Don’t allow photography in your store? It might be costing you sales

“I’m sorry ma’am, we don’t allow photos,” called a clerk to me while I was visiting a local artist shop in Chicago. I smiled and put my camera phone away. This isn’t the first time that I’ve been stopped from taking photographs in stores and it won’t be the last. It happens most often to me with shops with unique, local artisan items, and I can understand why. They don’t want people taking photos so they can copy their ideas. But what they don’t realize is, they might be saving themselves from copycats, but they are also losing sales.

What the clerk above didn’t realize in the above example is that I was trying to make a sale for him; I was taking a photo because the sculpture would have fit perfectly in my friend’s home and I was sending him a photograph to see if he would like me to pick it up for him. In fact, most of the time I take a photograph in a store, it’s to ask someone else if they’d like me to purchase the item for them.

Two reasons people take photos in stores:

Taking photos allows them to buy things for others

It used to be that people would call friends or family when they saw something that the other might like and then the friend or family member would make the trip to see it. The younger generations found a way to skip the trip (unless it’s necessary), by taking photographs and offering to purchase and transport items for them.

Taking photos helps them to share your products

The other way the younger generations are using photographs is to show their friends and family cool new projects and/or let their friends know about cool promotions. Check out this Facebook post by one of my friends below. Do you think Starbucks is upset that she took and posted this photo?

Starbucks sandwich sign free drink

So, if you have a “no photos” policy, I’m not saying you have to get rid of it. But weigh that decision carefully. Is it worth missed sales to protect your items? What is the likelihood of copycats?

Are Big Companies Engaging On Social Media The Way They Should Be?

Today, Likeable Media published an article I wrote titled, “Are Big Companies Engaging On Social Media The Way They Should Be?” on their blog. Click on the link and check it out!


Questions to ask before posting to social media


I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with social media, but after taking a 40-day Lent hiatus from Facebook, I came back with a new perspective. During that time, I had time to reflect on how I was using the tool and what I wanted to do differently. From that came the 5 question test.

A .jpg of 5 rules for "before I post to social media


1. Who will benefit from this post?

If you can’t think of a single person on your friends list that will legitimately gain a benefit from your post, don’t post it.

Benefits could include:

  • Making someone laugh.
  • Inspiring someone.
  • Encouraging thought and positive and meaningful dialogue.
  • Giving a far-away family member or friend joy by giving them a glimpse of what is going on in your life.
  • Giving someone support.


2. Is this post attention-seeking on my part?

This is a big one and is heavily related to the other question, “Who will benefit from this post?”.  If you can’t think of a single person your post will benefit, other than you, it’s probably an attention-seeking post.


Attention-seeking posts can take several forms:

  • Seeking-out praise/encouragement.  Example: “Here’s my project, isn’t it awesome?”
  • Self-pitying. Examples: “Feeling sad today :-(“ or “I can’t believe I’m sick again” or “Why does this always happen to me?”
  • Photos. Photos deserve their own attention under this category. Posting a nice photo of you as your profile pic is great, changing it often to seek praise on new photos is not. Similarly, selfies, photos with friends, etc. that serve no purpose other than to seek comments, favorites, or likes are attention-seeking.


3, Will anyone be harmed by this post?

Our posts can cause harm, whether we mean them to or not. For this one, you have to think beyond your immediate friends and think of friends of friends, who might see your post when it is liked, shared, or commented on.  You also have to think about self-harm.


Ways your posts could harm include:

  • Posting pictures and making someone feel bad that they weren’t included in something.
  • Posting negative or hatred posts, such as unfounded criticisms of political figures. This one not only spreads negativity (which harms others) but also harms you by harming your relationships with your friends.
  • Posting disturbing images or text.
  • Posting information that someone else might not want shared, such as announcing a friend’s pregnancy before they get a chance to or travel plans (more on this below).


4, Did I ask everyone’s permission to tag them?

Some may argue with me on this one, but I think it’s important. Some people don’t like to be tagged. A good rule of thumb is to ask the person, “ May I tag/mention you?” prior to tagging them.


