The 5 Best Budget Conscious Instagram Photo-editing Apps

Did you know that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual? Thus, it comes as no surprise that Instagram has become the app to beat in terms of affordability and engagement.

Instagram currently has over 300 million users with 75 million of those users logging on daily. It can be a wonderful resource for small business marketing. In fact, about half of Instagram users follow a business on the platform, and 65% say they use the app to learn more about the products.

In order to increase engagement, you not only have to post images, but also captivate your audience with the images you post. You don’t need a fancy camera and expensive software in order to do this. Simply grab your smartphone, download an app, and you’re ready to create beautiful images for your business in minutes.

New to smartphone photography? Before trying your hand at different apps, take a look at our Smartphone Photography 101 blog and go from there.

If you haven’t already, you’re going to want to jump on the Instagram bandwagon and create engagement without breaking the bank. Here are 5 Instagram photo-editing apps to use for your small business while on a budget.

Let’s start with the free apps

  1. Instasize


One of the biggest problems Instagram users face is the size of the photo not fitting into the app’s requirements. Instagram only allows you to post square size photos, but with Instasize you’ll be able to show off your landscape or portrait photos easily.

This free app allows you to resize your original photo to fit Instagram’s photo requirements without cropping. Once your photo is scaled down to size, there will be blank space around it. With this app you can fill in that space with different colors, boarders, or frames. These are provided on the app, or you can download your own.

Instasize primarily focuses on photo resizing, but it also includes fun features like creating collages or adding filters, text, stickers, or effects to your photo.

Once you’ve made your photo post worthy, you will have the option to save to your camera roll for later or directly upload into Instagram as well as a variety of other social-media apps.

While Instasize is a free app, some special features are only available with payment.

  1. Pic Stitch


Pic stitch is a collage-making app that can take your collage to the next level. There are hundreds of layouts to choose from and you can feature photos on your collage in different sizes. There’s even an option to create your own layout by choosing specific dimensions.

You can edit the individual photos inside the layout too. Adjust the color, size, and boarders of each photo with just the touch of a button.

Once you’re finished, Pic Stitch creates the finished collage in the square size so that it’s ready for Instagram! If you fell in love with your collage, Pic Stitch offers the ability to order prints at your nearest Walgreens.

Feel like you’ve mastered Pic Stitch and want more collage options? Pic Frame is the upgraded version of Pic Stitch offering the same features, plus more for the low cost of 99 cents.

  1. Repost


Repost app for Instagram can create engagement by sharing content from other businesses or showing customer appreciation. This app will allow you to repost any Instagram photo or video from another user, while still giving credit to the user who originally posted it. What a great way to curate content or showcase your customers if they took a photo of your business or product.

Repost offers a premium edition of the app that removes the mark that credits the original user. However, for customer service reasons, we recommend keeping the mark so your customers know you value their support.

  1. Flipgram


Flipgram utilizes your photos, video clips, and music to create a captivating video. You can select photos and video from your camera roll to use or upload them from Facebook or Instagram. This app allows you to add music, adjust timing, and add filters or text to your video easily.

Flipgram sizes your video to fit Instagram perfectly, but still gives you the option to upload it to Facebook or Twitter too.

An app that costs, but won’t break your budget

  1. Over


This last app does cost, but not enough to empty your wallet. Over’s main focus is to enhance your photo by adding beautiful artwork and unique fonts to your photo for the low cost of $3.99. There are hundreds of fonts to choose from but if you still can’t find the perfect one, Over allows you to upload more making the possibilities endless.

We find Over even more helpful for business purposes because you can add your own logo and branding to photos. Adding your business name or social media handle to every photo is an excellent way to brand your content.

We challenge you!

The number of photo editing apps is astounding, but these are just a few of my personal favorites that we believe will boom your business.

Now it’s time for you to try your hand at a photo- editing app. Our challenge to you is to capture a photo on your smartphone, use any editing app of your choice to enhance the photo, and then tag us (Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement) on Facebook in the comments. Make sure and mention what photo-editing app you used in your caption or comment.

One week from today (August 24th) we will announce one winner with the best enhanced photo. They will receive a FREE 30- minute social-media consultation with our team at the Center. Good luck!

DIY: Creating a Facebook Messenger Chatbot

Is it common for your customers to message you via Facebook with basic questions, comments or complaints? Customers expect a lightning fast response to their questions, but it can be hard to have your social media account open 24/7.

Now, this is almost possible with Facebook Messenger’s new feature, Chatbots. This feature provides a way to automate your most common customer interactions and deliver the right answer the moment the customer asks.

Chatbot building used to require coding knowledge, but luckily that is no longer the case. There are several different places to build chatbots, but the two that are used the most with Facebook Messenger are Chatfuel and Both are free, simple to use and require no coding.

I decided to use Chatfuel for this guide because it was super easy and will excel for beginners or small businesses wanting to try their hand at chatbot building because of its simple features.

In this blog, you will learn how to set up Facebook Messenger Chatbots and how it can be beneficial to your small business.

 Building a Chatbot

It is fairly simple to build a chatbot. In fact, with this process, you can get it done in about 10 minutes (depending on the depth you go into of course). This step-by-step tutorial will give you all the information you need to successfully answer customers through automated responses.

Step 1: Connect your Facebook account to the Chatfuel chatbot builder

Luckily, the first step is the easiest step. When starting this step, make sure you are logged into Facebook on the browser you are going to connect to Chatfuel in.

Then select the “get started for free” button on Chatfuel. This button will enable Chatfuel to bring up a Facebook connection page that will allow it to access your information on Facebook. Once you authorize it, you will be taken back to Chatfuel chatbot builder where you will choose which Facebook page you want to connect with.

Step 2: Connect to your Facebook business page

Chatbots can only be used on organization Facebook pages, not individual pages. If you haven’t already done so, create a Facebook page for your business, so that you have a page to tie your chatbot to.

