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Content Marketing, Social Media

Party blogging with work-life balance: How a love for parties helped Jessica Lighter (@Celebrationsty) find her calling

Brands like Pier 1 and Target regularly find Jessica Lighter, of The Celebration Stylist, through her Instagram posts. In fact, despite her accomplishments as a party planner and blogger, she says the community she’s made on Instagram is what she’s proudest of. Here she talks about how she built a following of thirty-thousand highly engaged followers.

“I always had all these fun business ideas but I never had an audience for them. I knew if only people saw the things I could create, they would appreciate them and support them, but finding an audience was the hardest part. And what’s a business without buyers right?”

Jessica Lighter has always been a woman of many talents. Creativity isn’t something she does, it’s who she is. Trying to find a job that encompassed her many talents wasn’t easy; as she says “They don’t offer ‘party throwing’ as a college major.” But in high school she worked at a mall store that specialized in children’s birthday parties, and while she didn’t expect that to become her career path, it sort of did.

She went on to open her own party store, but when she and her husband decided to have children, her focus changed. She closed the store and planned occasional parties for families around the neighborhood, working events around the schedule of a stay-at-home mother. Then she began posting pictures of these parties on Instagram.

“I had a personal (but not private) Instagram account, like most people do, and one day I got a couple of random strangers following me. It dawned on me almost instantly that somehow I needed to grow my Instagram account and THAT would be my audience.”

Growing her Instagram following became her focus. She knew she could find an audience there and maybe even people to buy her products. Not only that, but “People that were interested and invested in my journey and what I would create.”

She says it was the exact solution she needed.

“No matter what I decided to do, I needed people to know about it if I was going to make it work on my own.”

Instagram fascinated Jessica. She saw businesses and brands using it as practically their only medium for growth. Jessica has devoted a lot of time to studying how to build a business through Instagram, and along the way, she discovered that she also enjoyed writing, which made blogging about her parties a natural evolution.

“There have definitely been points where I felt I was failing at life, but it all sort of funneled into this. And this lets me stay home with my daughter, write, create – all of which I like to do. A lot of people think they can’t make a career out of what they love to do, but I’m here to tell you, you can. You might just not know how yet.”

Jessica says she had no idea before she started that there were companies, big ones, that would pay other people to create images for them.

Today, Jessica as The Celebration Stylist works with brands like Target, Shutterfly and Pier 1 to create styled party shoots for her blog and Instagram, in addition to planning parties for local clients. It’s a system that’s working so well for her that she says she isn’t accepting new clients at this point – she’s earning enough and is able to give her two-year-old all the attention she needs (which, being a two-year-old, is a lot!).

Unlike so many entrepreneurs, Jessica Lighter isn’t all about the hustle. Her priorities are her daughter, work-life balance, and spending what time she has (while her daughter is napping) doing what she loves. Not a bad way to do business, if you ask me.

In this interview, Jessica Lighter shares how she built an Instagram following of more than 30,000 highly engaged followers, works with big-name brands, and is starting a community of party-loving creatives all on social media.

Read More on Canva


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Social Media

Mixing Lifestyle Photography & Business

Event planner Rachel Senner makes business personal by promoting her work and herself at the same time – through lifestyle photography. The result, an experience that looks like so much fun her followers can’t wait to work with her.

Vendors at a pop-up shop party seem to sprout overnight, like mushrooms. 🍄 It looks so simple. Name the date, find a place, then invite a bunch of shops to set up tables, tents and displays.

But when it’s the first event you’ve ever planned, and you have to convince those vendors that it will be worth their time to come?

As Rachel Senner remembers her first pop-up shop party, it was less fungi-like ease, and more like giving birth: “Hundreds of phone calls, elbow grease, blood, sweat, tears and prayers. I was ready to quit.”

Rachel had just opened the proverbial shutters of her event planning business, Senner of Attention, and took on the pop-up shop party with the help of friend and photographer Meghan of Chicka Artistica Photography.

“We found a venue (The Chase Center on the Riverfront) and immediately got to work. I created a logo on Canva (which, by the way, I use Canva for pretty much all the graphic designs I do for events; that website saved my life!) for the Pop-up Shop Party, which served as the face of our project. As we gained vendors we would post their logos with the event logo to gain momentum for the event.”

Like Rachel you can create your own event logo in Canva using templates like Script BluePeach Circle or the Snow Pink Flower Floral.

The event not only kicked off a partnership that would help build Rachel’s business grow, but it was also a landmark moment – it’s how she got her first 100 attendees.Rachel says, “I heard a lot of ‘No’ before I ever heard a ‘Yes’. Business owners are smart. They want a great return on investment, and to trust what seemed like a couple of newbie kids with their money and time took a big leap of faith.

