useful in allowing users within those circles to effortlessly follow one another’s updates and manage the information you see in your feeds.

Google+ Shutting Down After Massive Security Breach Photo 3

Beyond viewing content, Google Plus offered the ability to create and participate in Hangouts, a video chat option that allows up to ten users to interact on their computers or via mobile if the device is equipped with a front-facing camera. Hangouts offer integration with Google Drive and YouTube, where participants can edit documents or watch videos together, which is a unique concept that adds a deeper level of connection compared to other social media platforms, alongside airing the Hangout for public consumption like live videos or streaming.

Hangouts wasn’t the only Google product to become integrated with the platform as the company incorporated Gmail, Google+ Events, Google Calendar and even Google Plus Local.

The privacy settings on the platform are very user-friendly, allowing users to know exactly who their content was being shared with, although Google received flack for requiring users to use their real names and flagged accounts deemed suspicious.

Beyond the close-knit circles that are formed on the platform, Google+ makes use of communities that are like Facebook or LinkedIn Groups that allow like-minded users to share content in sub-categories.

Why Google+ Is Shutting Down

With such an impressive suite of features dedicated to creating personal relationships with acquaintances and friends, Google Plus was released at the wrong time.

Spearheaded by the project’s head Vic Gundotra, Google+ was integrated into many Google products; after his exit in 2014 Google spent as many engineering hours removing Google+ from all of its products when compared to the amount of time spent incorporating it in the first place.

Google+ slowly transitioned from a social media platform to a discovery tool for quality content, which appealed to a niche audience compared to a vast majority of casual social media users.

By 2011 there were several mature social media platforms on the market, notably Facebook and Twitter, where users had spent years building up their accounts and fostering relationships with other users. Facebook already had the advantage of fostering and maintaining personal relationships while Twitter served as a 24/7 instantaneous news hub.

By 2012 social media users were spending the equivalent to 130,000 years on Facebook in contrast to 126 years on Google+, or one thousand minutes on Facebook compared to 1 minute on Google+.

Google also prevented third-party integration into its API, stagnating the platform from innovating and creating new features that would entice users to spend more time on the platform. The support for Google+ began to falter and remaining activity deviated to spam posts in both circles and communities to self-promote content.

Difference Between Google+ Communities and Google+ Collections

In 2015 Google+ was focused on communities and collections being at the center of its user experience alongside Google My Business being easier to use.

Communities are groups created around specific interests or organization by individuals or businesses, like Facebook and LinkedIn Groups, that offer a great way to engage in a public or private setting. This feeds off Google’s attempt at creating more passionate and personal interactions among users, but its hard to get users to engage when they spend 3.3 minutes per month on the platform.

From personal experience I’ve stumbled upon seven communities that are moderated and active in my niche out of the 50 communities I requested to join in 2018. Any connection requests I receive are spam that post the same content dozens of times a day, negating any reason for me to continue using the platform.

It's Official: Google+ Is Shutting Down After A Massive Security Breach Photo 1

Google+ Collections are akin to Pinterest boards, allowing you to create content collections centered on specific topics and interests that are visible to your followers based on what they want to see from you. Users can follow specific collections and +1, comment or re-share any of the posts that you add to your collection.

The problem with these two additions to Google+ is that other social media platforms already use these features. There’s no uniqueness to the experience and Google+ is simply following in the footsteps of its predecessors with a less enthusiastic consumer base.

Just as Instagram is cannibalizing Snapchat with its more robust story-feature, Google+ has no innovation and failed to bring anything new to the table after its initial launch in 2011. Social media users also prefer a sense of anonymity, which Google+ doesn’t allow as you’re forced to use your actual name when creating an account.

Google+ Privacy Issues Lead To The Shut Down

The final nail in the coffin for Google Plus was hammered by Google when it discovered a security issue through an internal review called Project Strobe through a bug in one of the site’s APIs that granted access to information on a user’s private profile.

Project Strobe is a root-and-branch review of third-party developer access to Google account and Android device data that looks at the operation of Google’s privacy controls, platforms where users were not engaging due to concerns of privacy controls, areas where developers were granted broad access and other areas of opportunity for tightening privacy control.

Ben Smith, Google’s VP of Engineering, wrote on the company's blog that there was no evidence the bug was abused or that developers using the API were aware that it existed.

“This review crystallized what we’ve known for a while: that while our engineering teams have put a lot of effort and dedication into building Google+ over the years, it has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps,” Smith wrote. “The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.”

As Facebook has succumbed to some of the most notable security breaches in recent history, I would argue that the security breach was the final straw in the face of a product that produced diminishing returns in the grand scheme of Google's comprehensive product suite.

THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOGLE+ FOR SEO

Despite the perception that Google+ isn’t relevant, it serves an integral role in website SEO and referral traffic, ranking just behind Facebook as the most important platform that Google crawls in ranking sites for relevance and SEO-friendliness.

Google’s algorithm factors in many variables unknown to the general public, but its been speculated that part of determining the quality of content on a web page is derived from the number of Google+ referrals it receives.

The way Google+ works is that the more active a business is in the Google+ community, the more +1’s (the Google+ equivalent to likes or favorites) it receives, which signals to the Google algorithm that the website is reliable and will rank better in the Google search engine results.

While the niche may be small, Google+ fostered an active community of users, provided that you look in the right places. Just as Facebook is prioritizing Facebook Groups in its user’s newsfeeds, anyone who is using Google+ needs to post and engage in Communities if they want to see any kind of engagement or active users.

Google+ Shutting Down After Massive Security Breach Photo 3

Initially I posted without joining any communities on Google+, only to experience increasing frustration as posts remained untouched and comments on other people’s posts were largely ignored. Even with multiple tweaks in messaging and content my posts received no engagement and I was ready to give up on the platform.

Based on Facebook’s algorithm change and the emphasis it started placing on Facebook Groups, I decided to see if Google+ offered something similar and was surprised to find a sea of groups that I could join.

Unlike Facebook, Google+ doesn’t necessarily have Pages, just variations of account types, but there are no stipulations as to who can post in a group, whereas with Facebook only personal accounts can participate in a group while Pages are barred from access.

The trick was to find Communities that are active and don’t spam content in self-promotion or attempts at artificially boosting SEO. It took some time to find a few Communities worth joining, but the moment that I found a few that met my criteria I found that I started receiving an increase in engagement as well as referral traffic directly from Google+.

To put that into perspective, I didn’t have any referral traffic from Google+ for three months until I started posting in relevant Communities; in early 2017 Google+ ranked as one of my highest referrers behind Facebook and LinkedIn.

LEVERAGING COMMUNITIES ON GOOGLE PLUS FOR ENGAGEMENT

My experience may be anecdotal at best, but in my eyes it shows the importance of engaging in communities as a way to grow your personal brand, or building a community of like-minded users if you’re expanding a business that offers products or educational materials.

The purpose of social media is to inform, educate or entertain, not constantly sell yourself to users, shove advertisements and marketing efforts down their throats and self-promote without adding anything of value to the user.

Social media is starting to move further in this direction as Facebook takes the lead in bringing back meaningful engagement with its users instead of displaying business posts and promotions on equal footing in newsfeeds. Google+ is also in this boat, although it doesn’t serve as a suitable platform for advertisers and promoters.

It’s interesting that Google+ purported itself to be on equal footing as a direct competitor to Facebook, but instead of serving as a standalone platform it now stands as support for other Google services such as Photos or Hangout.

Google has a history of shutting down products and services that aren’t performing as anticipated and it’s unfortunate that Google+ suffered a similar fate based on the exceedingly low amount of active users it accrued in the past seven years.

Google+ Redesigned as a Google Enterprise Product

Smith wrote on Google’s blog that the reason why Google+ is shutting down is they plan on sunsetting the consumer version of Google+ due to the challenges of maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumer expectations.

Having said that, Smith noted that many enterprise customers found great value in using Google+ within their companies and believe its better suited as an enterprise product rather than a commercial product for public use.

“Our review showed that Google+ is better suited as an enterprise product where co-workers can engage in internal discussions on a secure corporate social network,” Smith wrote. “Enterprise customers can set common access rules, and use central controls, for their entire organization. We’ve decided to focus on our enterprise efforts and will be launching new features purpose-built for businesses. We will share more information in the coming days.”

OTHER RELEVANT POSTS ON GOOGLE TOOLS:

How To Set Up Google My Business Chat

Guide To Removing Referral Spam In Google Analytics

Setting Benchmarks To Compare Your Competition In Google Analytics

Adding Google Analytics User Permissions

How To Drop A Pin For Your Google My Business Listing In Google Maps

Guide On Passing The Google Analytics Exam



Detroit Photography For Flattery Photo Challenge

Hey there and welcome back for Week 27 of the 2018 photography challenge! This week’s prompt explores the concept of imitation, so what better way to emulate a local photographer than to perform some Detroit photography?

Flattery

They say imitation is the highest form; so, past or present; choose your favorite master photographer and imitate their art or technique.

Vision

This category is designed to push you to go beyond sight, to insight; to take inspiration and make it a reality. Vision exists in your imagination and is revealed your photographs; expressing something otherwise invisible. Developing a Vision for your work is showing to others what you see in your mind’s eye.

Gary Washington’s Photography Work

Washington was born in Detroit and grew up in Pontiac Michigan. His inspiration for photography began when opportunity struck through an offer to work abroad for a few months. According to Washington’s website, “I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to buy a nice camera like my older brother (he is the same person who inspired me to practice and keep taking pictures). Not even realizing, a passion for photography would grow out of the experience.”

He typically shoots architecture, landscapes and anything else that catches his eye with an expansive portfolio of work that captures various cultures abroad.

“Traveling abroad was nerve wrecking for my family at the time; especially with all of the uncertainties in the world. But for me it was exciting and something new,” wrote Washington. “I genuinely love learning about other cultures. I am intrigued by their food, music, language and lifestyles. Along the way I have met a lot of wonderful people, we laugh, eat and enjoy life. These types of experiences are irreplaceable to me.”

In Washington’s portfolio lies numerous landscape and architecture photos. His color style varies from vibrant to grayscale, but what caught my eye was one of his pieces painted on a wall in the Renaissance Center in Detroit, shot in grayscale with the Transcending monument at the forefront of the composition.

Symbolism of the Transcending Monument in Detroit

Detroit Photography Gary Washington Photo Transcending Monument

This is the photo that Gary Washington shot for the GM Renaissance Center photo contest.

