Weddings are big business.
According to a survey by The Knot, the average wedding costs more than $35,000.
For the 13,000 U.S.-based brides and grooms who completed the survey, that cost didn’t include the honeymoon.
When my wife and I were married in 2000, we looked for inexpensive options such as the church, flowers and reception location.
Married friends suggested we look at wedding websites to find deals and make plans for the big day. We turned to TheKnot.com, a wedding planning site launched in 1997 with a mission of reducing the anxiety most couples feel about planning weddings.
Back then, there really weren’t many online planning options for couples.
Twenty years later and The Knot still rules the web-based, wedding-planning world. Its success is due in large part to an easy-to-navigate website and simplifying the process.
Some of The Knot’s best features are found in app form.
So, for my family (we have three weddings this year), friends and loyal readers, here are two of my favorite wedding apps: The Knot (https://www.theknot.com/) and Joy (https://withjoy.com/).
The Knot. With information, ideas and advice on everything from wedding cakes and icing flavors to dresses and tuxedos, The Knot has become a clearinghouse for every tiny detail.
Because weddings can be very detail-heavy, The Knot offers checklists for every step, including a robust guest-list manager for planning meals and seating arrangements.
Budgeting is one feature that has received a considerable update on The Knot since the late-1990’s when my wife and I were planning. At over $35,000 a pop, it’s no wonder why budgeting a wedding is such an important step. In fact, it’s one of the first places The Knot suggests couples focus their attention.
Download the app on your Apple- or Android-enabled device and get personalized budget breakdowns based on average wedding costs for things like rings, entertainment and limousine services. If your budget is way below the national average, then The Knot’s free budget tool is a must-have.
Joy. How I wish this app (and smartphones) were around on our wedding day.
My wife and I thought it would be fun to put disposable cameras at each table. What we developed were mostly blurry pictures of smiling friends clearly having a good time.
Thanks to smartphones, we no longer need disposable cameras. But we still need a way for wedding guests to share with us those amazing pictures.
To solve this problem, Joy, a free wedding-planning app available for Apple and Android devices, allows you to collect images from guests and share them with the rest of your guests. It serves as kind of a private social network for connecting friends and family long after the happy day is over.
Have a favorite wedding app? Share it with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how you used it to plan the big day.
Puking rainbow selfies. Face-morphing filters. Voice-modulation tools.
Social media can be fun.
While studies continue to detail the negative impact of Facebook and other platforms on our psyche, it’s important to remember that most social media are meant to be just that: forums for sharing and serving as a welcome respite from everyday life.
Social media is supposed to make our lives better, not bring us down.
Some platforms continue to roll out amazing filters and tools for making social media enjoyable. A favorite pastime in the Earnheardt house is to sit and scroll through the new filters on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.
It’s a fun way to connect with my kids, even if I never post a single face-swap pic.
Here are some fun new filters and tools we’ve tried recently:
Snapchat Lenses: Snapchat launched Lenses over a year ago as a new way to express how we’re feeling. Since then, as Snapchat announced in their Lenses update, “We’ve become puppies, puked rainbows, face-swapped with our best friends – and begun to explore how Lenses can change the world around us.”
A few weeks ago, Snapchat added new ways to use Lenses.
“While Snapping with the rear-facing camera, simply tap the camera screen to find new Lenses that can paint the world around you with new 3-D experiences.”
Snapchat continues to dominate the face- and voice-filtering selfie game, while other platforms like Instagram and Facebook are trying to keep pace.
Instagram Stickers: With an update in April, Instagram provided users with new sticker features for stories and direct messaging. Included in the new features are selfie stickers for adding smaller, thumbnail-size pics to be used as reactions in stories and messages.
“Turn your selfie into a sticker so you can quickly share your reaction or trade faces with someone [or something] in your story,” Instagram announced in a blog post.
Take a photo and you’ll see a new sticker with a camera that lets you create the mini-selfie.
“Before or after capturing, tap to apply different frame styles: fade or circle. Put your selfie sticker anywhere.”
Facebook Spaces: Facebook recently introduced Spaces, a new virtual reality app for connecting with friends in an interactive, albeit virtual environment. Spaces launched in beta for Oculus Rift and Touch, their VR companies.
The first step is creating an identity that represents the real you. “This helps people recognize you and makes VR feel more like hanging out in person,” Facebook said.
It’s a fairly simple process: choose one of your Facebook photos and select from an array of options for creating your VR avatar.
“Start with one of these options, then customize until it feels just right,” Facebook added. You can change hairstyle, eye color, facial features and more until you look like, well, you.
Now in year two, DOYO Live is Youngtown’s digital marketing and interactive design conference. This year’s conference will take place Aug. 2-3 at Youngstown State University.
Over the next few weeks, we’re featuring a few local entrepreneurs speaking at DOYO. This week, I’m excited to connect with Marisa Sergi, CEO and founder of RedHead Wine.