If you have a Facebook page created simply click on it, and you’re on your way to having a chatbot.

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Step 3: Create a welcome message and default answer

A welcome message is the first interaction your customers will have with your chatbot, so make sure it’s excellent.

The welcome message should be a short sentence to introduce your chatbot followed by asking, “How can I help?”

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After creating your welcome, it is important to make a default message. This message will be shown if the customer asks a question that you don’t have AI detection set up for. This could be something along the lines of, “I’m not sure what you are asking. Can one of the options below help you?”

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Remember to link your default message to your navigation items (we will discuss this in the next step).

Step 4: Set up your conversation navigation

Now we will build your conversation navigation. This allows an individual to work with your chatbot.

For example, Mary Smith wants to know directions to and the summer hours of your garden center. Sample questions she might ask are:

  • What is your address?
  • Is it in town or out of town?
  • Will the drive be on paved roads?
  • What are your hours in the summer?

In order to set up conversation navigation, you have to create a “block” for each question. Don’t worry; this is super easy! Click on “add block” and choose a title for your block. For the questions above, you could use titles like address, directions, road conditions and summer hours.

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Step 5: Link your blocks to the main navigation

Now, go back to your welcome message page and click “add button” on the message block. Choose a name for your block. This is what your customer will see when selecting what option they want to learn about. Then click on which block you want it to link the customer to for their answer.

However, you don’t always have to link it to a block. The other two options are URL or phone call.

  • URL: Insert a URL that the customer can click on that will take them outside of Facebook Messenger and to a different page. This can be very useful if you want to show the customer something specific you already have online. For example, you could insert a link to a printable map with the location of your garden center.
  • Phone call: Enter what phone number you want your customer to have access to in order to get their questions answered. This will allow the user to have the phone number directly pop- up and call you.

Step 6: Adding your chatbot dialogue

This is the step where you can create the content that is shown when a customer asks a specific question. Click on the block on the left, and it will bring up the block without content. Choose a block type from these different options:

  • Text card: This is the most common block on Chatfuel because it is just text. This is great for quick answers, so type whatever the answer is to that question.
  • Gallery: This allows you to add pictures to better explain your answer. If you customer asks the chatbot, “Can I see some pictures?” it will bring up whatever gallery it has on that topic.

In addition to the pictures, you can add a heading, subtitles, descriptions or URL for the picture.

  • Image: This is another simple block like text card and slightly differs from gallery. Upload an image to your image block and when prompted in the conversation the chatbot will show that image.
  • Quick reply: Building this option into a block allows you to show a reply instead of taking the customer to a new card. This makes it seem like your customer is chatting with a real person instead of a chatbot.
  • Plugin: This option opens your chatbot a whole new level of opportunities. With plugin, you can intergrade other programs to work with your chatbot. For instance, you could link your chatbot with IFTTT, a powerful automation tool that links to a large amount online services like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Chatfuel and many more, and when your customer asks, “Can I see examples of your products?” your chatbot will take them to your Instagram pictures of your items that you used #newproduct for.

Step 7: Creating your artificial intelligence

Once you’ve added all of the content you want into your blocks, on the left side click on “Set up AI”. This step requires a bunch of brainstorming on your part. Think of as many possible questions your customers could ask your chatbot as possible and then add the correct answers. The answers can be direct text you come up with or link back to one of the blocks you have already created.

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There are two different parts to this step:

  • Phrases to watch for: These are different words or phrases you want the chatbot to specifically be on the lookout for.
  • Content to display: After the chatbot has found what words or phrases you were wanting it to watch for, it will bring the specific content that goes along with it. There will be a drop down menu that will give you the options of “text” or “block”. A text you add the new, direct text to and a block will take you back to one you’ve already created.

Step 8: Launch your chatbot… Finally!

I lied when I said the first step was the easiest because honestly, Chatfuel makes the last step way too simple.

Chatfuel is a master at launching your chabot because as you’ve been creating your perfect chatbot, it has been saving everything along the way. This means you don’t have to do anything except promote your new chatbot on your own page and/or website.

On the left side menu, click “Promote” and copy the URL in and share it everywhere.

Building your own chatbot isn’t so scary!

Now that you’ve created your own chatbot, hopefully in record time, your customers will never be left hanging. You will have the perfect automated responses ready to go and boost your business with great customer service through social media.

Still unsure of Facebook Messenger chatbots? Check out the infographic below! It lists the 4 ways chatbots will improve your small business.

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5 Ways to Promote your Farmers Market Booth Online

Across the United States in 1994, there were only 1,755 known farmers markets. Fast-forward to 2012 and that number rapidly increases to 7,865. The large growth of farmers markets not only proves that they are thriving, but consumers also want to see more of them.

Word-of-mouth is a great tool when promoting your farmers market booth, but it can only take you so far. Your local customers know and trust you, but what about the consumer who has no idea you exist? Adding new-media technology to promote your farmers market booth can boost your business and reach a new demographic that was not possible before!

Take a look at the following ideas to connect your social-media marketing with your offline business at farmers markets.

Go Live

Go Live

With new features on Facebook and Instagram, it’s simple to go live and give customers an authentic look into your business. Live video feed has become very popular after Facebook launched Facebook Live, a live video streaming service that lets anyone broadcast from their mobile devices or computers straight to their Facebook Newsfeed on April 6, 2016. This recent development gives virtually anyone the chance to capture followers’ attention via video live from your home or office and potentially reach millions of people all around the world who are completely new to your page.

Pro-Tip: Living in the moment is what Facebook Live is all about and to no surprise, it creates more 3 times the engagement that normal video posts do. New to Facebook Live? Check out our previous blog, Your Guide to Going Live- Tips and tricks to using Facebook Live.

