A guest post from IIA Social Media Working Group Member Eoin Kennedy of Slattery Communications. You can check out Eoin’s blog here. (I particularly like his most recent post at time of writing about the implications of using multiple usernames across social networks.)
IIA Member Company SimplyZesty recently ran another successful measurement camp. The session itself was attended by less than normal but ran to a familiar structure with two presenters followed by a group activity based on three case study scenarios.
Overall although online is much more measurable than traditional media the demands to quantify it financially have not been met to date. The first wave of measurement has been around physical numbers i.e. numbers of followers, number of posts. These give a topline indication of engagement but translating this into actual worth is tricky. How much is a follower/friend actually worth? Sure it’s great to get some “thumbs up” and “love” but what are these actual measures worth? For property owners such as bebo this poses real challenges. Engagement models are generally built around the pushing and advertising of the page profile but savvy brand holders want more. The burden of responsibility is getting pushed back to the property owners as marketers want more metrics to gauge success while platform owners need agreement on values attached to elements so that they can build charging models. Currently the CPM (cost per thousand impressions) advertising model is the main charging structure used. If the platform owner is charged with the financial delivery then they need to have full control over the creative, which again would pose problems.
Philip McCarthy now ex Bebo gave a good overview of some campaigns that they have run and admitted that measurement is still at an early stage. Bebo does engagement very well but an experience with Coca Cola Burn posed interesting questions about what he should have charged. Current values are around 3 euro cost per thousand which would indicate a value of €60k for the Coke campaign that achieved 20m impressions. The campaign achieved 17,000 visits to the site, 126 comments, 7 photos, 70 quizzes, 679 skins used.
Engagement is something that social media does really well and according to Philip there must be a value to it.
Philip debated using traditional rates that are charged for advertorials, something that is pretty much set and understood with traditional media. Basing digital charging models on established off line models has merit in that brand owners understand them but is probably not the best starting point.
The establishment of a base line measurement was discussed that could be used across other media but no one has yet taken this step to any great degree.
Where this gets particularly difficult is in getting values on things like thumbs up, love and other signs of engagement used on different social networks. It’s great to get them but what do they really mean and what value could be put on them?
One of the areas discussed that could help on measurement in the real world was the use of redeemable bar codes. The idea being that rather than a virtual present that people could send a ‘printable’ bar code or even one that could be displayed on a phone. This could be taken to an outlet and redeemed. This could help track social media activity to actual sales. For example a coffee shop could build an app that allows users to send a coffee to friends. The friend could print out or show the barcode that would be scanned through at an actual coffee shop. By doing this the coffee shop could measure the actual sales generated by the voucher and social media activity. Some good work in being done in this area by IIA Member Company Zappa but problems still exist for terminals to read bar codes on screen.
The overall feeling from the event was that some leadership needs to be established in measuring the value of online campaigns and that the current metrics, while good, are not financially based enough for brand owners. The UK Measurement Camp has also suffered from similar problems.
My own observation is that once criteria that are reasonably sound are established Klout, TweetLevel for Twitter, or Technorati for blogs could start to become industry standards. At some point someone needs to take a brave step. The online community will undoubtable respond and some progress could be made.
A big thanks to Laura Kelly from IIA Member Company AXA who submitted the following review of our recent event “Driving Self-Service Online”. A special thanks for her patience as I grappled with the recent blog issues while her concise review languished in my inbox. Her review shows that this event did not stop at examining online customer service. Of course this is exactly how any customer service should be: multi-faceted. I also attended an event similar to this by IIA Member Company iQContent at their Bootcamp last summer and agree with all her points. (But I would, of course, so it’s nice to get an unbiased opinion!)
Colin Bentley of iQContent proved to be a worthy guide on the journey through the topic, warning us all from the outset that it’s not as easy as we like to think!
Starting with the link between self service and customer experience, Colin gave us some great examples of online customer experiences that worked, and more importantly and often remembered those that don’t (all companies shall remain nameless here!)
Key Steps in the Online Self Service Journey
- Convince your CEO that online self service is right for you,
- Really listen to what your customers have to say, and understand the areas in which they seek help
- Be clever about the medium you use to answer your customers questions. Examples include forums, avatars (e.g. Anna for Ikea) and Twitter
- Understand more about the type of tasks you want to provide online, and how appropriate it is for the user and you. Tasks can range from useful, to usable, to lovable where companies really go the extra mile.
