8 Ways To Be More Likeable Online

“You like me. You really like me.”

Remember Sally Field’s Oscar acceptance speech? Her joyful words captured a genuine human moment. After all, we all like being liked; being liked feels good. And when your business is “liked” online, it can translate to increased success. But to be liked, you have to be likeable.
    Business websites and social-media platforms can be too impersonal, too unresponsive, too generic and lacking in humanity. In other words, many don’t present a retail store or staff as very likeable. And if you aren’t likeable, there’s no compelling reason for anyone to revisit your sites or engage in any meaningful communication with your bridal shop. So, what can a bridal/formal wear retailer do to be more likeable on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, e-mail and other online sites?
    Here are eight tips:

1. Be authentic.
    To put it bluntly, don’t pretend to be something you are not. You’ll be quickly discovered and that trust you want to build with bridal shoppers will evaporate.
    “Authenticity is key,” says Kristen Green, a wedding/lifestyle publicist and founder of Atlanta-based wedding PR firm Something New for I Do. “Consumers are savvy – they will be able to see through a falsely portrayed image of your brand. Stay true to your messaging and values and carry that through from your website to your social-media channels.”
    For example, Green says, if you are quoted in an article sharing tips from your luxury wedding brand, readers must see that same level of luxury and professionalism across your website and social-media channels otherwise they’ll know you’re sending mixed messages.
    “Don’t try to be something you’re not,” agrees Mike Coughlin, founder and creative director of Digital Blue Creative in Boston. “In reality, if people show an authentic story behind their brand, their vision and why they do what they do, I think that’s what people are drawn to.”
    “The kiss of death for any business is commoditization,” Coughlin adds.  
    Indeed, bridal salons that really succeed create a genuine brand and tell the story behind the brand. How did the owner start this business and why? Where does her passion for bridal come from? That’s the personal story that will resonate with the bride.
    “Authenticity is everything,” he says. “We know what’s authentic and what’s not. We know it unconsciously. So, that’s the most important thing of all.”
    Coughlin continues, “We need to remind marketers that high-quality, compelling, humanized stories drive earned media – not technology. Today¹s most successful brands – Apple, Nike and Zappos – ­know that. These top companies know how to connect on a human level and show authenticity, while telling brand stories that interest and engage all stakeholders and attract customers. These brands also know that technology is not made to tell stories and build relationships but rather is a tool to be leveraged after the story has been created.”

2. Be interesting.
    “First and foremost, know that profitability beats popularity -in other words, quality over quantity,” Green says. “It won’t do your brand any good to have 10k Instagram followers if only a portion of them are engaged.”
    Instead of thinking solely about growing your following, strategize on building an engaged following composed of your ideal clients, she suggests. What imagery do you need to share to attract the bride you’re looking for? What messaging resonates with them? Do they love following you on Snapchat for tips and insight, or would they prefer to scroll through your Instagram feed of beautiful photos?
    Being interesting is all about serving your clients in the way they best like to be served. And be unique.
    “If everybody is doing the same thing, then you’re not really going to stand out,” Coughlin says. “So whatever kind of content you produce, there should be a lot of thought behind it. Most people don’t put much thought behind what they say and send. It’s all about the thought and planning behind your message and then it’s important to determine what the right audience is for your message and then how to deliver the message to that audience.”

3. Be interested.
    This is all about showing that you care about the shopper and not just a potential sale. You need to project genuine interest in what potential customers want and need to know from you or about wedding planning in general. If they ask questions, you need to be able to provide the answers and sound like you really care.
    Let’s go back to content: You can strongly reinforce your brand with more than the information you provide. You can also display interest by responding to the messages you receive. For example, bridal shoppers really do want to know as much as possible about the people who will be helping them make that important wedding gown and accessory decision. Take the opportunity to tell them about you.
    The “About Us” section on your website shouldn’t be a throwaway, fill-in-the-blanks exercise. Tell the personal story of how and why bridal became your life’s work. Include biographies or interesting facts about each of your staff members, even those who don’t work one-on-one with brides.
    Pre-registration online is another way to show genuine interest.  Yes, asking the right questions will give your bridal shop a lot of valuable information to work with even before the appointment. It’s also a great first step in developing a rapport and instilling that feeling the bride’s story is as important to you as it is to her. The right pre-appointment conversation can smooth preparations for the appointment and narrow the gown search.

