Wedding Planner Wednesday: How to become a wedding planner Part 5 – Get out and network and the importance of social networking

How to become a wedding planner Part 5 – Get out and network and the importance of social networking

Welcome to week 5 of my ‘How to become a Wedding Planner’ half way through now and we are powering through the subjects! Like last week when I covered the importance of branding, this chapter is relivant to all business not just wedding planning, so if you are in the process of setting up your own business, or in the first few months then read on!

Part 5 – Get out and network and the importance of social networking

There is no doubt that forming good networks of people around you in every form of life is incredibly important, we are moulded in life by the people around us, and this is no different in business. It is so important for you to go out and meet like minded people, people you can talk to who are in the same situation as you, people who have already set up their own business, and people who are just starting!.
When I first started my business, I knew that I needed to ‘connect’ with people, I needed to go out and meet other people weather they were from the wedding industry or not, I needed to know that I wasn’t the only mad person setting up a business in the middle of a recession !
There are so many options out there but you really need to pick what is best for you, and what you feel you are going to get the most out of. For example when I first started I was rung, emailed and posted SO many options for morning networking groups…in fact they still contact me. Now anyone who knows me will know I’m not a morning person! The thought of getting up at the crack of dawn to go and meet a load of strangers to discuss my business fills me with dread, whereas meeting in the evening or late afternoon…..maybe over a glass of wine, a cocktail….or at least a few nibbles…well I’m there! So pick what is best for your schedule. If you still have a full time job then morning networking may be better for you! BUT look into who is going to these groups, as a wedding planner I quickly fund that a lot of these groups were very business oriented, full of old men in suites, who looked at me like I was some young silly girl with my head in the clouds when I told them I was a wedding planner, so I then went on to look for more female oriented groups, where I was more likely to meet creative types, and people who were possibly getting married. In fact it was my first lunchtime networking event in Sheffield where I met my first paying customer! Just by chance!

Now again networking is something you do when you have the time, and in my opinion you can sometimes do too much of it! You can sometimes find that you go to the same places and meet the same people, so mix it up a bit. For example I joined a group called Forward ladies, who put on social events all over the country, I’ve been to a few but made sure that I moved around a bit, Sheffield, Leeds, Derbyshire….and because of that I met new people in each event.

But do note that the busier you get the less time you have for networking, personally now 2 years on and I hardly do any at all, which I know is wrong but I simply don’t have the time. So I have decided that during the summer months it is near impossible to do this but come autumn and winter I’ll be back on it.
It’s case of going out and spreading the word about what you do, people aren’t going to find you on their own, you need to go and find them…you tell one person about what you do then they will tell another person and so on!

Social Networking
Now I LOVE social networking, as a person who works on their own from home it’s a great way of connection with the outside world! But when I first started I wasn’t so sure! I remember going on my first social networking workshop when all I knew about was Facebook……and from there on I have been hooked. I have even give lessons on social media as well as presentations on the subject!
So I cannot tell you enough how important it six for your business!

When you first look into social networking it can seem so daunting, there are so many options, where do you start? Well my first bit of advice is you don’t have to do all of it, do what is best for you and what will fit in with your scedual!
Facebook and twitter are the two main ones and personally the two I get the most from, there is linked in which I’m on but to be honest don’t do too much with, then there are the new ones Like Google +, Pinterest and Tumblr…..all of which I’m still to try out! Sometimes I feel I am being left behind as I haven’t looked into them all fully, but that’s the wheel point do what’s best for you! Others like stumble upon, My Space, digg it, flicker………….so many to mention!

So what can you get out of them all? Well for me first of all it’s a feeling that I’m not a lone (yes I know how sad) but when you spend days in an office on your own with no one to talk to, having a twitter conversation or posting stuff on facebok can really make you feel like you are in some sort of community. Secondly and maybe more important, it’s the same rule as face to face networking, it’s getting your name out there, your business and getting other people to know what it is that you do.

I can say hand on heart that my business wouldn’t have moved on so quickly if it hadn’t had been for Facebook and twitter, no it’s not the only reason but it has definitely helped!
One of the main advantages is that it’s free! Yes it takes time to build up a few followers and fans but with it comes an immense amount of opportunities for FREE!!
I have met 70%-80% of my suppliers and contacts through Facebook and twitter, and as I am now finding, once the suppliers and peers know about you…..so then do the customers.
I don’t really use paper advertising at all, I have tried it and it just doesn’t work. People buy from people; it is all about that one to one connection you get, that a paper advert can’t give you. I work with my website, blog, Facebook page and twitter and between the 4 of them, they direct people from one to another, informing my customers of things I am doing, new services I am offering, it’s a constant form of updating and keeping yourself relevant to the market.

A few networking fact for you (that I found last year source: Forrester Research)

• Push Marketing = traditional advertising methods, only 14% of people trust this form of marketing
• Pull Marketing = 70% – 90% of people trust recommendations/connections with other people
• Twitter grew 109% more users from last year to this year
• There are currently 350 million Facebook users.
• 25% of all search results for the top 20 brands are links from social media related websites
• If Facebook was a country, it would be the fourth largest country in the world. (This while Facebook is ‘banned’ in China)
• Social Media has taken over the number 1 activity on Internet, pornography.
• 95% of business decision makers worldwide use social networks

The does and Don’ts of Social networking
1) Decide from the start how you want to brand yourself, and stick to it, you need to be consistent in the messages you are giving off otherwise you will confuse your followers.

2) You have to get involved – there is no point setting up a Facebook or twitter account and then not doing anything with them. You have to follow people, talk to people, share information. You don’t have to do it all the time, sometimes logging in once or twice a day is enough to stay on top of it all……but stay active

3) Be professional…be Polite – remember that once your message is out there, it’s out there for good, and you can’t get it back. Be polite at all times and be respectful of other people’s opinions. You are at all-time representing your company and your brand!

4) Show your personality – It’s can’t just be about work, otherwise your followers and fans will get bored! To build up relationships with people just like in any other situation they have to get to know you, and the person behind the brand, so let them into your life. Let them know bits about you……but not too much, remember to stay professional!

5) Don’t spam – don’t send endless messages out to people, and don’t follow endless people on Facebook who don’t know you, just in the hope that they will follow you back.

6) Don’t get someone to do your Social networking for you – people will know it’s not you! – There are a lot of companies out there who will offer to do all you social networking for you, to tweet, update your Facebook status, write you blogs. My advice is don’t. By doing this you lose all element of personality…how can you connect and build relationships with people if it’s not you doing the talking?

7) Be and expert in your field – Give tips and information about your area of expertise, so people can see that you know what you are talking about.

8] Send people to your blog and website when you have new content

So I hope you have found that useful! Remember people need to know what you are about, who you are and what your do, so they can buy into what your business is about! Sitting in your office at home day in day out isn’t going to help you, so get out go and meet other likeminded people and get networking!

I’d love to know your experiences with networking and social networking, have you found any really good groups to join, or any really bad ones, what advice can you offer? And what are your experiences with social networking? Good or bad? Waste of time or beneficial to your business?

Come back next week for part 6 Get a website and a blog

Have you missed any of this series? ‘How to become a wedding planner’
Week 1 – Get business advice
Week 2 – Start a wedding planning course
Week 3 – Research your competition & the market around you, find a niche
Week 4 – Create your Brand

(Thank you to www.andertoons.com/ for the illustrations)

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