According to The Knot and CNBC, couples spent an average of $33,000 to celebrate their wedding in 2019. Beyond the traditional expenses (food, venue, flowers, etc), brides & grooms are now, more than ever, investing in the small aesthetic details of their party such as custom stationery items like hand-drawn invitations, guest escort cards, custom food menus, fancy table numbers, welcome signs, personalized envelopes, RSVP cards, save the dates and more. After the wedding celebration is over, these custom designs become nostalgic items and are often kept as a souvenir piece by the couple or their family & friends. This aesthetic & emotional buying motive has boomed the stationery industry and Sophie Dugan, the Owner, Stationer & Designer of In The Event Stationer is living proof of this "detail boom" in the wedding world. She started her own event stationery business back in 2015, and today, with the help of social media, she's booking clients left & right. We were able to #interview Sophie & she shared with us some behind the scenes information on how she uses social media marketing to get new clients, and here's what she had to say:
Q: What is your business all about and who is your audience?
A: Wedding & Event stationery. Invitation suites, day of wedding details, signage and paper fancies. Our audience is mainly brides & grooms in New England, USA, although we do service beyond.
Q: What kind of content does your business share on social media, and why?
A: My content focus is stationery related. I like to focus on the services that I offer. I don't want to confuse my audience or attract an audience whom I can't service. ITES content is always related to my offerings. Whether it's an invitation suite, a venue illustration, envelopes, envelope addressing, add on items and wax seals, silk ribbon embellishments, day-of details, or events and styled shoots that I've attended where my work is displayed. I think it's important to create a call to action and interact with your audience, but it's more important to know who your target audience is. I try to stick with posting content where my targeted audience can connect and relate with my brand and creative offerings.
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest social media marketing mistake that uprising businesses and entrepreneurs should avoid?
A: Selling!! Don't get me wrong, Yes, the opportunity to sell on social media is there. However, there are enough ads from the big box stores in your face. Geofence marketing is taking over social media, so as an uprising business owner and entrepreneur it's more important to focus on the service you offer and make connections with your social media followers on a more personal level. Tell them about your products, your journey, and how you can help them. Inspire them!
Q: What's your favorite social media platform for your business, and why?
A: Instagram is my fav! I've been able to book clients who have reached out through Instagram. It's a great way to display my portfolio other than just my website. I am able to share my work through photos, the work that I've created with my clients to create their custom wedding stationery, and the opportunity to share with others. Instagram allows me to interact on a personal level through Direct Message and comments on posts. I also love that I can connect my IG account to Facebook so all posts are synced and I only have to manage one platform.
Q: How do you edit your Instagram pictures?
A: I take all of my photos in a space with a lot of natural light. I like to keep the photos as bright and natural as possible. I don't want to add effects to photos where they don't belong. If I do edit, I'll use Photoshop, Lightroom, and Instagram brightness features.
Q: How do you edit your Instagram stories?
A: I don't typically edit stories. I either record story videos through the Instagram app and will sometimes add a story filter (thank goodness they've gotten better) if needed or in a very lit space with a lot of natural light I'll record and photograph for stories. Just like my posts, I like to keep the video and photos as natural as possible. It's hard to see print vs. digital so if you can keep it as natural as possible then it will be more attractive and realistic or the client and viewer.
Q: How did social media help your business during COVID-19?
A: During Covid-19 social media has helped me to connect with couples who are impacted by this virus. Social media has helped ITES to get the word out to couples, who are clients, and who are not clients of mine to inform them that I am available to help with postponement cards, change of plans announcements, creative needs, etc. I wanted them to know that I am here to help and support them during this difficult time and I think social media was the perfect platform to share this information. As a designer, I've been able to link up with other designers, and share each other's business pages on our Instagram stories, tag other creative businesses, give and receive shout outs. All to help each other grow and connect during this uncertain time.
Q: How has social media helped you build a brand and an identity for your business?
A: As a graphic designer I am thankful to have experience with branding and identity. However, when I first started my Instagram account with ITES, I challenged myself to design one invitation a day (#designadaychallenge) and started using these designs as semi-custom invitation templates. Over time, I've been able to look back at my Instagram posts and stories and take a step back. This has helped me to review my brand and my target audience and grab a hold of where I want my business to go in the future. Social media has helped me to research and define my target audience, location, and aesthetic.
Q: Tell us a bit more about you! How did you get involved with this business?
A: If you know me well, then you know I love to celebrate EVERYTHING! Weddings, engagements, bachelor/bachelorette parties, birthdays, graduation, new homeowner life, babies, making it to Friday after a long week, puppies (especially mine). You name it - I’ll celebrate it! My very own wedding got me back into designing stationery. ITES originally started in 2015, formerly known as In The Event Design (ITED) with a focus on humorous cards and gift tags. I started making them for fun for friends and family in college. I had no idea I'd love it so much that I would turn into a passion of mine. Over time life took over and I was only finding time to create cards and gift tags for certain holidays or celebrations. All my time went into college graduation, buying our first home, engagement, and starting a life with my now hubs. Fast forward to May 2018, I was gushing over the Royal Wedding and decided to dust off my stationery folder and dive back in. I created my own wedding stationery from save the dates to day-of details and everything in between. It felt so right and I knew I had to keep going. ITES got it's shine back and put back on the map. Combine my two loves of celebrations and true love stories and you’ve got ITES... and I haven't looked back since!
