How Infographics (And Their Tools) Can Supercharge Non-Profits

 

Best Infographic Tools

Best Infographic Tools

As you might remember, I’ve previously covered a list of easy to use, inexpensive/free online tools that non-profits can use to create amazing visuals. This time, however, I thought I’d take a step further and focus on how non-profits can generate infographics to grab the attention of their audiences.

Infographics take visuals one step further by providing engaging and important information in an easy-to-read and easy-to-share format. Infographics also have one of the highest ROIs when it comes to content marketing and one of the longest lifespans on social media, receiving social shares long after they first went live. Best of all, you don’t have to start from scratch when it comes to creating compelling infographics. You can re-purpose your blog posts and articles, using some of the affordable, easy-to-use online tools on the market to do so, supercharging your organization and your cause.

This post will focus on the types of infographic templates every non-profit should have in their toolbox and some of the most popular intuitive and affordable online infographic tools on the market.

Types of Infographic Templates

Problem or Pain Infographic

 

Pain Infographic

Problem or Pain Infographic

This is an infographic that focuses on the problem that your non-profit can solve. How you address the problem is usually answered in your mission statement. But how do you do that in infographic format?

You could show the problem in numbers, if you have data that’s compelling. Visualizing the problem with a chart or showing the numbers off in large font could definitely help audiences understand the problem better, such as the above example on the global education crisis.

Unique Solution Infographic

Unique Solution Infographic

Unique Solution Infographic

 

The second infographic template focuses on how your non-profit has a unique value proposition or solution to the problem. The more you can articulate your organization’s strengths and how unique it is, the more compelling the story becomes. Check out the great infographic from World Vision on how a goat can help a needy family.

Impact or Success Infographic

Impact infographic

Impact infographic

The primary purpose for this infographic is to show your audience and donors the kind of impact their contributions are having. Sharing success stories on how effective a campaign was and personal stories from the very people your non-profit is helping can really give your donors the big picture on where their contributions are going and who exactly they’re helping.

Annual Report Infographic

Annual Report Infographic

Annual Report Infographic

Turning the annual report into an infographic allows your audience to easily understand the key metrics and milestones-and share it on social media, extending your organic reach. Pick some key metrics to highlight such as amount donated, number of people helped as well as details about impact and the finances.

Campaign Infographic

Non Profit Campaign Infographic

Non Profit Campaign Infographic

This infographic has campaign specific information that will get your audiences to spread the word, generate buzz and hopefully increase your chances of meeting your targets. This infographic should have key information on what the campaign about, what the time frame is, how people can share the campaign and clear calls-to-action on how to donate.

Make sure you keep up the buzz with periodic campaign updates so that your donors know exactly how the campaign is going. Also, don’t forget to add your call-to-action, whether it’s asking viewers to donate by clicking on the link, sign up for a newsletter, share the infographic on Twitter with a branded hashtag or ask the viewer to go a specific landing page for more information.

Now that you know what kind of infographic templates you should add to your content library, let’s look at some tools you can use to make infographics.

 

Piktochart

This tool makes it easy for you to create and customize infographics with its templates. You can register for free and use the 600+ templates to create infographics, posters, flyers, reports and presentations. You’ll have access to fully customizable interactive charts and maps and 1000s of free icons and images inside the infographics editor.

You’ll also be able to password protect your infographics, download and email them or share with the world through social media and embed them inside your blog.

The non-profit package at $39.99/month USD will give you access to 600+ templates, 1 GB image uploads, HD image and PDF exports, custom color schemes and animated icons.

Timeline JS

This free to use, open source tool allows you to build visually rich, interactive timeline infographics using nothing more than a Google spreadsheet. Pick fundraising campaigns and events that have strong narratives and mark each event in the campaign as a key milestone to reaching your goal to make it more compelling for your audiences.

Visme

This free tool includes over 100 fonts, millions of free images, thousands of icons and 100s of professionally designed infographic templates. You can also create your own layouts by mixing and matching pre-designed content blocks from Visme’s library.

You’ll get access to 20+ chart templates, professional tables and the ability to connect to live data. You’re even given the ability to make the infographic more interactive by inserting video and audio clips, maps, polls and surveys.

Easel.ly

This web-based infographic tool offers you a range of easily-customizable templates to start with, along with access to a library of arrows, shapes and connector lines and different typefaces, colors, styles and sizes. You’ll also be able to upload your own images and position them in the infographic template with one click.

With the free account, you’ll have access to 25 stock photos, 4 charts, 10 fonts and 10 high quality premium templates. With the pro account (which is $3/month), you’ll get access to 321 high quality premium templates, 300,000 stock photos, 20 premium charts, 112 fonts, priority email and chat support and live training workshops.

