» Why You Should Never Buy Followers on Social Media

The desire to feel validated and popular, paired with the difficulty of earning followers organically leads a lot of businesses to want to buy followers – after all, a higher number of followers will make you look better to couples checking out your page… right? Not necessarily.

Having the ability to show off thousands of followers sounds nice in theory, but buying followers can be harmful to your brand in more ways than one. Here’s why:

Buying followers impacts your credibility

Nobody else may know that you bought followers, but if couples who check out your social profiles figure out that your followers are fake, it will significantly impact your credibility and trustworthiness – the two things you were hoping to build. You don’t want couples to start wondering things like, “If you are paying your way to internet popularity, what else might you not be totally upfront about?”

Fake followers are obvious

There are so many ways to spot fake followers. If someone sees your company’s Facebook or Instagram account one day and notices that you have a certain number of followers, then comes back the next day to see that you have ten times the amount of followers from the day before, they will know something is up.

Furthermore, fake followers never have realistic profiles. They often have a randomly generated username, similar profile pictures and bios, and rarely have more than one post published to their account. If someone notices that those are the types of accounts following you, they will know for sure your followers aren’t real.

People may think poorly of your content

Consider this scenario: a couple goes to your profile or company page and sees how “popular” you are with such a large following. When they start exploring your posts, they are probably expecting many likes, shares, and comments, but instead, they see almost no interactions with your content. Their first reaction will likely be that no one is interested in the content you share, and therefore it isn’t worth checking out.

SEO will take a hit

If your follower count is disproportionately higher than the number of people you follow and the number of posts you have published, Google may actually flag your account as fake and penalize your profile and website in search rankings. This is because having fewer posts with an abnormally large number of followers is a common indication of a fake account, and Google wants to show users quality search results. If links to your website are primarily being shared on what is flagged as a fake account, Google will interpret that as spam. In short, quality content gets prioritized when it comes to SEO and purchased followers can impact your quality score.

So how do you gain real followers organically?

  • Post examples of your work, behind the scenes snapshots, photos with couples, and go live on Facebook to showcase you and your business to couples
  • Interact with your followers
  • Be authentic and have personality so couples know you are genuine and real
  • Publish posts often, but don’t spam followers with promotional content
  • Run giveaways for couples – For example, if your photo gets 100 likes or comments, a participant could win a fun freebie related to your business

Growing your social media following organically is almost always the better practice. Instead of spending money on a following that will do nothing for your business, invest your time using the above tactics to create a following that will be far more likely to gain value from your posts and therefore more likely to engage with you and your business.

» Recovering from a Social Media Crisis

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Social media is as much a blessing as it can be a curse. While it allows us to gain widespread exposure in ways that were never possible before, it also forces our businesses onto a public stage where we may not always want to appear. Before a social media crisis derails your wedding business, make sure you develop an effective strategy for recovery.

desk workBe Prepared

One of the most effective ways to combat bad press or a crisis situation is to plan ahead for every possible scenario. Begin by listing all of the things you and your team can anticipate going wrong: bad customer feedback, unusual poor performance, weather-related cancellations, or even a competitor badmouthing your services to undermine your reputation. I know it’s hard to think of these things. It’s uncomfortable to anticipate the worst, but so necessary if you’re going to survive.

Ask trusted colleagues to give you ideas of additional scenarios you might not have considered and how they would handle them. The more you flesh out what can go wrong, the better prepared you can be if something actually happens.

Next, outline how you would respond to each crisis. Keep the scenarios and possible responses in a file that you can pull if you’re ever faced with a similar situation. You’ll have to tweak your approach, but you’ll have a bank of great ideas to draw from when you need them most.

React Calmly

When you do respond, especially to negative customer feedback or competitor badmouthing, try to do it as professionally as possible. This will require that you divorce yourself from some extremely natural emotions, but it never pays to react in the heat of the moment. Taking the high road will ultimately reflect positively on you with the people who matter.

If you’re not sure you can separate the situation from your feelings, ask a trusted team member or colleague to read anything you put in writing before you send or publish it. This should include emails and replies to online reviews – things that never really go away, so you want to look good.

