I recently attended a morning session of Social Media Breakfast that got me thinking about images for business use. There are so many legal implications if you use a photo or graphic that you didn’t create (and don’t have permission to use) and this presentation gave some examples, not least of which included lawsuits against businesses.
I found it especially interesting that many attendees depend on Google images for any photos or graphics they might need for social media. A quick query using your favorite search engine will no doubt turn up thousands of fantastic images, but they aren’t necessarily okay for you to use.
When pondering the idea of how to use images legally and appropriately on social media sites or for blogs, some people suggest just taking your own photos to be safe. This is a fantastic idea that eliminates many potential issues…except it also poses problems of its own. What if you don’t have time to create perfectly posed, quality photos? What if you’re a travel blogger writing about tropical beaches and you need a photo of palm trees, ocean waves or sandy seashores…and you live in Minnesota? (And it’s March, when you look out your window and see snow or brown grass.) Or maybe your photography skills are just terrible (hey, it happens).
There are a few sites out there that allow you to subscribe or purchase images and grant you a sort of license to use them. There are also completely free sites you can use! While I’m no expert on copyright laws, I do know I sometimes just need a photo that I have permission to use and doesn’t require me to have to mess with fees. As a fellow business owner, blogger or person interested in the exciting topic of legalities of using other peoples’ images, I thought you might appreciate having a few resources to tap into the next time you need an image for your marketing efforts.
First, a disclaimer though. You need to read through and understand the licensing rights (or lack thereof) on each of these websites before using the images provided to you. I’m not advising you on anything legal (or otherwise) or telling you anything other than that these sites exist.
So, take a look through them now and do your homework on the licensing rights. That way, you’ll already know how you can or can’t use the images from these websites.
Happy image searching!
I sometimes hear people comment on a perceived lack of networking events or ways to expand their business locally (in or near Willmar, Minnesota). While we aren’t quite a bustling metropolis like Minneapolis or St. Paul, there are plenty of networking opportunities within our community for businesses to take advantage of.
It can be somewhat difficult to find information on networking events, especially if you’re not very familiar with the community. In light of this, I thought I’d compile a list (which is by no means all-inclusive!) of regular events happening within Willmar and the surrounding areas:
The Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce coordinates Chamber Connections just about every Friday morning. Bring $1 and your business card and meet at a local business each Friday at 7:30am. You’ll learn about that business, drink some coffee and you’ll have a chance to network with upwards of 40 (we’ve maxed out so far at 153!) other business professionals. You’ll also have a chance to introduce yourself and your business each time.
Business Network International (BNI)
BNI is a referral group, filled with business people who intentionally help each other grow their businesses through referrals. They are always looking for visitors, and you’ll be able to check out each of the three Willmar chapters twice. Some visitors have been known to receive qualified referrals, but at the very least it’s a great way to introduce yourself and your business to others in the community.
Polka Dot Powerhouse (PDP)
Don’t let the name throw you on this one. This dynamic group for women is all about building relationships and empowering others to succeed. Building relationships is one of the best ways to create business and expand brand recognition, and while referrals are not the main goal of this group business most certainly happens. In fact, I don’t know that I would have been able to make the leap and take my business full time without many of the connections I made through PDP.
1 Million Cups
This networking event happens each and every Wednesday morning at 8:30 in downtown Willmar and focuses on the entrepreneurial spirit. Here you’ll meet business people, entrepreneurs, retired business people and even some of our local high school students. Entrepreneurs present their business and invite the audience to ask questions or offer advice. St. Paul is the only other chapter in the state of Minnesota, so Willmar is rather fortunate to have this.
As I said, this is only a partial list of the networking events offered here in Willmar. There are many, many more ways to meet business people and grow your business. These four earned an honorable mention since they offer up relatively easy–and highly effective–ways to get out and meet other business people and expand your business’ name recognition.
Oh yes, I said it.
It’s not as bad as it first sounds. In fact, it’s good for you to get a little uncomfortable; it means you’re growing.
You’ve tried it all, right? Blogging, social media, newspaper and radio ads. But you’re still not getting as many new clients as you’d like. If you’ve been wondering how to reach new prospects and earn more clients, but you’re not sure what else to try: networking may be the answer. One word of caution before we dive in too deep though…building your network takes time. And it takes even more time to see results. Stick with me a minute and we’ll talk about why that’s a good thing!
It may help you to think of networking as just getting to know people, because that’s exactly what it is. (Doesn’t sound as intimidating when you phrase it that way, now does it!) People generally don’t do business with you unless they know you, or their friend or family member referred them to you. Getting to know someone is all part of relationship building, which takes time. Eventually you build up a bit of trust with new connections; this takes even more time. The good news is that building relationships leads to creating trust, which will lead to business–over time. People who know you, like you and trust you will want to do business with you. They are also much more likely to refer their network to you once they feel they know you.
I know many people are intimidated by the entire concept of walking into a room full of people, especially a room full of strangers. If you’re one of those people, take a minute to brush up on a few tips to help you get the most out of networking.
First, realize you’re not attending a networking event to sell something. That may sound backwards to you right now but the point is you cannot immediately launch into your sales pitch at these events. If you do, you will turn people off and they won’t give you the chance to get to know them, let alone earn their business.
The next step is to locate an event that you will feel reasonably comfortable attending. By reasonable I mean you won’t be standing in the corner trying to disappear because you’re in a roomful of 500 people. If you hate large crowds, choose an event with limited seating and a more structured agenda so you have a better idea of what to expect during the time you’re there.
It will help you to prepare beforehand, so take a few minutes the night before to research the event. What kinds of people will be attending? Is it a business casual lunch or a more informal happy hour social? Dress accordingly and make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get to the event. This should go without saying but do make sure you have plenty of business cards on you.
As you attend the event remember that you’re there to meet new people, so don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. There will be other people there that are new and quite possibly as uncomfortable as you are; go talk to them! Ask for that person’s business card so you can begin building up your new network. You may know someone who needs the product or service your new connection provides, and they may know someone who could benefit from working with you and your business.
After the event, don’t just toss the business cards you collected into a pile to be forgotten. Look up the people you met on LinkedIn and send them a personalized connection request. Consider entering their contact information into a spreadsheet or another digital format you’re comfortable with. That way, when you think of a referral or have a question for that banker you met, you can easily pull up your spreadsheet and find his or her email address rather than slogging through a stack of unorganized business cards.
Don’t just stop at one networking event. Keep attending the ones that interest you and don’t forget to introduce yourself to new people. Always be expanding your network!