Venngage

Simple and easy to use, this infographic tool allows you to choose from templates, themes and hundreds of charts and icons. You can also upload your own images and backgrounds or adapt a theme to suit your brand and even animate the images.

You can sign up for free but the premium non-profit plan at $10/month (50% off) will give you access to premium themes, templates, charts & icons along with privacy controls and ability to export to PDF and PNG.

Subscribe to GlobalOwls  for more informative posts on marketing strategies specifically for non-profits and follow In Retrospect Writing Services for everything related to PR, social media campaign strategies, tips and writing tools.

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How Content Curation (and Their Tools) Can Benefit Non-Profits

what is content curation

What is Content Curation

In a perfect world, you’d have all the time in the world to create compelling and informative content that lets audiences know who you are and what you’re passionate about. But, as we know, running a business takes time and energy and producing original content takes time that you might not always have.

Fortunately, you don’t have to start from scratch. Not only is it a good practice to re-purpose your content (which will be featured in a later post), you can also post good quality content from others. That’s the essence of content curation.

What is Content Curation?

How Does Content Curation Work

How does Content Curation Work

Basically, content curation is the process of sharing valuable content that resonates with your audience. Although there’s no real hard and fast rule regarding how much content curation you need to do, many organizations abide by the 80-20 rule; 80% content curation and 20% original content.

The content you curate can definitely be used in other parts of your content marketing strategy. You can share the content via social media but also re-purpose it through summaries in your e-newsletters and blog posts. You could also save curated stories and turn them into a monthly round-up of stories to send your audiences.

Here are some ways on how content curation can benefit your non-profit organization

Benefits of Content Curation

Benefits of Content Curation

Benefits of Content Curation

Establishes Your Organization as an Authority & Lends Credibility

Sharing external content positions your non-profit as a reliable source of information on what’s going on in the industry at large. When the content you curate is specifically relevant to your audience, it shows that you’re on top of the conversations happening around you and that you’re engaging in a dialogue with the industry’s most influential organizations.

Builds Goodwill

Being willing to engage with other industry experts, influencers and fellow colleagues in non-profit organizations not only expands your reach with new audiences but shows that you’re open to mutual collaboration. You’re showing your own audiences that you’re committed to providing them with the best content, whether it was written by your organization or another one.

Gives the Audience What They’re Asking For

Sharing more helpful information, even when you don’t necessarily have the time to write the information yourself, shows that you’re giving your audience what they asked for. Content curation lets you share more content with your audience-and provide them with more benefits-than you’d otherwise be able to. So win-win all around.

Content Curation in Action

How to curate content

How to curate content

Content curation isn’t just about scheduling content to be shared on social media. It’s about framing the information in such a way that audiences still receive your input.

-You can summarize the main points of the content
-Give it some context so audiences know why it’s important
– Add your own opinion about the content & your organization’s perspective about why this is valuable.

This section will focus on inexpensive and/or free to use content curation tools that will help you find the right content for your audience.

Get Started with Feedly

Feedly’s Smart Reader allows you to organize your sources into easy-to-read feeds, which includes blogs, media publications such as Business Week and even YouTube channels.

You can even monitor news about your organization and the industry by integrating Google Alerts and searching for specific articles inside Feedly. Any relevant articles you find, say on non-profit fundraising, can be saved and read at a later date and you can easily schedule them through Hootsuite to be shared via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email and more.

You’ll also be able to create shared feeds & boards with colleagues in your organization to curate, comment and prioritize specific articles to place into your content marketing strategy.

The free version allows you to have up to 100 sources of information, 3 feeds and 3 boards for both mobile and desktop. If you choose pro for $5.41/month, you’ll have access to unlimited sources, feeds, boards and the ability to integrate Google Alerts, share to social media and save to Evernote and OneNote.

Delve into ContentGems

A content discovery engine, ContentGems scans hundreds of thousands of articles on a daily basis. Once you sign up for an account, you can monitor their massive database of publications and blogs for relevant content. You can filter search results based on keywords, social signals and other advanced filter settings. Based on your sources and filters, you’ll receive a comprehensive stream of dynamic and timely content that you can plug into just about anything such as e-newsletters, your blog/website and social media.

The free option allows for 1 content search with 20 RSS feeds, a weekly e-mail digest, daily content suggestions and the ability to add up to 10 keywords to search queries.

Generate Your Own Curated Magazine with Flipboard

This mobile app makes it easy for you to curate content into a beautifully designed digital magazine. Once you get the app, you can ‘flip’ any article, blog post, photo or other media via a browser bookmarklet. The app automatically creates stunning layouts with all the content that look and feel like a professional designed digital magazine.

