If you're at the age where you or your friends are getting engaged and planning their weddings, you've probably heard of Style Me Pretty, the totally addictive wedding blog that features gorgeous photography from thousands of weddings submitted by readers.
The site was founded just five years ago by Abby Larson, a former wedding invitation designer and her husband Tait, who has a background in software development. Today SMP attracts 1.4 million unique visitors a month and has a huge social media following, with more than 60,000 Twitter followers and around 520,000 monthly visits from Pinterest, by far its largest social referrer.
We asked Abby about the site's beginnings and growth, social media and e-commerce strategies and editorial decisions. She also picked 10 unique weddings that recently appeared on SMP that she absolutely loved.
What's the story behind Style Me Pretty? Did you see a need for a design- focused wedding blog?
My background is in weddings and my husband's background is in software development. Together, we had a hunch that there was a potentially beautiful collaboration between the two of us. Our initial goal was to create a space that was as edited and lovely as a printed wedding magazine, though in an online environment where brides could satisfy their ideas and inspiration cravings throughout the course of their day.
At the time, blogging wasn't a new idea. There were plenty of gorgeous design-driven blogs out there, though none of them fell into the wedding space, a space that we felt was hugely photo driven and poised for something fabulous online. So we set out to fill that void and give brides an intimate space where they could go to dream about what might be the most important day of their lives to date.
Since then, SMP has grown into a true hub of beauty. We collaborate with over 1,700 vendors around the world to put forth the most beautiful, edited wedding content out there. It has translated into a collection of some of the most innovative wedding ideas a bride could ever want, categorized beautifully for easy searching, color coded and organized in such a way that the bride can't help but get lost in all of the pretty.
How has the Internet changed the way people plan their weddings?
The internet has changed the way people plan their weddings in so many ways. There are now an infinite number of ideas, inspirations and must- haves that come into a couple’s life every single day. There are real weddings that inspire vendor choices and venue selections. There are color palette choices and décor ideas. There is a steady stream of "stuff" that can often make planning a wedding in this day and age quite overwhelming.
But thankfully, the web has also made the process of organizing those loves so much more seamless. With the click of a button, brides can save their ideas, book their vendors, share their inspirations, loop in their guests, build out their weekend activities and so much more. It's instantaneous in many respects and far more efficient than it ever was.
You've experienced huge growth in a short time--how did you do it?
Our brand has grown really fast over the last few years but we keep our company really tight, employing only those that push the ship further along each and every day. By doing this, we are able to pivot really quickly, make decisions fast, implement even faster and see the results at lightning speed. We are also extremely thoughtful about the changes and developments we make to our site. We want our readers to grow with us, which means understanding what THEY want, not what we think is the next coolest thing.
Brides seem like a fervent group of followers while planning, but do they drop off once the wedding passes? How do you keep readers around?
We tend to see brides move on from every day clicking about three months after their wedding. Much of online trending is simply in day-to- day behavior and brides get comfortable with Style Me Pretty during their journey. They are often remiss to give it up after they've said their I-Do's.
Although we acknowledge a certain amount of drop off, we do sprinkle in content that would resonate with any person who loves fashion, DIY, style and inspiration. From Do-It-Yourself projects to tablescapes, many of the ideas on SMP can easily translate to home and entertaining which often keeps the newlyweds coming back for more.
Are most Style Me Pretty readers brides-to-be? Other surprising demographics?
About 90% are brides to be. The other 10% is a blend of industry professionals and wedding junkies.
Pinterest feels like a perfect fit for brides-to-be, and Style Me Pretty has had a lot of success on the site (and in fact doesn't look too different from a Pinterest board). Any advice for brands trying to build up followings?
Be authentic. Pin only what you love and what is on brand for you. I do think that brides and wedding industry pros tend to pin at lightning speed, namely because it is an environment that is primed to fall in love with ideas, but I think that our success can be attributed to two things: consistency and style. We pin daily and we stick to on-brand imagery.
How do you decide which weddings to feature? How many submissions do you get, compared to how many are on the site?
We get between 400 and 600 real wedding submissions per week and have built a custom submissions solution to keep up with this volume. Within each submission we can quickly sort through the images, read the story, check out the vendors involved, populate these weddings to our galleries, apply rollover credits, extract colors, build inspiration boards and if you can believe, do so many more cool things. It makes the sheer volume of weddings much more manageable.
Every wedding received gets a response back as well. On any given week, we feature between 60-70 real weddings across 12 content streams (our main SMP page, 10 local pages and our Little Black Book blog).
What are Style Me Pretty's plans in regards to e-commerce?
We are working on developing a white label checkout tool so that we can offer e-commerce on our site and let brides take advantage of the flash sale trend. While there are no plans to make this a large part of our business model, we do see the value in giving brides access to the kinds of products that we are curating on SMP each day in the real weddings that we feature.
Any other secrets of social media strategy you'd like to share?
Social Media seems to have taken over the world a bit. And in turn, many brands have lost their authenticity in an effort to be as many things to as many people as possible. That isn't a great strategy and the opposite has proven to be super successful for SMP.
We approach social media much like we curate our own blog content. We want each image pinned, each wedding on Facebook, each moment tweeted to be 100% on brand with SMP. Each platform offers different features and user demographics. To really understand where each platform shines you need to get your hands dirty and play with them.
For instance, we find that Twitter reaches more Wedding Vendors than Facebook. We find that Facebook is far more Bride- focused than Twitter. No matter what you do, remember that social networks are inherently human. They are meant to share a person's experiences, not market a business. So be human. Engage people. Create a conversation.
A wedding at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum
A wedding at a parking garage in Spokane, Washington
A "swoontastic" wedding in Beverly Hills
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