We've been featured! Senior Style Guide

Tulsa Senior Portrait Session: Featured PHotographer Brenda Dalton

Pop the champagne: We’ve been featured! As a Tulsa senior photographer, it’s an honor to be featured in the national senior photography website, Senior Style Guide.

You can have a peek at our spring senior session with Jade in the Tulsa Arts District over on their website by clicking here. It was a gorgeous, bright and colorful session that reflected Jade’s vibrant personality.

Check the feature out here! And don’t forget we’re now booking 2020 seniors for portrait sessions in the Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Sand Springs, Owasso and Sapulpa areas. Click here to learn more about our custom senior sessions.

Mommy + Me Session: Garden Tea Party

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Y’ALL. I cannot begin to tell you just how crazy I am about this mama and daughter duo. Sweet Hazel and her mom, Cara, booked a spring mommy + me session and boy, did they come prepared! Macarons, precious little plates from auntie and even brought grandma along for the fun!

There is something so special about capturing photographs of mothers and daughters: Their love shines right through with every frame and it’s truly heartwarming to be able to witness how they interact together in their element. A little detail that gave me the heart eyes was the sweetest locket Hazel wears no matter where she goes with a photo of her mom inside!

Miss Hazel was full-on ready to shine during their session - as long as we avoided the cacti! - and you could see the joy in her mom’s eyes every single moment along the way. I absolutely loved the fact that Cara tries to do a photo session yearly to capture herself and her daughter. Oftentimes, as mamas, we’re the ones taking the photos, rather than getting right in the middle of things. Mommy + Me sessions are the ideal way to make memories together and have them for generations to come.

Check out more from their Mommy + Me session below!

Mommy + Me Session Tulsa
Mommy + Me Session Tulsa
Mommy + Me Session Tulsa
Mommy + Me Session Tulsa
Mommy + Me Session Tulsa
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Mommy + Me Session Tulsa
Mommy + Me Session Tulsa
Mommy + Me Session Tulsa
Mommy + Me Session Tulsa
Mommy + Me Session: Tulsa Oklahoma Photography

Branding Portraits: Lula Gray Salon

 
 

If there was a salon that summed up the personality of its owner and staff, Lula Gray Salon is definitely it with its gorgeous pinks, cozy atmosphere and the sweetest ladies around.

It was an honor to capture portraits of owner Celeste’s staff for their one year anniversary this spring. Celeste does everything in her power to make her clients feel like family - you’ll be greeted with a tea or coffee (or a champagne, you never know!) and with every visit, you’ll walk out feeling like a new person. Lula Gray is a one stop shop for everything beauty and gifts: It features a cute little boutique with gifts for everyone on your list for every occasion, a precious spa area for facials and massage and of course, everything you need to keep your mane gorgeous and healthy.

Check out the sweet faces and their beautiful salon below!

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Senior Portrait Session: Jade | Tulsa Arts District

Jade’s Senior Portrait Session in the Tulsa Arts District

It’s not every day that I shoot a senior session… that includes a proposal!! Okay, it wasn’t a real proposal, but to a passerby, high school senior, Jade, looked so gorgeous during her session the was willing to ask her to marry him!

These are the kind of things during sessions that I L-O-V-E: the spontaneity, the genuine joy of this season of life, the buzzy excitement of what the future holds. It’s totally contagious! And exciting! And just all around incredible.

Miss Jade was no exception to this: She was all smiles, all smolders - she was working the smize, guys! - and an absolute joy to trek around the Tulsa Arts District with during her senior session last week.

Tulsa Senior Portrait Photographer - Brenda Dalton

Jade is this total bubbly, sweet and artistic teen and I am SO excited I got to meet her! She’s currently a high school senior in Bartlesville and is planning to make the move to Tulsa in the fall to study sign language. How amazing is that?

You’ll see in her photos her humble confidence (oh yeah, it’s a thing - a beautiful thing!) and also, take a look at her 100% sassy shoes. Talk about a pop of color! And big props to Jade for walking so far on some questionably stable surfaces so we could get these gorgeous images. I know I couldn’t do that!

