Saturday, July 18, 2015

On the Horizon: Advertising on Instagram

With a community of 300 million and growing, Instagram is one of the world’s largest social platforms. To date, Instagram has remained fairly advertisement free. When Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012, they slowly rolled out select ads from widely known brands, but advertising for small/medium businesses has been unavailable. Recently, Instagram announced it will open up advertising to businesses of all sizes.
Citing statistics from 475 measured campaigns, Instagram’s ad recall from sponsored posts was 2.9x higher than Nielsen’s norm for online advertising. With stats like these, online marketers will be flocking to Instagram Ads to see what kind of results they can achieve for their brand.
How can you ensure success with Instagram ads? Like any marketing medium, you’ll need to do your research to make sure you are hitting the right target. If your target market is not widely represented on Instagram, this may not be the platform for your business at this time. However, if you are targeting one of the millions of sub-cultures represented on Instagram, then following the tips below will help make sure your dollars are being well spent on Instagram Ads.
  1. Understand why people use Instagram – Instagram is a photo and short video (15 seconds) sharing platform. With Instagram, you snap a photo or video with your phone, then choose a filter to change the image (if desired), add a caption, location, tag friends, then share with your followers. Instagram does support the use of hashtags for easy keyword searching. It is important to note that Instagram is a very visual platform. Users expect to see creatively filtered photos or videos that tell a story.

  2. Set a goal – Understand that Facebook and Instagram have vastly different users and experiences on each platform. So while you may be seeking click-throughs with a Facebook ad, you may be looking for a follow with an app download on Instagram. Create a goal based on who your Instagram demographic will be.

  3. Create images that tell a story – Your Instagram ad will not be effective if the use of imagery is poor. Text can be used, but it can’t be as text heavy as a Facebook ad or AdWords campaign. Because the platform is so visual, your ad should be authentic to your brand and convey a message through captivating imagery.

  4. Use captions with questions and #hashtags – Asking a question in the caption will help engage your followers. Keep it short so people can easily see what kind of information you are looking for. Also use hashtags to help people find your brand or products/services when they are searching for people and companies to follow.
As with any form of advertising, your goal should be to get the user to act. Whether it is to pick up the phone, visit your website or make an online sale, getting the user to act should be your primary goal. With an image based ad on Instagram, use your photograph to interrupt the user from their everyday stream of friends. The short text on the image can be used to engage them and give them an offer or a reason to click through or follow you. Then the caption can be used to help them find more information on what it is you are promoting. Even a short, image based advertisement, can be effective if created correctly. Need help starting an Instagram ad campaign? Give us a call. We can help.

50 + 2 Improperly Used Words in Writing

Using the wrong words in business communications can be more than just embarrassing, it can damage your credibility and could even be a cause for rejection of your proposal. The way we speak and the way we communicate in the written word, are frequently different. Below you’ll find 52 frequently misused and abused words in business writing. You are likely aware of most of these, but some may surprise you.
accept, except
accept – (verb) To agree with, take in, receive. Example: We accept your proposal.
except – (preposition) Apart from. Example: All committee members are present except for Ms. Brown.

acute, chronic

acute – (adjective) Sharp, intense, critical. Example: The company has an acute shortage of skilled workers right now.
chronic – (adjective) Constant, habitual, long lasting. Example: She is unable to work because of a chronic illness.

adverse, averse

adverse – (adjective) Unfavorable, opposing one’s interest. Example: They found themselves in adverse circumstances.
averse – (adjective) Antipathy, repugnance, having the feeling of being opposed. Example: She is not averse to increasing her workload.

affect, effect

affect – (verb) To influence something. Example: How will that affect the bottom line?
effect – (noun) The result of. (verb) to cause something to be. Example: Her speech had the effect of motivating listeners.

allusion, illusion

allusion – (noun) A casual reference or mention of something. Example: Was that an allusion to Hemingway?
illusion – (noun) Something that gives a false picture of reality. Example: He believes democracy is an illusion.

all right, alright

all right – Fine, OK. Example: It’s all right to leave early.
alright – Incorrect spelling, but often shows up in informal writing.

apprise, appraise

apprise – (verb) Give notice to. Example: Please apprise me of the situation.
appraise – (verb) Determine the worth of something. Example: The ring was appraised before we purchased it.

assure, ensure, insure

assure – (verb) To state with confidence, pledge or promise. Example: I assure you the check is in the mail.
ensure – (verb) To make certain. Example: Following the instructions ensures you won’t get hurt.
insure – (verb) To purchase insurance. Example: Insure the package before you mail it.

beside, besides

beside – (preposition) At the side of, next to, near. Example: Take a seat beside me.
besides – (adverb) Furthermore, in addition to. Example: Besides, several of us will be out of town next week.

compliment, complement

compliment – (verb) To give praise. Example: I complimented Steve on his speech.
complement – (verb) To complete something or match it well. Example: Her skills complement the needs of our department.