Transcending is a monument dedicated to the labor movement in Michigan, comprised of two steel beams weighing 30 tons affixed to meet in the center at the top of the monument. However, there is a gap at the top, symbolizing the work that still needs to be done in the movement.

The symbolism in his photo is striking, especially with the Ren Cen in the background of the composition and the American flag waving in the wind.

I decided to recreate the composition based on another photo that Washington shot for a photo contest held by the Renaissance Center, standing in about the same spot that I assume Washington had stood in for the contest.

While I recreated the composition, I decided to add my own flair to the photo in post-editing that contrasts Washington’s urban grayscale photography style.

Detroit Photography Gary Washington Photo Transcending Monument Header Photo

Here's my own rendition of Gary Washington's work.

Photo Edits for the Detroit Photography Prompt

If you didn’t check out my photo edits video, below are the color edits I made for the photography challenge:

Last week I decided to cancel my Adobe Subscription. My student discount ran out this year, hiking the overall price up to $50 a month which I felt was an unnecessary expense given that I use most of the programs sparingly every month.

As a replacement I picked up a license key for Luminar, which is an alternative to Adobe Lightroom (I’ll have to do a comparison post on the two programs as I use Luminar more). Overall I’m really impressed with how easy it is to navigate alongside the plethora of filters and color correction options available.

Two filters that I used were the Golden Hour filter, which makes the color scheme look as if I shot at sunset, and Sunrays, which mimics a sunburst effect in the photo.

As far color correction goes I didn’t perform much selective color edits, mainly reducing the yellows in the trees to bring out a more vibrant green feel to the photo. Normally I would try to reduce the yellows and the greens, but with the greens subdued there really isn’t much vibrance to the photo other than the blue of the sky.

The Transcending monument and the Renaissance Center are both an industrial gray, which doesn’t pop despite the reduction in background colors. I played with a grayscale version of the photo but wasn’t pleased with how it turned out, so I stuck with my saturated/vibrant color editing style this time around.

Overall I’m really pleased with how the photo turned out and I’m also excited to play with some of the other features that are available in Luminar.

Detroit Photography Conclusion

What did you think of this week’s photography challenge? I would love to hear your feedback in the comment’s section below! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out last week’s photography challenge where I explored how to perform Low Key Photography.

Facebook Story Ads Could Be A Game Changer For Advertisers

With the growing popularity of Instagram Stories peaking at 400 million users, Facebook is expanding reach options by introducing Facebook story ads in its Stories feature.

While the number of Stories users on Facebook is significantly lower than its sister platform at 150 million, many advertisers are looking to diversify to other platforms due to the costly advertising on Instagram.

At Facebook’s latest F8 developer conference, several Facebook executives including Mark Zuckerberg believe the Stories format will overtake the Newsfeed as the most popular feature of the platform.

As noted on Facebook’s Business page:

“The rise of stories is clear: people want fast, immersive and fun ways to share photos, videos and text with their friends and family—and stories offer just that. People use stories to share and discover content they’re interested in for movements as big as Pride and moments as small as the coffee they’re drinking. We designed stories on our platforms to fulfill people’s need to interact and share in engaging and playful ways on the vertical screen.”

Stories are a great way on social media to allow users to share those small moments without clogging newsfeeds, spending a significant amount of time editing photos and crafting the perfect caption.

“We launched Instagram Stories back in August 2016, and saw how quickly people adopted the format. Every day, 400 million Instagram accounts use Instagram Stories.1 And the success of Instagram Stories showed us that stories, and camera-based messaging, are experiences that people are craving. This led us to roll out stories in Messenger in 2017, and on Facebook and WhatsApp soon after. Since then, we’ve seen people embrace stories across our platforms. There are now over 150 million people using Facebook Stories2 and 450 million people using WhatsApp Status every day.

The Rising Popularity of FB Story Ads

With the rising popularity of the Stories format, it only makes sense for Facebook to offer marketers a new way to reach their audience as a “pay to play” platform for business efforts. Interestingly enough Facebook cites one-third of the most viewed Instagram stories to be from businesses that are achieving results with that type of ad format:

“For example, Tropicana ran video ads in Instagram Stories for its summertime product promotion campaign, achieving an 18-point lift in ad recall and 15-point lift in purchase intent among males. OpenTable used ads in Instagram Stories to drive online restaurant reservations, resulting in a 33% lower cost per reservation compared to other ad formats. And Overstock ran video ads in Instagram Stories to acquire new customers and increase sales, and generated an 18% higher return on ad spend and a 20% decrease in cost per acquisition.”

It’s standard to see lower CPMs for any new ad placement format as advertisers are competing for less space for their ad placements. However, marketers are viewing the new ad placement opportunity on Facebook as opportunistic rather than strategic, especially as the platform appeals to an older demographic in comparison to Instagram.

Best Practices For Facebook Story Ads

Facebook Story Image Ads run for 5 seconds long and are skippable to ensure a successful rollout of the new advertising feature. Design best practices recommend leaving roughly 250 pixels, or 14%, of the top and bottom of the image free from text and logos to avoid covering up your profile icon or call-to-action buttons. The image ratio should be 1.91 to 9:16, a 600x600 image size and less than 20% of text.

You can include the following supported objectives:

As well as the following CTA buttons:

You can also craft Facebook Video Story Ads that run between 5-15 seconds long. Most file types are supported, but Facebook recommends a H.264 compression with square pixels and a file size of 4GB max.

For more information regarding Facebook Ad best practices, be sure to check out their Business Page when creating an ad or a mockup.

Facebook Story Ads Wrap-Up

It’s interesting to see the social media space slowly offering more and more advertising features to reach a larger audience, especially as many viewers and listeners of traditional methods of advertising find television and radio to be bloated with ads.

As new generations grow up in the digital age, they’re becoming more accustomed to businesses saturating their newsfeeds with retargeted ads, whereas older generations find them to be somewhat intrusive. It’ll be interesting to see what the reception is like as Facebook Story Ads become more prevalent, but it’s a good move on Facebook’s part to make them skippable as a lot of users tend to bounce from a video when an ad roll pops up halfway through the video.

What are your thoughts on Storied Ads making their way onto Facebook? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Keysearch – A Cost-Effective SEMRush Alternative Worth Checking Out

SEMRush is hailed by digital marketers as one of the most robust tools out there. Whether you’re keeping tabs on the competition, performing on-page and off-page search engine optimization or determining bidding amounts on keyword phrases, SEMRush has an answer to just about any question you might have when it comes to stepping up your digital marketing game. However, for the freelance digital marketer it can be costly with monthly subscriptions starting at a little more than $100 a month, encouraging users to search for a SEMRush alternative that doesn’t break the bank. In my research I stumbled upon Keysearch, a keyword research seo tool that offers much of the same functionality as SEMRush for a fraction of the cost at just $17 a month.

How To Use Keysearch

While Keysearch isn’t as robust as SEMRush or Ahrefs, it offers the core essentials for a digital marketer looking to perform on-page SEO or competitive analysis to effectively rank for keywords. As you might know, most web traffic still comes from organic search and a significant portion of clickthrough’s are on the first search engine results pages, making it of vital importance that your web pages are at least ranking on the first page of Google or Bing.

When performing research on keywords you want to rank for, the first step is to look at low competition, long tail keyword phrases that garner a decent chunk of monthly web traffic. Some digital marketers will enter phrases into the Google search results to see what popular phrases come up and then use Google Search Console to determine the monthly traffic of those keywords, which can sometimes be inaccurate and time consuming.

Keysearch Browser Extension Tool

Keysearch offers a browser extension that lists related search term phrases along with their monthly volume, CPC and PPC, saving time in determining what keyword phrase you want your web page to rank for when you’re in the first stages of crafting it.

Once you have a selected keyword phrase, it’s a matter of plugging it into the Keysearch platform for a quick SERP Analysis, which shows you what the keyword difficulty is for that phrase along with the pages that are currently ranking on the first page for that keyword phrase.

Keysearch Keyword Research Tab

Keyword Checker Tool

Keysearch is great because it shows a competition score on a scale of 0-100 for that keyword and if your website has a chance at effectively competing for that phrase in its Keyword Difficulty Checker Tool. As an example, the term “semrush alternative” has a monthly volume of 1300 and a competitive score of 35, making it a great term to compete for when performing my on-page optimization for this article. If the term was highly competitive, Keysearch displays similar keyword phrases that you can filter for the number of keywords, CPC, PPC and competitive score. It also shows in the dashboard other related search term phrases and the web pages that are currently ranking in the top 10 search results on Google.

Keysearch Quick Difficulty Checker

Keyword Analyzer for SERP Analysis

Keysearch SERP Analysis Chart

For the SERP Analysis of the dashboard, Keysearch displays the following rankings for the sites you’re trying to outrank for a keyword phrase:

The main question that should come to mind when performing on-page SEO is “Can I create better content that’s more optimized than that of my competitors?” which makes the SERP Analysis portion of Keysearch the cornerstone of your keyword research.

You can export a CSV or a PDF file containing the details about the Keyword found in the dashboard, as well as get Keyword data and keyword suggestions from Google Adwords Keyword Planner, YouTube Suggest, Bing Suggest, Keysearch Database and a few others.

Keysearch Quick Difficulty Tracker

Keysearch Quick Difficulty Checker 2

The Quick Difficulty Tracker Tool allows you to check the difficulty and volume for one keyword at a time, which can be a huge time-saver if you’re using the tool to bulk-check the difficulty of up to 50 keywords at once.

The Keyword Research portion of Keysearch also allows you to Brainstorm topics that are currently trending in the digital sphere. By typing an idea and Keysearch will aggregate the most popular Twitter and Google Trends, creating ideas for content that will resonate with your audience.

Keysearch Explorer and Backlink Checker

Keysearch Explorer and Backlinks Tool

One of the main uses of SEMRush is its ability to analyze a website to determine what keywords it’s ranking for, the number of backlinks it has, how it’s ranking and what its top competitors are in SERPs.

Keysearch offers this functionality; whether you’re using it for your own website or you’re looking to analyze your competitor, you can track your domain strength and what keyword score you can successfully compete for.

A gripe that I have with SEMRush is how it aggregates backlinks, which I’ve found to be somewhat inaccurate, whereas Keysearch seems to be more realistic in determining what Nofollow and Dofollow links you have pointed at your website when you're link building.

