Tag Archives: instagram

Little Girl’s Perfect Little Story Will Make You Smile

Bella Ortega, flowers, sunflowers, kid, child, girl, garden, gardening, happy, smile, story elements, perfect little story

Bella blossoms along with her flowers. Click to make bigger.

Here’s a short story that can help all writers in our search for content.

My friend Evelyn Amaya Ortega posted this photo of her 8-year-old, Bella, on Instagram and Facebook with the following caption.

She planted the seeds. She waited patiently all summer as the plants grew… And grew… Getting taller and taller. This week, the flowers bloomed. #Happy

More than 140 people liked the photo on Facebook, including writer Karen Rosen who astutely noted, “That is a perfect 24-word story with illustration. It should be in a magazine.”

I agree. Evelyn’s short tale contains all the elements of a narrative. Character, location, conflict, rising action, climax — even a sweet denouement.

The next time someone tells you they don’t have enough material or space to craft a story, show him this.

In business writing, the same holds true under the content-marketing definition of story. The image and text are compelling, engaging and emotional. They could hold the interest of customers looking to buy flowers, seeds, tickets to a summer camp or even in a Public Service Announcement about good parenting and spending time with your kids.

Look at that face! That smile!

That’s a story, by any definition.

RELATED: Sophie explains her two dads short and sweet

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Are You an Instagram Cliche?

instagram, cliches, photos, snapshots, pictures, pets, dogs

I don’t even have a pet, but I couldn’t resist posting this pic of me with my friend’s little buddy, Dexter. Great dog.

Ever scroll through Instagram and notice that a lot of the photos seem familiar?

Your old roommate’s beautifully topped latte?

Your sister’s airplane-wing-through-the-window?

Well, the good people at Mashable did. And they’ve decided to help us all be more original, I suppose, by sharing their list of the 12 most clichéd Instagram pics. For me, Instagram is just a source of fun and another way to stay in touch with friends and see what interesting strangers and brands are doing.  I love the creative shots along with those that have a certain familiarity.

But as a writer and editor, I hate clichés. So I scrolled through my Instagram feed to see how many transgressions I’d committed there against Instagram’s dirty dozen.

1. Toes in the Sand. GUILTY

Instagram, cliche, photos, photography, snapshots, vacation, toes in the sand

On vacation in Barcelona. Lazy pic? Sure… lazy day.

2. Clouds. GUILTY

instagram, cliche, pictures, photos, images, how to take better pictures, miami, south beach, airplane, palm trees

Blue skies smiling at me in South Beach.

3. Food Porn. GUILTY

instagram, yeah burger, atlanta, cliche, food porn

Food porn? You bet! Can’t get enough of Yeah! Burger in Atlanta.

4. Nail Art (fingernails did up). INNOCENT! 

5. Inspiration Quotes. GUILTY

instagram, inspirational quote, putt-putt, cliche

Putt-putt wisdom, but wisdom nonetheless.

6. Tall Buildings Shot from the Ground. INNOCENT! (Surprisingly)

7. Latte Art. INNOCENT! (Surprisingly again…)

8. SMS Conversations. INNOCENT!

9. Airplane Wings. INNOCENT!

10. Bathroom Mirror Selfies. INNOCENT!

11. Circle of Feet. GUILTY

My sisters, nieces and I got our toenails painted. Nice family outing. (I'm the one with the hairy toes on the left.) Wait -- does this count as Nail Art, too?

My sisters, nieces and I got our toenails painted. Nice family outing. (I’m the one with the hairy toes on the left.) Wait — does this count as Nail Art, too?

12. Sunsets. GUILTY

Instagram, pics, photos, cliche, photographs, snapshots, Atlanta, sunset

Not your typical sunset pic, but a sunset pic all the same. Down North Avenue in Atlanta.

Six out of 12, maybe seven if you count the toenails thing twice. Is that good? Bad? I don’t know… But I’m not sure any of this is such a terrible thing, as suspicious as I remain of clichés in text. And I think Mashable missed a few. From my feed, I would add:

1. Blooming flowers.


2. Geometric shapes of hallways, portals, etc.

photo 1

3. Completely pointless selfies.

photoAre they overused and lazy — or part of the point,  the sharing of sights that catch your eye, little moments of your life? It depends on why you use Instagram, I suppose. Are you simply sharing, or are you trying to attract people and motivate an audience toward some action?

It also depends on how much effort you’re willing to make to get a more distinctive image. My friend and professional photographer Ben Gray offers some easy tips here.

What do you think? Have any Instagram cliches of your own? Let me hear from you, and follow my Instagram account here.

When the Photographer Started Running, What Did He Get? #Runography, of Course

We all long for a career doing something we love.

Ben Gray, Atlanta, Journal-Constitution, AJC, running, runner, ultra distance, ultra-marathon, marathon, people who run crazy distances, instagram, runography, belt line

He carries a little tripod for the occasional selfie.

Some of us find passion in a hobby.

Ben Gray has both – and a way to combine them in a new creative project on social media.

Five days a week, Ben, 43, wraps his iPhone in a plastic baggie and tucks it into the inside-waistband pocket of his running shorts. Then Ben – an award-winning photojournalist and an ultra-marathon runner — hits the streets, trails and backroads of Atlanta for runs that can last several hours.