Tulsa Senior Portrait Photographer - Brenda Dalton
Tulsa Senior Portrait Photographer - Brenda Dalton
Tulsa Senior Portrait Photographer - Brenda Dalton
Tulsa Senior Portrait Photographer - Brenda Dalton
Tulsa Senior Portrait Photographer - Brenda Dalton
Tulsa Senior Portrait Photographer - Brenda Dalton
Tulsa Senior Portrait Photographer - Brenda Dalton
Tulsa Senior Portrait Photographer - Brenda Dalton
Tulsa Senior Portrait Photographer - Brenda Dalton

Now booking 2020 seniors in Tulsa, Sand Springs, Mannford and all over eastern Oklahoma!

Now that it’s spring, it’s high school senior session time! Seniors are my absolute favorite to photograph, so let’s get you in front of my lens. It’s never too early to book your session. In fact, I encourage booking during the summer where you have your choice of session dates!

And it’s not too late for you 2019 seniors: There are a few more spots left in April and early May for 2019!

Click here to get in touch about your session!

G's First Birthday Smash Cake Portrait Session

First birthday portrait sessions are probably one of my FAVORITE things to photograph: Smash cakes, cute babies, fun decor, cute babies… Oh, did I mention cute babies?!

G’s first birthday session was no different, celebrating his first birthday with a colorful, confetti-filled photoshoot to go along with his colorful bear birthday party theme.

Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer
Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer
Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer

As a photographer, it’s absolutely key to go with the flow. This little nugget had to have a little snuggle break between typical portraits and the smash cake session. But hey, if I didn’t know there was cake coming, I probably would want to take a nap, too!

Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer

Smash cake portrait sessions are always a blast, plus you never know which direction they’ll go when it comes to the cake! Some kiddos are shy about breaking into the cake; however, others go full-force without hesitation.

G on the other hand, was a happy medium. He started out picking a few little sprinkles off the top, then a little icing, then full on handfuls of colorful, confetti-filled cake once he realized 1) it was allowed and 2) it was DELICIOUS!

Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer
Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer
Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer
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Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer
Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer
Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer
Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer
Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer
Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer
Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer

And once we were finished, he jumped from dad’s arms for a second round! Way too adorable.

Tulsa Oklahoma Smash Cake Photographer


Happy birthday, G! May it be filled with lots of sweets and new adventures!


Brenda Dalton PHotography - Tulsa Oklahoma Portrait Photographer

Brenda Dalton is a Tulsa-based portrait photographer capturing images with heart for families, high school seniors, couples and children. To book your session with Brenda, click here or send an email!

 

Giveaway! Free Mini Session for Tulsa-area Seniors!

Giveaway alert! In celebration of the relaunch of Brenda Dalton Photography, we’re giving away a FREE senior portrait session to THREE deserving Tulsa-area seniors! Know someone who is a 2019 or 2020 senior in Sand Springs, Berryhill, Mannford, Owasso, Broken Arrow or other surrounding areas? Make their day by nominating them for a free portrait session on our Facebook page!

 
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Giveaway details

WHAT: A high school senior portrait session and $50 print credit (The Mini Experience at a $450 value!). Learn more about our senior sessions here!

WHO can enter: Anyone who knows a deserving 2020 senior (or is one!)

WHEN and WHERE: Must be available for their session in the Tulsa area in March 2019

HOW: Like Brenda Dalton Photography on Facebook and tag one person in our giveaway post who would l-o-v-e to win a free senior photo session. Gain additional entries for each person you tag in this post. Get an extra entry for following us on Instagram, too!

Winners will be announced SUNDAY, FEB. 24 at 8 P.M. on Facebook, so keep an eye out!


Additional details:

Giveaway is not endorsed, sponsored or affiliated with Facebook or Instagram in any way. Void where prohibited. Prize cannot be redeemed for cash.

Winners will receive a custom mini portrait session to be redeemed during the month of March 2019 and must meet on-location for session within the Tulsa metro area. Location will be decided between Brenda Dalton Photography and winner.