Q. Your profile notes that your interest in wine started with a sippy cup at age 5. So you kind of grew up with wine and social media? How connected are wine and social media?
A. Although we’re just getting started, I’ve found that social media is a great way to meet my customers. Many of them have reached out to compliment the wine or ask my opinion on wine and food pairings. Social media makes it easy for me to share my passion for wine with lots of people.
Q. Have any tips for getting people excited about wine via social media?
A. My favorite post is a live video of our team bottling our new product line extension, RedHead rose. It was a fun way to share the behind-the-scenes magic of how we make our wines and to share our passion with our fans. My goal as a winemaker is to help people understand more about the world of wine.
The video has already had a few thousand views.
Q. Why locate RedHead Wines in northeast Ohio and not in, say, California?
A. I’m from here and I enjoy the Youngstown area. I felt that starting this company here was a natural tribute to my family who immigrated to northeast Ohio from Italy.
California has a very established wine market and part of my mission as the winemaker and brand ambassador is to unmake tradition a little bit and make unconventional decisions.
It’s really cool to get reactions when I tell people this wine is produced and bottled in Youngstown, but that it’s made from California grapes. We bring refrigerated semi-trucks from California to Ohio to ensure our product is as fresh as possible. We start crushing the grapes as soon as they arrive at L’uva Bella Winery.
Q. You’re speaking at DOYO Live? We’re still a few months out, but have you landed on a topic?
A. I absolutely can’t wait to contribute to DOYO. My topic is, “Guerrilla Marketing 101: How to Create Buzz for your Brand.”
We have an exciting presentation planned with lots of practical tips on how to raise the profile of your brand without breaking your budget. Whether you’re a startup business or an established company, we’ll share ideas guaranteed to help you bring attention to your product.
Q. What excites you about DOYO? What are you looking forward to most?
A. DOYO offers something unique to the Youngstown area. The event will have world-class talent including marketers, business professionals and entrepreneurs who have real world experience to share with those in attendance.
In addition to sharing what I have learned running a B2B and B2C company at such a young age, I am looking forward to learning everything I can from other participants.
Youngstown also houses one of the best business incubators in the world, the Youngstown Business Incubator, and DOYO being here will highlight it to out-of-towners, too.
Q. Care to share any advice or stories about how you cultivate links in the wine industry via social media and digital marketing?
A. The best advice I can give anyone for connecting in the wine industry and across all industries is: “The answer is always no, if you don’t ask.” Remember that quote.
Also keep in mind how accessible information is on the internet as you work to build your brand and go in “for the ask.” For example, if you want to connect with an editor of a website or magazine that you think would be a good fit for a possible story about your business, find their information on LinkedIn, their website or other social media platforms.
Do your homework so you don’t waste their time or yours. If you understand and embrace the power of no longer being limited to the “six degrees of separation,” your chances of being successful are much greater. Using this approach can allow you to make connections that can lead to achieving your professional or personal dreams in ways beyond anything you might have ever imagined.
Learn more about Sergi and RedHead Wine at www.RedHeadWine.us. Have questions or want great wine tips? Check out her Twitter accounts at @RedHeadWine and @MarisaSergi.
DOYO Live, Youngtown’s digital marketing and interactive design conference is Aug. 2-3. I’m honored to feature some talented, local business owners who are building their brands in the social media world.
Today, it’s Deanna Fusillo of Sassy Girl Media, based in Canfield.
Q. So, what is Sassy Girl Media?
A. Sassy Girl Media is digital marketing company that specializes in social media marketing and web design. I guess that would be the appropriate response, but it really is so much more to me.
Sassy Girl Media is the child of starting a separate business seven years ago as a single mom with no budget. And when I say “no,” I mean that budget was $0.
I started a business as a way to find a balance between providing for my family financially and being present for my boys and their events. Not an easy task. I had to teach myself how to design websites and promote my business organically. That meant that during the evenings and every other free moment I was attending online courses, reading books and blogs and reaching out to my resources for help.
It wasn’t fun and completely overwhelming. What I didn’t realize was that all of that blood, sweat and tears were actually preparing me to create Sassy Girl Media, where I am able to support others who are just like me.
I have small to mid-sized clients who depend on me to do the work for them. I also have another group of clients who are startups and small business owners, and I teach them how to do it for themselves through my program, The Startup Circle.
Q. Webster’s definition for “sassy” is “lively, bold, and full of spirit; cheeky.” How does being sassy translate into the world of marketing, particularly on social media? I would think being “cheeky” on social media could get some people in trouble.
A. Ha! It definitely can. However, there’s balance in everything. I love the definition of “sassy” because it does seem to fit my personality. In the world of social media and marketing I believe it translates into being authentic, transparent and true to yourself.
So many times we want to promote ourselves or our businesses in tones similar to those we’ve seen before. Don’t get me wrong. There is wisdom in watching big brands and their marketing strategies. But there is awesome freedom in breaking those molds and letting our own personalities, or the personality of our brand, come through.
