7+ Super-Simple Social Media Contest Ideas to Gain More Followers

Running a social media contest is a fantastic way to gain followers, connect with your audience in a fun way, increase interaction, &/or promote a new product or service you’re launching. You’ll want to bookmark this post as I’ve included:

  • Guidelines to keep your contests legal
  • 7+ easy-to-implement ideas {27 actually!!}
  • My top tips for hosting a successful social media contest
  • Selecting your winners
  • Giveaway prize ideas

I find myself recommending social media contests to clients more and more, so I wanted to share some quick ideas to jump-start your interactions and following.

The legal implications of social media contest

There are two vital things you need to consider to make sure you aren’t running an illegal promotion:

  • The type of promotion you’re running
  • The rules on each platform

The 3 main types of promotions

A sweepstake is a chance-based campaign, with no purchase or payment (“consideration”) necessary. However, providing contact info, like an email address, is regarded as “consideration” in some US states when used for marketing purposes.

Contests require effort, skill, or merit to win a prize, with no element of chance. For example, uploading a photo, commenting, or simply the fact that you will select the winner.

When you combine “consideration” from the participant, chance, and a prize, you have a lottery, but private lotteries are often illegal, so don’t run one!

The guidelines on each social media platform

All platforms expect you to:

  1. Make it clear your contest is not endorsed, sponsored or connected with the company.
  2. Follow the guidelines of the platform, and laws in the jurisdictions of your business and the entrants’ home country locations.
  3. Be responsible for the lawful operation of the contest, including:
    • Your personal contest rules, like eligibility (e.g. open to people over 18 in the US and closes at a certain date and time);
    • Any financial risk, like money spent;
    • Running the contest without administrative help from the platform.

In each section below, you’ll find a quick rundown of the additional rules, correct at the time of posting – social media platforms update their rules often, so I’ve also included links to where you can find them.

 

Host a successful contest on Instagram to grow your following

Faith-Handmade-Instragram-Giveaway

Tips for running a promotion on Instagram
  • Always ask entrants to follow you + tag a friend
  • Include a hashtag to help you find entrants
  • To enter:
    • “Like to win” + tag friends
    • Repost your competition image + tag you to enter
    • Post their own content

Instagram contest ideas

  1. Post a photo of your giveaway and ask participants to repost.
  2. Ask entrants to post a photo of themselves reading your content/listening to your podcast/etc
  3. Request posts under a specific theme which could relate to:
    • Your brand
    • The time of year/celebration, e.g. Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving
    • The time of year/celebration, e.g. Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving
    • Raising awareness for a cause
    • Landscape, e.g. clouds, skyline, flowers
    • Color or pattern
  4. Team up with a partner, who’s not a competitor but shares a similar audience, and run a joint competition.
  5. Run a loop giveaway with 5 or more fellow business owners – bear in mind these can be complicated.
  6. Approach an influencer, where they lead and host the contest (but you provide the prize).

Find more ideas on hosting Instagram contests on Later.

Instagram promotion guidelines
  • Don’t inaccurately tag content or encourage users to do so (e.g. if you are not in the photo, don’t tag yourself in the photo)
  • You must state that your contest participants release Instagram of any responsibility – see the example below.
  • Instagram’s Promotion Guidelines

 

Hold a popular Twitter competition to increase likes

Twitter-Giveaway

Twitter contest ideas

You only have 140 characters, so the simpler the better!

  1. Fastest correct answer to a trivia/brand-related question.
  2. Simply like & retweet to enter (post a photo to represent the prize).
  3. Best photo: travel/flat-lay/pet/behind-the-scenes/shoes/sketches – you’ll need a custom hashtag or @mention to find the entries.
  4. Best picture-quote – again, a custom hashtag or @mention is required.
  5. Funniest GIF for a prompt, e.g. “Share your funniest gif for when you see a spider in the bath!”
  6. Most creative/witty tweet to a prompt, e.g. “I need a nutritionist because _______” or “Tell me who you’d most want to have dinner with and why”.
  7. Use your hashtag in multiple tweets, each one counts as an entry.
  8. Share a top tip, e.g. “What’s your top makeup tip for after-work drinks?” or “What’s your top tip for avoiding procrastination? #[yourhashtag]”

Get the lowdown on running a successful Twitter contest on Social Media Examiner.

PRO TIP: Not only will you grow your likes and following, but this is a great way to learn about your audience and crowd-source content. Turn those top tips into a blog post and best photos into Instagram content.

Twitter promotion guidelines & tips
  • Offer prizes for tweeting an update, following an account, or posting updates with a specific hashtag.
  • Ask people to mention you in their update so you can see all the entries
  • Encourage the use of topics relevant to the contest
  • Discourage creating multiple accounts, duplicate updates, e.g. “the most Retweets wins”
  • Guidelines for Promotions on Twitter

Need more help using Twitter for business? Read over my free Beginner's Guide to Twitter.

Run an above-board promo on Facebook to increase engagement

 

facebook-giveawway

Facebook contest ideas

Increase engagement & shares with many more options than “like to enter”!

  1. Caption contest: the person with the best/most creative/silliest/heartfelt caption for your photo wins.
  2. Landmark prize – “The next 100th like will get…”
  3. Comment with a photo of [you with your mom/best friend/from your childhood/favorite quote/etc.] to win a [prize]!
  4. Q&A competition – you could ask easy Qs or brand-specific ones, trivia, multiple choice, or even feedback on a new concept/product.
  5. Fill-in-the-blank, e.g.
    • “My top tip for relaxing holiday with kids is _______.”
    • “When I was a kid, I wanted to be _______ when I grew up!”
    • “The first three words which come to mind when I think of [your brand] are _______.”
    • “I can’t live without _______.”
    • “My dream day would go like this: _______.”
    • Loads more Fill-in-the-blank Qs on Post Planner’s blog.
  6. Comment with your most touching/embarrassing moment this year and use a vote-based system – the comment with the most likes wins.
  7. Entrants send in their photos or stories by posting on your page’s timeline or sending your page a message

See more Facebook contest ideas by Kim Garst and Jeff Bullas.