Winners must sign a contract and model release. Winners images may be used in Brenda Dalton Photography marketing material and portfolio online and in print.

6 Things You Must Do Before Emailing Your Subscribers

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer! These are simple tips to protect your blog or business in the world of digital marketing. If you have additional questions, touch base with a lawyer specializing in your niche to help protect you and your business.

Some of the links on the blog are affiliate links. This means I may receive a small commission - at no charge to you! -if you click on a link and make a purchase. These affiliate links help us keep things running!


 
6 Things You Must Do Before Emailing Subscribers - 835 Creative
 

 

Did you know there are laws regarding how you should manage your email list for your blog, organization or website? Before you start sending emails to your list (or if you already have!), be sure to review the highlights of what you can and can't do with your email subscribers.

Why is the CAN-SPAM Act important?

The CAN-SPAM Act was passed in 2003 and helps protect consumers (or in this case, email recipients) from spammers. You're probably thinking, "But I'm not a spammer!" I know. Me neither.

You can accidentally step into dangerous territory in the email marketing world without even realizing it, which can lead to some serious ramifications, like having your email address/domain blacklisted. Yikes!

In no fancy words, the CAN-SPAM Act helps keep businesses honest in their marketing practices and helps keep your inbox sparkly clean.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when emailing your subscribers, whether you have 5 email subscribers or 500,000:

Always get permission to email your subscribers

If you have a subscribe box or landing page (thanks, ConvertKit!) on your website or social media, your subscribers have opted-in, or given permission, for you to send them emails. This is the safest way to add subscribers to your list.

By having several places on your website where people can opt-in to your email list, you're allowing them the option - and opportunity! - to invite you into their inbox.

That being said, there are a few ways to add subscribers to your email list when they don't subscribe directly through your website.

If you'd like to add subscribers manually to your email list, you can ask them directly via email for permission, send them a survey about your services and add an opt-in checkbox at the bottom encouraging them to sign up for your mailing list or in the case of businesses that are at trade shows at events, have a sign-up sheet where people can add their email.

Here are some ways you cannot add people to your subscriber list:

  • Add people who email you for any reason
  • Add prospective clients who use your website's contact form
  • Add clients who have not formally opted-in
  • Add people who have commented on your blog or website
  • Add people who interact with you on social media
  • Use email harvesting or bots to gain subscribers

Keep your subject lines honest

It's 2017 and you're using the internet, so you're probably familiar with the term clickbait. More and more social platforms and news outlets are cracking down on the use of clickbait, where the title of an article encourages you to click on the website, but the website is either irrelevant or lacks the information it promised in its title.

No clickbait in your emails. Don't title an email "This is the best deal ever created!" and then only offer 10% off your services or products. Make sure that the title of your email is directly relevant to what's inside.

That's not to say you can't have fun creating clever, click-worthy titles to your emails. They just have to be relevant. If not, you could 1) be flagged as spam and/or 2) get a hefty fine.  

Keep your "From" lines honest, too!

By law, you're required to be honest in who your emails are being "sent" from. That means you can't place Justin Bieber's name in the from line of your emails, unless of course, you work in the Biebs' marketing department, sending emails out to his mailing list.

Here are a few examples of what you can place in your subject lines:

  • Your organization's name (or any abbreviation)
  • Your name (First only or first and last or first, last and business name)
  • The name of a current employee of your business or organization
    • As long as it is relevant to the email and the employee approves it

Add a mailing address to your emails

This rule is probably the most broken... but don't do it! You must have a mailing address in your emails. In fact, some email marketing platforms won't let you send a single email until you've filled out your address. While you can add your home address, it is highly discouraged for obvious safety reasons.

Pro tip for online business owners: Sign up for a mailbox at a local UPS Store or a PO Box at your local post office. You can buy the smallest and/or cheapest option and ta-da! You have a business mailing address.

If you take advantage of a coworking space, many offer a mail service, which allows you to receive mail from that location and use the coworking space's address as your email marketing contact address.