Utilize Stories

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If you’re not completely comfortable going Live yet, try your hand at micro-storytelling. Stories allow you to share disappearing photos publicly, with your followers, or to an individual friend. This gives you a chance to show your customers an inside look into your business and showcase what makes you special. The brand pictured above showcases how you can utilize the Farmers Market hashtag and promote customers sending in their own photos.

Pro-Tip: Luckily, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook all have incorporated this feature. To decide which app is right for you, take a look at last week’s blog for details: A Guide to which ‘Story’ is Right for You.

Spread the Word

Team up with official pages

Whether it’s your first farmers market or your booth is no stranger to the scene, start showing everyone you’re ready for business. Facebook and Twitter are two great sources to re-share community events or advertisements for your next farmers market stop. Team up with the official farmers market Facebook page to promote your booth.

Pro-tip: Offer a discount to any customer who mentions the online promotion you previously posted. Not only will this promote your business but drive online views.

Use Text Messaging or E-mail

Speaking of promotions mentioned at check-out, try your hand at text message or email offers and updates too. A quick sale notification or location update is all it can take to encourage customers to come see your booth.

Make Mobile Payments a Possibility and Create Customer System

In order to send text message updates or let your customer know about social media accounts for your business, you have to get their information. Using your iPad or cell phone makes this simple. The possibilities are endless!

Set up your iPad on display so customers can sign up for your e-mail or texting list on the spot. This is also a place you can showcase your social media accounts and entice them to follow you.

Since you already have your iPad or mobile device out and ready, why not turn it into your cash register too? Square and PayPal let you accept mobile payments.

Pro-Tip: The Square Register for iPad allows you to have item level reports. This means you can know how much you sell of each item at your farmers market.

Take on your next Farmers Market Booth!

The food business is a tough business that requires lots of word of mouth marketing, but there is no better way to generate traffic than combining this with social media.

Once you’ve convinced your socially- savvy customers to help you promote your business by sharing about your products, the community will know about you in no time. Are you ready to make your booth the most popular booth in town?

Already have ideas on what new-media you are going to incorporate to showcase your farmers market booth? Tell us – what has been successful for you?!

A Guide to which ‘Story’ is Right for You

First was Snapchat, Instagram followed and finally, Facebook joined in. Each platform of social media has been taken over by micro-storytelling.

Snapchat’s defining feature is its disappearing photos that can be shared publicly, with your followers, or to an individual friend through stories. Instagram jumped on the trend in August 2016 and released its own version of stories. This allowed users to share photos and videos in a slideshow format that disappear after 24 hours. Last but certainly not least, Facebook made their own copycat of stories in their Messenger Day feature and then again with Newsfeed Stories.

So what’s the big difference between Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and Facebook Messenger Day/Newsfeed Stories and which one will work best for your own business?

This guide will provide the differences for each platform and the information to help you choose which is the best fit for your business.

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The Similarities

Before we dive into the differences, you should know the similarities of each platform. The three different platforms have some overlapping features for stories, including:

  • Images and videos that disappear
  • Only available to create in the mobile app version of the platform
  • The ability to see the number of views and who viewers are on your content while it’s live
  • The choice to send the photos or videos privately, publicly, or to your followers
  • The option to enhance images with text, emojis, filters, and on-screen drawing

Basically, all of the platforms mimic each other and can be used the same, but most importantly, they create urgency to your followers while giving them a less formal, inside look into your business.

The Differences

While each platform works the same and has a similar goal in mind for using stories, there are little differences that set each apart. Let’s take a look at what makes each platform unique.

Snapchat Features

Since this platform was the founder of stories, it has a loyal base of followers and an authentic feel.

The most distinctive advantage for Snapchat is geofilters, special overlays for Snapchats that can only be accessed in certain locations. Simply put, they are pretty graphics that dress up a Snapchat and are very similar to digital stickers, except they are actually built into the program. This feature is exclusive to Snapchat and is a fun way for users to advertise for your business.


Instagram Features

In terms of affordability and engagement, Instagram is the platform to beat. Instagram features an “explore” section, where your stories can be showcased to other users who do not follow you yet (this would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars on Snapchat). This is the fastest and easiest way to create new followers and promote your business. If you need a refresher on Instagram Stories, check out our previous blog ‘Storytelling Goes to the ‘Gram‘.

Another feature is Instagram Story Ads, which you have to pay for but if are used effectively can be very efficient. Ads showcased in stories allows your business to target them directly to the people you want to reach.

Stories on Instagram are located above all other content at the top of the feed.

Pro tip: Personally, I tend to check out people’s stories before scrolling through regular posts and think this is extremely beneficial to reaching your followers.


Facebook Features

Facebook Newsfeed Stories and Messenger Day features work the same, but one is located above the users’ Newsfeed, similar to Instagram, and the other is published in the Messenger app.

Facebook stories can do all of the basic features that other platforms can, but unfortunately, has one limitation. Pages on Facebook do not have access to Stories on Newsfeeds or Messenger Day. Only personal profile users can use this feature.

Yes, this is a major roadblock, but Newsfeed Stories and Messenger Day can still be useful for your business. If you have numerous friends on your personal Facebook account that are loyal or even potential customers, use your personal page to draw attention to your business content.


You’ll never know until you try!

Each platform has its advantages and disadvantages, but it’s up to you to decide which fits your business and will make you successful! Take a look at where your most followers are and what type of content targets your customers best.

With that being said, stick to what works best for you. For example, if your customers are loyal Snapchat users, keep it up. If you customers are also Facebook friends, Facebook’s stories will give you the upper- hand against competitors.

Once you’ve decided, show your customers an inside look into your business and showcase what makes you special. Tell us — Do you have any go to content for your stories?



5 Tips for New-Media Time Management

Time management with new-media marketing is challenging. Like many of you, planning time to create and manage content is only a small part of my work responsibilities. Most of us got into the work we now do because we love it–it calls to us and we can’t stop thinking about it. Learning to heed that call in a way that allows us to continue doing the work and share it is an art.