Facebook promotion regulations

Facebook has the most detailed, and strictest, rules of all the platforms in this post. In addition to the 3 standard contest rules:

  • Promos must be on your business page, not your personal timeline
  • People can enter via:
    • Liking &/or commenting on a post
    • Having the comment with the most Likes
    • Posting on your page’s timeline
    • Sending your page a message
  • Do NOT hold contests which require:
    • Uploading your photo or cover image
    • Sharing or tagging of any kind – you must not ask entrants to share in any way or to tag friends. You may find people share and tag friends to encourage them to take part. That’s fine, as long as you’ve not asked them to do it as a contest entry.
  • Facebook Page guidelines

 

Run a Pinterest contest to gain more followers

 

Tailwind-Giveaway-Pinterest.

Pinterest contest ideas

  1. Ask participants to create a whole board to submit as a single entry, e.g. “Win a makeover/canvas print/copper pan set/voucher/etc.” – you may need a landing page or contest app to help manage this.
  2. Choose a prompt for picture quote submissions, e.g. “What’s your favorite quote for getting motivated on a Monday morning?”
  3. Does your audience tend to take most of their own photos? Ask them to submit their best own photos within a theme, e.g. beach/baking/hosting a party/Autumn leaves/vintage furniture/the color red/etc.
  4. Ask your audience to submit their favorite pins under a specific theme, e.g. knitwear/handmade accessories/tropical paradise/winter wonderland/home office makeover/etc.

Find apps to use & more ideas on Social Media Examiner’s blog.

Pinterest contest rules & tips

You must follow all relevant laws and those top 3 regulations, and in addition:

  • Must only allow one entry per person
  • Cannot ask entrants to pin a specific image – they must choose their own Pins, even if it's from your suggested selection or a given website
  • Use a branded custom hashtag, so you can find your contest entrants
  • View the Pinterest Rules – scroll down to “Contests”.

Want more ideas to improve your Pinterest strategy? Check out my free Pinterest for Business series.

My top tips for running a great contest on social media

Know your audience – make sure your contest prompts are suitable for your ideal clients. → Only choose one platform to host your contest (but still promote it across other channels). → Keep it simple and have clear rules – you know I’m ALL about simplicity & clarity! → Create quality, compelling graphics to promote your giveaway: Take your own photos or source gorgeous styled-stock from Haute Stock* and use Canva to add text overlays. → Create a custom hashtag. → Try and make at least one part of your contest relate to your brand – either make the prize one of your offerings or the entry align with your brand, for example, the type of content you already posted on social media.

Create a content strategy before you start and include a pre-contest teaser campaign. When will you promote? For how long? What can you do each day during the contest to boost interactions and shares? See more tips on Social Media Today and Canva’s Design School blog.

 

Selecting your winner/s

This is your contest with your rules and, if you make them clear, no-one can dispute them. If you want to be extra-rigorous, you could create a T&Cs which you link to.

Your winning criteria can be anything you choose, for example:

  • Best/favorite comment or image
  • Top-liked comment
  • The first comment with the correct answer
  • Most shared/retweeted/pinned
Choosing a winner at random

There are lots of tools if you just search “contest randomizer” online. You can use The Good Luck Fairy tool by Fanpage Karma by entering the URL from your Facebook post.

You can use The Good Luck Fairy tool by Fanpage Karma by entering the URL from your Facebook post. Options available include selecting a winner by comments, interactions (likes/loves/etc.) or search

Options available include selecting a winner by comments, interactions (likes/loves/etc.) or search terms, and you can even download a spreadsheet of all entrants (name + Facebook profile link), plus select further random winners if you’re offering runner-up prizes.

Giveaway prize ideas

 

Giveaway-prize-ideas-Yellena-James

 

You could give a prize from a partner or big-name brand, but a prize from your business will further build your brand presence. Here are more prize ideas: Physical product, e.g. book, handbag, necklace, artist’s print…

  1. Physical product, e.g. book, handbag, necklace, artist’s print…
  2. Put together a product haul – see Feel Unique’s #fallhaul as an example…
  3. Experience, like a spa day, cocktail lesson, music festival/business event tickets…
  4. Gift voucher for a retailer, e.g. Amazon, Macy’s, Rifle Paper Co…
  5. A digital product, such as a PDF workbook, ecourse scholarship, audio bundle…
  6. Service offering, e.g. coaching/strategy session, editing package if you’re a writer…

 

Those are my 27 best social media contest ideas!


Excited to get started – which contest will you try first? Have you run a social media contest before? Tell us about it in the comments!

 

Top 5 Ways I Grew My Blog Traffic in 2015 (+ Quick Stats on My Growth)

It's January, which means I'm deep into reviewing stats for 2015 for clients and myself. I'm a huge believer in tracking everything you do in business and adjusting accordingly. It might sound like common sense, but many bloggers don't do this!

Quick Stats on My Blog From 2015 vs. 2014:

Overall Traffic: +108%

Pageviews: +130%

Bounce Rate: -6.4% (a good thing)

Social Traffic: +54%

Referral Traffic: +124%

Organic Search Traffic: +425% (I'd hope so, considering SEO is my specialty!)

