Leah Monica

Director of Marketing

5 Favorite Free Stock Photography Resources, Part II

There’s no doubt about it: finding good stock photography can be tough.  And when it isn’t tough, it’s expensive. When I scroll through images on the popular stock house websites looking for images for our blog posts or newsletters and see how much they’re charging for their stuffy, posed, man-in-suit photos I am always aghast. And annoyed. Very, very annoyed.

Thankfully, I’ve come across a few great stock photography websites recently that are completely free. While we still use many of the resources that Andi shared a few years back, the sites below have become my new go-tos. Most, if not all, of these sites are full of royalty and attribution-free photography, meaning you can use, copy, modify, and distribute these photos without the permission of, or reference to, the photographer. Yes, even for commercial use!

  1. Pexels – Built to help designers, bloggers, and just about everyone else find high-quality, free images, Pexels is one of our absolute favorites. They recently launched a free stock video collection as well.
  2. Unsplash – Started as a Tumblr blog where a photographer shared 10 photographs that were leftover from a photo shoot, Unsplash has grown to a collection of over 300,000 photos contributed from over 50,000 photographers. They are all simply stunning (and all free)!
  3. Burst – Powered by Shopify, this free stock site was built to “empower designers, developers, bloggers and entrepreneurs to create stunning websites and marketing campaigns.” There are thousands of stunning stock photos, ripe for the choosing!
  4. Pic Jumbo – When the large stock houses turned down freelance photographer Viktor Hanacek’s photos, he decided to use his coding skills to start his own free stock website. Almost all of the images were shot by him, and while he always welcomes attribution, it’s not required. The only thing you can’t do is redistribute the photos, but if you’d like to, there’s a paid plan available for that purpose.
  5. Foodiesfeed – While this stock site may only be of interest to a limited audience, there are lots of high-res and drool-worthy free food photos on this site.

Remember that over time licensing agreements on these sites may change, so be sure to always, always read the fine print and abide by the rules!

Have you found any other great royalty-free stock photography websites? Please share!

Nick Exposito

Marketing & New Business Coordinator

10 Writing “Rules” That Are Okay to Break

Don’t begin a sentence with a “but” or “and”. Don’t ever write in passive voice. Never start a sentence with “because”. How many of you have ever heard these writing “rules” from a teacher or authority figure? My guess is all of you.

I recently attended a writing seminar hosted by Association Media & Publishing (AM&P) and the topic was “Back to the Basics: Writing for Associations.” Leslie O’Flahavan led this fun and interactive workshop, and she gave great insight on why it is okay to go ahead and BREAK all of those writing “rules” and get them out of your head.

Here are the 10 writing rules Leslie says can be broken:

  1. Don’t begin a sentence with “but” or “and”.
  2. Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.
  3. Don’t begin a sentence with “because”.
  4. Don’t write a one-sentence paragraph.
  5. Don’t use contractions in business writing.
  6. Don’t use “they” as a singular pronoun.
  7. Don’t split an infinitive.
  8. Don’t write a fragment.
  9. Don’t begin a sentence with “however” or “therefore”.
  10. Don’t write in passive voice. Ever.

When writing for your organization, all of these rules can be broken. Yes, all of them. Thanks to blogging and social media, a more casual and informal writing tone is now not only accepted but often expected. So live on the wild side and break rules a little bit! Just be careful that u don’t go 2 crazy w/ it. ;)

What other writing “rules” do you think need to be broken from time to time?

Nick Exposito

Marketing & New Business Coordinator

Our Favorite Video Editing Tools: Final Cut Pro & iMovie

It’s no secret that video is one of the hottest marketing trends and tools right now. If you haven’t taken the leap into video creation for your organization, now is certainly the time!

Video creation can seem like an overwhelming task at first thought, but good news! If you have a smartphone (who doesn’t these days?) and the right video editing software, you can create pretty great video content. Sure, your videos may not be super bowl ad worthy, but you’ll be surprised at the quality of content you can produce with the right tools.

Two of our favorite editing tools are iMovie and Final Cut Pro, which are both Apple products. While they are a bit of an apples-and-oranges comparison – one is a more basic, budget friendly option and the other is more full-featured and an investment – they are both great tools to get the job done, depending on your needs.

Here’s a little background on each editor, and the advantages of each:

iMovie

This is a great program for beginner video editors to use to learn the ropes. We love it for it’s ease of use and basic editing features – it has enough tools to get the job done, but none of the more complex editing options that often intimidate beginners. Since it’s an Apple product, you can seamlessly bring in different Apple programs to the application such as iTunes, Garageband, Photos, etc.