Create Custom Content Pages with Scoop.It

You can use Scoop.It’s active community to search for content by keyword, share curated content directly to your social channels and embed what you find on your website. The website will also display your curated content into elegant, magazine styled layouts that you can send out as e-newsletters.

For the individual plans, the free version allows you to create 1 personalized content hub/page, 1 keyword group per topic page and attach 2 social accounts to share the content on. The system will give you 10 scoops/day with basic content filtering. The pro version at $11/month allows you to create 5 content pages with 5 keyword groups per page, unlimited scoops and the ability to attach 5 social accounts. You’ll also be able to customize each page, schedule posts and check the analytics for each page.

Stay Organized with List.ly

If you love sorting information into lists and keeping content organized, you’ll love List.ly. You can gather information into useful lists which your readers can vote on, helping you to continually curate great content that audiences want to read. Whether you sign in on the website or use the iOS app, each list is photo rich and visually stunning. You can easily embed the list on your blog (via the WordPress plugin) and share it via social media.

Promote Content with Paper.li

Chances are you’ve probably seen Paper.li online, especially on Twitter. This free service is your secret weapon for content curation-it automatically helps you discover relevant content, curates it into an online newspaper and promotes the paper across the web. Best of all, it only takes a few minutes of your time on a daily basis.

The free account allows you to aggregate content from 10 RSS or social media sources, it will host your curated online newspaper and share it automatically via Twitter.

The pro account for $9 USD/month has everything the free account has but allows you to aggregate content from 25 sources and it shares your top article and web newspaper on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, including business pages. You’ll also be able to drive traffic to your site with a customer call-to-action overlay, remove ads, install custom widgets, videos and photos inside the paper, obtain subscribers and more.

For more marketing tools for non-profits, subscribe here and also be sure to subscribe to In Retrospect Writing Services for strategic marketing, public relations and social media expertise

 

How to Find & Develop Relationships with Social Media Influencers

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably read my posts on how unit publicity helps indie film, great advertising campaigns and tips on great tools to use to help manage social media and save time.

But with the rise of influencer marketing and platforms to help you manage said campaigns recent years, I’ve been asked about the best ways to develop influencer campaigns affordably.

If done correctly, influencer campaigns can drive word-of-mouth marketing and consumer growth, leading to influencers becoming brand ambassadors for companies. Brand ambassadors can help to generate fun and engaging organic content for your brand on a consistent basis, lead campaigns through email, social and advertising and help to elevate events you participate in.

In order to avoid missteps and choosing someone just based on their number of followers, make sure you outline goals you want the influencer campaign to accomplish and do your research on influencers.

With this post, I’ll be focusing on how to develop a plan for influencer marketing campaigns and how to find the best social media influencers for your brand.

Developing a Plan for Influencer Campaigns

As mentioned earlier, working with influencers can help to put a face to your brand and humanize the company. But how do you go about creating a plan to find influencers and run marketing campaigns with tangible goals?

You want to thoroughly plan out what you’re looking to do. Are you launching a new product or service? Is it an event you’re attending and/or organizing? Is it a promotion/contest you’re looking to gain more entries?  Who are you looking to influence to pay attention to this news, attend these events or enter a contest?

If you’re looking for an influencer to share a video helping to promote your indie film fundraiser, are you prepared to offer them exclusive tickets to the world premiere or a media screener with a small gift? What about offering them a chance to tour the set of your next film or perhaps a cameo on screen?

If you want an influencer to write a blog post, review your product or hype up an event, you have to think about what you’re willing to give influencers in-kind. Are you going to be sending them different products to review 3 times/year? Will you have exclusive VIP events that they’ll be invited to? Are you expecting them to post 4X/promotion via Twitter, Facebook and perhaps do an Instagram takeover for an event?

Once you have the general framework for influencer campaigns in place, you can tailor it to suit specific campaigns for certain influencers.

Next, I’ll be focusing on how to find the best social media influencers for your brand and the tools you can use to make it easier.

Finding the Right Social Influencers 

The right influencers can help you reach more of your core demographic by allowing you to piggyback on their follower base and they can also increase your SEO value by developing more backlinks to content you’ve posted.

As you search for influencers, you need to consider the criteria you’re looking for:

Relevance: Is the influencer is sharing content and do they have an audience that’s relevant to my brand? Would my own audience trust this person and be engaged with the content?

Reach:  Does the influencer have enough of an audience that the content we create/promote together will bring my brand value?