When those vendors started showing up and setting up their products, and thanking us for allowing them to be there, I felt like I could do anything.

Those first vendors will always have a special place in my heart. They were the start of something really big.”

In this article, Rachel breaks down how she uses social media (and print media) to grow her business, why promoting yourself is key to promoting event planning, and her unique approach to event design.

Read More on Canva

Social Media

10 Tips on Building Your Community and Business at the Same Time

Paper Goat Post is a brick-and-mortar store that combines beautiful paper products with events, and is quickly growing through their out-of-the-gift-box strategy for growing a business through community, social media, and snail mail.

When most non-wedding invitations are sent online, letters devolve into emails, heart-to-heart conversations happen on Gchat, and gifts are sent straight from Amazon Prime – a business based on paper seems a bit old-fashioned – and optimistic.

But there is something about paper.

Reading the hand-written words of a loved one that has physically traveled from hand to hand.

Carefully disassembling a beautifully, thoughtfully wrapped gift.

Discovering an elegant invitation in the mailbox.

As Paper Goat Post’s co-founders (and twin sisters) Megan and Cedar will tell you, they consider it their mission to “promote togetherness through the lost art of snail mail, gathering in celebration, and the thoughtful art of giving.”

Our philosophies extend through our products, services and brand to enrich our local community.

In fact, Megan and Cedar’s philosophy and business plan is very much about building community – and growing through community – with the help of paper.

And social media.

Where the old-fashioned and modern marketing methods converge is in this unique, utterly delightful space Megan and Cedar have created, both in their brick-and-mortar shop in Ivanhoe Village in Orlando, and their online presence.

Read More on Canva
Social Media

How One Event Designer Used Styled Shoots to Establish Her Blog and Connect with National Brands

Twinkle Twinkle Little Party is a party blog that works with brands like Starbucks and TinyPrints, and has been featured on Style Me Pretty and 100 Layer Cake (to name but two). Blogger Andressa Hara’s secrets to success leverage social media and her own stunning styled shoots.

Bloggers who make a living from their blogs walk a delicate line between delivering engaging, original content to their audiences – and serving their advertisers. Go too far in one direction, and you look like a shill. Go too far the other way, and you’re back to applying for a 9-to-5 job.

Andressa Hara has successfully transitioned from event planner to event designer and full-time blogger at Twinkle Twinkle Little Party (TTLP). If you’ve ever tried to pay bills by blogging, you’ll understand just what a challenging transition that is. But it’s one she felt compelled to make in order to fulfill her creative vision.

“When I was building my event planning portfolio, I used to invite several vendors to collaborate with me. They would provide all the party décor and food necessary for the shoot, and I’d use a photographer as well.”

For Andressa, that was giving over a lot of creative control. Each styled shoot was the result of the team’s vision, rather than her own.

I found that I am happiest when I plan, design and execute my own vision from beginning to end. So I chose to rebrand from being an event planner to being a brand stylist only.

“Once I rebranded and became a party stylist/blogger, I was able to establish my own style and stick with it. I started to incorporate more DIY ideas rather than having vendors to provide everything. I also started to take my own pictures.

“Now I create content that is easy to recreate: parties my audience can get ideas from to host their own events rather than hiring someone to do it for them.” Andressa says that producing styled shoots for her readers has become her biggest passion, and her strongest content for building her business and brand.

When she agrees to a brand partnership, her audience – real people planning real parties – come first. If what she does helps them to throw an unforgettable, joyful event, she’s done her job well.

“When a brand contacts TTLP to promote a new product they are launching, we will only work on the campaign if the product is a good fit for our blog. Since TTLP is a party blog, I will only promote products that can be easily incorporated into celebrations.”

Her work has been featured on Style Me Pretty, Oh Lovely Day, 100 Layer Cake and Hostess with the Mostess, as well as nationwide magazines and brands like Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Nestle, Kate Aspen, Tiny Prints and Shutterfly.

Andressa’s blog, Twinkle Twinkle Little Party Magazine and Etsy store work together like gears in an engine to support and promote each other. But none of these became successful overnight.

Read More on Canva
Social Media

Building an Events Business with the Help of Reality TV and Visual Marketing

Ever wonder how reality TV shows find their event planners? Want to know how to turn your Instagram page into a brand-building, client attracting portfolio? How’d you like to get in on the secret of creating a powerful first impression with your website’s home page alone? Elle Anderson of Elle A Events covers all of this and more.

Seven years ago, while living in Hawaii, Elle Anderson had her life flash before her eyes – she’d been in a car accident that landed her in the hospital. Until then, she hadn’t really asked herself what she truly wanted to do with her life. She already had a number of event coordinating, venue management and marketing jobs under her belt, but it wasn’t until that exact moment that she realized event production was what she felt called to do.