Examples of how this could go awry:

  • Law enforcement experts, time and time again, have said not to post to social media if you are away on a trip. When I’m traveling, I will never post anything prior or during the trip that indicates that I’m away from home. I realize others may not feel as strongly about this as I do, but some do, so you should always ask.
  • Although they shouldn’t do this, a friend may have turned-down other plans with a white lie or called-in sick to work to spend time with you. It could be disastrous if you tag them in a photo or with details of something you are doing with them.


5, Am I avoiding a conversation that needs to happen?

Often, I see or hear about people posting things to social media that can be categorized as passive-aggressive and an avoidance of a conversation that needs to happen.  If you find yourself tempted to do this, stop, and have the conversation instead.



  • Having just went through a bad break-up, you have the urge to post updates about how happy you are or post a higher-than-usual amount of photos with people of the opposite sex in order to make your ex jealous.
  • “Oh! Those flowers you got are so pretty! I wish someone would give me flowers.”
  • “I wish certain people would learn how to not talk crap behind other people’s backs!!!”


What would you personally add to this list? Is there anything you would take out? 

Social media isn’t free advertising

I regularly run into small business owners that want to do social media because it’s free advertising. In some ways, the statement that social media is free advertising is free is true, but, in reality, it isn’t.


Effectively using social media for your business requires strategy

Effectively using social media for your business requires careful planning and strategy. Often, people create a Facebook page or a Twitter account for their business without putting much thought into it. Although you may gain some “likes” or “followers” that way, it’s not the most effective way to build your brand and sell your product or service on there. In order for your social media strategy to turn into a brand-building/selling advertising tool for you, you’ve got to create an effective strategy behind it


There are a  lot of great books and online articles on how to do this, the top one I recommend is The New Rules of Marketing & PR



I’ve yet to see an effective social media strategy that doesn’t require careful planning and writing/designing posts and monitoring and responding/interacting in a timely manner. It is a conversation, after all, and how would you feel if you walked up to a customer service counter and had to wait there a week for a response?


Effectively planning, designing, writing, monitoring and interacting on social media takes more time than most people think and that’s where you find the “cost” of social media. Places like Facebook and Twitter may be free marketing and advertising tools, but time=money and, to utilize these tools right, you’re going to spend a lot of time working on them.


My advice

My advice to be effective but not have social media eat up all your time is to start with one platform, research and develop an effective strategy, and implement it.  After that is running well and you have a good feel for the amount of time it takes to maintain and continually improve it, move on to one or two more platforms.

Marketing music via the Internet, an ongoing evolution

My friend and I spent our Friday evening this past week at a Straight No Chaser concert in Houston, TX.  Their performance opened with a video of how to enjoy the concert. During that video, they made a point, at least twice, to encourage people to take photos and videos of the performance and post them online (tagging, hashtagging, etc. them of course).  Then, during the performance, they took photos of the crowd and asked us to go on their Facebook page and tag ourselves They explained that they had a limited marketing budget and social media was an effective way to get their message out.

Considering that the popularity of Straight No Chaser began when one of their members posted a video of them on YouTube and it went viral (see video above), it’s not shocking that this group has embraced social media and the online world as they have, but it is quite unusual.  Over the years, I’ve watched with great interest as the music world struggles to find the perfect balance with the online world. As it stands now, most musicians seem to tolerate online videos and photos of their concerts and some will even ask you to tweet your experience using a hashtag. But Straight No Chaser has taken it a step further by asking fans to actively post videos of their performances online.

Do I think it’s a good idea? Yes. People go to the concerts for the experience and to hear the music live. No video is going to overcome that thirst for the experience.  But is it good for all musicians? I’d say yes, but would love to hear your thoughts.

On another note, I chose NOT to take photos and videos during the concert because I wanted to just sit back and enjoy the experience. For more on my thoughts about this, read: Put down the camera and enjoy the moment.

