If you love finding free or affordable Web tools as much as I do, then you'll want to know about these free resources. First up is a great social networking site just for small business owners, the second one is a great site for free stock photos, and the third one is for anyone who loves to geek out and experiment with marketing (again, like me).
Ecademy.com is a lesser-known but well-established social network, specifically geared toward small business owners and entrepreneurs. Of all the well-known social networks (MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook etc), Ecademy has the most in common with LinkedIn.
At the very least you should have a presence on Ecademy.com to help improve your natural SEO. Here’s how to get started with Ecademy.com
Step 1: Visit www.ecademy.com and enter your first name, last name and email address into the signup box on the right-hand side. Alternatively you can join by associating your Facebook or Twitter account (just click the icon. Then, click join now.
Step 2: The next screen will prompt you to choose a password, your country, and to enter the security word. Click the blue join now button.
Step 3: You’ll be asked to invite others to your network by importing your contacts from Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, Outlook etc. This step is optional; you can choose to skip it if you wish.
Step 4: You’ll be invited to upgrade to the Pro level for $9.97, again this is optional. The Pro level allows you to send messages to people you find in Ecademy.
Step 5: The dashboard screen is your home for the site. Start by getting your profile up-to-date. Click on fill in your 50 words near the three rectangular bars that say know me, like me, and follow me.
Step 6: Click on inbox in the menu bar at the top of the page, and read the welcome message for a helpful overview of the site. You can also search for people using the search box in the top right, but you’ll need to upgrade your membership level.
Welcome to StockVault.net, a great Web tool with almost 14,000 stock photographs that you can get for free. Now, just yesterday I paid several dollars to pull photographs on another site. If I had known about this, I would have had a free solution to my situation.
Figure 1: StockVault.net.
For example, you could type "Yoga" into the site search box to see if they have any yoga photographs. And they do. So if I needed a photograph for a yoga page or a yoga studio, I could find a bunch of them here.
The site also offers other things that you can get for free. For example there's a tutorial on how to use Photoshop to make a sinister-looking sky. And they’ll walk you step-by-step to make the photograph look a little bit dangerous and a little bit sinister. Again, it's absolutely free.
They have a number of how-to videos to learn all about photography: the essence of photography, depth-of-field photography and all sorts of hints and tips for photography folks. Plus, there are all kinds of photography articles that you can read.
This Web tool offers free images and all manner of tips on photography. Be sure to go take a look at StockVault.net.
Marketing Experiments for Small Business
The results of the experiments are free to all subscribers, and it’s free to be a subscriber. So don’t hesitate to sign up. You’ll find that they test and track all kinds of interesting marketing ideas, and the reports make for compelling reading. Not only that, but if you implement the suggestions in your own business, you’ll most likely make more money -- and that’s the ultimate purpose of the site.
I will say that the reports can be a little heavy going at times, but like I said, if you’re a true marketing geek you’ll love it. So check out MarketingExperiments.com.
Andrew Lock is a self-described maverick marketer and the creator and host of Help! My Business Sucks, a free, weekly Web TV show full of practical small business marketing tips, advice and resources to help small businesses "get more done and have more fun."
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