Each of us has our own particular challenges when it comes to social media. For me, there has always been an element of “Fear of Missing Out.” Succumbing to that means I’ve spent what feels like endless amounts of time scrolling through feeds. My top two strengths (Gallup StrengthsQuest) are “Relator” and “Learner.” I like…I mean really like…keeping up with what others are doing (whether or in person or online) and learning about things that interest me. I often struggle to call it quits with “enough” information. As an academic, this is both a blessing and a curse. It’s good to be thorough for a refereed journal article, not so much when you need to write a short creative piece based on experience. And, I don’t need to know everything going on in everyone else’s lives. If you missed something, they’ll tell you in person and you can go back to find the details if necessary. Life will continue without you knowing absolutely everything. I have to tell myself this quite often.

To combat this particular challenge of mine, here are a few things that have helped me develop a more balanced approach to social media consumption and creation.

  1. Actively practice dipping in and out of social media. Allow yourself to get comfortable not knowing everything that is going on. Be mindful, noticing the times when you are poking around on your phone just because you are bored. Let yourself feel whatever it is that you’re avoiding by looking at your phone. Learn to not fill every waking second with something. Quiet is a gift.
    [Have you ever tried being the only one at the dinner table without a device of some kind? It can get boring, fast. Maybe that’s just our house. Eh hem.]
  2. Limit your content consumption and the resources you manage or provide content. I admit it…I’ve created social media accounts and even website resources that I don’t update regularly. Some of those are fine being static and others are not. Knowing when to archive an account is a skill I’m working on. Knowing which resources to give my limited amount of attention is also a skill (industry magazines, books, research journals, etc.). Content Overload is a real thing! Learning to curate without feeling like you have to know absolutely everything in your industry will bring quality and a unique perspective to your work. Lean on industry newsletters to provide you the highlights (but maybe read them in bulk to spare your focus for bigger projects).
  3. Don’t make it bigger in your head than it really is. Face the task head on instead of procrastinating in favor of a “better” time. It won’t come. Address it now. Address it quickly. For example, this year I’ve set a goal to practice writing quicker and more frequently in this forum. I set a timer for myself today so that I couldn’t languish and procrastinate on this task (It was actually due yesterday. Eh hem.). This will help me combat perfectionism and make content shorter, quicker and more engaging.
  4. Channel that passion. The other day as I was driving home from an Extension meeting during the “golden hour,” the light streaming through the gently waving seed heads of the prairie grasses on the Flinthills was just gorgeous. I got that “deep love” feeling I feel when I visit nurseries, garden centers, and arboretums. Plants and people are my passion. I feel it deep in my soul and I want to capture that and share it. All too often I don’t. Either I’m practicing mindfulness and just enjoying it or I start a thought for a photo caption and get distracted, never returning. I think it’s okay to tell people you need to finish a thought, even if it’s a quick social media post that communicates what you’re doing and narrating your work passion. Audiences will respond positively to you being yourself and sharing the light inside.
  5. Read or listen to outstanding books on self-management that will help you reframe your concept of time. I don’t read many books more than once, but anything written by Laura Vanderkam gets read, re-read, and ruminated on. These include I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, and several others focusing on how “successful” people spend their time. The crux of her work is studying how people actually spend their time, as recorded in time logs. This is a revealing exercise, demonstrating that uncomfortable tasks feel like they take more time than they actually do and showing you how much time you really do have for things you want to spend time on (or how to craft your schedule so you can get more of what you want). I subscribe to her blog and follow along as she talks about work life, family life, goals (and accountability), and proven methods for making all the pieces fit. I also choose to spend some of my attention on reading The Harvard Business Review and Fast Company. These two take me out of my specialty area for a more global look at leadership, business, and trends.

I can’t claim perfection on all of these (nor would I want to), but they’re what has helped me feel more balanced, informed, and productive. Give them a try and report back to share your success and struggles. Remember to keep practicing. Pick yourself up when you fall into old habits and keep trying again and again. The journey is the medicine.

Do you have any tips of the trade that helps you time manage? Share in the comments below!

Your Guide to Going Live- Tips and tricks to using Facebook Live

Using video on social media has been on the rise. Marketers and businesses started making videos and ads years ago to increase engagement and views, but why does it seem like you’re seeing more videos in your Newsfeed now than ever before?

On April 6, 2016, Facebook launched Facebook Live, a live video streaming service that lets anyone broadcast from their mobile devices or computers straight to their Facebook Newsfeed. This recent development gives virtually anyone the chance to capture followers’ attention via video live from your home or office and potentially reach millions of people all around the world.

Living in the moment is what Facebook Live is all about and to no surprise it creates more engagement than normal video.

According to Facebook, users watch Facebook Live videos three times longer than videos that aren’t posted live.

And the best part is: it’s simple to use! It’s a great way to give your current followers a personal connection with you and your business while also reaching a new audience. You can show your followers exclusive content, how to videos, live events, and so much more.

New to video? No problem! Check out our Let’s talk video! blog previously posted to learn some of the basics.

What exactly is Facebook Live Video?

Facebook Live Video is like having a TV camera in your pocket that allows you to broadcast in real- time to your followers’. With so many ads, posts, and noise competing on Facebook, it can seem hard to get your business’s point across. Live Video gives business owners a chance to show off their own personality and really let their brand shine through. It gives a raw, authentic look into your business.

Your audience can comment or react to your video as it as going and as soon as your Live Video is over it is saved to your timeline for other followers’ who were unable to tune in live to watch at a later time.

How to broadcast on Facebook Live Video?

Before you start going live, let’s practice how to get there first. Follow along with this step-by-step guide and open your Facebook app.

Step 1: Go to your Newsfeed and click on the “Live” option.


Step 2: Allow Facebook to access your camera and microphone.

