Social Media

How To Avoid Instagram Burn Out

It’s been said we’re the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. This can be transferred to who we "hang out" with online, as well.

It's easy (and trendy) to blame Instagram and other social media for our problems, but that blame is misplaced. Social media is like money in that it's amoral. It can be used for good or evil (or just to further lazy complacency), depending on how we choose to use it.

If you "learn nothing" from social media, that's on you. Take stock of who and what you allow to shape your thoughts, and raise the bar where necessary. 

If you listen to podcasts or watch educational videos, listen to ones hosted by people who talk about ideas from a point of both expertise and curiosity and who bring a thoughtful perspective to the table. I love On Being, hosted by Krista Tippett. The Stanford Graduate School of Business also puts many of their guest lectures and interviews on YouTube, as do other business schools. On the occasion I listen to podcasts from a business consultant, it is by consultants that I would hire for myself.

If you’re taking an online course, consider taking a free one through MIT, Harvard, Columbia, etc through EdX. They have over a thousand free classes covering multiple areas of interest, including first-rate business courses ranging from Business 101 to marketing to finance to supply chains. 

Follow artists on Instagram who have nothing to do with your field so that you can train yourself to see inspiration everywhere and learn from someone else's very different creative process. 

The purpose of Twitter is mindshare, which is why it is the preferred social media platform for so many CEOs and other leaders. Follow people who talk about things that cause you to think about topics from a different angle. Twitter has evolved, so if you haven't been on it in a few years, treat it as a listening tool for a while so you can learn how it's used differently now than it was in the past. 

Social and online media is a great way to gain exposure to new people and ideas that sharpen you, force you to examine long-held beliefs you may have never questioned, and spark your creativity. This is especially true if you work from home and don't have the same in-person interactions that a standard corporate office has.

If you leave social media feeling more drained than inspired, change who you follow. You are the sum of who you surround yourself with, online and off. 

Originally published March 2017

The Truth About Wedding Industry Fame

Wedding Spending Is Down: 6 Things You Can Do • No. 4

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

Here’s some not exactly splendid news: wedding spending is down in every budget category across the board, with the exception of the Ultra Luxury Wedding segment (budgets of $500,000+, not including the honeymoon).

Economists have been forecasting a recession to hit towards the end of 2019 for a while now, and while those predictions are not always accurate, wedding spending tends to be a canary in the coal mine for how people are feeling about their financial future.

At the end of my 2019 State of the Wedding Industry post, I outlined six things wedding professionals will need to do in order to navigate the coming uncertainties. In this blog series called 6 Ways to Survive a Recession, I’m diving into each one a little bit more. Here’s what’s been previously covered:

  1. Get super clear about what your brand is about and adjust your messaging accordingly.

  2. Diversify your marketing and play the long game by building equity in the brand house you own.

  3. Cultivate an inclusive community that authentically cares about something beyond themselves.

The fourth thing you should focus on is this:

Don’t buy into your own hype and don’t assume your popularity will last forever, especially if you’re one of the current industry it-girls.

The fastest way to kill your wedding business is to drink your own kool-aid. Not doing so is easier said than done, of course, because the kool-aid is delicious, made up of a mixture of press mentions, respect from your peers, Instagram likes, and the praises of a job well-done.

After all, you worked hard and true humility knows how to take a compliment, right?

The problem isn’t the accolades themselves, and if you earned them, you deserve them. The problem comes with assuming the level of popularity you’ve achieved defines you or that it will last forever.

Here are three realities on working in the wedding industry:

The first reality is that the wedding industry is very much feast or famine, and some years will be much leaner than others, no matter how long you’ve been in business.

The second reality is that wedding industry “fame” is a fickle mistress. Your meteoric rise seems unstoppable, until it isn’t. If you’re currently one of the wedding industry “it-girls” (or “it-guys”), please go read my post about what to do to protect yourself.

Running a business is a long-game, and take it from someone who has seen this happen a zillion times, the level of popularity and money you may be enjoying now will not stay that way if you begin to act like you’re untouchable.

Which brings us to the third reality: No one in the wedding industry is untouchable. No one.

People usually don’t dive into believing they are untouchable, it’s more of a slippery slope. It tends to start with doing things like:

  • Pulling all advertising under the assumption that people know your name.