Slowing Down to Transition + Find Clarity

If you've been following along this year, you may remember that I took a few months off from new clients, slowed down on blogging and accepted guest posts instead, and slowed down on social media.

I was going through a break up from a 7.5 year relationship and moving across the country, so naturally, things had to slow down. I gave myself time and room for the transition.

My reason for sharing that is to show that it's okay to not reach your goals.

In the end it gave me more clarity on the direction I want to take my business (and life in general, obviously).

It's okay to have slow business months - seasons - years. Success doesn't happen overnight. twitter icon

It wasn't what I had intended for this year, and I didn't reach all of my numbers-related goals, but overall everything worked out how it was supposed to.

And looking over my stats above, I guess my growth was actually pretty good.

Top 5 Ways I Grew My Blog Traffic in 2015

Pinterest

Referrals to my website from Pinterest grew 1,300%, from 1,000 in 2014 to 14,000 in 2015 (making up 61% of my social traffic this year). That number is not to be taken lightly!

The key here was improving some of my older images and trying to keep Pinterest in mind when creating new ones. Large, easy to read text is important.

I also started scheduling my pins to post in the evening when more people are on Pinterest. You can do this with a number of tools such as Buffer or Viral Woot (which were the two I used).

Stitch Fix was also a very specific reason I had so much Pinterest traffic. A few of my pins send decent traffic every day, but this one in particular has over 5350 repins.

Now, you might think posting my Stitch Fix reviews is unrelated to business, but I did get a client through a review. PLUS, I strongly believe in my client Ustyled's philosophy on the power of your presence and how you show up.

Twitter

Referrals to my website from Twitter grew 306%, from 920 in 2014 to 3,737 in 2015 (making up 16% of my social traffic this year).

I can attribute this partly to three things:

  1. Scheduling: I started scheduling at least 4 tweets per day at varying times. Some of these tweets are my own content and some are sharing content from others (and being sure to mention them with an @ when possible).
  2. Photos: I've read that including a picture with your tweet can increase engagement up to 180%. I definitely agree that it helped my click-through-rates during 2015. I had been using Hootsuite but switched to Buffer because the photos in Hootsuite would be attached as a link rather than the actual image showing up in the timeline. This may have been resolved by now, but I love Buffer and will stick with it.
  3. Twitter Chats: I love Twitter chats! I started with #ellechat earlier in the year and started branching out and attending at least one every other week. I haven't done many in the past few months, but am excited to get back into it. Chloe Social has a handy list of Twitter Chats, or click on Part 2 below to see a few of my favorites.

Not sure why or how to get started with Twitter? Check out my Beginners Guide to Twitter Part 1 and Part 2.

Link-Ups

One of my top referral traffic sources was Running with Spoons. Each Sunday she posts a Sunday Link Love similar to what I post, but she includes a link-up at the bottom where readers can add their posts.

Adding my link to her link-ups referred 1,514 people to my blog in 2015, which made up 12% of my referral traffic. I didn't post my link every Sunday because I often forgot or was trying to not work weekends, but I can see that it was worth it.

If you choose to try this method, make sure it's an appropriate match. Amanda's link up is great for me because her audience is mostly health and fitness bloggers, which makes up a large part of my target audience as well.

The posts I share with them have value, and I enjoy clicking through the other links because it's in my area of interest.

Buffer

As I mentioned above, I switched to Buffer this year. I mostly use it for Twitter, and my favorite feature is the analytics (naturally..I'm an analytics nerd).

Being able to sort tweets based on how well they performed has been a game changer for re-purposing content.

Not only does it make it easy to re-buffer them, but I also get an idea of what copy or language resonated best with my audience. It's an easy way to split-test headlines or blog post titles.

You can use Buffer for all of your main social channels excluding Instagram (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest). I had been using Viralwoot for Pinterest, so this made it much easier to have all my scheduling in one place.

Another aspect that helped my click-through-rates was setting up a pre-determined schedule so I can easily add content to my queues and they will post at my best times.

Search Engine Optimization

My organic search traffic grew 425% during 2015, which accounted for 12.6% of my total traffic. I consistently optimized each post and photo, as well as gained more back-links. Those are just a few of the on-page factors, but the longer you have your blog and consistently post quality, relevant content, the better your SEO will be overall.

If you'd like to improve your SEO for 2016, you can start by checking out my SEO Basics series.


Ready to grow your blog traffic in 2016? Download the '31 Ideas to Grow Your Traffic' eBook!

 

Next week I'll be breaking down my social media growth in 2015, with a free social media tracking template (Excel Worksheet).

P.S. The template will include my real numbers as a guide. I love when other bloggers provide real behind-the-scenes stats, so I'm opening up and doing the same!

 

In the Comments:

If you already have a blog, what was the top way the grew your traffic in 2015?

 

Comment

Danielle Zeigler

I'm Danielle, an SEO and Digital Marketing Strategist on a mission to help creatives and entrepreneurs harness their strengths, personality, and energy to easily + authentically market their work to exactly the people who need it.
I specialize in SEO and content marketing as ways to attract clients TO you. I'm extremely introverted, so I'm allll about the inbound marketing!

Beginner's Guide to Twitter: Hashtags, Lists, Analytics + Chats {Part 2}

Twitter is a social network that people tend to either love or hate (or just not understand). It's one of my personal favorites for the speed of communicating, but many clients question the value. Not every social network is appropriate for each person or business, so I'm breaking down how to get the most out of Twitter.

In the Beginner's Guide to Twitter Part One we discussed:

  • Why entrepreneurs should be using Twitter
  • Best practices for setting up your profile
  • What, when, and how often to post
  • How to gain Twitter followers
  • The difference between a retweet and a favorite

Now we're going to dive into hashtags, lists, analytics and chats so you can step up your game for business.