These prompts will go away after your first use.

Step 3: Choose your Privacy Setting.


There are three options when choosing a privacy setting for your video: Public, Friends, and Only Me. If the post is for your business, you may want to make it Public. This allows anyone on Facebook to access your video and gives you the chance to expand your brand. If posting on your personal page, Friends may be the best way to go. This allows only your Facebook friends to access your post. Only Me can be accessed by clicking “More” and scrolling to the bottom. Some users prefer using this option before posting for the first time or to see the video before they use it. Using Only Me will only let you access the video.

Step 4: Write a significant description.


Your broadcast description will show up like a status above your video in your followers’ Newsfeed. Grabbing the audience’s attention is the best way to get more views and reach a large demographic.

Step 5: Tag friends, show your location, or add an activity.


Choose the icons at the bottom of the screen to show what friends are in the video, where you are at, and what you’re are doing. Each of these are completely optional, but add more personalization and information to your post.

Step 6: Choose your camera view.


Before going live, make sure the camera is pointed in the direction you want it to be shot in. Simply click the rotating arrows icon in the right corner of your screen to change the camera view.

Step 7: Add lenses, filters, or writing and drawing to your video.


The wand icon in the right corner of your screen allows you to add several different features to your video such as adding lenses to your face, changing the filter on your camera, and writing or drawing to add illustration to your video.

Step 8: Click the “Go Live” and start broadcasting.


Now you’re ready to go! Once you click the button, Facebook gives a countdown of 3…2…1 and you’re live. Once you are streaming, your video will show up in your personal Newsfeed and others’ Newsfeed too just like a normal post. Live Videos can be up to 90 minutes long.

Step 9: Interact and shout out to viewers and commenters.

To keep your audience engaged, interact with your viewers and commenters by giving them shout outs or encouraging them to ask questions about your video. The more interaction you have on your video the higher the ranking which moves your video up in others’ Newsfeed.

Where will you see the comments? The comments will show up on the bottom of your screen in reverse chronological order.

Step 10: Click “Finish” to end your Live Video.

Step 11: Post your reply and save your video to your camera roll.

Once you are all finished with your first Live Video, a screen will pop up that allows you to post your video showing others who couldn’t tune in to see your video at a later time. This step is completely up to you. If you so choose, you can click the download button and keep your video on your personal device for future reference.

Now that you’ve got it down, here’s our Top 5 Tips to polish your Facebook Live Video.


 Tip #1: Test your equipment

Technical errors can be embarrassing especially since you are live. However, they are easily avoidable by testing everything out before you get started. Check your lighting, ensure your microphone is working properly, and use the Only Me feature on Facebook we previously discussed.

Pro- Tip: Instead of holding your mobile device in your hand while shooting try using a tripod to ensure a steady shot.

Tip #2: It doesn’t have to be perfect

A huge part of Facebook Live Video is to showcase a raw, authentic view of you or your business. In order to show this, don’t focus on perfection or worry about little mistakes. Embrace mishaps that may happen along the way or questions you weren’t anticipating from viewers.

Pro- Tip: This tip is extremely important if millennials are your target audience. In fact, only six percent of this age group trusts traditional advertising.

Tip #3: Schedule a “Go Live” notification

A “Go Live” notification is an easy way to alert followers’ you are broadcasting. This will encourage them to tune- in and engage with your business.

In your video settings, there is a toggle switch that needs to be turned to on to use this feature.

Pro-Tip: Once you’ve turned on this notification, your followers can subscribe to your channel. After they are subscribed they will receive a push notification every time you begin broadcasting.

Tip #4: Reintroduce what you are talking about during your video

Have you ever walked into something late and been completely confused and frustrated with what is going on? Make sure your Facebook Live Video doesn’t feel that way to followers’ who log on a little late. It is important to restate your name, your brand, and what the point of the video is several times depending on how long your video is.

Pro- Tip: Give buffer time at the beginning of your video so that your audience has time to join in.

Tip #5: Repurpose content for future posts

When planning a Facebook Live Video or event, think about how you can reference this in future posts. Does it relate to an old social media post or blog? Tie that into your video as well.

Pro-Tip: Make a social media calendar of events to reference for this purpose. Brainstorm ideas off of old ideas and listen to your followers’ requests for more information on a certain topic.

Go Live!

Now that you’ve read the step-by-step guide and additional tips to making your own Facebook Live Video, it’s your turn to try it and engage with your followers. Show them the personality of your business and why you truly shine above the rest.

Q&A Session with Bling Boutique- Finding What Social Media Techniques Work for Your Business

When walking through a mall, storefront windows with cute outfits or flashy displays can catch customers eyes and draw them in. But what about expanding? Local customers are the best, but reaching a large demographic, outside of your brick-and-mortar location, can boom your business. This is where social media and e-commerce come into play.

At first taking on social media and an e-commerce website for your business can seem overwhelming- maybe even a little scary. According to Sammy Grollmes, Director of Operations for Bling Boutique, you just have to jump right in and figure out what works best for your personal business. Sammy has been with Bling since 2013 and started out as a store manager at their Hays, Kansas location, moved to district manager, and now is in her current position.

Bling has a whopping total of 19 social media accounts between Instagram and Facebook and started an e-commerce site. Recently, I had the chance to chat with Sammy about Bling’s success with social media and the transition to e-commerce.

Bling Logo

CC: When did your business start using social media?
SG: Bling started as a company in 2008 in Nicole’s, the owner of Bling, basement at the Scott City, Kansas location, which I think is so crazy since we have expanded to 8 different locations since then.
When I started in 2013, each store had its own Facebook page. I don’t know the exact time it was but when Instagram and Twitter were starting to take off and I was seeing other retailers starting to use it, I asked Nicole what she thought and if I could try it out in the Hays store which I was managing at the time. She thought it was a great idea and we decided to try it out and post them simultaneously. We found with being a fashion-based retailer, customers were more interested in our pictures, so we learned Twitter wasn’t the best platform for us, but Instagram really took off! We just weren’t seeing the same return of comments or interactions that we did from other platforms and decided to just stick with what was working best for us. We feel like not having Twitter hasn’t affected our social media presence since we are focused mostly on visuals.