Finally Colin finished up a very informative half day by discussing the promotion of online self service, including educating staff and customers, as well as less subtle strategies such as financial incentives for transacting online.
A very informative and well presented seminar – my thanks to Colin Bentley from IQ Content and Irene from IIA.
– Laura Kelly, AXA.ie
(And the appropriateness of a CAR insurer writing a review of DRIVING Self-Service Online has just dawned on me. Ever the quick one on the uptake, Roseanne!)
A guest post from Randall Snare of iQContent
Good websites are great business. That doesn’t mean that offices everywhere will soon be human-less and we’ll all have to bow to the mightly computer as it tells us, “I cannot do that, Dave.”
iQ Content knows good websites
The theme of this year’s iQ Content Boot Camp is ‘make money, save money.’ Better websites do improve your bottom line, not because one computer can do the work of five people, but because a good website increases productivity, sales, services and publicity; freeing up your staff to do the work a website can’t do.
And more. We have over 20 courses from 9th – 11th June at the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel. IIA members and readers can get a 20% discount if they book online. Use the code ‘IIA’ to receive this special offer.
We’re giving away one full 3 day ticket to Boot Camp. To enter, go to www.iqcontent.com/bootcamp and answer this question:
Who is presenting Information Architecture that Works?
Email your answer and contact information to Cory-Ann Joseph, at email@example.com by end of business day Friday 5th June.
This is written by Campbell Scott of IGOPeople.com. All comments, queries and case study suggestions welcomed via comments below. Thanks! – RS, IIA.
Our previous case study gave an excellent overview of some of the social media tools that are available to businesses, including blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, Youtube etc. This case study is based on observations about how O2 Ireland have embraced the use of social media, to get closer to their customers (and potential customers). This summary records some of the interactions with customers that have taken place, some of these on IGOpeople.
O2 were well aware that their brand, products and services, pricing etc. were all being talked about online by their customers. These discussions were taking place on blogs, discussion forums and social networks. Many people would have posted comments which were negative in tone, complaining about specific problems or the way they had been treated by O2 as a customer. For O2, the challenge was how to engage or join in the conversations taking place. Many of the comments in discussion forums are anonymous, or take place in a tone and context where O2’s response or involvement in the discussion may not be particularly welcome.
O2’s answer to this problem was to take the brave move of creating their own, open user discussion forum, where customers could ask questions and seek help, voice their opinion or complain. Registration was a requirement, to help O2 get in touch with members privately if required. This was a very positive move which was received well by O2 customers. As this was new territory for O2, they did demonstrate some early naivety, by correcting the content of some members posts, but their customer community was tolerant of this, as it was a new environment where everyone was learning.
Although the O2 Forum has developed from these early days and is now a popular and active community, O2 have extended the range of social media tools they use to reach customers, including Bebo, Twitter and now IGOpeople (links take you directly to the O2 profile page). We’re delighted to have O2 as part of IGOpeople, but everyone can learn from some of the specific conversations they have become involved in.
O2 have jumped straight into IGOpeople, posting regularly about items of interest to their customers – promoting shiny new phones and new product releases. This week, they offered customers the opportunity to direct any questions they may have to the Head of Customer Care – not something that is available to a consumer every day of the week!
However, the thing that is impressed me about O2, is the willingness to reach out to customers. There are a number of conversations where they acknowledge their shortcomings and state how they will fix things up, or recognise the need to make changes in the future. Their answers don’t always give you the answer you might demand, but they are there to listen and consistently discuss the issue, in a really honest and believable way – even if the answer isn’t quite what you want.
Here are some nice examples of the conversations they get involved in
The following guest post is written by Leon Quinn of Reverb Studios Multimedia & Web Design. Reverb Studios recently rejoined the IIA which I was really glad to see. Leon Quinn, the company owner, had been on my radar through twitter and had made some valuable input to the Social Media Working Group’s recent blogging workshop through the live twittering (You’ll hear me passing on his inputs in the podcast where I mistakenly say that he is based in Co. Clare when he’s actually in lovely Leitrim – my bad!)
I ask all new members what prompted them to join the IIA. Leon told me that “Good key worded anchor links from a site like the IIA’s with a Google page rank of 6/10 and Alexa rank of 135,562 should help promote my web site so I guess you could say I’m mainly using the IIA site for link backs but in return you should get some useful content via my 2 blogs through your excellent RSS feature.”