4. Be human.
    Don’t be afraid to show your humanity, flaws and all.
    This doesn’t mean that you have to reveal online all the aspects of the owner’s, management’s and staff’s personal lives. It does mean showing a little bit of genuine human emotion. If a bride’s story touches your heart, don’t be leery of letting those feelings be known. Bridal is one of the most emotional retail environments. Because emotions run high, anyone working in the world of weddings has to first be aware of the gamut of feelings that come with it, and second, communicate that you can empathize.
    Stories are abundant in bridal. Telling them can accomplish several goals, sometimes at once.
    “Storytelling is an extremely useful method of content marketing and humanizing your brand,” Green says. “When a brand has a content strategy for social media - and their blog or newsletter - that centers on either its story or the stories of their clients, it gives that company a personality, which is how today’s consumers connect.”
    She continues, “In order for your brand’s stories to have an impact, don’t focus on the sell and instead offer knowledge and takeaways. Ask yourself: What value do I bring to followers/consumers through my work and subject matter expertise? A good story that frames your brand sells itself!”

5. Be visual.
    Bridal is a visual enterprise; so is online communication. Luckily there’s a wealth of images to share online, on social media and in-store. Media experts advise telling your story as much as possible via visuals, both photographs and video.  
    “Since bridal is a highly visual industry, your top networks are going to be Pinterest, which I understand is really big right now and hugely successful for the bridal industry, and Instagram,” Coughlin says. “And I imagine there is an emerging bridal shop that is crafting some kind of Snapchat series.”
    Mine all of your existing sources of visuals so that you can offer words and pictures on whatever social media or web pages you participate in most. Brides and their grooms and members of the wedding party are constant sources of videos and photos that show off the work you’ve done and their levels of satisfaction with the service they received at your store. Using these resources on several platforms will enhance and extend your connections and create new ones.

6. Be interactive.
    Remember that communication – even online – is at least a two-way street; sometimes you can be interacting with hundreds or thousands of people! It may sound obvious, but you can’t just send your messages out, you also have to reply. Responses to e-mails, tweet, posts and queries should be as immediate as humanly possible.  It’s the nature of the beast. A query posted on your website probably has a longer shelf life than on social media, but you really can’t afford to let any platform become static.
    Keep your message clear and consistent. If what you say and how you say it varies too much from medium to medium, not only is it confusing to potential shoppers but it also dilutes the brand message.
    Interacting can begin with the simplest of things. For example, tweet in response to a tweet from one of your brides or members of her wedding party at her wedding or reception. If you are a bride looking for a bridal retailer for your own wedding, seeing that a salon pays attention to the bride long after her gown has been delivered sends a positive message.    
    Managing websites and social media can consume a lot of time, but one way to streamline the process is to put one person or a small team in charge of monitoring all of the platforms. If your online communication isn’t being managed professionally, look to staff to keep your communications on track. Social-media experts say that one way to make sure that the message you send is consistent is to script responses to frequently asked questions or messages from brides or couples after the wedding takes place. This doesn’t mean you repeat the same messages over and over. It does mean having guidelines as a reminder of what’s most important. An example: always address the response using the person’s first name.

7. Be selective.
    While the temptation is to be active on every possible social-media platform, it’s neither practical nor productive. Experts advise choosing your platforms with great care and not overcommitting. Essentially, one or two media managed well trumps trying to be everywhere.
    At the same time, don’t be so cautious about selecting where you’ll spend your time and money that you miss valuable opportunities. Instead, do a systematic trial of different media platforms.
    “Give it some time; do not give up if you don’t see tangible results in a few days,” Coughlin says. “I think the problem is that people are very focused on online marketing, on getting an immediate return on investment. If I’m not seeing a ROI this second then I’m going to stop what I’m doing. I think that’s a little misguided, because it does take a little time to build a brand and a lot of time to build a personna. You may not see that drive of sales immediately, but it will grow in time if you invest in it.”
    Don’t be afraid to try out new media platforms. “But, we’ve always done. . . ” is no excuse to stick with the status quo in this age of transparency and instant communication. While it may seem like an onerous task to try out a new platform and it’s easier to give up on it quickly if you don’t see immediate results, be patient.

8. Be professional.
    What does this mean, exactly? Feel free to show off your personality or share what’s happening in the store. In fact, those human moments can be valuable ways to connect. But don’t lose sight of the fact that you are a business and need to communicate in a professional manner. It doesn’t mean you have to be stuffy or formal. It does mean that you have to remember that this is business, not personal, communication. In other words, don’t overshare.
    For example, it’s a good idea to create separate social-media accounts for business and pleasure.
    “Overlap does have a place – sharing what you’re doing professionally with your friends in hopes of piquing their interest in your business, or tying in your personality on your business accounts so your clients can get a feel for the type of person they will be working with,” Green says. “But posting Instagram pictures of you and your friends at bars every weekend or endless pictures of your cat on your business accounts, how is that helping you secure clients? Be intentional in all you do.”

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