Make sure you also do your outreach slowly. Don’t approach influencers right off the bat with an offer of a brand partnership. Start by following them (if you’re not already), comment on conversations they’ve having and share their content.

 

How to Find Influencers Using Tools You (Probably) Already Have

On LinkedIn

As LinkedIn is already a great platform to discover secondary connections through groups and your own connections, you can use the search function to also find influencers. You can search for keywords such as “indie film” and “food bloggers” and pull up secondary connections that are relevant to your industry. Send them a message about their content (make sure you do your research about what they do) and ask them if they wouldn’t mind having a chat about it. Be honest about how you found them and start the conversation.

On Twitter

As you probably know, Twitter’s advanced search function is useful to look for the latest news items and notable Twitter handles. Pulling up any search using hashtags will allow you to see who’s talking about a certain subject such as #indiefilm or who identifies as a #techblogger. From there, you’ll have an idea of who is sharing content relevant to your brand and you can start following them, sharing their updates and making an effort to engage them in conversation.

Twitter’s also a great platform to find micro influencers among your own fans as well. Your own fans are already interested in your brand, so it’ll take less effort to convince them to work with you. Fans are already promoting your content and your brand without prompting, so why not make it a mutually beneficial partnership by formally giving them perks to help hype an event or write a review of some of your products that you’ll gift to them? Of course, fans being interested in and supporting your brand is only half the story, their audiences also have to be relevant to your company.

On Instagram

Looking through your Instagram followers is also great way to find micro influencers (you’d want the reach to be significant-between 1,000-10,000 followers). Take a look at what your followers are posting about, including the reach of their posts and if they’ve been sharing your updates. If they’re consistently posting about food & wine, indie film, sports/fitness and your brand is in those industries, they might be interested in partnering with your company.

Just like on Twitter, you can also search for influential hashtags such as #organicfood, #organicbeauty or #MMAfitness. You’ll get a list of top photos using any of those hashtags that have the most likes. Take a look at the accounts that posted these photos and see if they’d work as a micro influencer for your brand. If you’re a fitness brand or gym facility, you could consider giving them free passes to your facility to try out training and a few classes. If you make organic sauces, marinades and spices, consider giving the influencer a gift basket to try out your products and ask them to make a few of your tried and tested recipes.

 

Using Other Tools to Help Discover Influencers

FollowerWonk is a tool that can help you find Twitter influencers and you can add the first profile for free. Once you sign up, you can click on the ‘Search Bios’ tab and look into the advanced search options. You can tailor the search results based on location, number of followers and whether you’re searching for bloggers.

The social authority column is the best indicator of how influential someone is as it combines the number of followers with how much influence they wield over the followers. If you see low authority numbers that means they don’t engage their own audiences and aren’t worth your time.

Lastly, BuzzSumo is a great tool to help with influencer marketing. Though the pro option will set you back about $79/month, you’ll be able to search for Twitter influencers using specific keywords.

The number of followers will give you an idea of an influencer’s reach and the retweet/reply ratios will keep you informed of the influencer’s engagement rates. You’ll also be able to find influencers, bloggers, companies, journalists and regular people. You can also organize results by followers if you’re interested in reach or retweet/reply ratios. Sorting the results by authority will give you a good mix of reach & engagement. Those who have high page authority are seen as experts in their niche.

Let me know if you have recommendations for more affordable ways to find influencers & manage influencer campaigns! Keep it posted here for more content on marketing, PR and social media tools.

Freelance Writing: Social Media Monitoring Made Easy for Jeweller Magazine

Hello All,

My latest freelance contribution to Jeweller Magazine across the pond in Melbourne, Australia focuses on the best social media monitoring tools out on the market for jewellers to use that are A) free, B) easy to use and C) provide metrics for all kinds of social media platforms.

Check it out here or at the direct link, if you’d like and let me know what you think and if you’ve come across other tools that are just as awesome!

Remember, keep it locked here for more in marketing, PR & indie film!

Day 4-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Getting the Right Flowers

Revelry-Event-Design-Dina-Douglas-Sonia-Sharma

Now that you’ve booked a venue and you’re making headway with finding your dream dress and creating your uniquely customized wedding invitations; it’s time to turn your attention to your décor and flowers for your bouquet.

Why are flowers great for your décor and your wedding? Well, they provide fresh ambience and color that other decorations can’t, as well as some creative elegance and sophistication. They also show your guests different quirks of your and your significant others’ personalities.

Before you jump the gun and start buying flowers, let me remind you about the questions that I posed previously that you need to ask your florist:

-What kind of flowers will be or are in season around the time of my wedding?