Over to Leon:
The dominant mood in the current economic climate amongst the general public and businesses especially is to cut costs, save money and look for deals. Bearing this in mind, and if you run a business looking to increase your sales leads, now might be a good time to look at your marketing methods and spend.
‘Old fashioned’ marketing methods such as Print, Radio, TV, Brochures, etc.. remain effective at least in a local context but they also remain very expensive. If you are a business manager who has managed to avoid going down the online route to find leads until now then you should realise that according to recent statistics more and more people are using the internet to find services and purchase products online and you may not be able to afford to ignore this fact for much longer.
Web Design companies, if they have morals! will realise that companies may turn to the net in the current crisis to service their sales needs and therefore will hopefully lower their prices in the face of greater competition so hiring a web development company should no longer break the bank like it used to.
So what are the benefits of having a web presence over traditional marketing means?
- The web has a much greater reach, anyone with a PC and internet connection, anywhere in the world can find your site and potentially do business with you.
- The web never sleeps. Your website will not keep normal business hours but will continue to sell your services 24/7.
- It’s easier and quicker to find a product or service on the web thanks to excellent search engines such as Google therefore people will use this method to find companies much more.
- You can say more and sell yourself better on a web site than any other media. Consider the cost of an ad in something like the yellow pages and what you get for that price as opposed to a web site on which you can have text, photos, audio, video, news and as many pages as you like!
- The ongoing cost of a web site is quite small compared to other media. If you are managing the site yourself then the only repetitive costs will be your domain name and hosting and these should be reasonable.
- Spending money on something like Google Adwords to get people to your site is a much more efficient way of spending your marketing budget and you can monitor the effects of a campaign much more closely.
- You can use Google Analytics on your web site for free and gain very useful information about the type of people visiting your site and what they looked at most while there. This information can allow you to optimise your site to maximise the amount of people who actually contact you and give you a valuable sales lead.
Article by Leon Quinn
Reverb Studios Multimedia Design, Leitrim
A guest post from Will Roche who works with IIA Member company Bluecube Interactive with some great tips if you are looking into starting an AdWords Campaign on Google to attract targeted traffic to your site. Will previously worked with Google so he knows a thing or two!
“The noblest search is the search for excellence”
-Lyndon Baines Johnson
Advertising on search engines is one of the most effective methods for driving qualified traffic to your website. Compared to traditional forms of advertising, it is more cost-effective, you can measure performance from the very beginning of the campaign and you will be reaching out to potential customers at the precise time when they are looking for information on products and services they want to buy.
At its very heart, this form of advertising is wonderfully simple – a user sees an ad based upon their search – but there are many factors that you must consider to ensure you don’t pay more than necessary and that the clicks you receive are actually contributing to your profitability.
With this in mind, Bluecube Interactive has created this guide to help you get started in this much-misunderstood area. The advice that follows will help you to lay the foundations but remember, our search team is always available if you need to take your advertising to the next level.
The structure of an AdWords account is vital to achieving a great return on your investment. The right structure will ensure that users are served the most relevant ads at all times and it will make reporting, account navigation and optimisation much easier.
The ideal account structure is one which separates the products and services offered into their own campaigns. A good example would be a company who offers two services – web hosting and web design.
Each service should have its own campaign. This has numerous advantages. For instance, if web hosting is the more prominent service, a greater proportion of the overall marketing budget can be allocated to that campaign. It also makes comparing the cost-per-click performance of both services much easier as you can see at a glance which campaign is driving the most traffic, achieving the most conversions and is providing better value for your business.
Within each campaign, there should be numerous ad groups which group related keyword phrases together that are reflected by specific ad text variations. Examples of ad groups would be:
- web hosting
- website hosting
- UK hosting
- Linux web hosting
The goal should be to make your account as granular as possible and to think about the user who is searching for your keywords. If they are served an ad that relates directly to their search, the user is more likely to click on your ad and convert into a sign-up, lead or sale.
As mentioned previously, keywords should be as specific and targeted as possible and they should relate directly to the ad that the user sees. If a user is searching for product codes or other specific terms, they are likely to be further along the purchasing cycle than those searching for more general terms and therefore, more likely to convert on your website.
General keywords like ‘photocopiers’ or ‘printers’ can be very good for driving large volumes of traffic and can also be beneficial for branding purposes. However you should be aware that general terms are also more expensive and may not lead to the same return on investment that can be achieved with specific keywords.