“I knew it was the culmination of my experience. It pulled all the pieces together. I wanted to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences for people.”

Unforgettable moments. When life flashes before your eyes, those moments are what stay with you.

Fast-forward to today where Elle A Events is a fast growing event production company with an accomplished team of creative professionals. They do everything.

“I get to be involved in so much more than one aspect of the event. This was why production for me was a bigger calling. I love being able to do custom fabrications and unique detailed touches; that’s the side of production you see. Planners and designers think of the ideas, but the people who put them into place are on the production side.”

Elle’s company has grown fast in the last six years in a way that could almost only happen in Los Angeles – by being on reality TV. Her television appearances may have been the catalyst for some of her success, but it’s not the only reason – her incredibly smart marketing strategies and business philosophy all contribute to her success today.

Our conversation with Elle ranged from how she first began marketing her business on Yelp, to how she found herself as the wedding planner for several reality TV shows, and how her marketing strategy and branding has evolved along the way.

She explains how she did it all, and why at the end of the day, it’s integrity that’s really the most important factor for growing your business (although a carefully curated Instagram page helps).

Read More on Canva
Social Media

How @thebowsarrows use Instagram and Print Media as a Springboard to Grow Their Audience

Floral designers Alicia and Adam Rico focus on just two ways to reach the brides who’ll love their style. They use print media as a springboard to grow their audience and a carefully curated Instagram page to nurture brides-to-be. The unintended consequence: travel opportunities.

When Alicia Rico and her husband Adam Rico first began their floral design business, Alicia had one goal – get into Martha Stewart Weddings magazine. It’s not easy. Weddings featured in Martha Stewart’s magazine have to be submitted long before they happen, and if chosen, an entire Martha Stewart design, planning and photography team help the happy couple with every facet of their big day – planning just the right look, choosing linens and lighting, even picking the perfect dress. For brides who adore Martha Stewart’s signature style of pale hues and vases overflowing with soft pink petals, it’s a dream come true.

But as Alicia’s business, Bows + Arrows Flowers was just getting off the ground, she didn’t have a bride-to-be in her back pocket. She did have photos of a recent wedding for which she’d designed floral arrangements. On a chance, she submitted them to the editors.

The editors loved them.

“It was of a wedding we did in the desert, which is a very different style than Martha Stewart magazine usually publishes. And we submitted it after it was done, and they still agreed to feature it. That was a huge moment.”

It didn’t take Alicia and Adam long to see their work from another wedding land on the cover of the magazine, checking off her next goal.

While it certainly helps to build your brand by aligning with one of the biggest wedding publications in the country, Alicia and Adam don’t rely solely on print media or even wedding blogs to get in front of their ideal audience of blossom-loving brides. Their success is a combination of understanding their ideal client really well, staying true to their brand, and building a truly impressive following on Instagram that not only lands them clients, but literally sends them around the world.

Here the Ricos share their journey from art students to Martha Stewart-approved floral designers (and occasional wedding designers), and give tips on how you can improve engagement, increase followers, and get clients on Instagram.

Read More on Canva

Metrics, Social Media

What You Think Matters Doesn’t – Meet Social Media’s Better KPIs ft. @UseNotion

kpi

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).
What social media KPIs would you, personally, like to brag about to your boss? More followers than Katy Perry? An original, semi-clever tweet for every minute of the day (and double on Sundays)? The fact that you’re only following one person – the CEO – but you’ve got 636,558 followers, CRUSHING the followers-to-following ratio?

And what if I were to tell you that those are totally pointless?

Chuck ’em. Toss’em. Line the birdcage with them, because they’re yesterday’s news.

Not only are these numbers not true indicators of success, they won’t help you build a more engaged, loyal following on social media. And they won’t help your bottom line.

But other metrics can.

Here are the three social media KPIs that matter:

  1. Amplification
  2. Applause
  3. Economic Value

Read More on Notion


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Social Media

The Surprising Value of Twitter Followers

thevalueoftwitter

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

For me, calculating the value of my Twitter followers is easy: I keep a record of every client who has found me on Twitter and add up their lifetime values.

Oh, right – I get clients directly from Twitter. That’s important.

It’s actually one of my main forms of marketing for my business as a SaaS consultant, along with frequent guest posts and regular activity in industry forums like GrowthHackers.comProductHunt and Inbound.org.

Twitter, guest posts, and forum interactions are all part of the ecosystem of my marketing plan – like a tank full of sea monkeys.

Together, and with the help of some amazing mentors I met on Twitter, they’ve helped me forge a reputation in my fields.

But let’s look at the other part of the puzzle of gaining paying clients through Twitter — your ideal clients have to be on Twitter.