Along the way, when he spots something that would make a good photo, he stops, takes out the iPhone, gets a quick shot – and uploads it to his Instagram account with the #runography hashtag.

Ben Gray, Atlanta, Journal-Constitution, AJC, running, runner, ultra distance, ultra-marathon, marathon, people who run crazy distances, instagram, runographyThen he keeps on running.

Ben estimates he’ll log 2,000 miles this year. He’s burned 163,000 calories so far in 2014. This year, he ran his first 100-mile race. And he only started four years ago (not counting high school track).

At age 39, Ben had covered the Peachtree Road Race for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for many years. He always thought it looked like fun, so he decided to start training for the 10K.

“I hated it when I started,” he says now. “The turning point was when I could go a distance and actually get somewhere. I could find different routes and check out different neighborhoods.”

Soon he was running from the AJC’s Dunwoody office to the Lindbergh MARTA station. His wife and two kids would drive from their Southwest Atlanta home to their Decatur church 11 miles away, and he’d meet them there on foot.

The Peachtree led to his first marathon, then first 50K, 50-miler, 100K and onward.

That takes a lot of training, but a photographer’s eyes are never blind to what he’s passing. The iPhone is easy to carry and Ben likes the constraints of it and posting the shots immediately. No fuss, no filters, no slowing the heart rate — and no treating it like an assignment for work.

He’s growing a following on Instagram and considering ways to take #runography to another level.

“It’s really about what I like and what I’m seeing,” he says. “And hopefully, other people like it, too.”

Follow Ben on Instagram 

Click here for 3 easy tips for better pics

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Chicken Wing Ice Cream? Bacon Dental Floss? 7 Flavor Experiments to Make You Go ‘Ick’ – Or Not

As families gather for their holiday feasts across the country, millions of Americans will look forward in particular to one enduring favorite side dish: the green bean casserole.

campbells_green-bean-casserole_s4x3_lgIt’s a staple, after all.

But it wasn’t always so. In fact, it was invented by a Campbell’s employee, one Dorcas Reilly, some 60 years ago.

Hard to believe, but canned soup, fried onion bits and green beans weren’t always a natural go-to combo. Now the dish sells millions of dollars in condensed mushroom goo every fourth quarter.

It’s in the spirit of Campbell’s immortal La Reilly, then, that we aren’t sure whether to chuckle, cringe or take a bite when we see things like these seven flavor experiments. Some are new, some are just new to us, and some are sure to be gone by the holiday season next year.

Or not.

With commentary from friends who are chefs, food writers or both, most of them offered during a lively group discussion on Facebook:

Cappuccino-Potato-Chips1. Cappuccino Potato Chips, from Lay’s, which also test-marketed Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese, Mango Salsa and Wasabi Ginger this year.

Reports Jill Silva, food editor of the Kansas City Star: “I left those cappuccino chips out in the newsroom – where every dish gets wiped clean – and I was accused of trying to poison my colleagues.”

Kristen Browning-Blas, until recently the food editor of The Denver Post: “I suppose marketing people know that consumers respond to wacky new taste sensations. I think American palates are so inured to the artificial burst of sweet-salt flavors that real food doesn’t taste right to them.”

images2. Bacon dental floss. Jill also notes the growing popularity of bacon-flavored additives, including this one.

maplebaconbeer3. Carlos Frias of The Palm Beach Post posted this on Instagram: Maple Bacon Coffee Porter. From Funky Buddha, no less.

4. “Garlic ice cream is the latest craziness I’ve heard about,” says Meridith Ford, a pastry chef, former dining critic at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and currently a marketing consultant for Atlanta restaurants.

Crazy — or inspired? I think this one could work. I still dream of Hector Santiago’s avocado ice cream at his late Pura Vida. And I don’t even mind Richard Blais’s foie gras milkshake, which endures currently at his Flip Burger chain.

chicken-wing-ice-cream5. Chicken Wing Ice Cream. Here, though, we draw the line.

6. Kool-Aid Pickles, included by Susan Puckett in her book “Eat Drink Delta: A Hungry Traveler’s Journey through the Soul of the South.”

“They are a Mississippi Delta classic started years ago by kids in poor neighborhoods who would go into convenience stores after school and buy a pack of Kool-Aid, open it up and sprinkle it over a jumbo dill pickle,” Susan says.

Kool-Aid-Pickles“Then store owners saw an opportunity and started marinating them in different flavors. They are not for everyone, to say the least.

7. Frito’s Pizza at Papa John’s. Susan’s husband, Ralph Ellis of CNN, points out this one but offers no elaboration.

Sometimes, none’s needed.


So, will any of these make it to your kitchen this year?

Send us your own crazy favorites.

Bon appetit!

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7 Times U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the Civil Rights Legend, Has Conquered Social Media

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis is Atlanta’s veteran Congressman and a civil rights legend. He’s also a master communicator, as anyone who has seen him speak or has read his riveting, beautifully rendered memoir, “Walking with the Wind,” can tell you.