Another keyword type that you should be aware of is the negative keyword. Almost as important as the keywords which trigger your ads, this type of keyword prevents your ad from showing on irrelevant or unrelated searches. For instance, if your keyword is ‘printers’, this term is liable to be expanded to show for searches like:
- inkjet printers
- laser printers
- free printers
- screen printers
- second hand printers
If your business only sold inkjet printers, you may not want your ads to be displayed for searches on laser printing terms so you could add ‘laser’ as a negative keyword and reduce the amount of irrelevant impressions on your ads. This would result in the same amount of clicks, less impressions, a higher clickthrough rate and because Google’s system rewards highly targeted advertisements, you should see a reduction in your average cost per click.
The actual ad text shown to users searching on your keywords is very important and we recommend using three variations which the AdWords system will rotate evenly until it determines that one variation is performing better than the others.
As mentioned previously, the ad must relate directly to your keywords. It is also very good practice to have the keyword in the ad text itself. If the searched keyword is part of the ad, that text will be highlighted in bold letters and makes your ad stand out to your prospective clients.
Another best practice is to give the user an idea of what you expect them to do once they reach your website and you should certainly use call-to-action phrase to do this. Phrases like ‘order online now’ or ‘contact us today’ can be very effective in driving conversions. If your goal is to have potential leads call your sales team, you may wish to try an ad variation which has your phone number. In this way, you could potentially solicit leads without the need for any chargeable click activity.
Once a user clicks on your ad, the landing page is the next important step in ensuring a strong conversion rate and ROI. More often than not, advertisers use their home page as the destination for their ads but if you have many products or offer different services, you should choose the webpage that is most relevant to the keyword searched and the ad displayed to the user.
It is always worth remembering that more you make a user click, the less likely they are to convert. Generally speaking, if a user is searching for ‘accounting software’, you should bring them to the page with all the relevant information about that software to make their purchase decision. We would also recommend not bringing users directly to ‘contact us’ pages unless those pages contain an adequate amount of information on the product or service itself. Landing pages which only contain large contact forms and no information tend to have very high bounce rates (the amount of users who leave your website) and do not convert very well.
If you are mostly interested in driving phone calls to your sales teams, I would recommend having your contact details and phone number on every page of your website. Once again, this prevents the user from having to navigate your site for the information they require. As with all things related to Google advertising, the focus should always be on the user experience and how you can make their conversion as easy as possible.
About Bluecube Interactive
We are a small company with big ideas, and we have a lot of big ideas about search engine marketing. Our experienced search specialists offer a range of services to ensure the success of your campaigns.
Our Services include:
After researching your existing online environment we will create keyword lists, text ads and calculate your optimum cost-per-click settings to ensure your ads appear on the first page of results for the most relevant searches. Our expertise will ensure detailed campaign performance analysis and increased budgetary control.
One of the key success factors with a PPC campaign is the continuous refinement of keywords and ad texts based upon historic performance. Our specialists can recommend and implement changes that will noticeably improve the performance of your campaigns.
We use traffic analysis software that allows us to see how valuable each keyword really is, if your conversion goals are being met and what we can do to maximise these conversions.
We offer full-time account management services that make us solely responsible for the success of your PPC campaigns. We will discuss your marketing goals, research the online environment for your industry and create the campaigns that will deliver strong results. We also provide regular reporting on account performance and how users are interacting with your website
Our account management service ensures that all areas of your search engine marketing are in the hands of experienced professionals who will be in regular contact with your marketing team.
A guest post from Brendan Hughes of FBD.ie and chair of the IIA’s Social Media Working Group.The IIA’s social media working group has been up and running now for a few months. We each work in different organisations located in various parts of the country and the group was configured so that there would not only be social media experts, but also business professionals with relatively little knowledge or expertise to date. For many of us the group has provided a great opportunity to learn by doing since we decided from the outset that we would seek to use social media as much as possible to support our collaborative working. The following are some of the social media tools we have used to support our endeavours.
The online hub of our collaboration has been the online project management tool Basecamp from 37signals.com. I’ve seen companies use this to communicate their project timelines with clients but it comes into its own when you need to collaborate with a dispersed group. Each member of the working group can post messages for the entire group or to just a few. Members of the group can reply or comment, just like on a blog. There are whiteboards where ideas can be teased out. Everyone is kept up to date by email and all communications are tracked. It gives great transparency on everything we do.