We also love that it:

  • Makes it easy to jump back and forth between scenes
  • Is very simple to change the audio over a video clip
  • Gives you the ability to fix shaky/unsteady video
  • Is available on all Apple devices, so you can make edits on your video from anywhere

The biggest advantage of iMovie is that it’s free! A great way to get some exposure to video editing, without an initial investment.

Final Cut Pro

This is a signature video editing software, and includes more advanced features and capabilities. With a modern and sleek design, Final Cut also makes the experience for the editor more exciting while remaining pretty easy to use.

Some of our favorite features include:

  • The magnetic timeline, which makes it easier to produce your project. It automatically snaps multiple clips into place and gives you the ability to move the clips around the timeline quickly and easily.
  • Multi-Channel Audio that allows use different audio channels to make the sound of the video high-quality.
  • Compound clips option, that keeps you from worrying about gaps when you add videos together, and it transitions the video smoothly.

There is a cost associated with Final Cut Pro – right now it’s priced at $299 – but we believe it’s one of the best video editors on the market and worth every penny.

For most of our video editing needs here at Matrix Group, such as the Matrix Minute video series, we use Final Cut Pro. But we also love using iMovie to quickly edit and post videos to social media that are more timely.

There are many other video editing programs out there, but these are by far our favorites. And remember, if you ever need any video help, we’re here for you!

Have to dabbled in video editing? What’s your platform of choice?

Leah Monica

Director of Marketing

Social Media Tool: Hootlet Extension

If you’re in marketing, you know how time consuming posting and monitoring social media can be. It can easily swallow hours of your work day. Yes, hours.

As I mentioned before, I’m all about the productivity hacks this year, and am diving deep into the world of Chrome extensions to try to streamline my work and personal life. My current favorite extension for efficiency in the social media department is the the Hootlet extension for Chrome and Firefox. If you use Hootsuite to manage your social media accounts like we do, you need this, plain and simple!

Why is it so great? It allows you to share articles or web pages that you are reading/visiting, without ever having to switch tabs or copy/paste a single URL or string of text. While it may not seem like either of those things are that much of a nuisance, you’d be shocked at how much time the back-and-forth swallows, and how easy it is to get lost and distracted when you’re juggling 15-20 tabs at once (that’s not just me, right?).

With the Hootlet extension, all you have to do is click the Hootlet icon in the browser toolbar, and the familiar Hootsuite draft box will pop up on the webpage, pre-populated with the page title and URL. From there, you can customize your message, add a photo or attachment, and choose to either share the social media post immediately or schedule it for later, without ever leaving the webpage. Life changing!

Another cool feature? If you see a quote in an article that you’d like to share, you can quickly do so by highlighting the text, right-clicking, and clicking on “share via Hootlet.” The draft box will then pop up with the highlighted text, and a shortened link to the article.

Sharing made easy! Can’t beat that.

What are some of your favorite social media productivity tools?

Leah Monica

Director of Marketing

Favorite Tool: Google Page Analytics Chrome Extension

For me, 2017 is all about productivity hacks and working more efficiently. Recently, I’ve been diving deep into the world of Google Chrome extensions to help me streamline as much of my work (and personal life) as possible.

One of my current favorite tools is the Page Analytics extension for Chrome. With just a quick glance, it shows you how your users are interacting with your site, in an easily digestible format.

How does it work?

Once you have the extension installed and turned on, you will see the analytics data pop up on any webpage you visit that you have access to in Google Analytics. Keep in mind that this requires that you are logged into the Google account in Chrome that is tied to your Google Analytics account.

When the extension is turned on, you’ll be able to see:

  • Metrics such as pageviews, unique pageviews, average time on page, bounce rate, and exit percentage. You can also use the date comparison and segmentation tools directly in the extension for these metrics.
  • The number of active, real-time visitors on your site.
  • In-page click-through rate analysis.

I love that in the middle of a marketing meeting when someone asks, “Hey – does anyone know if our users are actually clicking on the calls to action in our rotating branding area?” I can quickly pull up our website to see how many people have clicked through in the last month. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to take a quick, high-level peek at the traffic on any given page of our website than it is to log in to Google Analytics and dig for that information. Pretty great, right?

While I still very strongly suggest doing a deep dive into your Google Analytics reports once a month at minimum, it’s great to be able to get a rough idea of what pages users are visiting, what’s working, and what’s not working in a matter of seconds.

One very important thing to note about the click analysis, however, (and one of my only gripes with this extension as I think it’s a bit misleading at first glance), is that the click-through rate is for each destination page. For example, if you have three separate links to your events page on your homepage – in the navigation, right rail, and footer – they will all show the same number of clicks, even though the link in the navigation may have gotten the most number of individual clicks. Therefore, the click analysis isn’t good indicator of the success of link placement. Just something to keep in mind!

What are some of your favorite Chrome extensions for working more efficiently?