-Will the available flowers fit the color scheme I have for the wedding?

-How many flowers will I need for boutonnieres for guests?

-Is my favorite flower (rose, calla lily etc.) grown naturally in a color that will fit into my color scheme and if does, will it also fit into my budget?

-Is there a difference between fresh and dyed flowers and if the flowers I want aren’t available in my colors, is buying dyed flowers an option?

These top 3 apps & websites (in no particular order) will help you answer these questions and pick the best flowers for your wedding.

1) GrowersBox.com

growers box
Why It’s Awesome: You can order your own DIY wedding flowers, arranged wedding flower packages and even petals of different flowers including roses and peonies. You can also order flower gifts and different types of wholesale flowers that I rarely seen elsewhere, from Asiatic Lilies and mini Gerbera Daisies. You also search for flower by color and purchase dyed flower at your convenience.

2) Wedding Bouquet Ideas

Wedding_Bouquet_Ideas
Why It’s Awesome: This application shows you the galleries of hundreds of beautiful wedding bouquet ideas, designs and decorating. If you have an idea about wedding flower decorations, this application can help you. This app contains the various types and colors of flowers such as : bridal bouquet ideas, bridesmaid bouquets, tulips, roses, gardenia, daisy, hydrangea floral, paper, silk, fabric, jewelry, buttons bouquet, red, orange, blue, cream, pink, white, purple, green, spring, fall, summer, tropical and more.

3) Flowerbud.com

FlowerBud
Why It’s Awesome: You can purchase boxes of different flowers such as irises and lilies in different boxes and colors for your wedding as well as bonsai plants and sunflowers. If you get stuck on creating your own DIY wedding flowers, you can talk to their Wedding Coordinator for advice.

What makes these apps and websites the best for creating and compiling the best wedding flowers? Well, not only can you search for, create and customize all styles and forms of flower arrangements quicker and in the palm of your hand with easy-to-use and fun apps that are affordable, but you can also keep track of your flower orders much easier.

With the right tools and websites to help you find the right flowers that provide your ceremony and reception with some fresh ambience and reflects your personalities, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding the best photography for your wedding?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 5 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding the Best in Photography’.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

 

Lilian Sue

Day 3-How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-DIY Wedding Invitations and Save-the-Date Reminders

save the date example

You’ve got a wedding date set and the venue to hold it in, now you have to find somewhat to notify your guests about the wedding.

Are you looking to create your own invitations by hand? Or are you going to a graphic designer or a design and print shop for the professional touch? Or, maybe you’re looking for an integrated approach with some new media, a website and an app or two?

No matter what your preference is for your invites, you can’t get started until you answer some fundamental questions about your wedding and what you’ll be sharing about your relationship and your personalities-beyond the wedding date.

What colors are you using in your wedding theme (ie. for décor, flowers and dresses)?

-Beyond color in your wedding’s theme, do you have fun quirks and interests that reflect you and your significant other (ie. music notes, video game characters, a love of books and certain authors) that you aren’t afraid to share with your guests and make a theme out of?

-Are you open to using different materials and media for your invites (ie. fabric, typesetting, engraving etc.) as an option outside of standard paper or cardstock?

– Are you going to be incorporating cultural and/or religious symbols into your wedding as it reflects your heritage (ie. Chinese double happiness symbol, Ukrainian pysanka etc.)?

-Are you open to using an integrated approach with your invites and save-the-date reminders, incorporating physical invites with an app or website?

I will show you the best apps, websites and platforms that will help answer these questions and make the most out of your wedding invitations and save-the-date reminders that are easy to use, affordable and stress-free!

Here’s the top 4 apps, websites and platforms (in no particular order) that will help you make the most out of creating your wedding invitations and save-the-date reminders.

1) Minted.com

Minted-Silhouettes
Why It’s Awesome: This is an great website that not only gives you free invitation samples, the option to create save-the-date cards, postcards or magnet reminders; but also allows you to create thank you and RSVP cards. It’s also one of the few that I’ve seen that gives you the option to create cultural and religious wedding invitations through their website, but also allows you to create minibook wedding invites, wedding announcements and journals.

2) Appy Couple

appy-couples1
Why It’s Awesome: This app is great for connecting with your guests and share details with them that go beyond just notifying them about the wedding. You can create a wedding app and website all in one shot, let your guests know about flight and hotel information and give them a customized wedding code that allows guests to receive information via emails and on social media platforms. With the wedding code, guests can upload photos using the app and share stories automatically.