How should you use hashtags on Twitter?

Hashtags allow people to view all the tweets around a certain topic and interact with others with a similar interest.

Use your hashtags wisely, though. If you use too many it will junk up your tweet and distract from your actual message. You should also really think about your hashtags (on Twitter and Instagram). Are people actually searching on that topic? Are you just adding it to get likes, in which case, are they quality likes (qualified leads)?

  • Events: If you're attending a conference/trade show/etc there's a good chance there's a hashtag for it.
  • Trending Topics: Join a trending conversation and stay up to date on what people are tweeting most about
  • Locations: Find people close to you, find things to do when traveling, etc.
  • Popular Themes: For the health and wellness world, some popular hashtags include things like #MeatlessMonday and #MondayMotivation.

Hashtag Tools

  • Keyhole: Conversation / hashtag tracker for Twitter and Instagram
  • Hashtagify.me: Find similar hashtags
  • Tagboard: Monitor hashtags in a nice, visual way

What are Twitter Lists?

Twitter lists are a way to organize the people you follow so you can view segmented timelines of tweets.

For example, since my business covers a few different topics, I have lists for:

You can see which lists others have added me to here. This would be a good place for me (or another similar Twitter user) to go to find like-minded people.

How can you access Twitter Analytics?

Go to https://analytics.twitter.com/ while you're logged into your account.

You'll see a dashboard with helpful statistics like this:

1 Quick Twitter Tip for Beginners

If you are responding to someone or starting a tweet with someone's handle (@twittername), only that person and people who follow you both will see the tweet. If you want more people to see it, add a . in front of the @ symbol.

5 Twitter Chats to Join for Creative Entrepreneurs

I love Twitter chats. I've only joined a few, but I always learn so much and have made some great connections. Here are a handful worth looking into:

  1. #creativecoffeehour -- Mondays 9pm EST -- Hosted by Callie Gisler
  2. #createlounge -- Wednesdays 8pm EST -- Hosted by Kayla Hollatz
  3. #ellechat -- Thursdays 8pm EST -- Hosted by Lauren Hooker
  4. #blisschat -- Thursdays 8pm EST -- Hosted by Charissa Moore CCT
  5. #OWSchat -- 1st Wednesday of each month at 9pm EST -- Hosted by One Woman Shop

There are a ton more great Twitter chats out there, but these are just a few I've jumped into in the past. Chloe Social has a handy Twitter Chat list in her sidebar here, and Elle & Co. recently posted this Helpful Guide for Utilizing Twitter Chats.

If you know of a good one, leave a comment to share with everyone!


Join me on Twitter. Start a conversation or ask me a question!

Read part one here: Beginner's Guide to Twitter: Profile Set-up, Posts + Followers {Part 1}

In the Comments:

What has kept you from trying Twitter?

-or-

What do you love about Twitter?

3 Comments

Danielle Zeigler

I'm Danielle, an SEO and Digital Marketing Strategist on a mission to help creatives and entrepreneurs harness their strengths, personality, and energy to easily + authentically market their work to exactly the people who need it.
I specialize in SEO and content marketing as ways to attract clients TO you. I'm extremely introverted, so I'm allll about the inbound marketing!

Beginner's Guide to Twitter: Profile Set-up, Posts + Followers {Part 1}

One of the questions I hear the most from new business coaching clients is, "Do I really need to learn how to use Twitter? I just don't get it." But for me, I have the most followers on Twitter. (However, Pinterest sends the most social traffic to my website, making up 55% of my monthly traffic overall, in fact, but that's a topic for another day!)

Twitter describes the platform as, "The fastest, simplest way to stay close to everything you care about." It has become one of the top news sources, often beating out news agency's for breaking stories.

Business Insider calls it the fastest way for news to spread. "Twitter is the fastest way to spread thoughts. Not the kind of thoughts about what you'll eat for lunch. The kind of thoughts that have global impacts."

Why should entrepreneurs use Twitter?

  • 500 million+ people are on Twitter
  • 47% of people who follow a brand on Twitter are more likely to visit that brand's website
  • Here's a helpful interactive infographic on The Value of a Twitter Follower
  • Easy, fast way to interact and get news on the move or in a time crunch (which most entrepreneurs deal with, right?)
  • It's an easy way to provide customer service
  • 74% of people who follow small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) follow to get updates on future product
  • Twitter is becoming more visual. Tweets with photos tend to get more interaction

Whether these stats and benefits have convinced you or not, I still recommend giving it a try. That's the best way to see if it's a good fit for you and your business.

4 Tips for Setting up Your Twitter Profile

  • Choose a Twitter handle that's similar to your other social profile handles if possible
  • Use the same (or a similar) head shot to your other channels (preferable to use a head shot rather than a logo)
  • Take advantage of your banner space and keep it consistent with your website branding
  • Make your bio fun + include keywords to tell people what you do

What should you post on Twitter?

  • Follow the 80/20 rule: 80% education/helpful content, 20% sales and self promotion
  • Industry news and opinion articles
  • Pull lines out of your blog posts to reuse content several times
  • Post your blog post 3 times the day it goes live, and re-use often in the future (as long as it's relevant)
  • Quotes, images or links to stories that inspire you
  • Questions or short messages for brands or industry people you'd like to meet

How often should you post on Twitter?

  • The "prime of life" for a tweet is about 18 minutes, so you can post pretty often
  • I've heard 9 times a day is ideal, but that's kind of an arbitrary number in my eyes
  • Use a scheduling tool like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or Buffer to schedule out your posts for maximum reach

How do you gain followers on Twitter?