CC: How many social media accounts do you run?
SG: That makes for a total of nine Instagram accounts, one for all but one location and @blinghq, the company’s account, and ten Facebook pages, one for each store and a company page. Our first store, Scott City, only has Facebook. Since it is where our company began, we use texting and invitations into the store more than social media because we have several local, repeat customers.

CC: Do you post different content depending on what platform you are using?
SG: We do pretty much the same type of posts on both platforms. I think what varies the most is how the merchandise is presented from store-to-store. For example, all of the stores might receive the same top, but that doesn’t mean they will each post the same picture. Each store styles the top depending on what their demographic likes. At every location, the store manager runs the Instagram and Facebook pages and they really tailor their post to their community and what events are going on.

Bling's Instagram

CC: How do you manage so many accounts?
SG: Store managers keep track of their store’s account. We found this to be so much easier. If we have a customer that comments wanting a certain piece held back for them or asks about a certain size, whoever working in that specific store is the best person to answer that question and in the most time efficient manner.

CC: Do you pre-schedule your posts?
SG: Yes, we sometimes do and specifically when we know we are going to be busier or if we know the person who normally posts is going to be gone. But I do think we are a little bit more of “in the moment” posting than scheduled. As we get freight in or if we have extra time, we like to show off our merchandise and try to get people in the store especially if traffic has slowed down at a random time.

CC: What steps do you take to balance each account?
SG: That’s something we go through during training and set-up our guidelines of what we like posts to look like, how many people a day are supposed to post, and various social media responsibilities. It has taken us years to figure out what works well for us and what doesn’t, so we like to add social media to our employee guidelines.

CC: What are some new social media trends your business has been experimenting with?
SG: I think playing around with some different hashtags has been really fun and something we’ve been integrating recently. It hasn’t been long enough to compare the impact on business yet though.
Another very recent trend we have been enjoying is using Instagram’s stories. It really creates a connection with the customer because it is a little less formal and makes the experience more personal. We have a really good routine for regular posts on Instagram and when we want to send them on to Facebook, but I think what has been really fun about using the Instagram stories is we can show each employee’s personalities and create engagement with the customer.
Another benefit to the Instagram stories is being able to see how many people have looked at it throughout the day and that has really surprised me. We have really been working on becoming consistent with using stories and integrating them with everything that has worked in the past.

Bling's Instagram Story

CC: What do you feel like is the biggest benefit of using social media for your business?
SG: I think the biggest benefit is the community outreach and creating relationships with customers outside of the four walls of your physical business. This is so huge because our stores ship products and we have customers from California to Pennsylvania all because of social media. There are so many different people we’ve been able to reach and form relationships with because they see us on social media. These are people who more than likely will never set foot in our physical locations but because of the power of social media, they have become a frequent shopper with us.

CC: Any advice for small business owners wanting to start using social media?
SG: Just do it! If you go for it and stay true to what your business’s core values are, what you want to showcase and keep it consistent and relevant to your business, you will see results. Just get started and go for it. You’re not going to see huge results within in a week and you’re lucky if you do within a month. Social media is something you have to keep chipping away at and see what is working for your customers. If you keep playing around with it, you’ll find your niche.

CC: What is a lesson you learned along the way of growing your social media accounts that could help others?
SG: Some of the best things that have worked for us with social media are when we went into uncharted territory. Watch other leaders in your industry and what kind of things you see them generating results from. I also like to look for what kind of things are catching my eye when I’m scrolling through my own social media and then asking myself if that is relevant to my business. If so, try to implement that.

CC: When did you start using e-commerce?
SG: We launched our website this year, but two years prior we actually had an online store previously to the site we have now. In our Scott City warehouse, we had a fire and the website had started right before that happened. The online store, warehouse, and physical Scott City store were destroyed in that fire. At the time, what made sense was to keep pushing forward and put e-commerce on hold.

But this January, we had a big planning meeting. During holiday time, we noticed a lot of our customers asking on social media if we had an online store. We took that feedback and realized it was really time to go for e-commerce.

Since launching the website, it has really been a learning experience. We keep going by using trial and error, but I’m really excited to see that area of our business grow.

Bling's E-Commerce Site

CC: Who manages your e-commerce site?
SG: One of our store managers runs her store and oversees the website, so basically that is the store that warehouses the product and monitors the website. We also have interns at that location which they have been extremely helpful with the photos and graphics you see on the website.

But when it comes to buying and inventory flow, that is something that Nicole and I keep our eyes on.

CC: What steps did you take to smoothly transition to using e-commerce?
SG: I think we just went for it. We had a little experience in the past of building the website and creating images we initially had before losing it in the fire. We used what we knew and what works for our business, but now the challenge is figuring out the logistics side of things and making the website user-friendly.

CC: When did you know you were ready to dive into e-commerce?
SG: Before starting anything, we get a good, solid plan in place of how we are going to tackle our new task and do it. As challenges and obstacles arise, we are flexible and redirect as we need to and go from there.

We made sure we had the right people and a plan in place to achieve our goal. It sounds crazy but within about a week and a half we had a website up and ready to go. It’s still a work in progress but we take it step by step. We leap with a plan and go for it!

Your Turn!

After talking to Sammy, I realized Bling’s success came from plenty of attempts and finding out what works best for your own business, and not necessarily someone else’s. Sure, examples are great to start with but really let your brand shine through and stick to your values. But most importantly, go for it!

Check out Bling’s website at for inspiration!