Q: When did you start using social media for your business? How did it happen and why?
A: I started with Instagram first. In the fall of 2019. I was super nervous and had no idea what to expect, but I knew if I didn't take the jump I wouldn't be where I am today. I just ran with it and created a creative account on Instagram. I challenged myself for the first 6 months to design one thing every day and post about it, the challenge was called #designadaychallenge. It allowed me to build content, be creative, and get my work out there for others to see. I started using these designs for semi-custom templated stationery pieces. Friends and family have been super supportive in spreading the word and sharing my business. Before I knew it, I was booking clients for 2019 - 2020 weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, etc.
Q: Overall, how has social media helped your business?
A: Social media has helped ITES in so many ways. I've been able to connect with clients, book clients, meet and interact with so many other stationers, wedding vendors, and trade show events. Social media has acted as an interactive portfolio over the last year and also been my main source of inspiration where I can browse endless creativity when I'm a rut. The creative support system on Instagram & Facebook has been amazing. Other creatives support each other, share information, and celebrate the success of all, and that has been truly amazing.
Q: Can you share one of your social media marketing strategies that help you generate leads?
A: The bio and website link on my social media pages have been very helpful in generating leads. I have links to client forms on my website and it's just a few easy clicks for clients to fill out.
Q: How do you use social media to connect with your audience?
A: Most social media accounts are visual platforms, I'm very active on Instagram and Facebook which are super visual so this really helps me to display my work. Over the last 6 months I've been actively scheduling posts on Planoly and this has provided me with more time to step up my Instagram and Facebook story game! Whether it's a styled shoot, a flat lay of a new stationery suite, or a little behind the scenes, I like to share both on posts and stories. I have found that mixing up my day to day posts have attracted my audience to become interested in my work, how I create, and what services I offer. They start to interact by comments and Direct Messages & this leads to new creative relationships and sometimes to booking clients. Most days I try to interact with my audience by tagging fellow artists, venues, suppliers, and clients. Using a call to action in my posts or stories, and interacting through story features like polls, questions, and quizzes.
Q: Do you use social media for customer service? If so, how?
A: I like to mix in a few testimonial posts and stories a couple times per month. Otherwise not often, but more recently over the last couple of months (could be due to Covid-19, where people are on the internet more than ever), I've received a lot of inquiries through Instagram Direct Message. Leads and current clients will reach out regarding venue illustration orders or interested in add-on items and embellishments like wax seals and silk ribbons. I typically respond through social media and continue the conversation through a consultation call or email.
Q: What kind of tools or apps do you use for your social media management and/or content creation?
A: If I'm taking the photo or video on my own, I'll use my iPhone. I do have a ring light that I tend to use when photographing in darker spaces and for darker prints. I have painted style boards and accessories to dress up the photo when staging flat lay images. When my photos are ready to post, I'll use Planoly to schedule weekly posts.
Q: Do you have any special social media marketing campaign you're proud of?
A: I love "Friday Introductions". It's where you can take a step back from your work and talk a little bit about the person behind the news feed. For me, I spend my time learning about my clients, their love stories, personalities, and their wedding aesthetic, but they don't know much about me. How is that fair? I use Friday Introductions to let my guard down and allow my followers and clients to learn a bit about me and who it is they are working with. I have been able to make further connections just by telling a short story about myself, my business, or my favorite things. It seems so simple, but it's been so powerful.
Q: Overall, what has been the biggest social media marketing challenge for your business?
A: Honestly, I hate to say this, but I was super naive about signing up for my business accounts on social media. I had been following top stationers for a while on my personal page and thought well if they can start trending through hashtags, why can't I? I think learning all about social media algorithm was the most challenging. As a viewer, you don't see social media algorithms or analytics when browsing for posts and inspiration. From a business standpoint this was super challenging and I like to think although I've come a long way, I still have so much to learn. Social media marketing is constantly changing and that isn't going to slow down.
Q: In your opinion, why is social media marketing a valuable investment for uprising businesses & entrepreneurs?
A: Social Media been a huge factor in getting my name out there to the world. If it weren't for Instagram and all of the interactive features that this app offers, I would have to rely on word of mouth only. My target audience ranges in age from 24-34, most of these people are on social media daily. If I can get my creativity and services in front of them, then I've succeeded.
Q: Do you have any social media marketing tips or content creation tips for rising small business owners and creative entrepreneurs hoping to use social media to grow their business?
A: Interact on social media as much as you can. Start following accounts that relate to your business, your products, and your target audience. Post daily or at least 3 times a week to keep your account active. This will also help you to interact with other accounts and feel more comfortable doing so.
Q: Any additional comments or notes you would like to add?
A: If you're thinking about starting a business and don't know where to start: start with Instagram. Jump in today, create an account, and start posting. Start following others. Start researching and learning. You'll find your niche and you'll be happy that you did. It's the best thing I ever did for this business and I haven't looked back since!
If you're curious to learn more about Sophie and her stationery business, In Event Stationery, visit her website or check her out on Facebook or Instagram (She is actively booking 2021 weddings and events projects, in case you're looking for a talented stationery designer *wink wink*).
Click here to read similar social media marketing interviews with uprising entrepreneurs who share all about how social media has helped them grow their business. If you would like to learn more about digital marketing, make sure to visit our classroom and browse through all our free lessons; or if you need personalized tutoring or content creation, contact our team and request our services. Stay creative!
Author: Sabrina Araújo Chamberlain