Monday, December 23

Why Bother About a Social Media Policy? Think Twice

You have a business. You're engaging on Social media. So what next? In light of the many social PR fails, consider a policy for your employees.
If you intend to promote your brand and interact with customers through social networks and social media channels – and I highly recommend that you do – you must realize your employees will be there as well, with their own personal accounts. There’s no reason not to encourage your employees to explore and engage in social media communities online, but remember, they are also the face of your company to all their friends and associates – as well as to the customers they know. What they say online or the type of photos they post on their personal accounts may reflect, albeit in a roundabout way, on your business. When they directly talk about you or your business, it will have a cause and effect relationship.
It is your job to guide your business’s online culture and protect your brand’s online persona. Provide guidelines for your employees in the form of a Social Media Policy. This written document, similar to other codes of conduct you have for employees, will let them know what type of behavior you expect from them online and any limits as to what business-related information they can share in the public stream.
Here’s how one of our nation’s biggest companies handled it. Back in 2009, before most people thought about setting guidelines, Adam Brown broke ground by developing a 4R social strategy (review, respond, record, redirect) and spearheaded the development of social media guidelines for the Coca-Cola Company. Aside from designating a code of conduct for their official online spokespeople, Coca-Cola also laid out specific principles for their associates. By taking a look at what Coca Cola deemed appropriate, perhaps it will help you forge a set of standards for your own employees. From Coca-Cola’s Online Social Media Principlesthe guidelines below with my explanations outline expectations for any online activities – personal or professional – where employees reference the company or have made their association with the company known.
1. “Adhere to the Code of Business Conduct and other applicable policies” – Coca Cola has several policies regarding specific business activities, including general conduct, information protection and insider trading. All employees (from the CEO to interns) are expected to follow these when mentioning online that they are employees of Coca Cola. 
2. “You are responsible for your actions” – This point is a reminder to exercise sound judgment and common sense when posting online because employees will be held responsible if their actions negatively impact the business or its image.
3. “Be a ‘scout’ for compliments and criticism” – This guideline acknowledges that employees are “vital assets for monitoring the social media landscape.” Coca-Cola even supplies an in-house email for forwarding both positive and negative comments employees observe online, so they can feel confident negative situations will be addressed without feeling like they must be the one to take action.  
4. “Let the subject matter experts respond to negative posts” – This point stresses, again, that should employees encounter a potentially damaging post about the business, the post should be referred to those trained and approved as official online spokespeople to handle responding.
5. “Be conscious when mixing your business and personal lives” – This principle recognizes that personal and business personas often intersect online and reminds employees that everything that is posted online – even when channels or profiles are “private” or “protected” – can still ultimately be seen by anyone at any time 

Wednesday, December 18

11 Tips for Photographing Items for Online Stores or eBay

The idea behind using images in your web store or eBay listings is to attract the eyes of potential buyers. With that goal in mind, you should try to create the best-looking images possible, no matter what kind of technology you’re using to capture them.

Point-and-shoot may be okay for a group shot at a historical monument, but illustrating your item for sale is a whole different idea. Whether you’re using a smartphone or a digital camera to capture your the images of your item, there are some basic photographic guidelines can give you better results:

Do take the picture of your item in filtered daylight, whenever possible. That way, the camera can catch all possible details and color. If you can’t take your images during the day, use a set of true-color lights.
  • Do avoid getting yourself in the photo by shooting your pictures from an angle (see photo). If you see your reflection in the item, move and try again.
  • Do forget about fancy backgrounds; they distract viewers from your item. Put small items on a neutral-colored, nonreflective towel or cloth; put larger items in front of a neutral-colored wall or curtain. You’ll crop out almost all the background when you prepare the picture before uploading the image to eBay.
  • Do avoid getting yourself in the photo by shooting your pictures from an angle. If you see your reflection in the item, move and try again .For an embarassing see below.
  • Do use extra lighting. You can do this with your camera’s flash mode or (even better) with extra photo lighting. Use extra lighting, even when you’re taking the picture outside. The extra lighting acts as fill light — it adds more light to the item, filling in some of the shadowed spots.
  • Do us a photo tent or a Cloud Dome (or their new Nimbus Dome for use with smartphones) when shooting pictures of jewelery or collectible merchandise. These devices diffuse the light and allow the details and proper colors to shine.
  • Do remember that eBay requires the images must be at least 500 pixels on the longest side. Adjust your camera so you get the largest representaion of your item.
  • Do take several acceptable versions of your image. You can choose the best ones later for your listing.
  • Do take a close-up or two of detailed areas in macro mode that you want buyers to see (in addition to wide shots of the entire item) if your item relies on detail.
  • Do make sure that the items are clean. Cellophane on boxes can get nasty-looking, clothing can get linty, and all merchandise can get dirt smudges. Not only will your items photograph better if they’re clean, they’ll sell better, too.
  • Do make sure that you focus the camera; nothing is worse than a blurry picture. If your camera is a fixed-focus model (it can’t be adjusted), get only as close as the manufacturer recommends. Automatic-focus cameras measure the distance and change the lens setting as needed. But just because a camera has an autofocus feature doesn’t mean that pictures automatically come out crisp and clear.