Want to try your hand at Instagram stories, Sammy’s personal favorite new trend? Make sure to be checking back in on our Facebook page/ blog for future posts on Instagram stories.

picture 5

12 Steps to Creating an Online Quiz

Are you looking for a quiz creator that is free, interactive, and will engage your audience? Well, look no more, the Center has done a little research and found the perfect quiz creator. Surprisingly enough it is called, QuizWorks.

For the Center, I made an assessment quiz called ‘Are you ready for E-Commerce’.  We previously had a blog that talked about e-commerce and the benefit of it (read here).

Before you begin making your own quiz, I encourage you to take this assessment to see if you are ready for e-commerce and get a feel for the tool you are about to use! Knock two birds out with one stone!

The the quiz here >>


Once you have looked at our example and are ready to make the plunge to create your own quiz we have you covered.  Here are the steps you should follow to make a great quiz!

Follow these 12 simple steps and you will be ready to publish a quiz of your own.

Step 1. Go to QuizWorks website at

Step 2. Begin making an assessment in two different ways, make an account or begin with making your quiz.

Step 3. The site will prompt you to title your quiz right away, but it doesn’t allow you to pick how your results will be shown. So, instead go up to the top of the page and click “assessments”. This will take you to your dashboard where you can begin. QuizWorks has four options for quizzes and you can choose which suits you and your goal best. Your four choices are a “gamified quiz”, “exam”, an “assessment”, and a “course”. Each of these quizzes have different goals and each explains what its purpose is.


Step 4. Click “New Assessment” and it will prompt you to create a title and then click “New Assessment” again.

new assessment

Step 5. After you have a title, now you will want to pick whether you want “multiple categories” or a “single scale”. Under your assessment title, click “settings” and it will allow you pick. I continued on with the “single scale” option. That is the best for a yes and no type of quiz.

  • Adding questions is the same for the single scale and multiple category options. They differ in the categories section.

singe scale

Step 6. Now you are ready to add the questions to your assessment. The free version only allows 15 questions, so unless you are wanting to get out your wallet you will want to keep your quiz to this minimum.

Step 7. Now, add your first question and the answers. You will see under each answer you can add points for each answer. I will address that in #9.

Step 8. Add all your questions and their answers.

Step 9. Let’s talk points! The points link to your categories for the quiz. So, for the correct answer you will want to put a point value to that (I recommend +1) and the wrong or other answers you will want to put a value of zero. This part is very important because this is how the quiz generates results. So, I’ll use my yes or no quiz as an example. I wanted the quiz to put a person in a category based on the number of yes’s they selected. Because of this, yes is technically the correct answer so on each yes for each question I made them have a +1 point value. On each no, I placed a zero point value on it. If you make it a negative value it will cancel out the yes’s that the person selected.


Step 10. Once you have all your questions, answers, and point values finished you are ready to add your categories. Also, this site allows you to change your questions to multiple choice, free text, check boxes, dropdown, and scale. I chose the check boxes option for this quiz.

Step 11. Go back to your dashboard and click on manage categories. This is where I added four categories that correlate to my quiz. You can have as many categories as you wish. With each category, you also need to add points. So, I had a 15 question and 15 point quiz so I broke down my categories by points. I broke them down like so:

Thoroughbred 15 – 12

Goat 11 – 8

Dairy Cow 7 – 4

Don’t Chicken Out 3 – 0.

categories (1)

These numbers come into play in the categories because it will ask you to provide the maximum amount of points to still fall into this category. For each of my categories, it would be 15, 11, 7, and 3.

Step 12: You’re finished! Make sure to save your work and then test out your assessment to make sure it works correctly and it error free. You can find the Take the Assessment link in a few different places. One place is on your assessment dashboard and the second is on the assessments page under your quiz title.


Helpful Hints

  • Want to delete your assessment? Click on settings under the quiz title on your dashboard and it will take to a screen where you can delete it.
  • Can’t figure something out? No worries, the QuizWorks team is extremely helpful. I went back and forth with them and they are super prompt, timely, and supportive.

Tag the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement on your Facebook post or comment below with your quiz link. Good luck and we cannot wait to see your quizzes!

Smartphone Photography 101

Gone are the days where you have to hire a professional or purchase a fancy camera, download editing software to your computer and spend some serious time learning how to use it just for a decent photo.

The power of great photography is in our hands- literally. Thanks to mobile devices, we can take clear photos anytime and enhance them by using one of the many editing apps available.

This new technology isn’t limited to just selfies on your personal social media page, but for your brand too. Photography not only elevates your brand but also creates recognizable identity through visuals for your business.

So how hard can cell phone photography be? There’s more secrets, hints, and tricks than most would think. I’m sure you’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of smartphone photos, and here’s how to make sure your business’s photos rise above the rest.

  1. Use Your Gridlines

first tip

This trick is as easy as a touch of a button. One of the simplest ways to enhance your smartphone photo is by turning on your gridlines. By doing this, a series of lines that are based on the “rule of thirds” will appear on your screen.

Rule of Thirds separates your photo into thirds both horizontally and vertically, or nine parts total. If the subject in your photo is placed in the intersections or along the lines, your photo will appear more balanced and level allowing your viewers’ eyes to flow and interact naturally with the image.

Pro- Tip:

How to add gridlines to any smartphone:
iPhone Users: Go to “Settings”, select “Photos and Camera”, and switch your “Grid” on.
Samsung Galaxy Users: Launch the camera app, go to “Settings,” scroll down and switch the “grid lines” option to “on.”

  1. Avoid Using Your Zoom Tool

second tip

Zooming in can be very tempting when trying to capture something specific from far away. However, this can make your photo pixelated, grainy or even blurry.

To avoid compromising quality, simply move closer to your subject or take the photo from a distance and crop it later. This will keep your image crisp and clear.


For distant pictures, like a sunset or buildings, leave the zoom alone and try to fill the frame. This will illustrate what you want to capture while keeping your photo high quality. Try your hand at some photography elements like the rule of thirds or leading lines when taking these photos since you have more of a frame to work with.