3) Up Up Creative

Up_Up_Creative
Why It’s Awesome: You browse the website for the design that you like and all invitation, announcement, and photo card designs are available in printed OR printable form. By default, all designs are sold as print-ready files. These files can be printed at home, locally, or online. If you prefer to order printing from them, you can choose to do so separately. Simply click on Add Printing from the menu choices at the top of the site and order from there with 3 options for paper:100lb cover stock in bright white or cream OR upgrade to 100% cotton in white. You can also customize your order. Within 3 business days you’ll receive a digital (PDF) proof of the customized design. NOTE: For an additional fee, you can also choose to customize the fonts used on your invitation or you can choose to use a language other than English.

4) Paperless Post

Paperless_Post
Why It’s Awesome: This app is one of the absolute best for event management because you can track cards and invites you’ve sent as well as respond to ones you’ve been sent. You can: receive push notifications for new cards and recipient activity, view RSVPs and replies from your recipients, add additional guests to your recipient list, send emails to groups of recipients by status and exchange private messages with recipients. You can also RSVP to events and comment on cards you’ve received, access event details such as date, time, and location, view guest lists and other guests’ comments and upload photos to event pages from your phone.

What makes these apps and websites the best for creating your customized wedding invites and save-the-date reminders? Well, not only can you search for, create and customize all styles and forms of invites quicker and in the palm of your hand with easy-to-use and fun apps that are affordable, but you can also keep track of your RSVPs much easier

With the right tools and websites to help you create the right wedding invites that reflect your relationship and your personalities, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding your favorite flowers to fit in with your wedding theme?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 4 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Getting the Right Flowers’.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

 

Lilian Sue

Day 2-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding Your Wedding Dress

10-gorgeous-lace-back-wedding-gowns7

So you’ve found a great ceremony site and an awesome reception venue, maybe you’re currently working on getting your really cool and creative ‘save the date’ reminders out to your guests or trying to find a great photographer. But what about one of the most important dresses you’ll ever wear for a monumental occasion?

There are literally thousands of options for a wedding dress. There’s several different silhouettes from A-line to ball gown and even the option to have unique color accents on a white dress. I’ve seen blue, red and black accents on white wedding dresses.

And if you don’t want white for your wedding dress? No problem! You’ve got plenty of choices, cream, ivory, pink, blue, red, nearly any color you could think of. What if you want a dress that reflects your heritage, such as a sari or Chinese cheong sam? Well, there are a wide selection of dresses to fit any cultural tradition too, all you have to do is look.

But, with all the stress that comes with endless searches, dress fittings and even the horror of having your dream dress permanently ruined, how can finding the perfect wedding dress be fun AND stress free?

Let me show you how, using some of the best websites, social media platforms and apps to find your perfect wedding dress.

Top 4 Websites, Social Media Platforms & Apps for Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress

1) Brides Wedding Genius 4.0

screen322x572
Why It’s Awesome: This great app comes from by Condé Nast Digital (the company responsible for Brides.com). You can browse for wedding dresses by silhouettes, brand and price and when you land on an image of a dress that you like you can tap it to flip through similar galleries or to locate a store in your area. You can also access more expert tips and Brides advice, save your favorites and categorize ideas in custom folders for easy access and/or to share with vendors and create drag and drop inspiration boards on BridesWeddingGenius.com with items you’ve uploaded on the go.

2) Nearly Newlywed

Nearly_Newlywed
Why It’s Awesome: This website turns the concept of buying used or pre-owned wedding dresses on its head. How? Well, you search the website for a wedding dress with the ‘Sell It Back’ symbol, purchase said perfect dress, wear it on your big day and then sell it back to the website. If you sell it back within 2 months of your big day, you can get up to 50% of the price you bought it for-back! If you sell it back within 3 months, you get 40% and you’ll receive 30% of the original price back when you sell it within 4 months of the big day.

3) Wedding Dress Look Book by The Knot

Wedding_Dress_LookBook_The_Knot
Why It’s Awesome: Think of it as your on-the-go for wedding dress shopping on your iPhone from TheKnot.com — from wedding dress suggestions, customized to your body type and wedding style, to the bridal salons in your area that carry your favorite designs. With this app, you can: get suggested wedding dress search results based on your body type, wedding style, and personality. Search the hottest new wedding dresses — by style, shape, price, and designer — and bookmark your favorites for later as well as find bridal salons in your area that carry your favorite dresses.

4) Bravo Bride

Bravo_Bride
Why It’s Awesome: You can search for used dresses on this site based on silhouettes and save them as your favorites. You can purchase and sell your used wedding dress on this site as well as search affiliated wedding boutiques and talk with other brides on the forums.