Many situations are best handled in-person or via a phone call to the concerned party. Consider reaching out before becoming embroiled in a social media battle. You may be able to avoid additional public debate by going directly to the source. Continue reading

» How to Respond to a Negative Review

Negative reviewsReviews are key to your online reputation, and it can be frustrating to receive a review that you may not be satisfied with or feel you don’t deserve. Although you may disagree with the review, it’s important to be professional in your response. Here are some suggestions for responding to negative reviews you may receive on your WeddingWire account:

  • Never write a response while you’re still upset. Take a few hours or even a day before responding to a negative review. Your response is public, so you want to make sure you don’t say something that you will regret later. When you’re calm and ready to address the issue, then you can carefully write your response.
  • Check and re-check your response. Before posting the response, have someone else read it as well just to make sure it does not come off as defensive. Try reading your response from the perspective of a potential client– you want them to see that you are open to feedback and always professional in your communication.
  • Don’t play the “He Said, She Said” game. Remember, the customer is always right (even when they’re wrong!). Apologize for any mishaps you may have caused, or that even may have been outside your control, and point out your other great reviews as proof of your other satisfied customers. Always let them know you value their business and that ultimately your goal was to help create a fantastic event.
  • Keep it simple. Try not to post a long response; leaving a short 3-4 line response is best! Address the reviewer’s concerns, apologize and leave it at that.

What’s the best way to move on after a negative review? Keep collecting more reviews! The more recent reviews you receive, the lower that review gets pushed on your list. Use our Review Collector Tool to keep collecting positive reviews, and you’ll soon forget all about that negative review. Remember, a less than perfect review every so often also adds to credibility, after all, no one is perfect 100 percent of the time!

Pro tip: Don’t forget to respond to positive reviews, too! Let your reviewers know that you appreciate them taking the time to respond to them and return the compliments. Responding to both positive and negative reviews helps show potential clients that you listen to your clients and want to help them have the best experience. It also shows you value the time they took to write the review after their event.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated for freshness and accuracy.

» How to Make the Most of Engagement Season

wedding professional engagement season vendor

While other business owners may delight in the pre-holiday or back-to-school shopping seasons, the undisputed champ of sales for wedding professionals is engagement season. WeddingWire calculates that about 40% of couples who will be engaged in the next 12 months will do so between November and February.

These quick best practices will help you maximize this crucial time and set yourself up for a productive wedding season.

Freshen up your online presence: Couples these days are accustomed to shopping for services online, so it’s uber-important to put your best foot forward across the Web. That includes your website, social media, WeddingWire storefront and even your email signature. Be sure your branding is consistent throughout and that you make it as easy as possible to contact you. Don’t force couples to hunt for your email or social networks—be sure this is on the very first page of your website. Have a couple of friends put fresh eyes on your sites and social media to be sure you don’t have any broken links, confusing wording or blurry images.

Audit your social: While we’re on the subject, now isn’t the time to neglect your social media accounts! Couples will often use your social media to not only see some of your most recent work, but also get a feel for your personality. They’re looking for partners on their wedding day, not just someone to come in, provide a service and leave. With that said, don’t be a robot on social. Share your best photos, but also share what drew you to the couple, what you loved about the day or why that particular photo is one of your favorites. Be sure to get permission from couples to share and tag them (as well as the rest of the vendor team) if they’re also on social media.

Keep your calendar up-to-date: As couples are reaching out to you for consultations, they’ll want to know that you’re available for their wedding date and location. Take a few minutes to fill in your calendar with as many details as you can about your upcoming wedding season, including building in time for site visits, travel and administrative tasks as needed. While it’s great to be busy, you don’t want to lose business because you’ve incorrectly estimated the time commitment for future clients.