We decided that we would initially write 4 white papers on particular aspects of social media that we felt would be of primary interest to the business community in Ireland. To support the task of up to 16 people working on a single document we set up a wiki. A wiki is essentially a tool that allows anyone to edit an online document and have their edits tracked. There is a complete audit trail of who does what and changes can be easily rolled back. Notifications, or “watchlists” can be set up so that whenever a change is made to a particular document you can receive an email. While we struggled with the first version of the wiki we used since it was not very intuitive to use, we have since moved onto a new version – SocialText – that meets our needs better.
Rather than dragging everyone into the Digital Hub in Dublin every time we needed to meet we agreed to hold Skype conference meetings when we needed to. As smaller groups this worked well but when I personally tried to organise a full group Skype meeting I managed to leave most of the group out of the conversation for 20 minutes or so. I had an older version of Skype installed than was necessary to host the full meeting. Thanks to Skype’s instant messaging facility I was alerted to the problem by the excluded members and was able to get someone else to host the meeting.
In between meetings we’ve all been keeping in touch and letting each other know about useful resources or activities via social network websites such as FriendFeed and Twitter. These have been really useful ways of providing information quickly. Many of us have our own blogs and we’ve been using these and the IIA blog to try and keep people outside the group up to date. The social networking tools have been great for us individually in creating links with interested people outside of the working group. It was great to go to the Podcamp event in Kilkenny and to meet most of the working group there, as well as many of the other people I’ve connected with online over the past while.
Our white papers are now coming close to publication. We intend to widen the circle of collaboration and with this in mind we plan to publish the documents (via the wiki) in draft format. We will then invite people to review and post comments directly to the wiki. We also intend to host a review session for each document, online of course, using the services offered by OnlineMeetingRooms.com. I’m personally very excited about this as it provides the opportunity to gather the expertise from practitioners and interested business professionals in a constructive and engaging manner.
We’re also planning to host an open meeting with social media expert Neville Hobson from the UK to discuss the business case for social media. Neville is coming to Ireland on November 5th and we’ve managed to secure a few hours out of his busy schedule. The meeting will be organised via the social media website upcoming.org, allowing anyone who’s interested in attending to register for free and see who else is attending. We’ll post more information on this later.
We certainly haven’t exhausted the range of online collaborative tools available out there, but what we have used to date has proved very useful for maintaining the momentum of activities of a diverse group of individuals. What’s more, we have done it all with minimal cost. Learning the new technologies is not without its sometimes humbling (and frustrating) moments, but thankfully there is never a shortage of knowledgeable people only too willing to help out.
As an footnote, I came across a interesting video-cast from BT on their BiggerThinking website talking about how companies can collaborate with customers, using social media technologies, to build better products. Well worth a few minutes of your time.
A guest post from Chris Byrne in Sensorpro about a new way to serve feedback surveys at conferences.
For the Irish Internet Association (IIA) Word of Mouse conference, we needed a slick way to get attendee feedback. As a survey vendor, it’s a simple task to deploy a survey with all the bells and whistles you would expect, like via email, popup, link, twitter post or embedded in a blog – but on this occasion we wanted something a little different. We wanted audience reaction in real-time without the expense and hassle of gizmos. So how about Bluetooth then? After all, many in the audience had a gizmo already – a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone (or cell phone, if you prefer!) Thanks to a snappy response from Shane at Mobanode we had our survey deployed on his Bluetooth box in minutes. As soon as we hit the “fire” button, the survey was deployed to 23 phones with just 1 rejection – not a shabby response rate! Roseanne from IIA was live twittering – so she had the twitter world peeking over her shoulder. Not only did this method garner dynamic feedback from the immediate audience – but also picked up twitter eavesdroppers with the browser link. If you want to try event feedback that is different, is relevant and a gizmo that actually works – then try this.
A little tardy posting this (and more about the reasons for that later!) but very appropriately I am posting a review by Derek McGarry, a board member of the Institute of Designers in Ireland and a lecturer in the National College of Art and Design who attended the recent IIA event on Blogging, microblogging and podcasting. Appropriate because Krishna De, who presented that event, is presenting today at our event in Limerick “Word of Mouse Marketing: Building Brand and Attracting More Profits To Your Business”. (Also appropriate because the IDI are holding their coveted Design Awards tomorrow night.)