What makes these apps and websites the best for finding your perfect dream wedding dress? Well, not only can you search for all styles of wedding dresses quicker and in the palm of your hand with easy-to-use and fun apps that are affordable, but you can also find where to purchase your dream dress much easier and quicker. You can also create inspiration boards and flipbooks for your favorites as well.

With the right tools and websites to help you find the perfect dream dress, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about coming up with creative and fun invitations that uniquely reflect you and your relationship and spicing things up with cool ‘save-the-date’ reminders?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 3 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-DIY Your Own Invitations & Save the Date Ideas’.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 1 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding Your Ceremony Site

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After some time to come down from the high of getting engaged, you’ve no doubt slowly started looking to doing some wedding planning. Maybe you’ve even started looking into a few wedding venues.

If that’s the case, let me remind you of 5 crucial questions you must answer in order to choose the right wedding venue:

1) What kind of theme and ambience am I going for with the wedding? (ie. Elegant, Traditional, Quirky, Modern-can also impact color scheme)

2) Are there family and/or religious traditions I have to consider?

3) Will the weather or transportation play a huge factor into the venue I choose? (ie. Are you going for indoor or outdoor? Out-of-town venue? Destination wedding?)

4) What’s my budget cap for booking a ceremony venue?

5) How many people am I prepared to have attend the ceremony?

Have you thought about what kind of theme your wedding will have or what your budget will be for finding a ceremony & reception venue? Are you worried about how long and how much energy you’ll have to spend looking for the right venue?

Let me show you the Top 4 websites, apps & social media tricks (in no particular order) to find the best wedding venue for your city

1) Facebook Graph Search

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Why It’s Awesome: Because Graph Search can look up anything from photos to local businesses-INCLUDING wedding venues your friends like, you can search for ‘[insert vendor need here]– that my friends like’ to get a list of options. The search results show which of your friends has liked each vendor, so you can message your friend to ask questions or get a referral.

2) Eventective

Eventective
Why It’s Awesome: This website has literally every kind of venue you can ask for a wedding, from reception halls, to restaurants, resorts and hotels. You can search for venues all over the US and Canada and you can even log onto their online forum to get advice on weddings and other events and read how-to articles.

3) WeddingMapper App

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Why It’s Awesome: This awesome app allows you to create lists of your vendors including your ceremony and reception venues, manage their contact information and other notes and schedule payments as well as track payment information all in one place.

4) I Do Venues App

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Why It’s Awesome: Comprehensive venue app for ceremony and reception venues in California. A comprehensive directory along with full galleries and information on each venues’ layout so you can see exactly how each theme, design idea and color palette will look.

Why are these sites, social media platforms and apps so great for finding the perfect ceremony and/or reception venue? Well, they save you time and energy and eliminates guesswork as well as endless searches on Google for your city’s best ceremony and reception venues.

They’ll give you the tools and the ability to see everything from locations and photos to layouts for each venue and you’ll be able to keep track of your favourite venues using these sites and apps, including tracking the payment history for the venue of your choice.

So with the right tools, sites and apps to get your ceremony and reception venues sorted, what’s next on the list for wedding planning? Figuring out how you’re going to find the perfect wedding dress for such a monumental occasion with Day 2: How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Introducing ‘How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning’

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If you’re newly engaged and find yourself overwhelmed by questions from family and friends and the sheer amount of things that have to be done for a wedding, from getting a reception venue to finding a photographer; this blog series is for you.

With this blog series, I’m going to show you how social media can make finding the perfect wedding dress, the right photographer and the best ceremony and reception venues-easier and quicker. Not only that, social media can add a creative marketing flair to your wedding, including helping you discover how DIY elements can give your wedding a unique individual flair not seen anywhere else.

For example, did you know that by using social media to help plan your wedding you can:

-Ask other engaged couples for help, all over the world-no matter what time it is?

-Have a mobile message board & community to inform & converse with guests always on hand

-Find unique and never before seen items and ideas from individualized rings (complete with fingerprints) to DIY centerpieces

-Find a reliable, affordable, unique and fun solution to an expensive DJ or live band

-Discover fun ideas for your first dance and for your vows.

-Always keep your wedding budget (including graphs of how much you’ve allocated to each element of the wedding) in the palm of your hand.

-Curate any and all information (such as flights, hotels & city attractions) for your out-of-town guests to have while they’re on the go

-Grab the expertise from top wedding blogs and incorporate them into your private, online inspiration board

-Keep all you wedding related tasks organized and synced to all of your social media profiles

-Find the perfect venue for your ceremony and reception, no matter how quirky and how big the guest list

For the next 8 weeks, I’ll be showing you how to use social media to do all of these things for your wedding and more.