You can use Keysearch to filter and view 50, 100, 250, 1000 or all the backlinks at once alongside exporting the backlinks of any website or landing page.

Without going into the Google Search Console you can check to see what keywords your website is currently ranking for and how much estimated traffic your website should be receiving for those keywords.

It also provides a quick ranking distribution bar table to glance at for any ranking changes and optimization opportunities.

Competitive Analysis Tool

Keysearch Competitive Gap Analysis Tool

Like I mentioned earlier, Keysearch offers a competitive analysis tool to check specific backlinks, how you’re ranking in comparison to your competition with organic keywords, your competitor gap, URL metrics and a page analyzer feature.

Performing competitor analysis is extremely important when it comes to SEO and Keysearch will highlight what you both rank for, how you rank for those keywords and what your domain strength, or the quality of your website, is compared to that of the competition. By using the competitive analysis tool you can check to see what keywords your competition is ranking for that your site isn’t and perform on-page optimization accordingly.

The page analyzer feature is also helpful in performing on-page optimization and areas of opportunity beyond strictly content such as site load speed, on-page coding elements and keyword consistency.

YouTube Research

Keysearch YouTube Research Tool

If you’re trying to break into the digital video space, Keysearch has a Youtube Research tab that acts in a similar way to the Keyword Research portion of the dashboard. It comes with a table just like the Keyword Analysis Tool and will display the URLs of the videos you’re competing with along with other metrics like Video Age, Likes, Dislikes, Comments and if the keyword is in the title or description.

Like the Keyword Research Tool there is a quick difficulty checker and a keyword suggestion box with multiple keywords that you might want to consider.

Rank Tracking For SEO Efforts

Keysearch Rank Tracking Tool

Once you’ve created or updated your content, Keysearch has a Rank Tracking Feature where you can see if your optimization efforts are successful or not. Once you add a keyword and URL to this portion of the dashboard, Keysearch will track that page for any position changes for that keyword, showing you where you rank for that keyword, the monthly search volume and your page authority. You can also set it up to receive email notifications when there are any changes in ranking for that keyword.

Large spikes and drops are common in this portion of the tool, but that’s normal as Google likes to temporarily move your SERP positioning to see how it performs higher up in the rankings.

Keysearch Content Assistant Tool In Beta Testing

Keysearch Content Assistant Tool

A new feature that Keysearch is beta testing is its Content Assistant Tool. It’s great for plugging in a keyword phrase to see the average word count for the Google 1st page web page results and must have LSI keywords that are most commonly used within the 1st page results of Google. All you do is copy and paste your content into the dashboard and it will highlight keyword opportunities and how you stack up with the competition in the LSI keywords you have included in your content.

The Content Assistant Tool also highlights suggested keyword phrases to include in your URL or as sub-heads on your page, relevant content snippits from the SERP Top Pages, and popular questions found on your topic to also include as good sub-heads.

The Final Verdict

Keysearch is the perfect altnerative to SEMRush or Ahrefs. While SEMRush offers a more robust dashboard with a lot more features, Keysearch also offers much of the core essentials that are the staple to any optimization efforts. Both offer competition monitoring to take a quick look at the overall performance of your competition’s web presence such as keywords, where they rank and the value of those keywords. I find the backlinking feature of Keysearch to be more accurate than SEMRush, as I don’t entirely understand how SEMRush goes about compiling backlinks for websites. They both offer the ability to distinguish between worthy and spam backlinks that might be pulling down the credibility of your website and what kind of backlinks are drawing more traffic for you.

Keysearch offers many high-quality features to up your seo efforts with a simple dashboard design that’s beginner-friendly and user-oriented. The dashboard is user-friendly, you can sign up for a free trial to determine if it’s the right solution for you, they have an active support staff, multiple tutorial videos and are constantly updating their system to offer new tools and increasing search limits. Keysearch’s only pitfall is that the website title is not visible in the Search Results table, showing URLs instead of the webpage titles which makes for trickier comparisons. This is being rectified in the Content Assistant Tool, but it’s still in beta testing so that may change in the future.

Pricing For Keysearch

As far as pricing goes, Keysearch pricing is $17 per month or a discounted price of $169 per year for its starter pack, which gives you access to all of Keysearch’s features like 200 daily searches with analysis, 20 daily super searches and 80 rank tracker keywords. The pro pack costs $34 for the monthly subscription with a discounted annual price of $279, which provides 500 daily searches with analysis, 50 daily super searches and 200 rank tracker keywords, making it a much more cost-effective option when compared to Ahrefs or SEMRush. It's not difficult to find a Keysearch discount code, making the overall price even cheaper if you stumble upon a Keysearch coupon code.

What did you think of my Keysearch review? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Everything You Need To Know About Facebook's Latest Security Breach

Facebook succumbed to a security issue on Tuesday, Sept. 25 that affected the accounts of nearly 50 million FB users.

The security breach stemmed from a vulnerability in Facebook’s code for the “View As” feature, which is normally used to let people see what their profile looks like to another user.

“This allowed them  to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts,” Guy Rosen, VP of Facebook’s Product Management, wrote in a news release.  “Access tokens are the equivalent of digital keys that keep people logged in to Facebook so they don’t need to re-enter their password every time they use the app.”

As of this time of writing Facebook has fixed this vulnerability and informed law enforcement of the cyber-attack. Facebook also reset the access tokens of the 50 million accounts that were affected by the vulnerability, resulting in many users being signed out of their accounts, as well as reset the access tokens of 40 million other accounts that were looked up using the “View As” feature within the past year.

Actions Taken By Facebook

As the social media company investigates further into the issue they temporarily turned off the feature until a thorough security review has been conducted.

“This attack exploited the complex interaction of multiple issues in our code. It stemmed from a change we made to our video uploading feature in July 2017, which impacted “View As,” Rosen wrote. “The attackers not only needed to find this vulnerability and use it to get an access token, they then had to pivot from that account to others to steal more tokens.”

How Did The Vulnerability Happen?

The vulnerability caused by the video uploader bug exposed the access tokens in HTML, stemming from an update in the video uploader that allowed the “View As” feature to post a video in a content composer which specifically enables people to wish their friends happy birthday.

“When the video uploader appeared as part of View As, it generated the access token not for you as the viewer, but for the user that you were looking up,” wrote Pedro Canahuati, Facebook VP of Engineering, Security and Privacy.

By taking advantage of this vulnerability, attackers were able to pivot from that access token and obtain the access tokens of other accounts using the same method.

It is yet to be determined as to whether the affected accounts were misused, if any information was accessed or the identity of the involved parties behind the security breach.

Previous Facebook Security Breaches

Facebook has come under heavy flak in 2018 with the largest data breach in its history occurring through the leak of more than 87 million users that may have influenced the 2016 presidential election.

While the Cambridge Analytica scandal is the largest data privacy breach in Facebook’s history, other online marketers have abused the system in similar ways as written by Alexandria Samuel on The Verge:

“If Facebook’s generous access to friend data was known to many marketers and software developers, so was the tactic of disguising data grabs as fun apps, pages, or quizzes,” she wrote.

The article cites many references to marketers and the tactics they used to gain data from users on the platform, but Sam Weston, a communication consultant in digital marketing and market research, said “We were all conscious that friend data was accessible. I don’t think that anybody had perspective on the potential consequences until it was slotted into this news story, where the consequence may have been the election of Donald Trump.”

“It is actually stunning to think, with the clarity that perspective brings, that you could stand up the kind of ridiculous quiz or survey that they did and then walk away with psychographic profiles on 50 million Americans. Even for someone who worked in the field, was a moment that gave you real pause to reflect on the business that we walked away from, but that was a massive part of the industry for a long time,” he continued later in the article.

Facebook is currently taking several actions to prevent a similar incident from occurring in the future including:

How To Do Low Key Photography | 2018 Photo Challenge

Hi there and welcome back for Week 26 of the 2018 Photography Challenge! This week’s challenge explores low key photography, or a style of photography that uses dark tones to produce dramatic-looking images.

Low Key Photography Definition

Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the definition of low key photography is to intensify the contrast in the subject of an image through reduced lighting, whereas high key lighting aims to reduce the amount of contrast by casting a large amount of light on a subject.

The aim of most photographers is to avoid casting dark shadows on the faces of their subjects; using low-key lighting can add a dramatic flair to the subject and overall composition of the photo through dark shadows and a strong contrast.

low key photography black backdrop portrait lighting example

In a previous post I used the Rembrandt Technique with low key lighting to cast strong shadows on the face of my subject and create the distinctive triangle that’s associated with the technique. This was accomplished with studio lights but painters in the Renaissance and Baroque periods achieved this effect without artificial lighting.

These painters created what is known as the “chiaroscuro” technique, which produced three-dimensional depth in their portraits and evoked drama/realism in the paintings from this period. Chiaroscuro is derived from the Italian “chiaro,” or clear/light, and “scuro,” or obscure/dark.

Low Key Photography Lighting Setup

For shooting indoor portrait photography you’ll need to set up a black backdrop with a studio light placed of to the side of the subject at a 45-degree angle that’s above the eye level of your subject. The face of the subject should be turned away from the main light source.

How To Do Low Key Photography Without Flash

If you don’t have low key studio lighting, you can use the flash from a cell phone or an extraneous source such as a window, although one problem that occurs is the light source illuminating too much of your subject’s face. To correct this, simply cover up the bottom of the light source and adjust to get the perfect amount of lighting.

You can also a secondary source of light on the opposite side, in which case your supplement lighting should be at half the intensity as your main source.

Another thing to watch out for is making sure you’re capturing the light in at least one of your subject’s eyes to bring life to the photo and add that dramatic flair.

Outdoor Low Key Photography Ideas

Outdoors low key photography lighting example

Shooting outdoors in the evening is a free way to get the right amount of low key lighting without using studio equipment. The biggest challenge is finding the perfect spot for your composition; natural light from the moon and streetlights are great places to start when pinpointing locations that have a good light source at night. An urban setting can also be ideal if you’re shooting in a parking lot or an alleyway.

Camera Settings For Low Key Photography

As far as camera settings go, here’s what you’ll want to do:

The trick is to minimize the amount of light that’s entering your camera without under-exposing the subject in the photo. Here are my settings for this week’s photo challenge:

The ISO was higher than I wanted, but the only source of lighting that I had was the fire so I had to adjust the ISO in order to decrease the exposure time and lower the F-Stop, but the main takeaway is to minimize the amount of noise produced in the photo.