  • There are a few tools you can use to search on topics in people's bios, like:
    • Twitter Advanced Search
    • Topsy: Twitter Search, Monitoring + Analytics
    • Add your favorite bloggers and entrepreneurs
      • Look through their followers and check out bios, lists they've made, people they interact with
      • Tweet consistently + share quality content
      • Promote others' work. They might retweet your message to their followers

Retweet vs. Favorite

Retweet something if you want all of your followers to see it.

Favorite something if you want to save it for yourself. Your followers can still see your favorites if they navigate to your profile and click on your list of favorites, but it won't be broadcast out to your list. A lot of Twitter users will also use the Favorite button as a way to acknowledge that they saw a tweet.


Join me on Twitter. Start a conversation or ask me a question!

In part two we'll look at how to use hashtags, lists, analytics and a list of Twitter chats to join!

In the Comments:

What has kept you from trying Twitter?

-or-

What do you love about Twitter?

4 Comments

Danielle Zeigler

I'm Danielle, an SEO and Digital Marketing Strategist on a mission to help creatives and entrepreneurs harness their strengths, personality, and energy to easily + authentically market their work to exactly the people who need it.
I specialize in SEO and content marketing as ways to attract clients TO you. I'm extremely introverted, so I'm allll about the inbound marketing!

5 Easy Food Photography Tips Using Your Smart Phone

Hi there Danielle fans! My name is Lindsay Cotter and I blog over at Cotter Crunch. So happy Danielle is letting me share her space today! Anyway, about me. I'm married to a former pro triathlete (now full time endurance coach). I’m also a Nutrition Specialist for Endurance Athletes and Gluten-Free eating. My blog is a gluten free guide (for all). Basically I like to FUEL others with EASY and DELICIOUS gluten free recipes. I also do my best to share proper nutrition tips and tricks as you work to keep your body and life in balance. Just consider me your gluten free house wife with food as fuel to support.

Now, about that food. We gotta make it look pretty right? I mean, that’s half the fun (in my opinion). So today I wanted to share my tidbits on food photography. Only this time it’s not with any fancy camera, nope, it’s with a SMART PHONE!

Easy Food Photography Tips Using Your Smart Phone. These tips have helped me become a better photographer in general. But regardless, having a great smart phone camera is KEY!

food photography for smart phones

Oh instagram, how we love thee! It’s definitely the most popular social media platform these days. And I would agree, it’s my favorite, probably because you don’t have to think much. You don’t need 140 characters or less, you don’t have to state your “status.” You don’t even have to say a thing. All you need is a picture. And for many, that picture is their creative outlet. It’s a glimpse of their passion. It’s a way to express their style. It’s a way to see the world’s most amazing places without even leaving your house.

Well, that’s my reasoning for liking instagram, or any other form of photography. I love to edit pictures or create a story. And I love to use my camera and/or smart phone to capture moments that are worth “savoring.”

smartphone photography moments to savor

I know I know, corny. But it’s the truth.

And you know what? Using a smartphone for food photography has made me a better photographer in general. It’s almost like you get to practice before the real deal, ya know?

So with that being said, let’s talk ways to improve your food photography with a smart phone. I may not be an expert, but practicing these tips sure have helped me find new creative ways to photograph food -->  simple and engaging.

FIRST --> Find good light!

smartphone photography lighting

Natural light. Try getting next to your kitchen window, or the window of a restaurant. Soft light (diffused light) works best. That means early to mid morning or just before sun set. These “golden hours” create a look that’s inviting, warm, and soft. Not harsh or grainy. Oh and be sure to turn off the flash! If you are shooting indoors, look for softer light or candle light and edit with a cool filter instead.

SECOND - Have fun with props!

smartphone photography add props

I’m sure you have some spare kitchen towels, herbs, fruit, or something that brings color to your picture. Play with different styles. Have fun mixing and matching with your food. Ya, I so love doing that. Really!

THIRD -- Don’t be afraid of the stand up shot (in public).
smartphone photography stand up

Yep, stand up over your food. This works best for natural light settings. I love capturing white plates from above because it really makes the color of your food ‘POP.' And yes, I did stand on chair, on a restaurant patio, in front of people, to get that picture. Totally worth it. Makes me happy every time I see that lovely set up! Haha.

FOUR -- Use the rule of threes.
smartphone photography rule of three

Usually an odd number of items work best in photography. 3 muffins, 3 plates, etc. Here I used the new LG4 phone and took a picture of 3 muffins at a side angle. Then played with it snapping 6. Which do you like better? Well, I kind of think both are equal but that’s because that camera is that amazing. But in general, odd numbers of items always photograph better, especially in a square instagram space.

And FIVE -- Lock your focus or make sure your hands don’t shake.

smartphone photography focus lock

This will allow for spectacular close ups! You can lock your focus and adjust the shutter speed on most iPhones and Androids. Just going into your camera settings and check it out there. Here’s a tutorial link.

This will help with blur and allow more or less light in, similar to that of a DSLR. Pretty impressive, right? Another way to reduce shake trick is to place your hands on a water glass when taking a picture of your food, this will help reduce the shake when you snap the photo. Oh and be sure not to hit the camera button full force. You must be gentle.

All this said and done truly comes down to the type of camera phone you have and camera editing apps you use. Having a phone with great clarity and function can be key to improving your smart phone food photography.

Favorite Camera Apps – VSCOCAM, SNAPSEED, CAMERA AWESOME, and VIBRANTLY are some of my favorites for editing food photos on your smart phone/iphone. I've used all these apps on almost all my pictures in my instagram feed.