Consider an auto-email feature: In a rapid response world, sometimes 24 to 48 hours just won’t do. As couples fill out your contact form during engagement season, it might be best to automate an email that instantly responds. Beyond showing that you’re responsive right away, use this email to smartly promote your social channels, work that you’re most proud of or even an awesome piece of wedding planning content you really love. Give it some personality, but be sure it’s short, sweet and helping you meet your business goals.

wedding professional engagement season wedding vendor

Prove your credibility: It’s one thing for you to say you’re amazing, efficient and easy to work with, but it’s a whole other thing for someone else to say it. That’s why so many couples rely on business reviews before contacting potential wedding professionals. Make it a goal to amass at least five additional reviews from couples and other professionals you’ve recently worked with this engagement season. Don’t be shy about asking for them—newlyweds love to talk about their wedding and you were an important part of why it was so special!

Nail your first impression: Once you’ve set up a time to meet with a potential client, the real work of engagement season begins. Chances are, the couple’s had a chance to peruse your social media, your website and your storefront, so return the favor by learning a little about the couple as well. Check out their social media profiles if you can, and look into any information they may have included in their emails to you—the type of wedding they’d like, what they enjoyed about your work, their venue, etc. Be prepared to discuss the latest wedding trends in your industry and show a curated collection of your recent projects. So, if you know the couple will be wed at a fancy downtown hotel, don’t show up with a portfolio full of barn weddings you’ve done and vice versa.

Learn even more about how to nail engagement season with this fact sheet.

» Focus on Your Earnings, Not Savings

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

focus-on-earnings-not-savingsAs we approach the end of another year, it’s often time to reconcile our finances. We need to get our books in order, so we can do our taxes (I know, yuk). Then comes the scramble to find the deductions you qualified for over the year. While doing so, it becomes easy to focus on our expenses. For some of us, it’s time to re-evaluate those expenses as we prepare for the coming year.

These insights will help you get a handle on your financial planning needs and help you take control as you plan for the future!

Expenses vs. Investments

The danger in focusing only on expenses is that you can lose focus on the bigger picture. The only money you can save is the money you spend. It’s a finite amount. You can’t make all of your expenses disappear. You have to buy gas for your car, and pay for telephone service, internet connection, electricity, and more. But those are expenses, not investments. Expenses are things that you pay for, where you don’t expect any return other than what you bought (gas, electricity, phone service, food, etc.).

Investments, on the other hand, are things that may, and the operative word is ‘may’, provide a return that’s greater than the value paid. When you invest in a new employee, you would hope to get more value than what you pay them. When you invest in a new website, you would hope to get more value than the cost of the website. When you invest in advertising and marketing, you would hope to get back more than the value that you pay. When you invest in a new location, you would hope to get back more than you invest.

Opportunity Cost

What you need to focus on is getting the best return. The opportunity cost of not investing is the money you could make if you did. Sometimes, that means doing more than just paying the bill. For instance, if you buy a booth at a wedding show, and don’t take the time to design your booth correctly, and invest in great email/direct mail follow up, and actually do the follow up, you’ll never get the most return from that investment. Similarly, if you take a new office/warehouse space, build it out and decorate it properly, but don’t invest in marketing to let people know about it, you’ll never see the full return.

Go Big, or Go Home

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» Build Your Reputation Through Relationships & Referrals

Build Your Reputation Through Relationships & ReferralsWebinar recap!

Yesterday, we held this month’s educational webinar, Build Your Reputation Through Relationships & Referrals, hosted by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. In this session, Andy explained an important, yet highly underrated part of a successful marketing strategy, which he calls “reputation marketing.”

Andy provided several tips for developing relationships within the industry and expanding your inventory of reviews and endorsements. By following his advice, you can build a reliable reputation, grow your business, and book more clients!

Here are a few ways to build a positive reputation within the wedding industry:

  • Track particular keywords or phrases about your business on Google Alerts to know what people are saying about your business and/or about your competitors. These updates are delivered straight to your inbox.
  • Create a blog where you can promote your own business, as well as those of your peers, whose professionalism you can trust and recommend. WordPress is a great platform to get started!
  • Collect more reviews from past clients and and peer endorsements from other vendors on WeddingWire. This will help to further develop your strong online reputation, and let potential clients know you are reliable!
  • Get involved in your community by attending events, joining associations, or accepting leadership roles in your favorite industry group. Not only can you become a figure of authority in your local community, but you can also demonstrate important skills that people will associate with you as a business owner.
  • Make an effort to learn all aspects of the wedding industry by grabbing a casual lunch or coffee with a peer and get to know the challenges they face on a daily basis, or share business tips. If you better understand each other’s work, you can refer each other when the time comes!