continual, continuous

continual – (adjective) Often repeated, very frequent – but occasionally interrupted. Example: They’ve received continual complaints.
continuous – (adjective) Uninterrupted. Example: We couldn’t hear over his continuous talking.

disburse, disperse

disburse – (verb) To pay, distribute, scatter. Example: They disbursed name tags to everyone attending the meeting.
disperse – (verb) To drive off, spread widely, cause to vanish. Example: The throng of fans dispersed into the stands.

farther, further

farther – (adverb) At or to a greater distance. Example: We are located farther down the highway.
further – (adverb) More or additional -- but not related to distance. Example: We need to have further discussion on that.

fewer, less

fewer – (adjective) Of a small number, only used with countable items. Example: He made fewer mistakes than last time.
less – (adjective or adverb) To a smaller extent, amount or degree -- used with quantities that cannot be individually counted. Example: If they made less noise, we could concentrate.

imply, infer

imply – (verb) To suggest. Example: What are you implying by that accusation?
infer – (verb) To deduce from evidence. Example: From the look on your face, I can infer you’re not happy with the decision.

its, it’s

its – (pronoun) Possessive form of “it.” Example: The machine has lost its ability to scan documents.
it’s – Contraction of “it is.” Example: It’s not a question of right or wrong.

lose, loose

lose – (verb) Fail to win, misplace. Example: Did you lose your file?
loose – (adjective) Free from anything that restrains. Example: Since losing weight, his clothes seem loose.

of, have

of – (preposition) Frequently confused with “have” since “could’ve” is pronounced “could of.” But “of” cannot be used as a verb.
have – (verb) Proper verb form for “could have,” “should have” and “would have.”

principal, principle

principal – (noun) Person who has controlling authority. (adjective) Something essential or important. Example: Let’s talk about the principal reason we’re meeting today.
principle – (noun) Basic truth, policy or action. Example: It’s important to stick to our principles.

regardless, irregardless

regardless – (adjective or adverb) In spite of. Example: We are leaving, regardless of whether you’re ready.
irregardless – This is not a word. (Yes, you may find it in your dictionary, but you’re only embarrassing yourself if you use it.)

than, then

than – (preposition) In contrast to. Example: I’d rather speak face-to-face than communicate by e-mail.
then – (adverb) Next. Example: We met for dinner, then went to a movie.

their, there, they’re

their – (pronoun) Belonging to them. Example: Where is their car?
there – (adverb) In a place. Example: Let’s visit there.
they’re – Contraction of “they are.” Example: They’re not leaving without saying good-bye, are they?

Who, whom

Who – (pronoun) Use ‘who’ when referring to the subject of a sentence. Example: “Who loves you?
Whom – (pronoun) Use ‘whom’ when referring to the object of a sentence. Example: “Whom do I love?

whose, who’s

whose – (pronoun) Possessive case of “who” or “which.” Example: Whose keys are these?
who’s – Contraction of “who is.” Example: Who’s going to the game after work?

your, you’re

your – (pronoun) Belonging to you. Example: Your briefcase is over there.
you’re – Contraction of “you are.” Example: You’re not going to believe this.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Writing Ethically in the Digital Age

In today’s workplace, effective promotional writing is now a necessity. Companies and organizations now have a need to write content for websites, blog posts, press releases and social media in addition to brochures, product sheets and visual aids like PowerPoint presentations and posters.

A common way to begin a writing task is to search the Internet for ideas and to see what others have written on a topic. While this helps stimulate your thinking and expand your knowledge, it also can lead to questionable writing practices such as borrowing heavily from a source without citing it, paraphrasing that remains very close to the original, unconscious plagiarism and even copyright infringement.

We all freely copy things we like and send them to others, use them on our social network sites or add them to our presentations and reports. Ethical writing does not prevent the use of other’s ideas and words, but it does require that the source be cited and fully credited whether the source is paraphrased, summarized or directly quoted.

Questionable writing practices 

Most of the time, questionable writing practices are not the result of the writer intentionally trying to pass off another’s idea or work as his own. Rather, it is a failure to give credit where it is due – to cite the source using commonly accepted citation methods. Here are a few examples of questionable writing practices:

  • Patchwriting. This is defined as “paraphrasing the source’s language too closely”. The writer deletes words or phrases from the source, substitutes synonyms and adds new phrases yet follows the structure of the source. Patchwriting is a misuse of sources, but is not plagiarism because it does not rise to the level of theft. Rather, writers lapse into patchwriting when they don’t fully understand what the source is saying. Patchwriting becomes a way for the writer to learn the material by putting it in their own words.
  • Misuse of sources. Ethical writers do not give the impression that another’s ideas or words are their own by failing to cite sources. Instead, they use appropriate forms of citation such as quotation marks and indented paragraphs to fully identify and credit their sources.

    The Online Writing Lab (OWL) of Purdue University says a writer must “document any words, ideas, or other productions that originate somewhere outside of you” including words or ideas from printed publications or materials; information gained through interviewing or conversing; when using someone else’s exact words or a unique phrase; when reprinting graphics (diagrams, illustrations, charts, pictures, etc.); or when reusing or reposting digital information.