Low Key Lighting Set Up

Outdoor Low Key Photography Lighting With Fire As Light Source

For this week’s prompt I was invited to a bonfire over the weekend, making for the perfect opportunity to shoot using low key lighting. The backyard was dark with the moon serving as a small source of light. I decided to get creative and use the fire as both my main subject as well as the one source of light, which turned out perfectly after constantly tweaking my settings.

After a few shots I decreased the exposure time, or increased the shutter speed, to catch some of the embers rising out of the bonfire as my friend stoked the bonfire pit with a stick, making for some of my favorite photos that I’ve taken as part of this challenge.

Something that I played with was shooting in both color and grayscale, a new feature that’s available on my Pentax K-3 II digital camera body. I personally prefer vibrant photos, but the grayscale ones that I shot turned out to be unique and appealing in contrast to the black background.

Outdoor Low Key Photography Lighting With Fire As Light Source 2

2018 Photography Challenge Edits

If you haven’t checked out my editing video already, below are the edits I made in Adobe Lightroom:

If you’re wondering why I decreased the orange saturation, I felt as though it made the reds stand out more with the centers of the flame producing a more white/yellowish tone.

Low Key Photography Wrap Up

What did you think of this week’s photography challenge? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out last week’s photo challenge where I explored the Plymouth Cider Mill here in Michigan, or next week's Detroit photography challenge!

Michigan Cider Mill Photography at Plymouth Orchards

Hey there and welcome back for another week of the 2018 photo challenge! This week I went to a Michigan Cider Mill and snapped a few photos to break into the Fall season.

There are countless apple cider mills that are now open in Michigan, but my friends and I went to Plymouth Orchards and Cider Mill in Plymouth, Michigan. It was a relatively small cider mill with a petting zoo, an expansive farm, a pumpkin patch and a wide selection of baked goods to purchase.

Michigan Cider Mill Plymouth Orchards Apples Photo

Bags of fresh apples for sale at Plymouth Orchards and Cider Mill!

Plymouth Orchards and Cider Mill History

Plymouth Orchards and Cider Mill’s history goes back to 1977 as a woman-owned family business with Mary Emmett establishing the orchard as a “veritable touchstone for her community.” In 2013 the mill transitioned to become fully organic and it now boasts solar electric panels to produce up to 70 percent of the electricity it needs to function year-round.

My favorite aspect of the orchard was the baked goods with plenty of apples, donuts, fresh cider, apple pies and bread, caramel apples and honey combs. I spent my fair share on baked goods, drinking a half gallon of apple cider in one sitting and combining ice cream with heated apple pie for a delicious midnight snack. I'd highly recommend the doughnuts as well. The cider itself has earned various accolades including Michigan’s Best Apple Cider at the Great Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market and Greenhouse Growers Expo as well as a Best Cider Mill Donuts award.

Michigan Cider Mill Plymouth Orchards Farm Photo

A lot of land made for some great photo ops during the hay ride!

My Favorite Michigan Cider Mills

For my next trip I'll have to go to Yates Cider Mill, the Dexter Cider Mill or the Franklin Cider Mill to Michigan pick apples, head into a corn maze or choke down some hard cider, but the Plymouth Cider Mill is a free family-friendly mill that's good for a quick 30-minute adventure if you're looking for something to do.

Wiards and Apple Charlies are my personal favorites as the best apple orchards in Michigan, but there are other Michigan Cider Mills and apple orchards in Northern Michigan that could give them a run for their money to get the Fall season off to the right foot.

Michigan Cider Mill Photo Edits

Michigan Cider Mill Plymouth Orchards Goats Photo 2

The goats were adorable, but were quick to nip at your fingers if given the opportunity.

In terms of photo edits for this week, the weather conditions provided for some beautiful photos of the farm animals and the property that I shot during the tractor ride.

Here are the photo edits that I made for most of my photos in this week’s challenge in Adobe Lightroom:

While most of my edits are in line with what I do every week, I did play with desaturating certain colors to provide a more subdued look in the farm animal photos while increasing the saturation to make the landscape photos more vibrant.

Michigan Cider Mill Plymouth Orchards Goats Photo

The desaturation of the yellows in this photo really draws more focus on the goat.

My new camera, the Pentax K3 II, allows for a variety of color settings I can set to adjust the colors in my DNG files without me doing any kind of tweaking post-processing. I really like the more subdued look when subjects are involved and it’s an editing style that a lot of photographers are adopting.

The clarity of my photos with the new camera body is night and day compared to my Pentax K-50; it cost a pretty penny, but it was worth the investment (I also didn’t have much of a choice as my K-50 body started exhibiting symptoms of aperture failure during my trip up North to Hale, Michigan last August).

What did you think of the photos from this week’s photo challenge? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment’s section below along with your favorite cider mill! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out last week’s photo challenge where I explored tonal contrast with my favorite model or next week's low key lighting photography challenge. 

The Best Interview Tips and Tricks To Ace An Interview | Lounge Talk With Laz Ep. 18

Hi there, welcome back for another exciting episode of Lounge Talk With Laz! This week's episode will be discussing interview tips and tricks that will help you ace a job interview. Let's just jump right into it.

Interview Tips and Tricks

So, in episode 16 I discussed job interview tips, going over the application process, how to spice up your resume, your Linkedin profile, your portfolio and in this week's episode, I wanted to take a chance to talk about the process for the phone interview, or the onsite interview, and how to stand out as an applicant for the position that you're applying for. This post will explore interview tips and tricks for students, phone interview tips and tricks and interview tips and tricks basic etiquette.

We will first start off with the phone interview and usually this is conducted by a senior recruiter for the company that you're applying for, and it's a little bit more high level overview just to kind of see if you're actually qualified for the role, and then just kind of review a bunch of information on your resume. This is more at this stage a screening process before they send the information that they get from the interview to the hiring managers or the team or to the department that you're applying for.

Typically a senior recruiter will ask you one or two questions that are job-specific for the role that you're applying for but for the most part, they'll kind of see based on your previous experiences, how you handle certain situations in the workplace. They also take the opportunity to explain to you more about the role and what is about and what it will entail and it's kind of an opportunity for you to ask a few questions yourself get a better feel for the company, and if you will mesh appropriately with their company culture, and vice versa.

So questions to consider during the phone interview itself would be, for example, what are some of the biggest challenges that you've faced and how have you created a solution to meet those challenges?

What are your biggest creative achievements or something that you're proud of in your previous positions and along with those kind of questions, they might throw in a few hypotheticals or maybe even some behavioral kind of questions. So, be on the lookout for those.

You can take a look into interviews on Glassdoor and it's a pretty robust place to look if the company is well known and it'll have previous applicants kind of displaying the types of questions that they were asked whether they were in a phone interview or the onsite interview, it's just a good way to prep. So that way, you're not kind of floundering when somebody catches you off guard when they ask their questions. So be sure to take a look on that site and be prepared.

I found in my interviewing experience that the phone interviews themselves will only last about 15 minutes or so and a good portion of them will just kind of be you reiterating what's already listed on your resume and giving a little bit more of an elevator pitch to the recruiter that you're speaking with regarding what you did in the past and some of your achievements or accolades about yourself.

So be sure to keep it in between the one to two-minute mark for your elevator pitch and just kind of giving them a brief but decent overview of what you have done in your professional experience thus far to make that good first impression.

Interview Tips and Tricks Basic Etiquette

The Best Interview Tips and Tricks To Ace An Interview Glassdoor Interview Questions Prep

Two tips for the phone interview is make sure that you are friendly when you're speaking with the recruiter. Obviously they can't really see your body language, because they're talking with you on the phone, so be sure to smile throughout the interview and by smiling and kind of having a more energetic demeanor of sorts. It's a good way to kind of project that over the phone and it is noticeable if you are not smiling when you are doing the phone interview, so just be sure to smile and it'll reflect in your tone when you're speaking with the recruiter.

The other tip would be to come prepared to the phone interview with a couple of questions to ask a recruiter towards the end along with a good understanding of the job description. It's honestly one of the worst things in the world. If they ask you any questions and you say “No, I'm good,” so you can either take a look into company news, to kind of see what's been going on there. And you can I ask a little bit more specific questions or you can kind of keep it more high level and ask some things like what are the biggest challenges of the department so far? How did this position come to be open? What are the next steps in the interview process, those sort of things and you can ask maybe between three to five of them and save other questions for the on-site interview if they do decide to move forward. Some companies may do a follow-up phone call with the hiring manager, or a person from the department that you be working for and this might come in the form of a a video call or what have you, and again the same rules pretty much apply as to the previous phone interview and it's not until you get to the on-site interview that you're kind of in the final stretch with the on-site interviews themselves.

Those are much more rigorous obviously than the phone interview, some companies will only have you interview with the hiring manager, or potentially a team lead for the department, while other companies will have you sit on a panel of two to three hiring managers and team leads.

I found, personally, that I enjoy panel interviews to build rapport, more than just talking to an individual person, but they can be a little more nerve-wracking.

What are some tips and tricks I should know before going into an interview?

The Best Interview Tips and Tricks To Ace An Interview Relax Interview Prep Advice

You'll find advice all over the internet that tries to tell you, “Hey, don't be nervous, be relaxed, and confident," everyone knows this and it's really hard to kind of exude that demeanor, especially because you're applying for a job that you really want and you're speaking with obviously experienced veterans in the field. Hopefully you would be at least.

And again, it can be really nerve-racking, so what I have found for me to kind of calm the nerves is before the interview, if you have the opportunity to go take a walk outside, go do some physical activity, or even just change up your surroundings. Go take a walk in the woods or in a park somewhere. It really is a good way to kind of calm the nerves. And I found that at least with walking allows your subconscious to kind of work things out internally and then kind of projects to your actual conscious in a weird way, if that makes any kind of sense.
So if you're kind of thinking about things too much, and stressing out and you're trying to figure out some potential problems that could arise if the interview... it's a good way for your subconscious to kind of help you problem solve, or the very least just kind of calm your nerves.

The other thing, too, is obviously you wanna be on your A game when it comes to the on-site interview and a lot of people will take caffeine or even the nicotine gum or things like that, in order to be at the most mental clarity as they can and to be the most alert. But this is actually a really bad idea, if you're taking those things like an hour before the actual interview.