Q. You’re speaking at DOYO Live. We’re still a few months out, but have you landed on a topic?
A. I am so excited to be part of this for the second year. My topic is about women in entrepreneurship, pushing boundaries, and breaking the rules.
I’m speaking about what it’s like being a woman entrepreneur and how in a lot of industries, men are still the majority. Men and women are wired differently, we have different processes and strengths. I’ll be sharing how to recognize those strengths.
The benefit to understanding this is that we learn how to use those strengths to carve our own path but we also learn how men and women can complement each other based on the strengths we each have.
I guess you can say that this is when my parents get to say that I’m using that psychology degree from (Youngstown State University).
Q. Your bio on the DOYO Live website says your a “hashtag abuser.” There’s got to be a good story there.
A. There really isn’t one story so much as there are a few eye rolls and jokes by my boys with my hashtag use.
I’m that person that will use a lot of hashtags. My boys will make fun of some of the hashtags I use when I post pictures of them on Instagram. But being completely open, there’s more. I’m guilty of creating entire sentences with a hashtag, even including hashtags in my texts or verbal conversations.
So, I fully understand how they “should” be used, but I admit to abusing it.
Q. DOYO Live is expanding a bit this year. Why do you think this particular conference works in a small but vibrant town like Youngstown?
A. I’m so excited about this conference being here. We are so lucky to have an event like this right at our fingertips without having to travel to cities like Chicago or Orlando.
Youngstown is the perfect place. This once forgotten city is young again and it’s a strong force packed full of brilliant and creative innovators. When you look at different marketing platforms, it’s hard to not notice that digital is a favorite.
It allows the small business owners to successfully compete with the big companies. No other from of traditional marketing gives entrepreneurs that type of power without the budget to support it. And let’s face it; Youngstown has so many amazing entrepreneurs, makers and small businesses owners in this area that it makes complete sense.
Q. Care to share any stories about working with particular clients and what you and they learned about social media marketing from the process?
A. I have learned so much from each of my clients and hopefully they are learning something from me as well.
There is a theme that I see often and had to learn myself early on. What I knew about marketing a business was that it was a way to sell my product. So that’s what I did: sell. What I quickly learned was that social media marketing isn’t about selling. Well, not in the traditional ways that I thought.
I see this often with clients when they first visit my office. They want to “sell” their product or services. But social media marketing is a different animal. It’s not about the pitch. It’s about conversations and relationships.
“Brick and mortar is now click and order.” I wish I knew to whom to give that quote credit, but it’s so true. Our laptops and mobile devices have become our storefronts. And although that is a big change, what hasn’t changed is the relationships we build, the way we get to know our customers and how they get to know us.
Social Media marketing may be technology, but it’s still about that connection. We’re human. We all want to be part of something.
Learn more about Sassy Girl Media at SassyGirlMedia.com. Visit doyolive.com to read speaker profiles, get tickets and join the DOYO community.
Last week I noted that it seems strange for a tech-lover to rant about new technologies.
The truth is, I love new tech, but I miss the reliability afforded by old tech.
Case in point: I played music at my college radio station with “two turntables and a microphone.” Yes, that’s a lyric from Beck’s “Where It’s At.” In 1996, I played that song a lot on my radio show using something called a CD player. When the CD player broke, I pulled out an old vinyl record because, well, Napster wasn’t invented yet.
I was equal parts excited and confused when new tools like Napster emerged. But I still wanted to learn, create, and grow with new tech.
This is because of my proud membership in the often overlooked and perpetually underrated Generation X. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are of my generation, as are many tech entrepreneurs.
During my lifetime:
I’ve gone from making mix tapes on a dual deck boom box, to burning mix CDs, to embracing an ever-expanding iTunes playlists.
I started my Facebook account when you had to have a .edu email address to do so.
I bought my first pen drive that cost nearly $100 and held 124 mbs.
My first social media consisted of typing lines of green text on a black screen in a shared-use computer lab.
There were no photos, no graphics, just a bunch of nerds trying to slay imaginary dragons together on a text-based MMOG (that’s “massively multiplayer online game” to you kids) and geeking out that we got to do it together.
I’ve lived through, learned, discarded and replaced more technology in my 46 years than most Millennials.
If the digital revolution were the Wild West, I went there on a covered wagon, built a log cabin and fought bears.
I understand how things work because I was able to tear it apart and put it back together. All of this gives me an appreciation for new technology and part of that appreciation is an understanding that not all of it is built to last.
Many apps will go the way of MySpace and Vine (you kids still using Google+, right?). If I like a product, then I’m done auditioning new ones because, no matter how “user friendly” the interface is, sometimes this old man just wants something familiar and reliable.
I realize all this complaining may give the impression that I’ve given up new technology for the life of a luddite. Nothing could be further from the truth. I eagerly await the next generation of VR devices, driverless cars, vacationing on Mars and teleportation.
My point is not to bash technology, but rather acknowledge the intellectual and societal effort it takes to keep up with the new tech generation.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.