Place an unsubscribe link in every email

If you're using a credible email marketing platform, an unsubscribe button or link is something that cannot be edited or removed from the emails you send. If not, make sure you're placing a link for your subscribers to easily opt-out of your emails.

Depending on your email marketing platform, you can also link to a page that allows subscribers to choose how often they receive your emails, as well. 

The unsubscribe link must be placed at the bottom of every email and cannot be concealed so it's difficult for your subscribers to find. I personally moved from MailChimp to ConvertKit about a year and a half ago and I've been incredibly thrilled with it since day one! Click here to sign up for ConvertKit.

Remove unsubscribers from your list within 10 days

If you're using an email marketing platform, this is most likely on autopilot and you don't have to worry. Websites like MailChimp, Constant Contact and ConvertKit take care of unsubscribes through the handy link that's at the bottom of the emails you send.

However, if you're sending your marketing emails and have a 'Reply to' email address, sometimes you'll get an email from someone asking to remove them from their mailing list. No matter how many clients, big or small, I've had, it still happens. You'll need to make sure they've been removed from your mailing list, stat! Okay, not 'stat,' but within ten days, max.


What are some of your biggest email marketing struggles? Let me know in the comments below!


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The Best Social Media Management Tools For Online Business Owners

Please note: Some of the services listed below are affiliate links. By clicking on the links, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you, which helps keep the blog running!


 
The Best Social Media Tools for Online Business Owners
 

The Best Social Media Tools for Online Business Owners

Tailwind for Pinterest

Do you wonder how online business owners are able to post dozens of useful, engaging content on Pinterest on a regular basis? No, they don't spend hours upon hours browsing specific keywords and repinning everything that comes across their feed. They use Tailwind.

Tailwind has completely changed how I use Pinterest.

You can easily choose how often you'd like to post to Pinterest and Tailwind will create a schedule based on the most popular times people are online. Bonus: This changes every day of the week and Tailwind adjusts the schedule accordingly.

 
 


For instance, I prefer to post 15-25 times per day. So for my audience, Tailwind schedules NO morning pins for several days of the week - like Mondays, when people are most likely to be catching up on work - and splits up the morning, afternoon and evening pins on other days of the week. They're constantly updating their algorithms, so it is always automatically varying when your content is posting daily and weekly based on what works best for your audience.

Another cool thing about Tailwind is its ability to easily share content. You can download the Tailwind extension for Chrome and if you're on a blog that you'd like to pin, rather than copying the URL, uploading a photo, or logging into Pinterest, you just click the Tailwind button on your toolbar, choose the board you want it to appear on and boom, scheduled.

Another favorite of mine is the ability to visit boards or profiles on Pinterest, clicking the Tailwind's extension button and a window will pop up to allow you to click and choose multiple pins on a board or profile to schedule at once. While I don't recommend pinning/scheduling more than 3-4 pins from a person's profile or board at a time, it's a great resource if you see several pins at once you'd like to add to your queue.

You can also discover new content through Tailwind as well. They're always showing recommendations that similar to content you've already posted if you use the Chrome extension; however, you can visit the drafts folder and if you have no content in your drafts folder, you'll find tons of suggestions that are similar to things you've already pinned. 

What if you've already pinned something? Tailwind takes care of that, too. There will be a little notification if you attempt to pin something that has already appeared on your board. You can choose to pick another board or keep moving with scheduling the pin to the board again.

They have several plans based on the size of your business, how often you'd like to pin and what analytics you'd like access to. Personally, I use the Plus account for myself and clients. It offers up to 400 pins to be scheduled per month, seven days of analytics that far exceed Pinterest's native analytics, plus the ability to submit your content and website to be featured (and more than likely, it will be approved).

Also, their customer service is by far the best of any online service I've used for my business. They're quick to reply to messages and emails and if there are ever any issues or questions, they're typically on it within an hour or two.

They offer a free account, but it is limited to 100 scheduled pins total - with no time limit. After you've scheduled 100 pins, your trial is complete.

Click here to receive a $15 credit toward your first month of Tailwind, plus a free trial for your first 100 pins. Pssst - it's only $15 a month, so you'll receive your first month of a Plus account for free!