  • Assuming you are more well-known than you are because your clients are well-known.

  • Assuming that since Oprah, the Kardashians, or Beyoncé have hired you in the past, they will remain loyal to you forever.

  • Acting like people are lucky to work with you, participate in your event, be in your presence.

  • Acting as if you are doing everyone a huge favor by inviting them to collaborate with you.

  • Believing that you can be emotionally or verbally abusive because people need your talent in order to make their event great.

  • Not responding to or engaging with people on social media because you get too many likes and comments to keep up.

  • Skipping all local networking events because you are “so in demand nationally, I really don’t need them, you know?”

This doesn’t meant that there won’t be times where you need to say no or turn down opportunities. There will be times when you need to negotiate in order to protect your brand's interests – what you will be known for and what you won't. There will be occasions when you need to protect your time and your family’s time. Sometimes you will be accused of ego for these decisions when it has nothing to do with ego at all.

Take an honest inventory though of what’s really happening and whether or not you need to set the kool-aid down and put in the work required to remain relevant. Your ego is their competitive advantage.

The Life-Changing Magic of Paying Attention

One of the most tone-deaf things I often see on wedding industry website “About Us” pages is a claim that essentially says, “Weddings in this city were drab and boring, but then I came along and made everything stylish and wonderful!” This type of claim is not only arrogant, it’s a rookie move, and it brands you as such. All you are doing is telling people that you aren’t good at paying attention.

LIFE magazine first used the term “professional wedding consultant” in 1941. Chances are someone was doing what you did – and doing it well – long before you opened your doors.

In fact, if you started your business after 2005, you are not the first anything in the wedding industry. Full stop.

Not the first wedding stylist. Not the first honeymoon planner. Not the first invitation designer to use non-paper materials. Not the first wedding blogger. Not the first industry “influencer.” Not the first social media strategist. Not the first copywriter. Not the first wedding publicist. Not the first financial coach. Not the first b2b workshop producer or educator. Not the first online community creator.

You may compete in those respective spaces now, and you may be really great at what you do, and in some cases you may have even become the best at what you do, but you weren’t the first.

Fortunately, this also means that your problems aren’t new, and there are people and resources out there that can help you navigate them. Consider this quote on the issue of staying relevant in business:

"Many retailers get into a rut, and run their business along the lines of least resistance . . . they make no effort to keep their business up-to-date. When, however, the customer wants something artistic, the order is given to the more progressive florist. Many, who thought they had all of Mrs. Blank's work, and would get the approaching wedding of her daughter, were surprised to find it had been given to the competitor.”

This could be a quote from any wedding industry conference in the past ten years, but it was published in American Florist, a b2b trade journal for the floral industry, in 1919. Literally 100 years ago. Technology may be constantly changing, but the root of our challenges as business owners is not new.

Weddings are as old as time and providing various services for them goes back decades and even centuries. Acknowledging that other people also do good work, and that some even paved a path for you to do what you love doesn’t make you any less talented. In fact, it grounds your work in a sense of perspective and allows you to grow more quickly by learning from the mistakes made by others who went before you. Paying attention, and doing your homework will save you time and money in the long run.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

Wedding Industry Fame

Here’s the truth on wedding industry “fame” – it largely doesn’t exist and you’re most likely not the exception to that rule.

Having more than 100k Instagram followers does not make you a celebrity. Being recognized by a stranger in a coffee shop in your hometown does not make you a celebrity. Having a blue checkmark on Instagram or Twitter does not make you a celebrity. Appearing on a few episodes of reality TV does not make you a celebrity. Having famous friends or clients does not make you a celebrity. Being able to charge $40k+ for your services does not make you a celebrity.

Here's how to know whether or not you are a true celebrity:

If you were to get divorced, would TMZ report on it?

Not married. Divorced.

No? Then you are not a celebrity.

By this measure, you can count the number of wedding industry celebrities on less than one hand.

This doesn’t mean you and the work you do are not valuable, it just means you are not a celeb. It’s fine. You’ll continue to do work that helps people celebrate significant moments in their life and create lifelong memories. You don’t need to be famous to do meaningful work and you certainly don’t need to be famous in order for your own life to have meaning.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

When Ego Is Subtle

Ego likes to embed itself into our mindset in tricky ways that aren’t always easy to identify.