  1. Utilize Natural Light

third tip

We’ve all been victims of the dreaded smartphone flash at one time or another. From red-eye to washing out, flash can negatively alter colors and make images appear overexposed.

Instead of using flash, try to use natural light as much as possible when taking photos. Even at night, capture shadows or other forms of light to create your perfect photo.

Pro- Tip:

Once you’ve selected an image, try using your favorite editing app to adjust the “Exposure”. The best way to do this is to make your photo slightly brighter without making it grainy.

  1. Take Candids

fourth tip

Posed photos are very effective in capturing memories for big life moments, but sometimes, catching others off guard or without them noticing can be far more interesting.

This is because candids capture true emotions and actions right in the moment. The easiest way to do this is taking as many photos as possible. You can always delete what you don’t need later. Having more to choose from is never a bad thing and the slightest movement can affect the quality of the photo.


Use burst mode to get multiple action shots in a row. Smartphones aren’t as ideal for moving photos, but if you want to capture something’s motion, burst mode is the tool for you.

Burst mode allows you to take up to 10 frames per second (iPhone 5s and up) and up to 20 frames per second (HTC One). This increases the chances of getting your perfect action shot. Hold down the shutter button to start burst mode when shooting your shot. It’s as easy as that.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Edit

fifth tip    fifth tip 2

Once you’ve mastered the first step in smartphone photography and incorporated all of the steps we’ve talked about, the next step in the process is critical – editing.

Editing can never take the place of solid photography, but it can be used to enhance an already good photo. Chances are you’ll do this by using a photo-editing app. While the apps available for your phone may not be as powerful as the professional editing programs for computers, they allow you to make adjustments to your photos quickly, with little to no cost for your business.

It may take a few tries and downloads to find what app meets your specific needs. Continue checking your phone’s app store to keep up with the latest photo trends and find exactly what you’re after.

Interested in learning more about photo editing apps? Let us know in the comment section and we can write an upcoming blog over the topic.

Pro- Tip:

Don’t over process your photos. This is an easy mistake many beginning photographers make; I know from experience. Try to get a clear and focused and then edit. Bring out the natural beauty in your shot and take it easy when editing your photos.

Your Turn!

Now that you know smartphone photography 101, it’s time to put your skills to the test and get your business out there.

Our challenge to you is to capture your best smartphone photo, post it on Facebook and tag us (Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement) in the comments. One week from today (June 22nd) we will choose one winner with the best mobile phone image. They will receive a FREE 30-minute social media consultation with our team at the Center.


Four advantages of e-commerce and how it can increase your profit

Has your business waded into the world of e-commerce? Nowadays, more and more small businesses are incorporating online shopping platforms as part of their systems. With the ease of access to internet and smartphones, shopping online is convenient and can save customers time and money. The big question remains though; what are the benefits of e-commerce for your small business?

What’s the big deal?

There is an average of $191 million online buyers in the U.S. E-commerce sales were about $300 billion in 2014 and projected to reach near $500 billion by 2018. That’s an increase of 14.3% from 2013 to 2014 when total in-store sales increased by only 4%. It’s hard to ignore those types of numbers, right?

Where do rural and small businesses land with e-commerce?

According to a study conducted by our undergraduate researchers looking at online greenhouse retailing, only 10.1% (n=10) sold products online with a full e-commerce site. One participant sold live plants on Amazon, while four had a downloadable form available on its website. The largest response category consisted of 85.9% (n=85) that did not sell any products online. From this study, it was concluded that many garden centers are not thinking of national markets but are solely focused on local selling. (Read more information about this study here.)

With so many bonuses for integrating an e-commerce system, the four advantages below just touch the surface.


  1. Unlimited Business Reach

A business operating via brick-and-mortar may have challenges in reaching a wide scope of customers outside of its immediate area. E-commerce has enabled local small businesses to reach beyond the borders of their towns and into international masses. There are few limits to where the internet can reach, people can pay for goods and services from literally any corner of the world.

  1. Increase Sales

According to reliable statistics, there has been a tremendous increase in online sales over the last couple of years. It is estimated that the revenue of a business that incorporates an e-commerce platform can increase up to 250%. This is attributed to the fact that most people prefer the ease of access and convenience that comes with e-commerce platforms. Hello, impulse buying!

  1. Open 24/7

E-commerce makes it possible for a business to be open and easily accessible round the clock without any increase in overheads that a brick-and-mortar may experience. Transactions and payments can continue being made automatically, without your supervision while you’re sleeping. In case the small business deals in digital goods, the business becomes totally automatic – full transactions, including purchase, and delivery.

  1. Attract New Customers

Brick-and-mortar retail is run by branding and relationships. Online retail utilizes those aspects as well, but also has traffic driven to it from search engines and social media. It’s not uncommon to follow a link in the search engine results or from Facebook to land on an e-commerce website that the customer has never heard of.

Real life example: Say your business provides specialty chocolates. A potential customer (me!) is looking for a unique and yummy gift for Mother’s Day. The shopper hops on her phone and googles “gourmet chocolates in Kansas City”. Your company pops up, she searches around a bit and realizes she doesn’t need to drive to KC for the treats, she can have them shipped directly to her grandmother’s door as a surprise. Not only did an online transaction take place, but the next time that person is in KC she might end up in your brick-and-mortar location… Because the chocolates were delish and the user-experience online was simple.

How do you know if your business should be using e-commerce?

On June 22, we will be introducing a blog about quiz making and how it can add to your new-media marketing campaigns. I highly suggest tuning back in because we’ve been having fun creating a quiz to see if your business is ready for e-commerce!

In the meantime, do you have any e-commerce questions we can answer for you? What is something that is preventing you from having an e-commerce site? Leave a comment below, or email us at