Buffer for Twitter

I've tried many, many different schedulers for Twitter. Some free-but-very-limited, some used-to-be-free (cough, cough, Hootsuite) and some that are budget-busters. Even after I had tried Buffer's free version and paid version and jumped around to a few other platforms to "see what's out there," I always came crawling back to the ease of Buffer for scheduling and publishing content for Twitter. In my opinion and after almost a year of use, it is the most easy-to-use, comprehensive scheduling tool for anyone who may not have a full-on love relationship with Twitter OR anyone who feels overwhelmed when trying to find dozens of pieces of content every week for their online business. 

Like Tailwind's scheduling tool, Buffer offers a similar solution: Tell them how many times per day you'd like to post and they'll choose the best times based on your audience. Buffer's works a little differently than Tailwind's and it's for the better: You can choose how many times per day of the week you'd like to post. This works wonderfully, especially for those who prefer to keep their content light on weekends or certain days of the week.

I'm a visual person, so Buffer's calendar view is heavenly for me. If every social media scheduler could do this, I would be SO happy. I can easily see how many posts, what content is scheduled and a quick hover to see the full post in one place. You can also view your scheduled content weekly or with the list view, showing your upcoming Tweets in chronological order. I'm the biggest fan of the calendar view.

 
Buffer for Twitter - Perfect for Online Business Owners
 
Top Post Screenshot from Buffer for Twitter

I can also click on older posts and "Re-Buffer," meaning schedule it again for a future time and date. This is an especially great feature paired with Buffer's featuring of your Top Tweets, signified by a lovely little star. This is presented when your Tweets perform above average in terms of likes, retweets or replies and make it easy for you to repurpose your most popular (and engaging!) content. Yay for social media hacks!

Buffer's Content Inbox makes it suuuuuper easy for me to find content to fill in the blanks on Twitter, especially since compared to other platforms where you may post only 1-5x a day like Facebook and Instagram, Twitter's daily quota may be much higher! For the Content Inbox, you submit the sites and blogs that you prefer to source your content from and it produces a handy little RSS feed of everyone's most recent content. Click on the content and ta-da! You have a ready-to-go Tweet that just needs to be scheduled.

Much like Tailwind, Buffer also offers an simple Chrome Extension where you can click a simple button on your toolbar and instantly schedule content and add it to your queue to be published.

Buffer offers scheduling for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest; however, I've found that for me, it works best for scheduling Twitter for my clients. I recommend not using it for Facebook due to Facebook "punishing" outside publishers. You've probably seen studies that either confirm or deny the hit posts can take in reach and engagements when a non-Facebook publisher is used. Me? I can definitely confirm that. Case study is coming soon!

Buffer's free version has a limit of 10 scheduled Tweets at one time and only allows one account per platform - a bit of a bummer if you have more than one client other than yourself. However! Buffer's Awesome Plan is a much better deal than Hootsuite's new lowest plan (yep, Hootsuite now has MAJOR limits on its "free" accounts) at $10/month.

The Awesome Plan allows up to 10 social accounts on any mix of their offered platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest with a max of 100 posts in your queue at any one time per social account. The Awesome Plan allows access to the RSS feed (Content Inbox) and calendar view, which isn't available on the free plan - and those by themselves are worth it!

Buffer used to be a better deal with a higher max of posts, but as the competition and demand rise in social media management solutions... so do the prices, as we've seen across the board in the last few months. 

Buffer is still the best bang for your buck for easy social media scheduling - and I'm even saying that without there even being an affiliate or referral program! That's just how awesome Buffer is. 

Canva

Sure, you have all of your tools to schedule content... but how are you going to create the content? With such visual social media platforms, it's hard to get noticed without branded, eye-catching graphics! Here's where Canva comes in. 

Whether you have never even heard of Photoshop or InDesign or you have a degree in design but no budget for professional tools, Canva has you covered.