In SaaS, Growth Hacking, and Inbound Marketing communities, Twitter is a central hub of industry communication. We’re all there, chatting away, every day. That is not true for all industries and types of businesses.

Read More on TribeBoost


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Social Media

Truly Awesome Tactics to Gain Traffic from Twitter by @NikkiElizDeMere

twitter-traffic

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Here’s a crazy statistic. On average, Twitter sees 500 million tweets per day. Out of all of the interactions people have with these tweets, 92% of them involve clicking links.

For some of us, getting in on that action feels as easy as chatting with a barista at the local coffee shop. For others, getting website traffic from Twitter may as well be alchemy. That’s okay, since it actually is possible to turn Tweets into gold. I promise.

Caveats

If your target audience is on Twitter — this is the primary caveat — Twitter marketing is the best way to increase targeted traffic to your website.

The. Best. I don’t use those words lightly. There are two reasons: 1) Twitter attracts almost everybody, which makes finding a large audience for your niche (however small it is) easy; and 2) Twitter, along with helpful tools like Tribeboost, can help you find people in your audience.

The secondary caveat is this: Twitter marketing only works if you use Twitter the right way. It’s amazing to me that people are still Tweeting about what they ate for lunch in 2016. Sometimes those posts are fun, too — don’t get me wrong — but you can do better.

Read More on Moz


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Search Engine Optimization, Social Media

And Now for Something Completely Different: 4 New Ways to Think About SEO in 2016 ft. @RandFish

new-seo

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

Recently I’ve noticed a change in Google search rankings. When I searched certain keywords, Twitter threads came up. So I tried adding keywords to clients’ social media posts to see if I could get their tweets to rank, increase brand awareness, and increase website traffic.

I was almost surprised when it worked.

Search engine ranking algorithms evolve faster than a zombie plague in a horror film – we all know this. Yet most business owners are barely keeping pace with what Google was doing two years ago. If you’re still thinking in terms of Pandas and Hummingbirds, let’s get you up to date for the SEO changes and challenges of 2016.

1. Use Twitter activity to bump your website traffic via SERPs

In 2015, Twitter gave Google access to live data streams of their 284 million users, which means real-time tweets can and will show up on search engine results. You can build on this by promoting your Twitter activity, planning your tweets to include keywords and a link to your site, and using 1-2 relevant hashtags to increase engagement. I also like leveraging the power of images on Twitter, so I pair images I create on Buffer’s Pablo image creator with my Twitter content.

Bottom line: Google’s indexing of Twitter is set to grow dramatically this year. Are you ready?

2. Hashtag trend watch

WordStream Data Scientist Marc Irvine published an interesting bit of research in December of 2015 showing that trending hashtags can predict breakout search terms hours in advance. If your plan to drive traffic to your site includes capitalizing on real-time search interest, this is news you can use:

“For the dozen popular hashtags I followed that week, on average, search interest for these terms would increase 500% over the 6 hours of their breakout on Twitter and then stay elevated for many hours or even days following that.”

Bottom line: You may not be able to see into the future, but Twitter can. So pay attention.

3. The rise of adblocking is just the beginning

Overt sales methods like traditional online ads and marketing emails are coming up against increasing resistance among consumers. One of Rand Fishkin’s 2016 predictions for SEO web marketing includes “entrenched players” trying to “legislate [ad blocking] away.” It won’t work, in my opinion, because adblocking programs aren’t the problem – they’re the symptom. A symptom of a population which has been sold to six ways ‘til Sunday and is over-sensitized. Another trend I’ve been seeing is people unsubscribing from marketing emails and newsletters, a reaction to the marketing dump that has become our inboxes.

Bottom line: SEO is going to become even more important as a way for your ideal customers to find you. Because, if you try to find them first, they’ll ignore you.

4. Google’s got some competition (finally)

If you haven’t heard of DuckDuckGo yet, by the end of this year, you will. In 2015, this search engine grew by leaps and bounds and many early adopters in tech converted. Why are people switching? Big Brother Google is watching, but DDG bills itself (pun intended – get it? Bills? Ducks have them? Okay.) as “the search engine that doesn’t track you. A superior search experience with smarter answers, less clutter and real privacy.” What does this mean for SEO and web marketing? Consider it yet another reaction to a culture of constant selling. After all, if the search engine doesn’t track you, it can’t target ads at you either.

Bottom line: The rules for ranking with DuckDuckGo are standard: “Having quality links, quality content, using hyperlocal keywords and being mobile ready with a responsive website are all important.”

If you’re noticing a couple of trends running throughout this list: Good! Here they are in a nutshell:

  • Social media is becoming increasingly important as a tool for organic, inbound marketing.
  • Organic, inbound marketing is becoming far more effective in the face of people blocking, unsubscribing, and outright rejecting blatant outbound/traditional marketing methods.

Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.