In the morning I guess that's fine, but caffeine and to lesser extent nicotine gum in general, they will give you the jitters of sorts and they will actually make you more nervous. So I would definitely recommend avoiding those. If you're about to head into the interview in an hour or two in order to operate at your best and be at your best, you should get a good night's sleep the night before and try to get maybe eight or nine hour to sleep, don't spend all night cramming and doing research for the interview and prepping for potential questions they could ask, or that sort of thing, the day before. Because you're gonna be up, awake, you're gonna be nervous and it's going to filter into the next day, and you're not gonna be at your best performing.

When you do go into the actual interview try to arrive about 15 minutes early and some people will scope out the location beforehand, so that way they can kind of time traffic, how long it takes them to get there and they know exactly where they're walking to for the interview itself.

And even if you're showing up really early, I wouldn't walk up to the front desk and be like, "I'm an hour early for this interview at three o'clock,” I would just hang out, go take a walk around or sit in your car, look over some notes and check in about 15 minutes early.

How Should I Prepare For My First Interview?

The Best Interview Tips and Tricks To Ace An Interview First Impressions Photo

Obviously, first appearances are everything. So when you go to the interview, you should be dressed appropriately. Some companies, it really depends on the actual dress code. So even if the company dress code is blue jeans and a t-shirt, you should still show up over-dressed rather than under-dressed.

I personally always play it safe and wear a sports jacket, and tie, dress pants, dress shoes, and I'm not really sure what the dress code is for girls, but they could be to the same effect going off of first appearances. You do want to walk in and again kind of have that display of confidence, even if you are nervous on the inside. Be sure to make eye contact, smile shake the hands of your interviewers and kind of have that similar demeanor, even when you're speaking with the receptionist.

Interestingly enough, some companies will factor in how you greet the receptionist when you come to check in, so whoever you're meeting or talking to, even if it's just a receptionist or just a random employee walking down the hallway at a company that you're interviewing at... you should just greet them warmly, smile, make eye contact, ask how their day's going, and even just make small talk, as you're walking to the interview or the conference room.

And make sure there's no weird awkward silences of sort; build that rapport and that demeanor even as you're walking into the conference room, because a little goes a long way in my opinion at this stage of the game.

With the onsite interview, the company already kind of knows that you or any of the other applicants that have made it to the stage or qualified for what it is that you're applying for and it's really just a matter of making sure that the applicants fit the company culture, and that they would fit well with the team and that this is a person that you would want to work with every single day and not someone who comes in very hum-drum gloomy, that they are very communicative or team-oriented, that sort of thing.

Psychological interview tips and tricks for controlling body language

Once you get to the conference room where you will be holding the interview again with demeanor and your body language, just be sure to be kind of laid back. A few interviewing tips and tricks that I've noticed help me when I am interviewing is kind of leaning back in my chair, keeping more of an open posture and not necessarily crossing my legs but kind of doing an American-style like cross where your ankles are resting on your knee of sorts, in that way, it kind of helps to make sure that I'm not fidgeting under the table and bobbing my foot or my leg up and down and appearing anxious or nervous.

I'll also clasp my hands in front of me so again that way I'm not exhibiting fidget or nervous behavior. One thing I did forget to mention earlier is that when you get to the on-site interview be sure to have a satchel or something professional... to carry a note pad and a folder with extra copies of your resume. I've heard that backpacks are actually considered to be that unprofessional walking into the onsite interview itself, so avoid backpacks at all costs.

And once you sit down obviously you pull out your folder with your extra copies of resumes, make sure that your hiring managers or the interviewers do you have copies of your resume to reference throughout the interview and then you can either go down notes on your note pad, beforehand, regarding the company and any news or things to reference back to or have your questions written out on the second or the third page to reference once you get to the end of the interview.

Once you get to the actual interview is important to reference Glassdoor, and make sure that you're kind of aware of the procedure of the interview and kind of having a rough idea as to what to expect and being prepped for the potential questions that are going to be thrown your way throughout the onsite interview. Usually with a panel, the onsite interview will last maybe you between 30 minutes to an hour or with an individual hiring manager, they might last about 30 minutes, but be sure to get comfortable and prepared for the long haul, so to speak.

What is the best trick to crack an interview?

The Best Interview Tips and Tricks To Ace An Interview Glassdoor STAR Method to Answer Interview Questions Photo

Regarding great interview tips and strategies, with the onsite interview itself hiring managers will ask you a combination of hypothetical questions, behavioral questions, and just kind of touching base on your elevator pitch for your resume and an anything that you've highlighted there. So at least for the behavioral and the hypothetical questions you should have your answers phrased in a way that incorporates the star method.

Great Interview Tips and Strategies

The star method is a structured manner of responding to behavioral based interview questions by discussing the specific situation, task, action and results. Just as an open-ended example I've been asked by interviewers in the past, if I've come across any challenges with my clients and if so how I addressed those challenges and using the star method you could say with my situation that my clients had a drop-off year over a year with their digital metrics and so the task for that would be to analyze their metrics, see where they dropped off and then discuss with my clients, new ideas or ways in order to boost or increase those metrics year over year.

And then you would describe your action that you took in order to produce results. So as an example with my client on social media, they experienced a drop off year over year of 30 percent and so I sat down and discussed with them creating a social media calendar that was catered to their audiences patterns of traffic and just creating more consistent weekly content using photos and videos rather than just text-based posts and by doing something like that.

The results showed a 50 percent increase week over week for their social media presence on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and then a month over month result produced a 15-20 percent increase from that same time period the year before.

I came just came up with that off the top of my head just now, but highlights the situation, the task, the action that you took and the results that came from that action. Then you want it to be a short, sweet, concise, between 30 seconds to a minute long answer in response to your question, and when you are providing examples, or answering questions from your interviewers make sure that you are never painted in a negative light or a negative result, and that you aren't speaking poorly of any clients or any of the previous companies that you have worked for.

I have been asked quite a few times as to why I applied for the open position, or why I would be leaving a previous job to apply for a new one with this company. And the biggest mistake that people make is just rambling on about how terrible their previous company was. And you need to come up with a professional answer such as that you're looking for new opportunities, or that it's an issue of breadth versus depth, where you want to become more skilled in one or two areas rather than having a general high level overview knowledge of many different things, or that you are looking to continue or further your professional road map and that your current position with your company just isn't allowing for that and that there isn't any advancement available pertaining to what you want to do in the future, that sort of thing.

And again, as you're answering the questions, make sure to make eye contact, smile when appropriate and it never hurts to take a few moments to kind of ponder, or think thoroughly through your answer to a question from your interviewer. If it's a kind of a brain buster kind of question it never hurts to ask your interviewer, if you can take a few seconds to kind of think it through and you can also kind of write down the question that they ask on your note pad, and then it's always a good thing to ask follow-up questions or just clarify with your interview or certain elements to the question. So that way you have a more thought out and formulated a response that will adequately satisfy whatever they were looking for.

Interviewing isn't always about knowing the right answer

Interviewing Isn't Always About Knowing The Right Answer

And with a lot of hypothetical or behavioral-based questions interviewers aren't necessarily looking for the right answer, and that there might not be a right answer, they're really looking just to see your thought process and how you handle questions or think things through and get a better idea as to your mindset is going into situations.

Again they will know that you are skilled or qualified enough to have made it to the onsite interview and that they are very interested in you to be spending about 30 minutes to an hour over their day doing the interview with you and again, just to see your mindset, your process, and to see if you mesh well with the company culture.

Once you get to the end of the interview, and it comes time to ask them questions then be sure to have your questions laid out. Ask between five to ten of them and again asked them things that are related to company news that are specific. Don't just have very generalized questions but be specific and what you're asking and just again, treat it as if you're trying to get more insight into the company or that you are even interviewing the interviewers of sorts.

So be sure to take notes and write down their responses, that way it looks like you are a very serious about the responses and that you do have quite a bit of interest in the company itself and that you're not just kind of sitting there dozing off as they’re giving you their formulated answers, in response to your own questions that you have about the company at the end of the interview.

So if you have business cards you can always hand them to your interviewers as another way to stay in touch and connect. Be sure to again, thank them for their time shake their hands, smile, make eye contact. And if the interview went relatively well good indicators are that they do give you their business card, they will show you around the office or again, they'll just kind of walk you to the door instead of saying, "Okay well, see you” and then just leave the room because that's happened to me before, and it's like, "Oh well, I must not have done a good job at this interview” if that happened.

A few unique interview tips are to make the interviewers visualize yourself in the role, so I ask them questions like, “let's say you do deciding before with this process. And I come in for my first day, sit down and at my desk, hang on my coat turn on my computer, what's the rest of my day look like in this role” or even just asking them to show you around the office or the work place that you would be working in and it's a good way to, again, have them visualize you in the shoes of the role already, and make an easier fit for when they are choosing between applicants and candidates.

Following up with interviewers after the interview

For the position that you're playing for after the interview is over, if you do have the contact information of the interviewers that you interviewed with then you can pop them an email and say, very short and sweet, “Thank you for interviewing me” and kind of discuss what you learned more about the company based on the interview that you hadn't considered and that you would definitely enjoy working with a company in the position. Or if you flopped up on a question that they had asked you in the interview, you can take a moment in that thank you letter or email and say,

You can extrapolate or expand upon the question, that you flubbed up on and give a more in-depth answer, based on a little pontification or further thought after the interview itself.

And if the interviewers didn't give you their contact information, then you can reach out to the Senior Recruiter and ask them if you can write this email and have him or her forward it over to those interviewers. People think that thank you emails don't really impact anything while others say that it might be what tips you over the edge and gives you that competitive advantage over other applicants and keeps you fresh in the minds of the interviewers. So my thought is that it can’t hurt unless you really screw up the email and just keep it short and sweet and again, it might be the determining factor that makes you a little bit more thought of in a positive light, if you are competing against a very similar candidate of sorts.

How long should I wait to reach out if I haven't received a job offer after an interview?

Usually with the hiring process it might take between one or two weeks for the hiring managers to kind of get together and review the applications or the applicants and all of the information that they've compiled to choose the right person for the job. So I would wait maybe between one to two weeks.

And if you haven't heard anything back, then I'd reach out to the recruiters and just kind of ask for an update regarding the hiring process and where they're at with their decision.

And if more than three weeks or even a month have passed by, then I would continue going through with a other opportunities or conducting other interviews. And if something pops up in that time, then great, but if not, then you're sitting there kind of wasting time and hoping and praying for an answer or a job offer from that previous company that you're waiting from.