On Thursday 18th September I attended my first workshop on blogging, microblogging and podcasting run by Krishna De for the Irish Internet Association. It was my intention to fast track my way into an information world that I knew very little about but was eager to explore.
Krishna De was an excellent speaker who illustrated her expertise on the subject of blogs, microblogs and podcasts in an informal manner that helped everyone relax and enjoy the half day workshop. Having the class participate from the word go is always a smart way to ensure that you get everyone involved. More than that, it also ensures that there was little chance of going home unhappy that the class was meaningless because you can help direct the content. Our audience consisted of a good mix of complete novices, intermediates, and professionals. Everyone approached the workshop with a clear objective to use blogs, microblogs and podcasts as an essential part of their lives. Most had a good grasp of how it might help them build their business or that of the company in which they worked.
Krishna De provided lots of real examples or case studies that showed how others were using this technology to share information within a variety of social and business networks. Although I would not like to be tested on the full extent of my workshop comprehension, the great outcome for me was to leave the workshop with a conceptual toolbox and a new confidence to give it a go. I quickly purchased the software and equipment I needed to start a series of design podcasts. Within days I had recorded the first part of my new podcast series. With some more work I will soon be ready to launch myself as an official podcaster. From this first endeavour, I plan to gradually develop my skills through practice using tips and advice provided in the class. My first efforts may well prove real amateur hour but I don’t mind because I know that this time next year I’ll be much better.
While the workshop was just what I wanted, I was initially put off by the high cost of the training. In my opinion, I think the classes could be less expensive through clever marketing and sponsorship. The Irish Internet Association (IIA) should be able to attract such help through their impressive corporate connections. Certainly, if the workshops became more affordable I would definitely recommend them to all my students, colleagues and friends.
Finally, Krishna De orchestrated a really great workshop. Well done IIA!
Derek Mc Garry
Deputy to Head of Design Faculty
National College of Art and Design, Dublin
A big thank you to Derek for taking the time to write this review. A quick note in relation to Derek’s comment about cost is that the cost of IIA events or membership hasn’t been increased for three years. If that isn’t inflation busting, I don’t know what is! Krishna also writes on her blog about assessing the value of training. Another of our members Clickstream (who recently revamped their own website) also attended this event and wrote about it on their Blog.
I asked Elizabeth Greehy, Editor of www.stylebible.ie, and IIA member, for a few tips for those of us racking our brains about what to wear at the upcoming IIA & Enterprise Ireland NetVisionary Awards 2008. I look forward to seeing you all looking fabulous on the big night!
The countdown has begun for the IIA & Enterprise Ireland NetVisionary Awards 2008, (30th Oct) with next week (the 29th of Sept to be precise) seeing the announcement of the short-listed nominees. If you are one of the ‘Chosen Ones’ then you might be in need of a few style tips to ensure that you are, most definitely, ‘Dressed to Win’ on the big night!
Well, winning is a state of mind (so a seasoned winner once told me) and as we all know, style is also a state of mind with ‘subtle confidence’ being the ultimate common denominator in both. So it goes without saying really, that a winner will not only be confident in his or her approach to their career but also in their approach to dressing… but be careful, this doesn’t give you free reign to be over-confident!. You want to stand out, of course, but for all the right reasons.
The Awards Ceremony is a Black Tie event. So what exactly is Black Tie? Well, simply put, it’s formal! So guys, you have it relatively easy – basically, a black tux (although I will go into more detail later for the boys) and ladies, well, you are now faced with the predicament of ‘finding the perfect dress’. This, as all ladies will know, is no mean feat. There are so many choices and decisions to be made.
Here are a few things to take into consideration before embarking on your shopping trip.
- Be aware of what you like. By this I mean, flick through magazines and try to determine which style of dress really appeals to you as it helps bring your mind in a certain direction.
- Be aware of what suits you. Do you know what styles best suit your body shape? For instance, if you are very top heavy, a dress with a sweetheart neckline or a V neck is very flattering on a full bust and so on. Knowing what does, or more importantly, what doesn’t, suit your body shape, will eliminate certain styles and help you to focus on the style you need.
- Being Black-Tie, the occasion is strictly formal. For ladies this generally means a floor length gown. It was definitely the case that dresses which come to the knee, were once seen as ‘semi-formal’ however, over the years, cocktail dresses have become much more prevalent and acceptable now at Black Tie affairs. But this can still sometimes depend on the occasion in question and indeed where it is being held.