So tell me, what’s your favorite app for smart phone trick for photography? I’d love to hear more!

Cheers to technology that makes us hungry!

 

Contact Lindsaylindsay

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

Danielle Zeigler

I'm Danielle, an SEO and Digital Marketing Strategist on a mission to help creatives and entrepreneurs harness their strengths, personality, and energy to easily + authentically market their work to exactly the people who need it.
I specialize in SEO and content marketing as ways to attract clients TO you. I'm extremely introverted, so I'm allll about the inbound marketing!

Are you using social media as validation of your worth?

Are you using social media as validation of your worth?

It's so, so easy to get caught up in the hype of followers, likes, retweets and so on with social media. This can be especially challenging when you're starting your business and want to gain attention. In this post we'll dive into common social media questions, why social media validation is a problem & how to change the focus.

Read More

3 Quick Tips to Keep Readers Engaged With Your Brand

Once you've gotten readers to your blog, you want to keep them engaged. You want them to start clicking around and interacting with you and your content, getting to know you, and getting as much value as possible in each visit. This list is short and sweet so you can start employing these right away without getting overwhelmed.

1 | Link to your other posts in your blog post.

3 Ways to Successfully Use Internal Linking:

  1. Use keywords within your post to link to related blog posts. Make sure the links are natural and valuable to your audience, and only include three or four.
  2. Manually add your own in a list at the end of your blog post.
  3. Install a plug-in to do the work for you. I've used Yet Another Related Post Plugin, but there are many options out there.

2 | Make blog posts super easy to share.

List your social icons toward the top of your page, and have easily accessible icons for each post. Toward the bottom or by the title is ideal.

Don't make readers search for your icons. They don't have time for that. I've heard the argument for keeping them tiny in the footer so that readers focus on signing up for your newsletter. I get it. But I don't agree.

3 | Customize your social plug-ins.

Too many times I share a post on Twitter from someone's blog and it still has "via @shareable" or "via @sharaholic." Please, PLEASE, go into the settings and change it to your Twitter handle. This way, you'll see the tweet and be able to interact with everyone who shares your content.

In the Comments:

How do you keep readers engaged?

3 Comments

Danielle Zeigler

I'm Danielle, an SEO and Digital Marketing Strategist on a mission to help creatives and entrepreneurs harness their strengths, personality, and energy to easily + authentically market their work to exactly the people who need it.
I specialize in SEO and content marketing as ways to attract clients TO you. I'm extremely introverted, so I'm allll about the inbound marketing!

4 Social Media Tips You Should Already Be Following

Just a quick post today, guys. I get really into providing super longs lists with as many resources as I can find (because I love sharing), but bite sized chunks are probably more helpful. Instead of bookmarking this or pinning it for later, implement 2 of these tips this week. If you're already doing all of them? Great! Share this with someone who isn't.

Twitter

Limit your hashtags to one or two at the end of a post. It may be tempting to fit as many as you can to reach potential groups, but it will clutter your post.

Pinterest + Facebook

Use Picmonkey to create beautiful title images. This will draw more attention than a plain photo. Limit your text to 20% of the image on Facebook if you plan to boost the post.

What does my face (above) have to do with social media tips? I used Picmonkey to create the title image. (Good excuse to use the photo I was already editing, right?)

Instagram

Add new hashtags to old photos to give them an extra boost. You can use more hashtags here than twitter, so try them out!

Scheduling on Twitter

Have 10 articles you'd love to share? Spread them out throughout the day using scheduling software like Hootsuite. You'll reach a wider variety of people + won't overwhelm your followers.

 

What are your favorite simple social media tips?

Comment

Danielle Zeigler

I'm Danielle, an SEO and Digital Marketing Strategist on a mission to help creatives and entrepreneurs harness their strengths, personality, and energy to easily + authentically market their work to exactly the people who need it.
I specialize in SEO and content marketing as ways to attract clients TO you. I'm extremely introverted, so I'm allll about the inbound marketing!

12 Tips for How to Get More Blog Traffic + Keep Readers Engaged

This post was originally a guest post for my friend Anne over at FANNEtastic Food. She’s a DC area Registered Dietitian with delicious recipes, fitness posts and wellness tips, so make sure to check out her blog! It has been slightly modified from the original version. With that said, let's dig in!

+++++++++++++++++++++

So – you’re on Facebook, have a consistent blogging schedule, and vaguely know what SEO means. Now what? Dig into these tips to take your traffic to the next level.

Don’t Lose Your Readers

1. Minimize your load time to keep readers engaged. Kissmetrics.com says, “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.” Excessive ads, buttons and photos can slow it down. Consider what each item is worth and experiment with placement, WordPress plugins, and even removing things that may be hurting your traffic numbers.

a. Check out these 5 ways to speed up your WordPress site.

load time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up Your Social Media Game

2. Expand beyond Facebook and Twitter. Instagram and Pinterest are excellent for food + healthy living bloggers.

Here are some Pinterest-specific tips to get more traffic:

  • The best time to pin is between 2-4pm and 8pm-1am.
  • Verify your website so you can track your analytics.
  • Use images with text (your post title). Picmonkey.com is great for this.
  • Join “community” boards on Pinterest
  • Pin guides and tutorials for a 42% higher click-through-rate
  • Use hashtags, just like you do for Twitter and Facebook. Either search hashtags before you use them or try Hashtags.org to find popular tags.
  • Make sure your pin link works, and make sure it leads to the actual post and not your homepage.

Here are 34 Tips for Using Instagram for Business. 