So that's my experience when it comes to the actual interviewing process whether it's on a phone or on site, I hope you found these job interview tips and tricks helpful in learning how to pass in interview that you'll be conducting in your professional road map.

If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to the channel and drop a Like on the video if you haven’t already and I will see you next week for another exciting episode of the latest and greatest in digital marketing and social media news. If you haven't already, be sure to check out my last podcast episode that explores putting together social media content for your personal brand.

How To Shoot High Contrast Photography – 2018 Photography Challenge

Hi there and welcome back for Week 24 of the 2018 photography challenge! This week explores how to shoot high contrast photography:

Contrast

An easy way to make a photo more interesting is to introduce some form of stark contrast: liquid/solid, hard/soft, delicate/brash.

Composition

Composition refers to the way the various elements in a scene are arranged within the frame. Challenges will focus on setting up the shot and developing our personal composition style; styles which can become our trademark. Developing your Composition will allow you to set the stage to generate a reaction from your audience.

What Is High Contrast Photography?

High contrast photography involves using strong contrast elements in your photo. The easiest and most common use of contrast is through tonal contrast, where black and white elements are juxtaposed alongside one another. These kinds of photos will have a lot of blacks and whites while minimizing the overall amount of gray tone between elements or subjects.

While the most common type of contrast is tonal, other photographers will use high contrast to make a specific subject or element stand out in a picture. Examples of this include a red umbrella against a rainy backdrop or the vibrant purples of a flower standing out from a garden.

Contrast is often associated with color, but textures and shapes are other elements to consider when creating a high contrast photo.

Explaining High Contrast

Like I mentioned, high contrast focuses on the brights and darks of a photo. If you were to look at the histogram, a normal photo covers the highlights, shadows, mid-tones and everything in between. In contrast (pun intended), high contrast photographs push the light tones in the middle to the sides to create those extremes.

How Do I Shoot A High Contrast Photo?

How To Shoot High Contrast Photography – 2018 Photography Challenge Photo 2

Shooting a high contrast photograph doesn’t take a lot of skill, just a little preparation and adjustment of your camera settings.

To achieve tonal contrast, you can adjust your contrast settings in your DSLR camera to shoot in black-and-white mode, reducing the amount of color editing work after the shoot.

If you’re looking for a more striking color contrast, adjust the contrast parameter and bump it up by +1 or +2 for a more pronounced effect by changing it from automatic mode to manual.

You should also take into consideration the composition of your photo by placing elements and subjects in a manner which will maximize their contrast. Barring outdoor shots, you can create a higher level of contrast through a single source of light in an otherwise dark room. I use the Rembrandt Lighting Technique to this effect in a previous photography challenge using the light from photography studio lights, but you can use natural light in the room if it’s is strong enough.

If you plan on shooting outside, you should stick to more enclosed areas such as streets or alleyways in the case of urban photography.

The sun is the other biggest factor in producing high contrast photos; try to shoot in the morning or evening golden hours as the lower angle of the sun creates longer shadows to intensify the look of the picture.

It’s also recommended to underexpose the photo through enabling the manual metering mode on your DSLR camera by one or two stops.

2018 Photography Challenge Set-Up

How To Shoot High Contrast Photography – 2018 Photography Challenge Photo 3

This week’s photography challenge was more challenging than anticipated (pun intended again). Here in Michigan the weather has been overcast for the past few days, making it hard to perform tonal contrast.

As I was walking through the house I noticed that my favorite model was sleeping in his cat bed right below the bedroom window, which was all that I needed to snap a few quick photos.

I didn’t think about this when I was shooting, but the cream color of his bed makes for the perfect contrast to his brown and black fur patches.

Initially I planned on desaturating the entire photo for a more pronounced tonal effect but decided against it after seeing the results in Adobe Lightroom.

High Contrast Photography Edits

If you haven’t check out my editing video already, below are the edits I made to the images for this week’s photography challenge:

My photo editing style didn’t fluctuate much from previous weeks. In fact, I performed no color edits whatsoever this week other than increasing the vibrance and saturation by +30 as per usual.

2018 Photography Challenge Takeaways

Here are a few takeaways when shooting high contrast photos:

What did you think of this week’s photography challenge? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below along with any photos that you’ve shot in high contrast! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out last week’s photography challenge where I explored not looking at your photo after shooting or next week's Michigan cider mill photography challenge. 

Nike’s “Just Do It” Campaign Spurs $43 Million In Media Exposure Despite Backlash

Nike is adding new meaning to purpose-driven marketing with the rollout of its “Just Do It” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick during the NFL season opener on Wednesday, Sept. 5.

Despite the backlash and controversy surrounding the former 49ers quarterback, the campaign has garnered national attention with Nike receiving more than $43 million worth of media exposure in less than 24 hours since the first spot reveal by Kaepernick on Twitter.

“Nike is not new to making bold statements, but this has to be one of, if not, the boldest moves,” said Yadira Harrison, co-founder of marketing consultancy Verb in an interview with Digiday. “Knowing this is a campaign and not a one-and-done ad makes this all the more sweeter.”

A Theme of Pursuing Dreams Despite Adversities

Along with LeBron James, Serena Williams and Odell Beckham Jr., the two-minute spot highlights other athletes including Megan Blunk, a Rio gold medal-winning wheelchair athlete; Isaiah Bird, a 10-year-old wrestler born without legs; Charlie Jabaley, an Ironman athlete that dropped 120 pounds and overcame a brain tumor; and Alicia Woollcott, a Michigander linebacker that was named homecoming queen during her senior season.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hIc_epqfI0

“If people say your dreams are crazy, if they laugh at what you think you can do, OK, stay that way because what nonbelievers fail to understand is that calling a dream crazy is not an insult. It’s a compliment,” Kaepernick says at the beginning of the spot.

The theme of the ad espouses sacrifice and pushes for athletes to pursue bigger dreams despite facing various challenges from gender, health conditions and disabilities.

Media and Sales Results of Nike’s “Just Do It” Campaign

Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign faced mixed reception ranging from neutral to positive, while other viewers called for a boycott of the brand, cut the Nike emblem from their clothing and took to social media to express their outrage. According to data analytics firm Brandwatch, the trending hashtag #BoycottNike gained more than 188.4 million impressions on Twitter.

Nike speculated that the campaign would lead to a drop in sales, but a report from Edison Trends said that the company’s online sales grew 31 percent from Sunday through Tuesday, marking a 14 percent increase from the previous year during that period.

Kellan Terry, data manager at data analytics firm Brandwatch, reported more than a 1,300 percent jump in online mentions of Nike on Twitter between Sept. 2 and the day of the announcement.

Despite the surge in sales and online mentions, Nike reported a 3 percent decline in shares on Tuesday, Sept. 4, the biggest one-day drop since April 2018. Adidas, Nike’s top competitor, also reported a drop in shares.

Bloomberg Apex Marketing Group $34 Million In Media Generated Nike Just Do It Campaign

Although Kaepernick is perceived to be the face of the campaign, a Nike spokesperson said he is only one of several other athletes that are part of the “Just Do It” campaign with a spot featuring Serena Williams launching last week.

“This is the kind of advertising that has helped build Nike to what it is today – and exactly what we should be seeing from the Just Do It campaign,” said Katy Wellhousen, account director at influencer agency RQ in an interview with Digiday. “The campaign has lasted three decades because of Nike’s ability to weave it into powerful and personal stories.”

Was Featuring Kaepernick A Risky Move?

The decision to have Kaepernick serve as the narrator for the spot is viewed as a risky move based on his controversy in the NFL and his accusations against its owners of colluding to keep him out of the league. Kaepernick has been deemed by advertisers as “too polarizing” and he hasn’t been featured in an ad spot since 2015.

Nike has served as the official uniform and sideline apparel sponsor for the NFL since 2012 with a partnership extending into 2028 and although the ad spot might create tension between the two companies, their relationship seems unaffected at this time.

The Problem With Purpose-Driven Marketing

It’s impossible to appeal to every audience without coming across as inauthentic or confused in brand direction, which is a common problem in today’s world of purpose-driven marketing. Even though the ad spot received backlash, Nike has an ethnically-diverse customer base where two-thirds are younger than 35.

“Nike cares most about the category influencers and tastemakers -- nearly all of whom will embrace their decision,” said Howe Burch, the former head of U.S. marketing for Reebok in an interview with Time. “They know they will lose some customers short-term but not the kind of customers that really drive their business.”

Final Thoughts on Nike’s “Just Do It” Campaign

Personally, I think that Nike hit a home run with their campaign. It’s a fantastic case study on using purpose-driven marketing to appeal and connect to your core audience through an emotional piece of marketing.

Lately I’ve been reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Jab Jab Right Hook” and one of the main tenets of his book is creating content that’s appealing or powerful without it being a direct sell for the brand. You make jabs to garner engagement and further connect with your audience so that when you make that right hook, or the ask/sell to your audience, they’ll be more inclined to make that purchase or conversion.

The latest iteration of the “Just Do It” campaign is a short and sweet two-minute ad spot that features Nike’s slogan at the very end of the ad without attempting to sell anything. It tells a powerful story with a myriad of athletes overcoming different disabilities and adversities to “Just Do It” and accomplish their dreams.

In today’s political climate, the campaign resonates with a huge core of Nike’s audience as they’re both young and ethnically diverse. The metrics of the campaign speak volumes as the number of Nike mentions skyrocketed and sales drastically increased during the time frame that the ad spot ran. It’s easily shareable content that garnered $43 million in paid and earned media despite the vocal minority calling for a boycott. Hell, the meme currency is incredibly high with the plethora of meme photos crowding my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Like Howe Burch mentioned, it’s impossible to appeal to everyone and Nike took a calculated move that displayed steadfastness in who their brand is trying to appeal to. They may lose a few customers, but Nike will retain the majority that is representative of their overall sales.

It’s even better that this ad spot isn’t just a one off and that it is part of an ongoing series so that Nike can continue making jabs while being poised to clinch an explosive right hook.

What do you think of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign, its effectiveness and long-term implications? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Facebook Boosted Post Vs Ad – Which Is Better?

As Facebook continues to incorporate a “Pay to Play” model for Facebook Business Pages to receive reach and engagement, many businesses are weighing the options between a Facebook Boosted Post Vs Ad for reaching their target audience. Organic reach is no longer viable on the platform as a post may receive as little as 1 percent of views from a Page’s followers, but most business owners are confused when it comes to the differences between setting up a Facebook Campaign and simply boosting their posts, which I’ll be exploring in this post.

