I am a figment of fantasy.

Ahhhh, stock photography. If done well, stock photos can add a powerful, visual element to the content on your website.  But please (my February resolution is to be more polite), please take the time to do comprehensive photo research when you don’t have a shutterbug on hand. Planning the visual aspects of your website is just as important as honing the writing. People can often tell a stock photo when they see one.  That cute woman with a headset and a haircut like a social studies teacher from 1992? She’s not gonna take my order.

Order now. Our operators are waiting.

(And when you find that stock photo that encapsulates everything you want to say in one glorious, crystal-clear image, buy it for goodness sake. Don’t screenshot it and put it up with the watermark showing. Cheap ass.)

Now back to that lady.  I can understand why you might want a photo of a human on your site. Even if the human is not anyone you’ve ever met, and is likely just a clever composite of pixels and Photoshop and googly eyes. Some people believe that a face on a website attracts people – keeping them on the page longer. If that’s your metric, then great. Hang out all day! But what if you want your visitors to take an action?  Wouldn’t it be better to ask them (nicely) to do that?  Wouldn’t that be preferable to having them stare at the blazing white teeth of the Grecian Man who clearly isn’t really a doctor?

Thumbs up!
Here’s a great post that looks at faces, proportion, and direction of sight/gaze. And there are lots of bad and good comparisons,  which are helpful visuals if you are a visual sort of person like me.  All of these wee factors can really impact the experience of your visitors.

People are great.  People on your website are great. Especially if the people actually work at your business. If they don’t, it’s highly unlikely that you will fool anyone.  And think of how pissed they’ll be when they do show up and are greeted by your current receptionist, who still has a trace of Movember hanging on and a Cinnabon habit. There went my February resolution.

Here are some great sources of images for your website, especially if you have a small budget. If you’re using a Creative Commons image, please make sure that you understand the license and attribute responsibly. Don’t rip photographers off. They’re the ones capturing our lives, eh.

Flickr’s Creative Commons

Creative Commons Search

Compfight: A Flickr Search Tool

Google Advanced Image Search

Got another one? Add ’em, Dano!

We can turn you off. we can hide you. Look at the fate of many of your Facebook Farmville friends, Spammy McSpammerston.
And cross-posters. I connected with you on Facebook because we have that personal thing. Maybe we made out a few times. Maybe we co-lamented under the migraine inducing fluorescent lighting of that office. Maybe we’re related.
In the social of all social networks, we tend to allow our friends a bit of leeway when it comes to promoting their businesses and interests. After all, what’s the purpose of the network platform if we all don’t compulsively share?
There is an etiquette, however, and it becomes even more important as marketing more obviously invades our precious social sites. We can’t be sure that ‘suggestions’ are organic. Look at the suggested ads that run down the side of your profile. Everything’s in public honey.

Back to etiquette.

Don’t junk up my morning scroll through Facebook with incessant tweets, hashtags, and the like. It’s like you’re throwing crumbs at me. Use Twitter to connect with the networks that bring meaning and value through that particular channel.
Use someone’s name in your status update if it refers to them. Voyeurs as we all are, we like to see what you’ve deemed share-worthy from and for someone else. If you share a link, add some context by telling us why we should care. If you can describe something in 140 characters in the hope of being retweeted, surely you can spare the time to bring some ‘so what’ to your Facebook posts.

Don’t abuse the LIKE. Creating a company page and asking everyone you know to Like it is akin to ringing my doorbell every 10 minutes, and then running away. What’s there to like? Links to content that I might find useful? A contest that will make me salivate with desire? Don’t forget that Big Brother is watching my likes – and will advertise to me accordingly. Be responsible.

Take this into consideration: a post this week from Social Web School looks at a growing trend for companies launching or re-launching on the web. An interactive, custom-designed Facebook page is emerging as the platform of choice for many brands, instead of an independently-housed site of their own. Why? Well, since it’s Facebook, you’ve got the social built in. You’ve got access to the social graph. You’ve got the usability that is now almost second nature – since most of us on the planet are already there – and Facebook’s ability to target pages based on your love of Nickelback (ugh), or root beer, or knitting.

We love (and hate, sometimes) Facebook for it’s tentacled hold on our social and digital lives. Are we ready for it’s explosion into our consumer lives? My bet is on companies who can create an experience that flows seamlessly with the social functions we already use. And then our friends can act like friends, instead of telemarketers.

The full report is ready for download. So are other local government action resources.