- Shopping for the dress. Although most ladies will enjoy the experience of trawling the shops and trying on dresses and granted, it’s the best way of determining look and feel, it’s also worth considering the other options available i.e. getting a dress tailor made for the evening… yes, sounds pricy but there are lots of accessible Irish designers and the feeling of having something tailor made that fits you like a glove is priceless. Marion Murphy Cooney, (www.marionmurphycooney.com) is a hip young designer, renowned for making Irish celebs such as Lorraine Keane and Karen Koster etc, look fabulous on the red carpet. She is well known and reasonably priced.
- Considering you are all involved in the online world, then we certainly can’t over look all the excellent online shopping websites at our fingertips (literally).
- www.netaporter.com for all you label obsessed girls – pricy yes, but definitely a little slice of luxury.
- www.click-2-couture.com for more amazing labels (Gucci, Miu Miu, Prada etc), but at much more accessible prices (and it’s an Irish website)
- www.estyleme.ie for unique dresses and exciting American and European labels; this website will certainly help you find the perfect evening gown. (inset: long satin fishtail dress, with sweetheart beaded neckline and chiffon bodice €399 from www.estyleme.ie )
- www.asos.com everything from high street to high glamour
- Or if you fancy the exclusivity of one of Ireland’s many boutiques, check out www.irishboutiques.com or indeed www.mybeautifulboutique.com for online listings of our amazing boutiques countrywide.
- Have your hair done. Treat yourself to a sexy up do or some gorgeous GHD curls for the big night.
- Get your nails done. If you normally have manicures and or acrylic / gel nails, treat yourself and get some delicate nail art done – perhaps a diamante or two?
- Find the perfect pair of shoes. The shoes, especially if you are wearing a knee-length dress, are vital. Getting a pair that co-ordinates with your look but has that extra special ‘stand out’ feature, will certainly help you look and feel like a ‘winner’.
- Jewellery. Well, ladies, the old adage ‘less is more’ really rings true in such an occasion. Whatever jewellery you decide to wear, don’t over do it. You definitely DON’T want to be upstaged by fussy jewellery. If you do have an extra special piece that you want to wear, just make sure it compliments the neckline and colour of your dress – the same goes for your bag – a small and delicate clutch purse that compliments your look is ideal.
- At all times, think style over high fashion. Fashionable quirks won’t always translate into flawless elegance.
- Although confidence is, as I mentioned, important in all winners, over-confidence is not an attractive trait. Remember to watch your decorum on the night. Demureness and modesty will go a long way towards winning the hearts of those around you. Style and elegance has a lot to do with how you conduct yourself.
THINGS TO AVOID:
Over tanning: This is very important; the streaky orange look is NOT good.
Too much make up: If you don’t trust your own skills, get your make up done professionally for the night – go for a nice smoky eye, perfect for night time looks.
Showing too much flesh: There is a fine line between subtle sexiness and just ‘too much’. Avoid any dress that might facilitate body parts popping out at inopportune moments!
Getting Drunk: This is acceptable at the ‘after party’ in an awards ceremony, especially if you are celebrating, but no matter how nervous you are over dinner, avoid using ‘Dutch Courage’ as a means of preparing yourself. There is nothing worse than a winner who is slurring over their acceptance speech.
And for the gentlemen!
So you might not have as much to think about as the ladies do, but sometimes ‘dressing to win’ can take a bit more than lashings of Brut and a self boosting ‘Go Get ‘Em’ wink in the mirror before you leave the house. Flawless sophistication doesn’t come easy you know!
- Perhaps you already own a Tuxedo, but if you don’t, remember that you can simply rent one from any good tailors for the night.
- It is important to get fitted properly before either renting or purchasing your Tux so make sure all the relevant measurements are taken including sleeve lengths and inside leg.
- Chose your style of shirt carefully as there are many different types – plain, ruffled, ivory buttoned etc. and remember to consider your partners outfit when doing so.
- Choose a cummerbund that compliments either your suit (black satin) or your dates outfit.
- Don’t forget the all important black bow tie.
- Accessorise with a nicely chosen pair of cufflinks.
- …..then do your self boosting ‘Go Get ‘Em’ wink in the mirror and you’re good to go!