What Are Boosted Posts on Facebook?

Boosting a post on Facebook is essentially a watered-down version of setting up a Facebook Campaign. The boost post option allows you to choose a post that’s already on your business page and promote it.

Using this feature allows you to choose your target audience, a total budget and the duration to run your post. In a recent update you can also encourage readers to visit your website if the post includes a link.

Facebook Boosted Post Vs Ad Action Photo

The biggest difference between a boosted post and a Facebook Campaign is in the limited functionality that a boosted post offers in customization. It focuses primarily on visibility and engagement, which can be great for brand awareness, but it doesn’t allow you to choose through other conversion options like store visits, actual conversions, lead generation, or where the post is displayed.

Here are a few key takeaways before we dive further in the differences between boosted posts and Ad Campaigns:

Facebook Boosted Post Vs Ad – Which Is Better?

Facebook Boosted Post Vs Ad Marketing Objective Photo

The interface for boosting a post is much simpler and doesn’t offer the variety of customization options that are available when you run a Facebook Campaign. Like I mentioned, you have the option to choose a marketing objective such as traffic, conversions, product catalog sales, lead generation or app installs, allowing for a better fit depending on what your social media marketing goals are.

Facebook Campaigns also let you choose from different placement options, whether you want your ad to display in the sidebar, the Facebook news feed, Instagram feeds and stories, instant articles or messenger ads, whereas a Boosted Post only lets you check or uncheck whether you want it to display on Instagram.

You can display your campaign to desktop or mobile users only, which can be significant depending on who your target demographic is.

By using a full ads system, you have control over who your custom audience is alongside detailed targeting based on target interests and behaviors, which isn’t available on boosted posts.

Facebook Boosted Post Vs Ad Audience Photo

Manual bidding is also available for impressions or link clicks alongside more creative control in making carousel ads, adding headlines and descriptions, choosing the right CTA button based on your preferences, which you can’t do through boosted posts.

Facebook Boosted Post Vs Ad Manual Bidding Photo

When to Use Facebook Boosted Post Vs Ad

Facebook Boosted Post Vs Ad Example Photo

While you should be using Facebook Campaigns most of the time, simply boosting a post has its own benefits depending on what you’re trying to promote.

As an example of using a Facebook Campaign, a dealership could create a video awareness campaign promoting in-store specials for the month. That dealership could then retarget the audience that watched a certain percentage of the video and incorporate a lead ad that automatically fills out most of their information.

After that audience converts, the dealership could then retarget the users who visited their website and show those users high-converting carousel ads based on the vehicles they researched on the website.

This is one option that social media marketers have in their arsenal when using Facebook Ads that can produce incredible results with a relatively low CPC or CPA.

On the other hand, you can boost a post when the target goal is to boost brand awareness or increase engagement such as getting users to like your page. Whether it’s announcing an event such as a grand opening, the release of a new product or service, or sharing user-generated content to build customer loyalty, boosting a post has its own value depending on the overall goal for the boost.

Facebook Story Ads May Be a Game Changer

With the rising popularity of the Stories format, it only makes sense for Facebook to offer marketers a new way to reach their audience as a “pay to play” platform for business efforts. Interestingly enough Facebook cites one-third of the most viewed Instagram stories to be from businesses that are achieving results with that type of ad format:

“For example, Tropicana ran video ads in Instagram Stories for its summertime product promotion campaign, achieving an 18-point lift in ad recall and 15-point lift in purchase intent among males. OpenTable used ads in Instagram Stories to drive online restaurant reservations, resulting in a 33% lower cost per reservation compared to other ad formats. And Overstock ran video ads in Instagram Stories to acquire new customers and increase sales, and generated an 18% higher return on ad spend and a 20% decrease in cost per acquisition.”

It’s standard to see lower CPMs for any new ad placement format as advertisers are competing for less space for their ad placements. However, marketers are viewing the new ad placement opportunity on Facebook as opportunistic rather than strategic, especially as the platform appeals to an older demographic in comparison to Instagram. Be sure to check out my full post for my details on best practices for Facebook Story Ads. 

Facebook Boosted Post Vs Ad Recap

Facebook Boosted Post Vs Ad Breakdown Comparison Sheet

To wrap things up, here are the main differences with Boosted Posts and running an Ad Campaign:

Both have their inherent uses, but I find Facebook Campaigns to be the more robust option that will allow the most bang for your buck in driving sales conversions, whether through e-commerce or in the physical storefront.

The ultimate goal for any business is to drive more sales as effectively as possible while beating the competition. Digital offers such a wide variety of targeting options at relatively low CPC or CPA to a massive audience, making it imperative for social media marketers to take advantage of all the tools that are available to them on the platforms they’re advertising on.

Boosting posts is great for social media, where the focus is to spread brand awareness, cultivate new followers and customer loyalty, but that’s only a small part of the overall scope for most digital marketing initiatives.

What are some creative ways that you or your company have set up Facebook Campaigns to drive more conversions? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

Using The Spot Healing Brush Tool In Photoshop To Remove Blemishes and Black Spots

The spot healing brush is one of the best healing tools in Photoshop that can be used to clone areas of an image and blend the sampled area to remove unwanted objects, blemishes or black spots. Using the Spot Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop is simple to use in that you drag with the tool to paint over larger areas you want to transform.

Different Spot Healing Brush Tool Modes

Spot Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop Photo 2

There are several modes to achieve your desired effect:

Proximity Match Feature

This option reads the pixel data around a blemish and will match it based on the proximity of the sample. Whether you’re using this feature to remove a pimple or random black spots, it’ll use the tones next to the affected areas as a reference without requiring any additional tweaking on the user’s behalf.

Create Texture Feature

The Create Texture Feature will look at the surrounding pixels and create a texture map to approximate the colors to be used in repairing the affected area.

Content-Aware Fill

If you aren’t sure whether you should be using Proximity Match or the Create Texture feature, Photoshop can make that choice for you by taking colors from nearby pixels when using the Content-Aware Fill.

Example of Using the Spot Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop

In my most recent photo work I had a great photo op when visiting Northern Michigan for great nature/landscape photography. Unfortunately a bit of dust crept into my camera, causing black spots and lines to appear in any photos that were shot with a high F-stop or long shutter speed.

I wasn’t sure how obtrusive these specks and lines would be until I imported them to Adobe Lightroom. After performing my color edits I decided to remove those blemishes in Adobe Photoshop. In the past I’ve used the clone tool to remove unwanted objects in the background of my photos, but it didn’t work well when attempting to remove those black specks in the horizon of the photos I shot.

After some pontification I did some research, finding that the Spot Healing Brush Tool would be my best bet in the spot healing I was trying to perform.

This was a minor edit and relied on the Content-Aware Fill to mirror the colors from nearby pixels to remove the blemishes completely. After boosting the radius of the tool, all I had to do was point and drag to get rid of the 12 black spots speckled all over my otherwise-beautiful photo.

Best Uses of the Spot Healing Brush Tool

Spot Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop Photo 3

The Spot Healing Brush Tool in Photoshop is great for removing unwanted blemishes and marks on the face of your model.

Although I used the Spot Healing Brush Tool to remove black spots resulting from dust in my camera, there are other applications where the spot healing brush shines for photo manipulation.

Removing Lines: Like I mentioned earlier, using the Create Texture Feature is a great way to remove telephone lines in the background of your photos or even the lines in a person’s face (crow’s feet come to mind here).

Image Imperfections: Many model photographers will use the Spot Healing Brush Tool to produce smooth skin on the faces of their models. You can also use this tool to remove stray hairs for windy outdoor scenarios.

Blemishes: again, removing imperfections in a model’s skin or unwanted blemishes like beauty marks or pimples is a breeze when using the Spot Healing Brush Tool.

Other Editing Options Available

Along with your desired effect, you can change how your artwork looks with the following options in the Main Menu:

While you can transfer all edits used with the brush tool to affect all layers, the Blending Mode of the Layer will override any of the selections that you made in the Main Menu.

Differences Between Healing Brush and Clone Stamp Tool

While both tools take a sample area, the Clone Stamp Tool will take the entire area and clone it, whereas the Healing Brush Tool factors in both the color and luminosity of the sample it’s drawing pixels from.

The Clone Tool is great for areas with more defined edges as the Healing Brush Tool will only blur the color and leave you with smudged and messy areas. The Healing Brush Tool also falters in areas with a sharp distinction between colors, making the sample area look unnatural when applying edits.

It’s important to make the distinction when using both tools, as it’s more of the technique you’re applying and the desired effect as opposed to the tool that you’re using to create that effect.

Using The Spot Healing Brush Tool In Photoshop Recap

The Spot Healing Brush Tool is powerful in healing your photos rather than performing destructive photo editing techniques to achieve your desired effects. While it bares similarities to the Clone Stamp Tool, it’s better applied to color and luminosity edits compared to removing whole objects in the background depending on the contrast of colors.

While the Content-Aware Fill is the best option for photographers who don’t use the tool often, the Proximity Match and Content Fill Features can be used to achieve a similar effect depending on the situation.

I’ve found that the Spot Healing Brush Tool has been the most helpful when performing my desired photo edits, but despite being versatile it does have several weaknesses that don’t make it the best option in certain circumstances. The tool relies on Adobe Photoshop’s AI to determine what the sampled area should look like, which can result in jarring or smudged areas that detract from the overall visual of the image. It’s not the end-all-be-all, but it’s a fantastic tool that every photography should use in their photo manipulation arsenal.

I hope you found this post to be helpful in successfully applying the Spot Healing Brush Tool to remove unwanted spots, specks and blemishes from your photos! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my Rembrandt Lighting Photo Challenge where I go in depth on using the tool to manipulate the face and hair of my model.

Photography Equipment that I Use

Here are some links for the vlogging equipment I used in the photo challenge for this week:

White Backdrop Curtain: https://amzn.to/2k1L2ds

Neewer Photography Light Stand: https://amzn.to/2GpKXZS

Neewer Video Photography Lighting Kit: https://amzn.to/2rMYshB

Pentax 50mm Prime Lens: https://amzn.to/2GkrAkB

Pentax  K-50 Camera Body: https://amzn.to/2IjPUJj

2018 Photography Challenge: No Peeking and First Look Photo

Hi there and welcome back for Week 23 of the 2018 Photography Challenge! This week explores the concept of No Peeking and First Look Photos.