For more information, watch the full webinar, available within all Premium member accounts any time! For more education from Andy, visit his blog.

» Updating Your Brand Presence for Wedding Season

Updating Your Brand Presence for Wedding SeasonAs we move into the spring season, Pros across the country are preparing for a busy wedding season full of events. While you may have already booked most of your weddings through the fall, couples are still seeing your business as they continue to search for their wedding professionals. It’s essential that your brand presence remain strong while you’re otherwise occupied!

Below we break out the individual areas that affect your brand presence online, with tips for updating each area in preparation for the wedding season.

Brand: Add professional photos

It’s important to take time several throughout the year to update your Storefront with recent photos and information. Before you reach for that cell phone camera, though, consider getting some more high-quality images! Featuring high-resolution, professional photos that showcase your business is an important way to make your Storefront and website more appealing to visitors. We recently redesigned the look and feel of your Storefront to bring more attention to photos of your work, and we’ve seen that visitors who click the new Storefront photo carousel view an average of 22 photos per session. The more visitors to your Storefront who check out your photos, the more time they’re spending on your Storefront considering your business. Make the decision easy by giving them plenty of great photos to choose from!

Public Relations: Submit a real wedding

One of the most crucial aspects of developing strong wedding PR for your business is getting published. Whether you’re a DJ, florist, venue, caterer, wedding planner or any other wedding professional, getting published will expose your business to an even wider audience. If you’re taking our advice and adding more professional photos, your Storefront will look more attractive to our Editorial Team, who spend a lot of time browsing WeddingWire Storefronts to look for Wedding Pros to interview and feature. We also created RealWeds.com to streamline the process of submitting real wedding photos to WeddingWire and our sister site, Project Wedding. Whether you submit your own photos or your business is selected by our Editorial Team, being published on WeddingWire will help your business reach even more engaged couples.

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» Top Word of Mouth Strategies to Get More Referrals

Top Word of Mouth Strategies to Get More ReferralsWhether they advertise their wedding business on one site or dozens, many wedding professionals still believe that a lot of their local business comes from word of mouth – and for good reason! Having happy customers who refer you to their friends and family is a great way to get more business, and it’s not going anywhere in the near future. Even as online presence becomes more and more important, word of mouth marketing should not be overlooked.

Although word of mouth may seem like a more casual form of marketing, it’s not accidental! You can create a deliberate, planned strategy to build an army of fans and leverage them to help you attract more engaged couples. Below are some top word of mouth strategies to get you started!

Know when to ask

The most important part of any word of mouth strategy is to ask at the right time. The best time to ask for a consumer referral is after you’ve completed your work for their wedding or event – right when they couldn’t be happier with the way it all turned out. Ask at the event (if the moment is right and you have the opportunity), include it in your review request emails, or put reminders on your website and even on your receipts and invoices. Remind them to tell their friends about your business if they know anyone recently engaged, and let them know you would really appreciate the help. Happy customers are typically more than willing to pass your business name along to others if you truly exceeded their expectations. All you have to do is ask!

Offer something in return

If you’re really trying to grow through word of mouth strategies, consider offering something in return for those customers who provide a referral. This takes a little more work on your end – you’ll need to be sure you can track referrals in order to provide incentives – but the prospect of receiving a benefit can help activate happy clients who need a little push to help you out. Offer a special discount code if the event hasn’t yet occurred, or throw in a free or discounted product if you can. If your business does repeat business (florists, bakers, photographers, DJs), offer a free or discounted product for the future. These sorts of perks will make clients more likely to tell their friends about your business.

