It’s not news that social media is an essential part of any bridal salon’s marketing plan, but operating successful platforms isn’t always easy.
    We’ve all been there – that sure-fire idea for a post is falling on deaf ears with no likes or views. Putting in long hours and not seeing results is frustrating!
    Giving up is not the answer. Rather, you need a strategy that works for your salon’s needs, and that begins with seeking expert solutions to five of your most plaguing social-media frustrations.

Frustration 1:
“I don’t have enough time!”
    It goes without saying that small business owners never have enough time. Kristen Fitzpatrick, owner of Amour Bridal in Cedar Park, Texas, says her biggest complaint about using social media for marketing purposes is the time it takes her to think of original posts, find the appropriate art work, and post content across several platforms.
    “It takes a lot of time to come up with social-media posts and figuring out how to make those posts reach the biggest audience,” says Fitzpatrick, who opened her store in 2015.
    How can busy retailers find the time to create unique, original content that will keep followers engaged?

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder of retail lifestyle publication Retail Minded:
    “Social media can be frustrating if you aren't naturally into it or don't allocate time for it, but if you start to perceive social media as an avenue of shopping for consumers it may begin to top your priority list. It's really about perception here. If you can understand and accept that social media is a natural part of a consumer's journey then you are more likely to welcome this into your routine. A change of mindset may be the best tool you can apply to ease frustration here.”

Meghan Ely, owner of wedding PR agency OFD Consulting:
    “Embrace block scheduling and integrate the concept into your workflow. Commit 1-2 hours a month to sitting down and pre-scheduling posts on the appropriate channels utilizing low-cost software (such as HootSuite or Schedugram). Limit any distractions and just focus on the task at hand. Also, don't be afraid to delegate. If your workflow includes taking the images, consider bringing in a part-time team member or intern to help manage.”

Frustration 2:
“I get negative reviews on Facebook that I don’t deserve!”
    “No one likes to get a bad review,” says Sandra Budewitz, owner of Sandra D’s in Watertown, Wis., who opened her store in 1989.
    “As a business owner, the fear is that any negative review could be harmful,” she says. “Our good reviews far out number the negative ones and we are thankful of that. We, of course, want everyone that leaves here to be happy.”
    Budewitz agrees that some negative reviews are deserved, and she uses those to improve her customer experience and train her staff to avoid those situations in the future.
    “Others are written out of spite and are not truthful to the situation,” she says. “How do we handle these?”

Cynthia Cavoto, chief fire starter for Firebrand Social Media, which develops social-media marketing plans for small business owners:
    “Let’s face it – it’s going to happen. It has happened to all of us. I got some one-star reviews on Facebook from people I didn’t even know or had never worked with. I wrote to Facebook and told them these were false reviews and that I’ve never worked with them before and Facebook took them down. That’s one way to approach it.
    For reviews that are warranted you have to accept the fact that it’s going to happen. We are not perfect. You are going to have a customer that is not happy. Always address it and never try to delete the review. If it is a legitimate customer say, ‘I understand that you are angry and I want to make this right.’ Then take it offline, reach out to them personally.
    The best thing you can do to alleviate these types of situations is to get good reviews. When your customers are happy ask them if they would mind leaving you a Google review. Google reviews are the most powerful. They help with SEO and organic search and reach.”

Reyhle: “Confronting frustrated customers’ reviews is part of a strong customer care strategy. Handle it with confidence yet kindness and don't delay following up on any posts, comments or other situations that may address negative reviews or issues. Do so as immediately as possible with an effort of trying to answer, resolve or at least support the customer situation as best you can.”

Ely: “Believe it or not, in many cases, a bad review can be avoided by simply following up with each and every client after their event to ask how their experience was. It doesn’t matter how big or small it was or even if you think you know what the answer is – someone needs to reach out to everyone and get feedback before they have a chance to post anything.
    Your first inclination may be to respond immediately so anyone looking at your reviews doesn’t get an immediate bad impression. However, you have time, so use it to think about what you want to say. Also, be sure to take a closer look to ensure that it isn’t a fake review – it happens. If it is, don’t respond. Instead, get in touch with the review site to lodge a complaint, and be prepared to provide proof that it is fabricated.
    As event professionals working in the hospitality industry, we are natural people pleasers, so getting a bad review is understandably going to be a blow. However, it is important to remember that you can’t deal with these matters based on emotion, but instead need to stick to the facts. Before you start writing your response gather all of the necessary information, from your own recollection, your notes, talking to appropriate staff members, and contacting other trusted vendors that were involved to make sure you have a full understanding of the situation.
    Treat your response like any other communication going out to the public – be prepared for multiple drafts and editing. While every bad review will require a custom response, generally you will want to confirm their feelings about what happened, briefly explain the situation, what was done to rectify it, and most importantly, encourage them to reach out to you to discuss further to get the conversation offline.”