3. Submit articles to sites that sites that accept reader submissions. The more specific the niche, the better. Here are a few examples to get you started:

4. Re-purpose old blog posts to get the most out of each post. You have new followers all the time who haven’t read your posts.

  • Use a Twitter Plugin like “Tweet Old Posts”, or schedule posts to multiple channels with something like Hootsuite. If using Hootsuite, this gives you a chance to pull different quotes from your post and schedule for the future. Get creative! It doesn’t always have to be your post title. Ask questions, use teasers, and play with other titles you thought about using.

5. Maximize traffic through sharing at optimal times on social channels. You can use Hootsuite or a similar automation tool to schedule most of these. Best sharing times:

  • Facebook: 1pm – 4pm
  • Twitter: 1pm- 3pm
  • Pinterest: 2pm-4pm and 8pm-1am
  • LinkedIn: 7am-9am and 5pm-6pm
Cozy up to SEO Tactics

6. Take a few minutes to do keyword research. Use Google Keyword Planner + Google Trends to find the best way to phrase your blog title and which keywords get the most traffic.

7. Use an SEO Plug-in, like “Yoast All in One SEO”, to make sure you cover the basics.

  • Fill out the title tag with 60 characters. This is usually your blog title, so make it appealing and share-worthy!
  • The meta-description is not used by search engines, but can encourage people to click your link. Google shows around 160 characters.
  • Use keywords in your URL and H1 tags. These re-enforce what your post is about to search engines.

SEO Preview

 

8. Break up your text with sub-headings. These help readers scan your post, and all heading tags signal to search engines what your blog post is about.

9. Spend time thinking of a good title. Titles with the most clicks often include:

  • “How-to”
  • “Mistakes”
  • “Secrets”
  • Questions (people are typing full questions into Google more often now – Anne’s “How to Make Brussels Sprouts Delicious” post does well here!)
  • Lists

10. Link to related posts within your blog post + have related posts available underneath. These keep readers engaged in your content and increase your page views.

  • Use a plug-in like YARPP (Yet Another Related Post Plug-in)

YARPP Preview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Complete the “alt text” for your images. Use keywords that are related to your post but also describe the image. This is another signal to search engines about your blog post topic, and this helps categorize images in searches.

health magazine alt text

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12. Install Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools. These aren’t as intimidating as they may seem! Reasons to utilize these tools:

  • See which posts are performing the best. You can also install a WordPress Plug-in, such as Jetpack, to see your stats right on your dashboard.
  • Monitor your referral traffic. Which social channels are doing the best? If you’re advertising, is it worth it? Are other bloggers linking to you? If yes, go thank them! :)
  • Webmaster Tools can analyze the technical aspects of your blog, like broken links and pages. Not only do these annoy readers, search engines also pick up on them and will penalize your ranking.

What tools and tips have given you the most traffic growth? Anything to add to this list?

 


Ready to grow your blog traffic even further? Download the '31 Ideas to Grow Your Traffic' eBook!

2 Comments

Danielle Zeigler

I'm Danielle, an SEO and Digital Marketing Strategist on a mission to help creatives and entrepreneurs harness their strengths, personality, and energy to easily + authentically market their work to exactly the people who need it.
I specialize in SEO and content marketing as ways to attract clients TO you. I'm extremely introverted, so I'm allll about the inbound marketing!

10 Free Tools to Create Quote Images + Increase Social Media Engagement

Beautiful images with quotes are everywhere these days. Think Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Blog Photos, etc.You get the picture. It can take a long time to create your own, and let's face it, not everyone is gifted in graphic design. It's also a great idea to make a graphic of your blog post title. Every social channel allows a featured image and it's proven to grab readers attention.

Why use quote images:
  • Image posts increase interaction on Facebook by 39%
  • Engagement is 200% higher for Twitter posts with images/ image links
  • Pinterest has a 50% higher click-through-rate than other social platforms

[All stats from QuickSprout]

Where to find quotes:

1. Goodreads 2. Brainy Quote 3. Your blog title or quotes from your blog post

6 Quote Image Creation Tools

1. ReciteThis

Aristotle Quote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A free tool with almost 50 options. The images are watermarked, but they're super easy to create and download.

2. Pinstamatic

Pinstamatic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pinstamatic will help you liven up your blog and Pinterest account. Add captions to photos, create simple quotes and more. It's doesn't have a lot of customizable options but is simple, quick and has a very attractive website!

3. Quozio

Deepak Chopra Quote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A free tool with 28 options. They're fairly limited and not too fancy, but it's easy to use and easy to save (just right click).

4. PicMonkey

Comparison Trap for Entrepreneurs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PicMonkey is what I use for most of my images. It's free, easy to use + extremely customizable. They have some backgrounds to choose from or you can upload your own.

5. ProQuoter

John Green Quote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free and easy to use. It provides small groups of stylized quotes for you to choose from. They are all fairly similar to the photo above.

6. Quote for Fun

quotes

 

 

 

 

 

Click through quotes on homepage to find inspiration and create your own with their free tool. Customize the background color, choose from a few fancy fonts + choose from a few random icons. This site looked promising at first, but I wasn't impressed in the end.

7. QuotesCover

quotescover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This tool has specific editors for Facebook and Google+ cover photos, wallpapers and more. You can also choose a quote from the homepage to help you get started

8. PinWords

Arianna Huffington Quote

 

 

 

 

 

 

Designed for Pinterest. Free and easy to use. You can upload backgrounds or choose from a few plain options. Font options are limited and the image size is very small. The above image is one I created at full size.

9. LivLuvCreate

livluvcreate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LivLuvCreate is a social community of image quotes, but also offers a free editor. To use the editor, you have to create an account, but you can easily sign in with Facebook. The editor offers tons of options, from collage layouts to pre-made beautiful background images and Instagram-like filters.