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» 8 Best Practices for Displaying Your Reviews

8 Best Practices for Displaying Your ReviewsBy now, it’s clear: Reviews and testimonials are extremely important for wedding and event professionals. Your WeddingWire Storefront already features your reviews prominently to help engaged couples evaluate whether or not your business is a good fit, but it’s important to extend those reviews beyond your Storefront to feature them on your website, blog or other branded online sites.

We offer awards for the quantity and quality of your reviews through annual programs like the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® and WeddingWire Rated, which both include badges you can proudly display on your website. In addition, premium WeddingWire members can highlight one review to be featured at the top of their reviews on their Storefront, but you may have a ton of great reviews that you want to show the world! If you want to start displaying your reviews in other places online, use these best practices to get started.

  1. Select reviews from customers who best represent your ideal prospect. You know your ideal customer: that bride or groom who loves your services and sees the value in your expertise without having to negotiate. Those customers are often the easiest to please and would therefore be more likely to write you a stellar review. Put your best foot forward by featuring this type of review!
  2. Select reviews that include specific details about your service. Reviews that detail how nice or professional you are can still be valuable, but when featuring reviews on your website or blog it’s important to select those reviews that go into specific detail about your business. This gives web visitors and prospects a better idea of what to expect, and lends more credibility to the reviewer.
  3. Feature several short reviews instead of a few long ones. If you have limited space, it’s best to display several shorter reviews instead of one or two long reviews. Short reviews will make it easy for those who like to skim through the list, and featuring reviews from multiple clients shows that your business is able to satisfy a variety of clients with different needs and budgets.
  4. …But don’t be afraid of long reviews. If you’re featuring reviews on multiple pages of your website or blog, you can leverage one or two longer reviews on each page. For example, if you have separate pages for your DJ services and lighting and décor services, feature a review that mentions specific details about your DJ services on the DJ page and a review that mentions specific details about your lighting and décor services on the lighting page.
  5. Include names, titles and locations when possible. While reviews you receive on WeddingWire may not include the full name of the reviewer depending on his or her privacy settings, that doesn’t mean your business can’t use names if you have permission from the client. If you have a good relationship with the client, feel free to reach out for approval on using more details about them on your website.
  6. Feature the reviewer’s head shot. When you reach out to your client for permission to use more identifying information to accompany the review, why not ask for a recent head shot? Visual confirmation that the reviewer is a real person can be extremely powerful when combined with an already favorable review.
  7. Don’t forget the quotation marks! This may seem silly, but quotation marks are a huge visual indicator that the review is unedited and straight from the reviewer. Forgetting to include them may indicate to visitors and prospects that you’ve made edits or changed the review in some way. Always include quotation marks to ensure readers know that the review is a direct quote.
  8. Be consistent in formatting. Though you should never edit a review, you can make sure that the name, title, location and/or headshot formatting is consistent across all the reviews you display. Also think about the styling of the review – you can use big block quotation marks or italic text to distinguish the review from the rest of the page. However you choose to style your reviews, keep it consistent so that the reader can easily follow and understand what the reviews say about your business.

Displaying your WeddingWire reviews on your website or blog is a great step towards using what your customers say as part of your sales process to help manage your online reputation! These best practices will help your business convince more visitors that your business is the right choice boost conversion rates on your contact forms.

Don’t have that perfect review yet? Keep collecting reviews! Start here.

» Review Your Fellow Pros with Endorsements

Review Your Fellow Pros with EndorsementsCollecting feedback about your wedding business is an important part of your business’ growth. With over two million reviews collected so far on WeddingWire.com, we know that reviews play a huge role in a business’ online reputation in today’s modern world!

Did you know that in addition to collecting reviews from your clients, you can also collect endorsements from other wedding professionals through your existing WeddingWire account?

Think of an endorsement as a review from a fellow wedding professional. Reviews from your clients show potential clients how well your business delivered on the day of the wedding or event, but endorsements from other professionals help potential clients see how credible your business is amongst your peers. Both reviews and endorsements, together, give a full picture of your business’ reputation.