No Peeking

Shoot as if you were using a film camera. That means that you will not look at the photographs you've taken until they are downloaded on your computer.

The challenges for each week are also divided into categories.

The category for this week is...

Vision

This category is designed to push you to go beyond sight, to insight; to take inspiration and make it a reality. Vision exists in your imagination and is revealed your photographs; expressing something otherwise invisible. Developing a Vision for your work is showing to others what you see in your mind’s eye.

No Peeking and First Look Photo Technique

While the concept of the first look is generally applied to a bride and groom seeing each other for the first time before the wedding ceremony, the idea behind this week’s photo challenge explores shooting photos without looking at them on the digital screen of the camera.

When film photography was the only option, photographers would shoot a photo with their film camera and have no idea how the photo turned out until they took them in to be processed.

With film rolls allowing for a small number of photos to be shot at a time alongside the cost of purchasing rolls of film, photographers would have to be sparing in their shots and hope for the best regarding if they turned out well or not.

The world of digital photography has come a long way, especially as we have the option to look at the photos saved on the SD cards directly on the screen of our DSLR’s, allowing for more reshoots if we didn’t get the settings/focus right on the first or second shot.

Thoughts On The No Peeking Challenge

2018 Photography Challenge: No Peeking and First Look Photo 2

Last weekend I had the opportunity to shoot some beautiful nature/landscape photos while vacationing in Northern Michigan! While I didn’t perform this challenge for all of my photos, I did hold off on looking at my landscape long-exposure shots until I got home.

I was able to take some amazing pictures, but one issue I discovered was that for my photos that had high F-stops and longer exposures, black specks and dots marred the entire image, making for a very displeased photographer considering how great the shots turned out otherwise.

Shooting like this made me appreciate the capabilities we now have with DSLR’s, considering I’ve never used a camera that required film.

My photographer friend dabbled in film photos, only to grow frustrated when her settings weren’t set up properly or the composition was off-center compared to the viewfinder. The frustration mounted when she lost an entire film roll to light exposure after a failed attempt to seal it after shooting around for three months with her film camera.

2018 Photo Challenge Edits

For a few of the landscape shots I performed quite a few color edits that really enhanced the photos. If you haven’t checked out my photo challenge video, here are the photo edits that I made:

In that tip video I also explored some photo manipulation that I performed using the Spot Healing Brush Tool to remove the unwanted black specks that formed from dust compromising my camera. The Spot Healing Brush Tool is awesome in that it approximates colors and luminance based on the data from a sample spot, so all I had to do was increase the radius of the tool and drag to remove those blemishes without detracting from the image.

The coloration of the photo made this a simple task, as everything blends into one another without any defined edges to diminish the effects of the tool.

No Peeking and First Look Photo Technique Recap

What did you think of this week’s photography challenge? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out last week’s photo challenge where I explored the concept of figurative door photography and next week's high contrast photography challenge.

Photography Equipment that I Use

Here are some links for the vlogging equipment I used in the photo challenge for this week:

White Backdrop Curtain: https://amzn.to/2k1L2ds

Neewer Photography Light Stand: https://amzn.to/2GpKXZS

Neewer Video Photography Lighting Kit: https://amzn.to/2rMYshB

Pentax 50mm Prime Lens: https://amzn.to/2GkrAkB

Pentax  K-50 Camera Body: https://amzn.to/2IjPUJj

7 Quick Tips On How To Increase Productivity | Laz's Lounge

We all have goals and things that we want to accomplish on a day-to-day basis, but we often struggle finding enough hours to getting things done. I’m no exception, especially as I try to juggle 50-hour work weeks, create content for my personal brand, connect with thought leaders in the digital world and maintain a healthy social life with friends and family. Whether it’s completing simple chores around the house or investing time in side projects, this post will provide a few ways on how to increase productivity without drastically revamping your entire daily routine.

Tip #1: Write Out Your Goals/To-Do List

Tips For Increased Productivity Write Out Your Goals and To-Do-List

As we start our day, we’re faced with a flurry of ideas about what we need to get done, but either forget or rush to do certain things as they come up. The best way that I remember to stay on task and to organize my game plan for the day is to write out my goals and to-do list in a notebook before I go to bed every night.

It seems small, but it works wonders in keeping yourself organized as you enter a new day with a busy plate. Writing out your to-do list also creates a positive snowball effect as you cross off the list of tasks you set for yourself to complete.

I try to perform small tasks when I wake up to get my day started, relegating more intensive tasks to the late morning or early afternoon once the caffeine rids me of that early morning grogginess. Usually I’ll make my bed, hit a cold shower, review my to-do list, go for a quick jog and do some light reading in the first hour of waking up to get me on track for the rest of the day.

Tip #2: Figure Out When You’re the Most And Least Productive

Tips For Increased Productivity Figure Out When You're The Most and Least Productive

It’s impossible to stay motivated and productive every waking moment of your day. We all have our slump periods, whether it’s right after lunch or walking in the door after a busy shift and it’s important to identify when you’re productive or entering that slump period of the day.

Beyond writing out my to-do list, I assign each task with a difficulty ranking of 1 or 2. When I’m the most productive, I try to accomplish those higher difficulty tasks while performing the simpler ones for when I’m the least productive.

My highest hours of personal productivity are from 5-7:30 a.m., and from 7-11:30 p.m., while my productivity gradually decreases from 1-6 p.m. as I grind away at work.

One hack that I use to get into the right mindset after finishing a shift is to take a power nap as soon as a I get home. I’ll pop a caffeine pill before I take that nap and when I wake up, I’m refreshed, energized and ready to tackle the remainder of my to-do list before unwinding for bed around midnight.

Tip #3: Avoid Distractions At All Costs

Tips For Increased Productivity Avoid Distractions At All Costs

As we start crunching away at our to-do lists, the biggest issue many people face is spending their time unproductively and wasting more time than they anticipated. For me this takes the form of mindlessly surfing through YouTube Videos and my social media feeds; five minutes might turn into half an hour if I’m not careful, and most people have the same dilemma. Whether it’s social media, reading random articles on Reddit and Google, or binge-watching television shows, we often spend hours every day wasting time for that quick dopamine hit and feeling of instant gratification from entertainment.

I’ve gotten into the habit of shutting my phone off, only turning it on to check on things every few hours. If I’m surfing around on social media, I will scroll 10 posts deep and then scroll up; once I hit the top of my newsfeed again I exit out of the browser or app. For television shows and YouTube videos I’ll play them in the background as I do more mindless work that isn’t thought-intensive.

Again, it’s impossible to be productive every waking moment of the day, but don’t fall into the habit of rewarding yourself with social media or television shows to find yourself knee-deep in newsfeeds and the “Are You Still There” pop-up on Netflix.

To break up my time, I’ll allocate 45 minutes of productive work where I completely focus on the task at hand, while I devote 15 minutes to meditation or getting up to walk around and unwind before returning to the task at hand.

Tip #4: Wake Up An Hour Earlier Than You Normally Would

Tips For Increased Productivity Wake Up An Hour Earlier Than You Normally Would

No one likes waking up early, myself included, but getting up an hour earlier than you normally would works wonders for productivity.

It lets you organize your thoughts, set to work on your tasks and start that positive snowball before heading into work. Like I mentioned earlier, I wake up at 5 a.m. every day to go for that morning run, do some light-reading, check up on my website analytics and social media notifications, and even do some yoga and meal prep before heading into the work.

If you’re waking up late and are in a frenzy to get ready and out the door to head to work, that’ll follow you into the rest of your day and you’ll feel frazzled, fried and disoriented trying to figure out what you need to do.

Tip #5: Write Out Monthly and Yearly Goals For Accountability

Tips For Increased Productivity Write Out Monthly and Yearly Goals For Accountability

While writing out daily goals is a great start, creating monthly and yearly goals to strive for is the best way to be productive and continue improving yourself.

Daily goals are short-term and should be those steps you’re making to accomplish those monthly and yearly goals.

With my daily goals I’ll task myself with working out, engaging on social media, writing posts for my website, recording podcasts and vlogs, reading, doing yoga, etc… but it’s easy to get lost in the weeds or become de-motivated when you don’t have that higher bar you’re trying to reach.

Inversely, it’s also demotivating to set those monthly and yearly goals, only to reach that month end and realize you weren’t even close to what you wanted to accomplish because you weren’t making those daily steps to reach that goal.

I talk about this in other blog posts and podcasts, but take that time to sit down, evaluate what you want to accomplish and the steps you’re taking to get there. Thirty-day challenges are great for this, especially as it takes weeks to build habits and routines, or having accountability buddies to spur each other on and encouraging one another to stick with it.

Tip #6: Make Sure You’re Sleeping Enough

Tips For Increased Productivity Make Sure You're Sleeping Enough

I don’t practice what I preach for tip #6, but as a society we often downplay the importance of getting a good night’s sleep to greet the day productively. Not getting enough sleep won’t have any serious detriments in the short term, but as our bodies become sleep-deprived our energy levels plummet, cognitive function decreases for complex decision-making and it becomes harder to wake up on time in the morning.

Eventually we burn ourselves out and either sleep through alarms or spend the weekend as a couch potato recovering from a restless week. Get at least 6-8 hours of sleep and go to bed/wake up at the same time every day.

Tip #7: Take Time To Unwind and Have Fun

Tips For Increased Productivity Make Time To Unwind and Have Fun

As I’ve stated several times through this post, we can’t be productive every waking moment of the day. While we can maximize our productivity, it’s crucial to take time out of our day to engage in behaviors to destress/unwind. Whether it’s reading a book, watching that television show, playing a video game or meeting up with friends, we need to allocate some time to unwind.

There’s a difference between mindlessly wasting time and using it meaningfully to destress. If you don’t take that time out of your week to relax, you’re going to start building a negative association with your tasks and start pushing them off for the following day/week.

I a hard-stop for myself at 11 p.m. to stop anything I didn’t accomplish on my to-do list and begin to unwind for bed. I’ll either sit down to read, play a video game, watch a few episodes of my favorite show or bury myself in Reddit threads to my heart’s content until midnight turning in for the evening.

7 Quick Tips On How To Increase Productivity Recap

While these are simple tips for increasing productivity, they’re effective in maximizing the 16 waking hours you have in the day to getting things done. I hope you found this post to be helpful and I would love to hear what you do to stay productive in the comments section below!