You can created branded, custom graphics - complete with your logo - for free with Canva. They make it easy to customize graphics to your heart's desire... or you can work with the dozens (or more) of templates designed to make it quick and easy to create graphics for all social platforms. Yes, even Pinterest templates at the ideal size!

 
Canva Templates for Social Media
 

I typically create several Canva templates for my graphic design and social media clients - it helps them save money on a on-demand graphic designer and gives them the skills to design! I highly recommend creating a few templates of your own to match your brand identity, whether you create them from scratch or start with a pre-made template.

How do you save something as a template in the free plan? When you're working on a graphic, before you make any changes to your template, click File > Make a copy. A new window will open and the new graphic will be called "Copy of [Whatever you originally named it]." You can then work away and save it as a new image and your template will remain the same!

Canva's free plan is incredibly comprehensive; however they offer FREE Canva for Work plans to registered non-profits. How cool is that? If you plan on using Canva on a regular basis, it's also worth the $10-13 per month to access the ability to save your brand colors and fonts, resize a design for use on all social platforms, an advanced way to save templates, upload your own fonts, transparent backgrounds (great for .png files!), more folders and an advanced search.

Facebook Publishing Tools

No, it's not pretty, flashy or premium, but Facebook's native scheduler with analytics is powerful. If you're relying on Facebook to share major information about your online business or blog, stick with Facebook over a scheduler. Why? Well, if you manage a Facebook Page (not a personal profile) you're probably aware of all of the changes in algorithms and the "pay to play" changes that have occurred over the years. 

While some haven't seen it happen to them, time after time, I've seen my clients' posts get minimal reach and engagement when using an outside scheduler, which means that essentially, Facebook is rewarding those who stay on their platform. Hey, I don't blame 'em.

It was a huge leap in technology when Facebook announced the ability to schedule posts in 2013. It has come leaps and bounds since then, especially with the ability to upload videos to your video library, create drafts of posts, set expirations for posts and share your content ahead of time with other Pages (great for collaboration and marketing campaigns!).

Facebook's native Insights continue to be the most powerful, easy-to-use and translate analytics for the platform. Sure, it's lacking aspects of audiences and how they interact with posts, but for the small business owner, it's great information that's easy to track and see progress. 

Honorable Mentions


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Quiz: Should you hire a professional designer for your brand?

 
Quiz: Should I hire a professional designer to brand or create a logo for my blog or business?
 

Are you ready to hire a professional designer for your logo or visual brand?

 

Plus, read the tips below if you're on the fence on one of the most important investments for your blog or business. 

 

Do you have a business name?

Before you can have a graphic designer create a logo for your blog or business, you must have a business name. It's difficult - read: impossible - to create a logo of any type without the letters that make up your brand name. Make sure you've done the research on other companies with the same or similar names, make sure the website and social media handles are all available as well!

Is your blog or business set up legally?

Laws vary by state, but in some states, if you make more than $400 in one year from your business or hobby, you'll need to legally register your business, trademark your business name and get set up to pay quarterly taxes. Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer or tax professional, so be sure to work with a licensed professional for advice on getting your business set up!

Are your services defined?

Let's say you selling engraved wedding invitations on Etsy, but a friend asked you to make her a website, so you decided to do it for the first time. Then you received a random email that asked if you create tutus for children, so you went for it, too. Maybe you decided to start walking dogs as a little extra money on the side. 

It's important to develop a solid foundation for your business before branding it visually. Would you go into a store and let a sales associate dress you without telling them a bit about your personality, comfort level and style? After all, a super feminine personality and style might not fit too well in black leather and skull motifs, am I right?

Unfortunately, you can't brand all of those services and products under one umbrella. You'll need to focus on a defined set of services or products before hiring a designer to create a logo or full brand. That's not to say you won't eventually create an engraving, website design, tutu, dog walking media empire under one umbrella business, but... start small and focused and brand each service or product category separately.

Who is your target audience or client?

This goes hand-in-hand with defined services. While it is possible to market to everyone, everywhere, even massive brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi have a defined target market. Ever notice how their commercials always seem so... hip? Yes, even with a little controversy. It's not by some mistake! It's branding.