Not convinced? Here are three reasons why professional endorsements should be part of your feedback process:

  • Getting professional references has never been easier. Easily receive endorsements for your skills and business practices from other Wedding Pros you’ve worked with and build more credibility with potential new clients.
  • Build instant credibility and strengthen your professional brand. Accumulating endorsements from other local Wedding Pros will instantly add credibility to your business and show that your professional network recognizes your work.
  • Endorse the Pros you know and give back to your peers. Endorsing other businesses is a great way to recognize your colleagues and help strengthen your peer connections within your network.

Use the Pros I Know tool to send or accept invitations to connect with other wedding and event professionals you know or have previously worked with. You can easily navigate between your connections, those you sent invitations to, and those who you received invitations.

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» The Internet: Your New “Permanent Record”

This post is by Jennifer Reitmeyer. Jennifer has worked in the wedding industry since 1997. In addition to owning MyDeejay, an award-winning wedding entertainment firm serving the Washington, D.C. market, she also maintains a wedding business blog, WeddingIQ, and a blogging and social media service for wedding businesses, Firebrand Messaging. Jennifer is available for small business coaching, speaking, and writing opportunities. Read more at jenniferreitmeyer.com.

As valuable as the Internet is to couples planning a wedding, it’s equally invaluable to Pros in the business of selling weddings. Websites, blogs and social media have made it easy to adjust your pricing, roll out promotions and even overhaul your branding. However, keep in mind that the Internet has become a permanent record of sorts, with archive sites and mirror sites creating a history of practically everything that’s ever been published online.

The Internet: Your New “Permanent Record”That’s why it’s so important to make strategic decisions and take a long view approach when branding your business and setting your rates. Savvy clients and smart business owners tend to watch the market over time — they’re aware of what various companies are offering and how much they’re charging. And when a company constantly flip-flops on its pricing or drastically alters its entire image, people notice.

In my own market, I’ve heard lots of buzz about Pros who’ve arbitrarily doubled their rates, halved their rates, blasted people with coupons and threatened massive price increases. All of these changes, and the branding confusion that results, have been documented forever, thanks to the Internet.

Obviously, every business owner needs to make adjustments to accommodate a changing market. I’m all for making tweaks to your image, and even rebranding completely when it makes sense to do so. However, with your every business move captured online and added to your “permanent record,” it’s essential that the choices you make are carefully considered. Can you explain a huge price increase or reduction when someone’s aware of what you used to offer? (And believe me, even if your clients haven’t yet noticed, your competitors have!) If you’re rebranding, do you have a clear reason why, and are you able to account for how the “new” you is different from the old you?

If we’re all stuck with that online permanent record, let it be one that documents a series of logical, strategic growth and transformation over time.

» Top 5 Lessons from the WeddingWire World Tour So Far

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

Now that we have two of the five WeddingWire World Tour stops for 2014 under our belt, I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on what I’ve seen and heard, not from the stage, rather from offstage. I’ve met so many great wedding and event Pros, exchanged business cards, heard your stories and listened and answered your questions. I’ve often said that the best part of many conferences for me is what happens in the hallways, at the meals and at the bar, and these WeddingWire World events were no exception.

Top 5 Lessons from the WeddingWire World Tour So FarSo, here are five things that stood out for me as some of the lessons I’d like to share with you (and if you haven’t made it to a stop on the WeddingWire World Tour yet, there are still three more coming up later this year!):

1) Free and cheap are worth exactly that.

Don’t be lured in by free/cheap websites and business cards. One of my presentations was specifically about your printed marketing materials (business cards, brochures, postcards, etc.). Printed marketing is a multi-sensory experience. When someone hands you their business card you unconsciously take notice of the feel of the card, the weight of the paper and the texture. Then you look at the quality of the design and printing. You’re making judgments about the quality of the business based upon the quality of the card. Don’t believe me? Has someone ever handed you a thin business card? What did you think of it? You probably didn’t think they were the highest quality business, did you?

2) What does your email say about you?

Almost half the business cards I collected had email addresses that were not matched to that company’s website URL. Instead they had Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo or their internet provider (Verizon, Comcast, RoadRunner, etc.). When I survey audiences they always say that using a Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc. email address makes you look like a new or part-time business, no matter how long you’ve been in business or how high your quality.

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