Now Lewis has been providing some of my favorite updates, photos, tweets and videos on social media lately. Just Thursday night, I saw this Facebook status update:

During the movement, we didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. We didn’t have the Internet. I am constantly amazed at our capacity to communicate using new technology. I hope you all will take a few moments and follow on a new platform for me, Instagram. But we must remember it is not enough to click like or retweet, we have to use our bodies and let the sound of our marching feet roll across America.

I had to smile when I read that — and it’s not the first time Lewis has been a highlight online. His story is the story of the modern South, a living example of this country’s deepest struggles and triumphs. Now in his 70s, he’s carried his story to Facebook and Twitter … and Instagram. Here are six more of his recent social media highlights.

Rep. John Lewis, congressman, congress, u.s. representatitive, rep, Atlanta, Georgia, civil rights, hero, legend, social media, master of the house

On Facebook on July 7, Lewis wrote: “Fifty-three years ago today, I was released from Parchman Penitentiary after being arrested in Jackson, Mississippi for using a so-called white restroom.”

* On Twitter, @repjohnlewis, July 8: “Hate is too heavy a burden to bear. Love is a better way.”

* And July 2: “If the Civil Rights Act was before the Congress today, it would not pass, it would probably never make it to the floor for a vote.”

Rep. John Lewis, congress, congressman, Georgia, Atlanta, Stan Lee, Marvel comics, ALA, American Library Association

With Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee on June 3 at a conference of the American Library Association.


* Superheroes Unite! Lewis has published a graphic novel memoir, “March,” and was a childhood admirer of comic books. Here he is with Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and countless more, at a librarians’ conference. Some 3,000 people liked this pic on Facebook; he also shared it on other sites.

* No Pinterest? I couldn’t find an account for Lewis on Pinterest. But there are countless pins, including this one from NBC News, 7 Things to Know about Rep. John Lewis (R-Ga.)  This is also a nice primer on Lewis and his achievements, for anyone who wonders what all the praise is about.

* The ‘Happy’ Dance: Lewis posted this on YouTube a few weeks ago, and then it was everywhere. Joyous and sublime.

BUY: ‘Walking with the Wind,’ his memoir

BUY: The ‘March’ trilogy graphic novels


What’s Her Story: Small-Town Shop Owner Uses Integrated Marketing to Tell Her Tale, Grow Her Business

Helene Singer Cash, Crystal Couture, Lebanon, Tennessee, TN, town square, small town, boutique, internet, marketing, Facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram, fashions, shoes, accessories, nashville

Helene Singer Cash

Helene Singer Cash lost her shop space in 2010 when a flood devastated much of Nashville, Tenn. She reopened 30 miles to the east, on the old town square of Lebanon, population 25,000 (slideshow below). Since then, Crystal Couture – where Singer Cash sells trendy women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories – has grown so much that she’s moving into a space more than three times the size and just a couple doors over. Singer Cash says the key to her success has been a marketing approach that mixes traditional methods, small-town hustle, the Internet and social media.

You’re a small business in a small town. Do people ever ask what you’re doing on the Internet and Facebook?

Oh, all the time. People always ask me, why are you trying to talk to people everywhere, and I say because I want to sell to people everywhere. The Internet has opened up the world to everybody who’s willing to learn how to use these tools. We’re on Facebook and Twitter (@TheCrystalStore), Pinterest and Instagram, plus have a website with a  blog – all of that.

Is that wide net effective in a small town?

It’s just a part of it. We also advertise in four small, local newspapers, and have partnered with publications to write fashion based articles once a quarter, which I don’t have to pay for. And we sponsor a morning segment on one of the local radio stations every morning during drive time. People forget that newspapers and radio in small towns are still doing well and are affordable for small businesses. You have to mix it up to let people know what you’re about.

Your website does more than just promote your merchandise. Why is that?

We want to be seen as fashion experts and friendly advisers in this community – and to talk about popular trends and current events in fashion. It helps connect us to our customers and our community. We want to tell a story,  to have an emotional attachment, to create synergy so that there’s a reason you want to come out and visit us. There’s a story to it, an emotional attachment or commitment, and they want to be included. People like feeling a part of things and feeling included.

You’re fairly new to this town and you’re a part of a mini-rebirth on the square – with several trendy boutiques popping up next to the old antique shops.

We are really involved in Lebanon and very committed to our community. That’s the other thing, you know – you have to support your community, and we do. Giving back is a huge part! You have to support the community that supports you. We like to work with non-profits such as United Way, New Leash on Life and Historic Lebanon. We are active in the city with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Wilson County: Place to Be, 2 different Chambers of Commerce, tourism committees. I attend city council and county commission meetings and actively know the council and commission members. We sponsor the Lebanon High School Band, Leadership Wilson and Books from Birth. We support, sponsor and donate to many charitable organizations, events and projects.

Some small business owners think they don’t have time for social media, or they’re intimidated or think it’s just a fad. What do you say to them?

Social media is not a fad and it is here to stay!  No matter if you are a bricks & mortar, e-commerce or both, social media is a huge part of what you do.  From branding to marketing–you can shape the opinion others have your business by creating social media campaigns.  Remember, social media is not just Facebook.

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