    If something is generally accepted as fact, is easy to find by looking in general reference sources, or is already known to readers, that information is considered common knowledge and does not require a citation.
  • Unconscious plagiarism. Sometimes called cryptomnesia, unconscious plagiarism is a function of the quirk in our memories. According to memory expert Henry Roediger from Washington University in St. Louis, it’s easier to remember information than to remember the source, and to remember information without knowing we’re remembering it.


Plagiarism is the act of appropriating another writer’s ideas or words and using them as one’s own original work. As the Internet has provided easy access to written material, the incidence of plagiarism has risen. In academia and journalism, plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics.

Acts of plagiarism can violate copyright laws, except for fair use, which allows use of copyrighted material for specific purposes such as parody or satire. Writers can avoid charges of plagiarism by correctly and fully citing the source of the material.


Copyright is legal protection for writers on how their original works are used. To qualify for copyright protection, the work must be tangible (i.e., exist in physical form) and original (i.e., independently created by the author).

Copyright exists from the moment a work is created and available in tangible form. In the United States, copyright extends for a fixed number of years after the creation or publication date, then expires at year-end (i.e., December 31).

All copyrights for works published before 1923 have expired and the works are now in the public domain. Works published between 1923 and 1964 are in the public domain unless the copyright was renewed. Works published before 1978 without including the word copyright or the copyright symbol © and the name of the copyright owner are in the public domain.

Copyright law was written into the Constitution of the United States in 1887. The doctrine of fair use is an important limitation on the rights of the copyright owners. It was established in 1976 in recognition that strict application of copyright law would impede the production and distribution of works to the public. The rationale is that the public will benefit if there are uses for copyrighted material that do not constitute copyright infringement.

The importance of ethical writing 

Ethical writing means properly crediting the sources from which information is gathered, avoiding outright theft of the work of another, and abiding by copyright laws. Be aware of the trick of the human memory that leads to cryptomnesia. When conducting research on a topic, make notes and study them, then put them aside for at least 30 minutes before starting your own writing. Do not refer to your notes while writing; use them only to check what you have written to be sure you did not plagiarize.

Pictures, Drawings and Clip Art

Images, including photographs, clip art, drawings, graphics – are usually copyright-protected. Determining the copyright owner for photographs can be difficult. In general, the photographer is considered the owner even if the work was for hire (such as photographs of a wedding or other event). And the copyright endures even if the photographer is no longer living – rights can be transferred by a will as personal property. The photographer must specifically transfer the copyright, in writing and signed, to another person.

Stock photography and clip art sold in books, on CDs or downloadable from websites is royalty-free (or may be in the public domain) but usually is not copyright-free. Exercise care when using the images. By reading the agreement or license that accompanies the image or is available on the website, you’ll understand what your rights are for reproduction of the image and whether there are limitations on use. The most common limitation is for incorporating the image into something you intend to offer for sale.

Visual Plagiarism

Paul Wallen, senior designer at ESPN magazine, discussed the concept of visual plagiarism in a post from the Society for News Design. Wallen used the term design plagiarism to describe the process by which designers gain inspiration by looking at the work of other designers, study the details to learn new techniques, and think about how the other designers concepts might be applied in a different way.

Wallen informally surveyed 50 artists, designers and art directors to ask their opinion on visual plagiarism. He asked several questions, including whether the respondent believed in visual plagiarism, whether recreating the work of others was a valid learning tool, and how one distinguishes between inspiration and copying. The responses were mixed on whether visual plagiarism exists. There was a clear consensus that recreating the work of another is a valid learning tool. The most common answer to distinguishing between inspiration and copying was whether there was intent to deceive.

Q&A: Does copyright law apply to and protect names and titles?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, you can’t register names, titles, short phrases or expressions. Here are some things that the Copyright Office won’t register:

  • Names of products or services 
  • Names of businesses, organizations, or groups (including performing groups) 
  • Pseudonyms of individuals, pen names and stage names
  • Titles of works
  • Catchwords and catchphrases
  • Mottoes, slogans or short advertising expressions
Only “original works of authorship” can have copyright protection, which means the work must contain a minimum amount of original material. Names, titles and other short phrases do not meet the minimum requirement. However, some brand names, trade names, slogans and phrases may be protected by trademark laws and registered through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

In Your Own Words

Many people know that plagiarism is stealing someone else’s writing and passing it off as their own, but don’t understand the specifics. Others understand the concept, but do it anyway. In fact, many well-known writers have been discovered plagiarizing and it has cost them their job and their reputation.

The fast paced lives we lead where there isn’t enough time to research and write, and the easy availability of information on the web, have contributed to this widespread problem. You can avoid plagiarism and improve the quality of your writing by doing three simple things. First, allow sufficient time for writing. Second, do not refer to references when writing. Write in your own words. Third, never use copy and paste while writing. It’s just too easy to pass someone else’s work off as your own.