Frustration 3:
“Do sponsored posts really work?”
    Harper Della-Piana, owner of Seams Couture Bridal Design, a couture and custom bridal design studio in Providence, R.I., is a pretty savvy when it comes to social media.
    She runs active Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest pages, in addition to managing a full workload in the studio. She uses sponsored posts on Facebook, but hasn’t seen better engagement since making the investment.            
    “Once you tailor the audience you will see engagement of posts from people who are clearly outside that list, fans who have nothing to do with what you're selling,” she says. “I've heard this from friends in other industries too. So now what do we do?”

Crystal Vilkaitis, founder of Social Edge, which offers social-media training programs for small retailer businesses:
    “Ads are a must in my opinion, but you must be running the right type of ads, to the right audience, and be strategic on what content you are advertising. There are a lot of options for Facebook and Instagram, and it can feel overwhelming to the retailer. For this reason, they often boost posts, which is the easiest way to advertise on social media, but not the most effective.”

Cavoto: “If you’re on Facebook and you are not boosting your posts, and not going in through the back end and getting new likes the right way – through advertising – no one is going to see your posts.
    If you’re going to be successful on Facebook you have to run some kind of ads, even for the people who already like your posts and business page; that’s the way the algorithm works now.
    There are better ways to run Facebook advertising and techniques on how to successfully boost your posts and working with a consultant can train you to more successfully create and manage ads. Plus, they keep up with the constant changes so you don’t have to. I train my clients, so they have the tools to implement themselves. Plus, I meet with clients every six months to show them some of the new things that are being introduced to social media. If you know the right way to use these features you don’t have to spend $500 month on ads.”

Frustration 4:
“I’m struggling to gain verified Instagram followers.”
    The Bridal Station in Modesto, Calif, uses social media on a regular basis for promotional purposes. The store had the most success with Facebook, through boosted posts. However, owner Kim Grayston has struggled to gain a following on Instagram.
    “(It) just has not gotten off the ground,” she says. “Every time I post something it seems that only photographers are the ones who ‘like’ my pictures. I would love to know any secrets regarding how to grow Instagram presence.”

Reyhle: “Instagram has its own rhyme and reason unlike any other social-media feed. To help grow your following and engagement, consider following and getting engaged with your target audience on Instagram, as well. When they see you getting social with them they are more likely to do the same with your account.”

Ely: “Test the waters with hashtags related to your craft and that will resonate with your audience and see if that gives you a boost. Remember, the goal is to post quality over quantity. Additionally, one of the biggest misnomers is it's all about your posting when, in fact, it's equally important to engage. Carve out time to respond to commenters, as well as comment on other photos. It's all about building community.”

Cavoto: “There are some great tools retailers can use to find their target audience. Try Picodash, an advanced Instagram search engine and social-media management tool retailers can use to search, explore and analyze Instagram content by location, hashtags or users.”

Frustration 5:
“I can’t keep up with the constant changes.”
    “Facebook is regularly changing the way it shares posts,” Fitzpatrick says.
    She belongs to a Facebook group for bridal storeowners who frequently discuss their experiences and share valuable knowledge on social media. Recently, she learned that dress images that she takes herself, verses the photos provided by the designer, get more engagement on her feeds.
    “Taking my own photos or videos adds even more time than just simply downloading images from the designers,” she says. “When Facebook decides to change how they view each post, I then have to shift gears and readjust how I am posting.”
    Della-Piana shares this sentiment.
    “The constant changes to the audience that the different sites make are really frustrating and hard to keep up with,” she says. “Instagram did something I still don't understand and my business Facebook page is getting lost even though we have hundreds of followers.”
    How can busy storeowners keep up with the constantly changing algorithms Facebook and other social-media sites employ?

Vilkaitis: “One way a retailer can keep up is by paying attention to their engagement on each post. If they start noticing trends, like engagement is dropping on a photo post but is up on a video post, that can be a good indicator that the algorithm has changed and they need to do more video posts. I recommend reviewing your social-media insights at least once a month to monitor reach, engagement and actions taken.         It’s also important to track in-store as much as you can. Ask customers what brought them in (and) if they follow you on social media, (then) have a way that you’re storing this information whether in your POS system, or even manually with a piece of paper next to the register. I suggest this to help see if social media is driving traffic and sales.
    You can’t always tell if someone is coming in from social and even though a post might not get a lot of engagement, maybe it still drove traffic in. Facebook is building smarter tracking technology for brick-and-mortar businesses to be able to track if someone walked into your store from an ad they saw on Facebook, but until this is available, it’s up to the retailer to ask, and collect the data.”