Be Kind to Yourself

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Chisel

chisel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chisel offers images to choose from, similar to LivLuvCreate. Choose an image, add your quote and save. The downside is that you have to create an account first.

Which tool is your favorite?

4 Comments

Danielle Zeigler

I'm Danielle, an SEO and Digital Marketing Strategist on a mission to help creatives and entrepreneurs harness their strengths, personality, and energy to easily + authentically market their work to exactly the people who need it.
I specialize in SEO and content marketing as ways to attract clients TO you. I'm extremely introverted, so I'm allll about the inbound marketing!

34 Tips for Using Instagram for Business

Instagram can be an excellent social channel for brands. It's a great way to make your brand more personable, and visual content is super-important in your online strategy. A post from HubSpot on why you should include visual content in your marketing cites:

  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000x faster in the brain than text.
  • 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text.

Instagram is especially popular among lifestyle blogger, like fitness buffs, recipe creators and fashion lovers, but we're seeing a huge increase in use across different industries.

Before signing up and snapping away, take a few moments to think about your overall strategy.

There are 4 basic content groups you can share from, and I've included a few ideas for each below. Your strategy might include any mix of these, or all of them.

4 Content Groups on Instagram:
  1. Behind-the-Scenes: sneak peeks of what you're working on, your office or work location, a day in the life, what you're loving lately.
  2. Education: bite-sized tips related to your business and industry.
  3. Inspiration: anything to make life a little better, a it's not secret people love quote images. Tie it back to your overall brand if you can, and use high-quality images.
  4. Community: feature clients (in-person, their work, etc.), work from peers, local events.

34 Tips on Using Instagram for Business:

Profile:
  1. Here are tips on how to create the perfect Instagram profile.
  2. Make sure to include a recognizable profile photo, like your company logo or the headshot you use on other social channels.
  3. Include your location in the description, especially if you're a location-based / brick-and-mortar business.
  4. Make sure your Instagram account is public (you'd be surprised how many business profiles I come across that aren't!).
  5. Include your website/blog URL in the description. Instagram Profile Optimization Guide

 

Photos:

  1. Use a mix of fun images and business images. Let your photos and videos tell a story of your company or personal brand.
  2. Think about the overall look and feel of your feed. How will people view it when they're scrolling through their feeds and seeing each photo individually vs. how will your photos look all together in your channel. Try to go for a consistent look and feel. Some people use similar filters for each photo or use a shaped crop for every photo.
  3. Play around with apps and filters until you find what you like. VSCO for editing and Moldiv for creating cool collages.
  4. Post an image from your blog post with a little teaser and direct people to the blog link in your profile.
  5. Post at different times to test when you get the best reaction. You don't need to post every day.
  6. Geo-tag your location in photos if you're a location-based business or want to be found at that location or by that business.
  7. Tag clients + customers in images whenever relevant. This is a good way to start a conversation.
  8. Add relevant hashtags to older images as you discover them. This will give new life to old posts.
  9. Add text to images as call-outs and post "quote images" with thoughtful, relevant quotes.

Connect with other social channels:

  1. Connect your account to Facebook and Twitter.
  2. Run an Instagram feed in the side bar or footer of your blog or website.

Instagram Feed in Footer on Wordpress

 

Hashtags:

  1. Develop a hashtag relevant to your brand and use it often.
  2. Research hashtags before using. You'll get an idea for additional hashtags when you find photos that match the theme you were going for.
  3. Comment on other photos with the hashtags you're using. This will draw people back to your account.

Instagram Video: - 15-second filter-enabled, editable video

  1. Take advantage of these videos that are longer than Vines.
  2. Mix up the content here too, with personal and business related.
  3. Embed videos on your blog to reach a wider audience.
  4. Post clips from your vlog as a teaser.
Engage with followers:
  1. Follow brands and people who inspire you and have similar businesses/interests.
  2. Follow people back, and engage with them!
  3. Answer questions on your photos.
  4. People can see the images and videos you like, so take advantage of liking similar content.
  5. Pay attention to which images and videos get the most likes and comments. Start sharing more content like these.
Fun Ideas:
  1. Create photo contests with specific hashtags.
  2. Host a photo caption contest.
  3. Create a hashtag for events you're participating in. Instagram is great for live events, like Twitter.
  4. Use Instagram as a fun way to show teasers and sneak previews of upcoming products, blog topics, interviews, etc.
  5. Ask followers to submit photos of your product, book, etc.
  6. Allow a guest to "take over" your Instagram account for the day.

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition does #IINTakeover often. Below is an example:

IINtakeover

 

Starbucks is one of the top followed Instagram accounts. Take note!

  • In their description they encourage you to use a specific hashtag.
  • They share photos from followers, such as cup art.

Starbucks Instagram Account

 


In the Comments:

Do you use Instagram for business? How do you engage with followers?


FREE Download! The Solopreneur Toolkit: 70+ Resources for Business SuccessWant more tips on upping your business game? Sign up here to receive exclusive weekly homework assignments to organize and grow your business. One easy, actionable tip per week will keep you accountable and motivated.

You'll also get The Solopreneur Toolkit for FREE! 70+ resources for success, from the best WP plugins and themes to free photos and editing software.

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2 Comments

Danielle Zeigler

I'm Danielle, an SEO and Digital Marketing Strategist on a mission to help creatives and entrepreneurs harness their strengths, personality, and energy to easily + authentically market their work to exactly the people who need it.
I specialize in SEO and content marketing as ways to attract clients TO you. I'm extremely introverted, so I'm allll about the inbound marketing!