First up, Day 1: How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning: Finding Your Ceremony Venue.

In the meantime, check out this awesome slideshow on a few important questions you should be asking about weddings.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

6 Unique Ways Instagram Video Can Improve Your Marketing Strategies

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By now, you or someone you know has probably experimented with Instagram, snapping photos with your mobile device and posting them to your account, tagging different people and maybe even sharing them via Facebook and Twitter.

But have you ever tried Instagram Video? If you haven’t, it’s an awesome way to incorporate video into the marketing you’re already doing. Not only that, Instagram’s video capabilities will let you do more than Twitter’s Vine ever could!

For starters, Instagram Video offers up to 15 seconds of video recording time which beats Vine’s 6 seconds. You can also edit the video on Instagram by deleting a specific segment instead of having to delete the whole video at once.

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Instagram also brings their custom filters to their videos the same way you can use them on your photos and just like your photos, any video you create via Instagram can be seen by over 130 million people as opposed to 13 million users on Vine. Instagram Video is also available directly inside the mobile app so you don’t have to download an outside app and you can even scroll through to pick the best cover image for your video, which will help entice first-time viewers to click through to the video. Instagram videos also play in-line on Facebook for desktop users. Like YouTube and Facebook videos, a Facebook user can click and watch the clip right in their Facebook account after logging in.

Now that you’ve seen what makes Instagram Video stand out, here’s 6 different ways it can help improve your marketing strategies:

1) Shoot a Product Demo & Answer FAQs

Sometimes, rather than spending half an hour to an hour answering customer questions and inquiries via email or Twitter, it can be really beneficial to make a list of the most popular customer inquiries and use short Instagram videos to answer them.

If your customers have a lot of questions on how your product works, show them how through step-by-step instructions with narration so they can receive additional helpful info about your product. It’s a great value-add for your customers with the added bonus of being easy to follow and share, rather than paging through paragraphs of text or long pages of images.

2) Create a Visual Portfolio of Your Work

View this post on Instagram

Streetlevel

A post shared by Verve Coffee Roasters (@vervecoffee) on

Remember the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’? Well a 15 second video has the potential communicate much more than a thousand words. Depending on the nature of your industry (this could work better if you’re in food/beverage, beauty, fashion/style, technology, digital media etc.), try shooting videos of recent work you’ve done for clients as a video look book for potential customers to look through.

Whether you’re a makeup artist wanting to share the latest glamorous looks or a café wanting to showcase a cake decorator’s skill, the possibilities for a video visual portfolio are endless!

3) Highlight Special Offers and Events

15 seconds is quite a long time to promote a special offer or event with video. If you’re holding a contest or if you have a special sale for a certain product/service (ie. massage), be sure to show fans and prospective customers what they can win or what they can purchase for the special sale.

Flipping the camera view mode to record a personal message to help promote the event or special sale helps add a personal touch to your marketing for your customer. Use the description field to emphasize the video message advertising the sale, contest or event and add a hashtag to track conversions and extend your reach. A short video might be just what you need to reach a larger audience.

4) Invite Fans & Followers Submissions Via Hashtags

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Invite your fans to submit an Instagram video with a hashtag of your choosing to enter a contest or help promote your live event. If your audience is on Instagram, this could be a great way to engage them and generate great UGC content and brand loyalty. It’s also a more organic way to get genuine content to promote your live event. Potential fans will be more likely to believe content their friends create and share as being genuine than that from a company.

5) Humanize Your Brand

Social media has blurred the lines of communication between companies and their audiences with brands increasingly turning to real-time, real life social engagement with their customers in order to compete in the marketplace. In turn, this creates a need for companies to be more transparent and open with their audiences.

Instagram videos offers brands an opportunity to do this in bite-sized chunks that showcase their style, their workplace culture and gives customers an inside look on how they do things. It helps a brand stand out from its competitors and connect with customers to show them they don’t have secrets to hide and build trust.

6) Increase Engagement on Facebook

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Videos and photos inspire the most engagement (comments, likes and shares) via Facebook. The fact that you’re allowed to view Instagram videos directly inside the Facebook browser can be a huge help to raising community engagement and allowing fans to leave their questions, comments and shares to the brand directly.

Conclusion

Instagram video gives you the flexibility to engage with potential customers and new fans in a variety of ways that not only increases engagement, but brings more user-friendly features to the table than Twitter’s Vine. Try it out and see how it can increase engagement amongst fans and improve your marketing strategies!

Stay tuned on here for more posts on different strategies for content marketing. But in the meantime, check out how mobile marketing can help you generate leads.