Sometimes it runs on the subtle ways we as a society assign status. Someone newer to the industry wasn't rude to us, but didn't extend the level of deference that we feel is owed to us as an industry veteran. Instead of recognizing this for what it is, our ego quickly jumps in to write them off as "Not knowing their place" or "Wow, his head sure got big fast” or “She has become such a diva.”

Maybe it's someone you once did a favor for, and they've since returned the favor, but your ego tells you that they owe you forever. Then, when they tell you "no" to something because it isn't a good fit for them in this season of their life or career, your ego gets offended by how "ungrateful" they are, conveniently forgetting all the ways they’ve supported you in the past.

Maybe it's someone who now competes with you, and instead of admitting that they’ve honed their skills and talent and pivoted their strategies in order to grow – just like everyone who stays in business has to do – your ego insists on saying, "Let me tell you about a mistake she made ten years ago" to anyone who will listen.

Ego likes to conflate valid grievances (someone stealing your work and passing it off as their own) with false grievances (someone being good at their job and now competing for the same clients).

Ego likes to tell you that a genuine misunderstanding was intentionally malicious rather than allowing it to be exactly what it was – a misunderstanding. It refuses to accept any clarifications as being true, opting for a soured relationship over reconciliation.

Ego likes to tell you it's okay to nurse grudges, instead of setting healthy boundaries and moving on so that you aren't robbed of future opportunities and creativity.

This is all easy to spot when someone else does it. For example, if someone on an episode of the Real Housewives actively worked to keep a frienemy from getting a professional opportunity and reached out to every mutual contact and said, "It's me or them," you would rightly call them insane. Yet too many of us allow our ego to behave as though we're still in high school when we're well into our 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60’s.

Identifying when the ego is speaking is work. It's hard work, and it often doesn't feel good because it requires being honest with ourselves about things we don't want to hear. On the other hand, nursing a grudge feels good. Posting ‘vaguebook’ statuses feels good. Gossiping over and over (and over) about how someone "wronged" us feels good.

Your ego tricks you into thinking these acts are meting out some sort of justice, but they're not. All the ego feeds you is junk food. Doing the work to acknowledge but not engage the ego is an organic, made-from-scratch meal. One feels good in the moment, the other nourishes your long-term health.

All of us are guilty of letting our ego get the best of us and indulging in the above behaviors sometimes, myself included. We're all human and none of us are perfectly enlightened every moment of every day. Letting our ego in the driver’s seat isn’t something we need to shame ourselves or beat ourselves up over, but it is something we should all make a point of working on if we want to be kinder, more generous, more creative, more productive people.

The Power of Cultivating Community When Marketing to Gen Z

Wedding Spending Is Down: 6 Things You Can Do • No. 3

Here’s some not exactly splendid news: wedding spending is down in every budget category across the board, with the exception of the Ultra Luxury Wedding segment (budgets of $500,000+, not including the honeymoon).

Economists have been forecasting a recession to hit towards the end of 2019 for a while now, and while those predictions are not always accurate, wedding spending tends to be a canary in the coal mine for how people are feeling about their financial future.

At the end of my 2019 State of the Wedding Industry post, I outlined six things wedding professionals will need to do in order to navigate the coming uncertainties. In this blog series called 6 Ways to Survive a Recession, I’m diving into each one a little bit more. Here’s what’s been previously covered:

  1. Get super clear about what your brand is about and adjust your messaging accordingly.

  2. Diversify your marketing and play the long game by building equity in the brand house you own.

The third thing you should focus on is this:

Cultivate an inclusive community that authentically cares about something beyond themselves.

If you haven’t read my 2019 State of the Wedding Industry post yet, I recommend you do so before you continue on. Pay particular attention to the part about inclusive communities, Supreme, and Gen Z, because that’s what I’m going to expand on today.

Caught up? Okay, let’s go:

The oldest of millennials are turning 40 this year, and the oldest of Generation Z are in the early years of tying the knot.

For the next ten years, you will be marketing to both millennials and Gen Z. One generation grew up experiencing September 11th as tweens, teens, and young college-aged students, and one generation grew up post September 11th. These two generations approach the world very differently from one another.

One of the things that is important to millennials when choosing wedding vendors is that they want to know if they can potentially be friends with you. They want to know if you personally are someone they could grab a glass of wine with or catch up with over brunch, long after the wedding day.