Consider professional programs, like business coaching, before hiring a designer for your brand. Working with a business coach can help you narrow down your ideal client or customer, set the basics of a marketing plan and give you the next steps of making it legal before you formally hire a designer to develop a visual brand or rebrand for your business.

Are you ready to invest?

Ah, this one can be a big one as to whether or not someone hires a professional designer. Always know that you get what you pay for with a designer. A $5 (or even $100!) logo may not be original or research done specifically for your business, audience and services or products. A smart guideline to follow when considering hiring a professional graphic designer for your brand is 10-20% of your annual business income for the year. Keep in mind this isn't every year! A great designer will create a brand that will last several years.

Why is it worth it to invest in a professional? A good brand identity designer will walk you through the process to help narrow down your audience and services. Most designers worth their weight are knowledgeable on basic marketing and branding principles and can help guide you in the right direction for your brand.

A great designer will also often do everything they can to learn about your business before starting the design process, whether that's through a detailed questionnaire, coffee chat or Skype sessions. Each designer works differently, but come prepared with questions on their design process, timeline and portfolio when interviewing designers.

But how much do graphic designers typically cost?

A comprehensive brand identity design or rebrand can start at $1000 if you work with less experienced designers for a full package including a logo, mood board and collateral items like social media graphics, brand style guide, blog graphics, business cards and more.

Larger agencies can charge upwards of $10-20,000 or more; however, this price range reflects established, large-market companies or national brands.

By working with a small design agency with several years of experience, you can expect to pay between $1,500-$5,000 for a complete brand identity design.

What if you're not "ready"?

Hey, there's not a thing wrong with that - we all started somewhere, pal! There are lots of options if you aren't quite ready - legally, financially or business plan-wise.

Here are a few more ways to start branding your business, DIY-style:

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How to Avoid Instagram's Shadow Ban

 
How to avoid Instagram's Shadow Ban, shadowban, shadowbanning. Avoid the shadowban and grow your Instagram!
 

instagram has made some big changes

You've probably been wondering why you've seen a major drop in your engagement on one of the most popular social media platforms, Instagram. It's not just you - it's everyone! Instagram has implementing a few... ahem, changes regarding how people can find and view your content on the app and it's hurting everyone from small bloggers to big businesses.

On average, most accounts have seen a drop in engagement from 30-70%. What does that mean? Less likes, reach, comments, video views and a big kick in the confidence of social media managers and users everywhere - ha!

The good news is it's happening everywhere. The bad news is this is one of the biggest changes - and challenges - to a social media platform's algorithms in quite a while. But don't fret! There are ways to minimize the impact. Let's talk about 'em.  

What exactly IS a shadowban?

Depending on the social media platform, the definition of a shadowban varies. It's been around for quite a while (over ten years!), but has only jumped into the spotlight with the extreme measures seen on our favorite image-sharing platform. It began as a way for a platform to "soft" ban a post, image or user temporarily as a way to cut down on abusive or spam-like content.

Typically, if you've been shadowbanned, you won't know it or be alerted by the platform or app, and your content will not be publicly found in searches under certain keywords or hashtags.

With Instagram's shadowban, your content may not show up under certain hashtags by people who do not follow you. This is a big deal. Why? People use hashtags to be found by new audiences!

This varies from post-to-post. If you've been shadowbanned, the likelihood of ALL of your posts not showing up in search is very, incredibly slim. If you use a hashtag Instagram finds to be frequently used by abusive or spam accounts, your post will be penalized (shadowbanned) and will not show up in the "Top Posts" or anywhere within any of the hashtags you used for that post.

All around, Instagram is placing priority on natural (and let's be honest: paid) engagement, especially with business accounts and is discouraging a reliance on using hashtags and automated services to reach your key audience.

Instagram's response to shadowban

How to avoid a shadowban on your account

first, Check if you've been banned

While at this time, there isn't a way to directly check individual hashtags, a sweet little site called the Instagram Shadowban Tester makes it easier to find out if you've been banned and how narrow down the likelihood of using banned hashtags in the future.