Lessons from the NCMPR community college marketing conference

This week, I was at the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR) professionals for community colleges conference in Chicago, IL. Below are some of the main take-aways for me:

– If you can’t be number one in your market, redefine the conversation to give yourself an advantage. For example, McDonalds is number one in the fast food market, but Subway launched into the number two spot by arguing that fast food can, indeed, be healthy.

– When building new locations/buildings or renovating spaces, include environmental branding elements (wall murals, architectural elements, vending machines, etc.). Work with the build team from the beginning to incorporate these elements into the design.

– If people have a need to design marketing pieces in programs such as Publisher and Word, consider creating branded templates in these programs.

– Like the powerful poverty simulation workshops, is there some simulation you can do to get a better understanding of what your customer’s experience?

– “Advertising is paid for, public relations is prayed for.” – Dominic Calabrese

– According to a panel of five non-traditional students, the best way to position community college education is as a “career tune-up.”

– Utilize, to a greater extent, opportunities where parents are bringing their children to campus to also talk with the parents about education for them.

– Not responding to a social media post is like hanging up on [your customer] in front of a baseball stadium full of people. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media. He also emphasized that responding to positive social media posts is just as important as responding to negative posts.

– Engage with high school influences via social media, such as the football captain or the class president. They are most likely to pass your message along. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media.

– Use social media to “surprise and delight” your customers. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media.

– Social media is like a cocktail party. Not all of your conversations are going to be perfect as they aren’t in real life, so if you have a typo, don’t worry too much about it. Just keep going. Similarly, you can’t start off meeting someone at a cocktail party by trying to sell them right away. Develop the relationship. – Dave Kerpen, Likeable Media.

– I work in one of the best fields in the world with some of the most amazing people I can think of. For those of you I saw at the conference, it was a delight. I hope to see you again soon.

Twitter, a good marketing tool?

I know I’m picking a fight on this one, but Twitter may not be the best marketing tool for your business or organization. I know this might strike you as odd. After all, you hear about Twitter everywhere and you see the Twitter logo everywhere, but here are my main arguments as to why Twitter might not be for your business or organization:

  • As of December 8, 2010, only 8% of the population was on Twitter.  For rural areas, including the one I live in, the actual percentage is much smaller.
  • In addition, Twitter has a large number of accounts, but not a large number of active users.
  • Twitter may not cost you anything when you are considering only actual dollars in advertising spending, but it does cost you in time. My general rule of thumb is that you should be updating Twitter 4-5 times per day. But, honestly, I fall short of this rule a lot because I simply don’t have the time to devote to updating Twitter plus doing other things I need to do. So, you need to ask yourself, do you really have the time to devote to this medium?

So think of it this way, what if your marketing manager came to you asking you to allow him or her to spend 30-60 minutes of their 8 hour day each day on a marketing program that would reach less than 8% of your market and in a program that very few of those users are actively engaged with? Would you say yes?

Twitter everywhere!

Undeniably, the average person hears about Twitter a lot.  But here’s my theory on why:

From my experience, the top four types of people/organizations that use Twitter are:

  • The media
  • Celebrities
  • Public relations/marketing professionals
  • Politicians

In comparison, in my opinion, the top four types of people/organizations that influence what we see/hear about are:

  • The media
  • Celebrities
  • Public relations/marketing professionals
  • Politicians

So, in following that rationale, doesn’t it make sense that, even though the actual number of people in the US that use Twitter is small the average person hears about it quite often since the people who influence our media the most are those that use it?

A good marketing tool?

So is Twitter a good marketing tool for your business or organization? Maybe and maybe not. What it really depends on is who you are trying to reach. Many businesses, such as food trucks in urban settings, have been very successful using Twitter to promote themselves. However, other businesses may not have that luck. My advice would be to critically look at your target market and their media habits. If you are targeting a group that, in large numbers, is actively using Twitter, then it may be worth using as a marketing tool. However, if your target markets aren’t using Twitter, then you might be much better off spending your time (which is money) someplace else.