Over the past ten years, Boomer and Gen X wedding pros struggled with this more so than their younger peers as their mindset tended to be, "I already have friends, I just want to do your wedding, go home to my family, and have you trust my talent enough to hire me again for your future baby showers, kids' birthdays and mitzvahs, and your company's holiday parties and incentive events."

For the most part, wedding pros of all ages came around to the idea that talent alone was not enough to make them stand out and shifted their marketing to be a bit more personal – sharing more about themselves and giving a peek behind the scenes into their lives.

What you will find is that while sharing your personal life will still work well in attracting millennial clients, it will not resonate as effectively with your Gen Z clients. In fact, Gen Zers will be turned off the most by wedding pros who post their kids in every photo. These clients are the children of the mommy blogger and Instagram influencer generation and have first-hand experience in having their lives splashed across the Internet without their consent or knowledge. As a result, this is a generation that fiercely values their privacy. For the older members of the group, their mindset as consumers tends to be, “If you won’t respect the privacy and wishes of your own children, how can I trust that you’ll respect my privacy and wishes?”

Do not underestimate how strongly they hold this value. While you don’t necessarily need to stop posting photos of your kids altogether, if that’s currently a large part of your marketing, I’d recommend figuring out a balance so that you can still appeal to millennial clients while not alienating Gen Z clients.

Unlike millennials, Gen Z does not care that much about whether or not you are someone they could be friends with. Gen Z wants to know if your other clients are people they could potentially be friends with. They want to be part of an exclusive yet inclusive community that you have created.

Your Goal Is To Create a Community, Not a Cult

Some business coaches will tell you to select 4-6 topics to talk about in your wedding marketing and rotate through them in your social media, blog, and newsletter. While having a schedule is helpful, and a tactic I often recommend, my approach to what goes on that schedule is a bit different.

To effectively reach Gen Zers, you’ll want to base your marketing on your "life guidelines,” as I call them, so that you can remain authentic to who you are and also attract an audience and potential clients who connect with your values rather than just your story.

Remember, people may like your story, but in the end what they really care about is how you can make their own story better in some way. Not focusing everything on yourself also means that you can live your life and not have to worry about having to mine the same stories week after week of how you left your corporate job or how you met your spouse or how you took a leap of faith and opened your business with just $40 in your pocket.

Your goal is to create a community, not a cult. If your marketing is developed based on your life guidelines, you will cultivate a community who can connect with one another over the meaningful things they have in common rather than over merely being a fan of you.

Plus, you are human, which means you are going to inevitably make mistakes, exercise poor judgment, or have some days where you are not the best version of yourself and say or do something you later regret. If all of your marketing is based on fauxthenticity (aka “curated imperfection” and select Gram-worthy “flaws”), you will face a backlash any time your carefully-designed mask slips, because you were actually the one who built the pedestal for yourself.

Authenticity doesn’t mean laying all of your cards face up on the table, and if your marketing is based on your life guidelines rather than on your “Story of Me,” you can allow yourself to truly be yourself, to share your opinions on a variety of non-surfacey issues, to apologize when you’ve dropped the ball or hurt someone, to not be “on” all the time. It is a much healthier way to run a business, in my opinion.

What Are “Life Guidelines?”

Your "life guidelines" are based on your core values – they are essentially how your core values play out in your daily life, how you ensure you actually walk the walk of what you say you believe.

Using your life guidelines in your marketing is in addition to a client avatar, not as a substitute for it. The latter shows you the demographics and psychographics of who you want to work with (household income, where they like to shop, how they dine, etc), the former allows you to narrow that group down more specifically to how they approach life in relation to deeper issues. If you are creating a community of clients that could potentially be friends with one another, you will need to focus on more than ensuring they all carry a Neverfull and love SoulCycle.

I’ll share a few of my life guidelines and the “why” behind them as examples. If I am going to create a community of people who would want to hang out with each other and who I would enjoy working with as clients, then I want to focus on showing what I care about through my marketing and conversations, so that if it is something they care about too, they know they’ve found a group who is on the same page.

My Life Guideline: Whenever possible, support the original artist.

One of my core values is being a good steward of the resources I have. One of my life guidelines to ensure this happens is: whenever possible, support the original artist.