Type in your username to see if your most recent post has been shadowbanned or copy and paste the URLs of any of your posts to see if they're showing up in the public hashtag search option.

If any (even one!) hashtag has been zeroed in by Instagram for a shadowban, your image won't show up in the public searched for any of the hashtags you've used in that post.

If you use the same hashtags for every post, it may be difficult to narrow down how you've been banned. We'll talk more about how to use hashtags wisely down below!

Avoid using apps & bots 

As a convenience factor, many Instagram users sought the help from outside apps to boost engagement, whether it was by using apps or paid services to automatically follow accounts within their niche or ideal customer avatar or automatically liking/commenting on posts within a targeted hashtag or set of hashtags.

In 2017, that's not an okay practice, according to Instagram, no matter how ethically you use these apps and programs. To avoid being placed within the crosshairs of Instagram's TOS and avoid the risk of being shadowbanned or banned completely, pull your subscriptions from any apps that post, comment, follow or like on your behalf. Consider pulling any apps you've used in the past to track your followers, too!

Instagram has a limit to how active you can be within an hour as well:

Instagram suggests you don't exceed more than:

  • liking 120 posts per hour
  • following 60 accounts per hour
  • commenting 12-20 times per hour
  • 5 @ mentions per post

And do not follow a user, then unfollow once they follow you back! One, as a way to gain new followers, it's pretty shady. Two, Instagram's gonna find ya and ban ya.

however!

There have been lots of questions about whether Instagram schedulers are part of this risk of being banned. As of May 2017, there is no issue with schedulers that do not automatically post like Planoly, Buffer and Later.

Schedulers that simply send you a push notification as a reminder to post, then copy the caption and image to Instagram are a-okay for now. The ones that post FOR you - without a push notification that guides you into the app to post - are getting banned left and right each day.

Use hashtags carefully

Watch out when using popular hashtags or those that are borderline abusive or spammy, such as those that are used to primarily gain likes and followers, super popular topics or hashtags that encourage a "like for like" or "follow for follow" engagement.  

Don't exceed more than 20-30 hashtags in your captions or comments. More than 30 hashtags in a caption or comment will have that content automatically banned and put your account at risk of being 100% banned.

Sometimes even innocent hashtags can fall victim to a ban if it suddenly becomes compromised with spam or abusive posts. Yep, even your #supermom, #halloween or #foodiefriday posts could suddenly be banned.

Check out this list of hashtags from The Data Pack that have been or are currently banned on Instagram - warning, some hashtags on the link may be offensive and/or nsfw! After all, they're banned.

Switch up your strategy

You may have notes or autofills to help you with pasting your hashtags in your posts depending on subject... And you may want to rethink it.

Try varying the number of hashtags you use per post. Using a number of popular hashtags for your niche? Break them up into two categories, varying which ones you use for each post. Post 3-5 hashtags for one post and 10-15 for the next.

Post 1-3 times per day, varying the times you post during the day. It's enough to get you seen in searches and your followers' feeds, but not enough to alert Instagram of any TOS-breaking actions. Most strategists recommend no more than 5 posts a day - more than that in 2017 and you're at risk of being flagged to be banned.

How to remove a shadowban

There isn't too much you can do to remove a shadowban from your content; however, if you know which hashtag Instagram has banned, you can remove the offending hashtags from your captions/comments and within a few hours to a day, your content should be searchable once again.

If you find you've been shadowbanned, remove the hashtag(s) that's caused the ban, take a break from Instagram: Log out for a few days before diving back in again. Slow how often you're engaging with content if you're on Instagram for several hours every day. Essentially, you're giving Instagram's algorithms a chance to realize you're a person, not a bot.  

All-in-all, the best way to remove a shadowban is to follow the above tips to avoid a shadowban in the first place! It's a chicken-or-the-egg approach, but by keeping an eye on the most recent trends and how your account is appear in searches, you'll start to see your engagement increase once again.

Has your content been shadowbanned on Instagram? Know of any other techniques to help with engagement in the "shadowban age"? Comment below and talk to us!

 

 

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