While I rarely talk about being a good steward, supporting the original artist is something I talk about more frequently because it is something I am passionate about.

This is a lesson I really learned after owning a business. Before, I didn't see the issue with buying a well-made knock-off (or, as they're more commonly called these days, "dupes") because I viewed it as being smart with my money. I thought being a good steward meant making your dollar stretch as far as it could go. I later learned that being a good steward means using every dollar as a "vote." Now when I spend my money, I am "voting" for the people who originally created the products/designs/ideas, not the copycats. And because my budget didn't magically increase when I changed my mind on this, it means I usually end up buying better, but buying less.

Not supporting the copycats matters to me. I've had people steal my work and pass it off as their own (not just newbies, but industry veterans, too), and it's hurtful, especially when done by someone I considered a friend.

I once read an interview with Tory Burch where she said she still gets upset when people steal her designs. It made me feel better that the founder of a famous fashion brand had those feelings as well, but it didn't surprise me because the creative work we all come up with, develop into something marketable, and put out into the world is deeply personal. After all, how many of us jokingly refer to our respective companies as our "first baby?"

When someone copies your ideas, they are hurting you, they are hurting your family, they are hurting your employees, they are hurting the creative community and the industry. It is personal and it is okay to be upset about it. Don't allow a grudge to rob you of future creativity, but you don't have to pretend it doesn't hurt.

When it comes to the community you’re cultivating for your clients, don’t forget your community of professional colleagues. While I'd recommend spending your time and energy with the people who support your original work, sometimes you do need to take an extra step to give yourself mental and emotional space. If the person who took your ideas was a friend, you don't have to allow them to be part of your inner circle anymore nor someone you continue to do business or collaborate with. You are also allowed to unfollow them on social media. Focusing on the good sometimes means removing the people who hurt you yet somehow think they still have a right to suck up your oxygen. You can set healthy boundaries now while still allowing for the possibility of redemption later on down the road. (I recommend the book Beyond Boundaries – part of the Boundaries series by Dr. John Townsend – if you're dealing with whether or not to let someone back into your life.)

My Life Guideline: People have a right to live fully, not just merely.

Another one of my core values is that every life has equal value. One of my life guidelines for this is the belief that people have a right to live fully, not just merely.

I am passionate about the fact that there is more to life than food and shelter. Basic needs matter, obviously, but so do art, athletics, and, yes, fashion and parties. The details matter. Being able to imagine, to create, to push yourself beyond what you thought possible, to feel self-confident and worthy of nice things, to be able to relax and joyfully celebrate life's milestones with the people you love and who love you matters. They matter a lot.

I want to spend my time with people who see everyone as fully human and worthy of every good thing life has to offer. More than that, I want to spend my time with doers – people who use whatever resources they have (money, time, creativity, literal votes) to help add good to the lives of others and who don't sit around waiting to "give back" later on.

It is not about which charities or organizations I am personally involved in – the people who resonate most with this life guideline likely also view generosity as a muscle to be developed and consistently exercised and not something to use as a PR or networking opportunity. They would probably get along with each other if they all found themselves in the same location.

These are examples of a couple of my own life guidelines. Yours may be different. Spend some time drilling down into your core values and examining how they play out in your life. How can you incorporate these into your marketing so that you are sharing your interest in something bigger than yourself?

Won’t My Life Guidelines Turn Some People Off?

If you use your life guidelines to shape your marketing, you are 100% guaranteed to turn some people off.

This is okay.

If you are marketing to everyone, you are marketing to no one. You are creating an inclusive community, yes, but you are also creating an exclusive community. You are creating a community where people can connect with each other based on what they value, which is going to be based on what you value. This will automatically exclude those who don’t share your values.

This isn’t about creating a bubble, and everyone won’t agree on every tactic of how you go about supporting the arts, for example. The point is not to believe all the same things, the point is to create a community built on the foundation of the ideas you and they find most meaningful.

Gen Z wants to know more about who you actually are on a deeper, more philosophical level than they do about the behind the scenes of your daily life or your favorite brands or what you made for dinner this week. Fortunately, since you’re still marketing to millennials while starting to market to Gen Z, your life guidelines often play out in your daily life. You can dive deeper into the “why” behind the choices you make in your day-to-day routine, allowing both marketing strategies to support one another while these age groups overlap as wedding clients.