Community Platforms That Scale

As part of the relaunch of our Little Black Book, we studied several solutions for hosting a private LBB community. We were looking for a cost-effective way to host a private group of 500 to 2000 individuals. Easy onboarding, accessible discussions on any device and long-term stickiness were particularly important to us. However, the style of communication and feel of the platform’s UI was something we were open to letting our members choose.

NOTE: We’re taking feedback from current Little Black Book members on which platform they’d prefer. You’ll be receiving an email with a poll and the ability to leave specific comments. We hope to have the decision finalized by 2/11/2019

What Platforms are we currently considering?

Facebook Groups

What’s great about it? A lot of you are already in FB groups and have Facebook installed on your phones. Participation will be pretty seamless. FB Groups strike a nice balance of giving you immediate access to recent content on any device and giving you the ability to review older content.

What’s less than great?. For those who don’t like to mix work and pleasure, Facebook groups aren’t going to feel like the right fit. Some of your co-workers may have no desire to have a Facebook account. Functionality is a bit limited. We’d have one group.


What is it? Modern day web forums.

What’s great about it? Organizing and looking up information on Discourse is really easy. It provides a few additional features for organizing topics that Facebook Groups and Facebook Workspace do not. Do you want to easily browse all content that’s created in the community with no bias towards newer content? Do you want to create and consume longer form content? If so, Discourse is a great fit.

It would also be very easy to create subgroups of vendors. Vendors could self-organize and message each other privately.

You wouldn’t need to remember two sets of credentials. Discourse can be configured to allow you to login with your SMP username and password.

What’s less than great? It’s very web-first, desktop-first solution and the experience on mobile shows this. The app feels clunky and slow on iOS. If SMP members plan to use forums while at their desks, great. If you’re looking for more communication when you’re out and about on your phones we don’t believe Discourse is optimal. If you know and love Facebook, getting used to Discourse is certainly doable but it’s a new user interface you have to learn.


What is it? Discord started as chat for gamers but has ballooned into one of the more popular group chat platforms in the world. Recently, Discord raised 150M at a 2B valuation.

What’s great about it? It’s just like Slack (written up below) without threaded conversations. You can quickly chat with other LBB members or employees at SMP. We use it internally to host all chat for our business. It’s reliable and pretty simple to use.

What’s less than great? The gamer-first UI can feel a little off-brand for wedding companies. Chat is nice, but it can be hard to search for what you need. Like Slack, Discord has the concept of channels but you can’t go back and review specific topics within a channel. It would impossible to browse older information by topic.

What Else We Considered

We studied the following platforms but ultimately decided they weren’t right for our needs.

Facebook Workplace

What is it? It’s essentially a walled-off Facebook just for the business You.

What’s great about it? You can join with whatever email address you get all of the core functionality of Facebook including multiple groups, live video and Newsfeeds without needing a Facebook account. You get both chat and Group functionality which might be nice for faster communication. For us, Workspace provides an API that makes managing membership a little easier.

What’s less than great? It’s like Facebook but you need to remember another username and password. You’d have to install a new app on your phone (two if you want chat) as Workplace and regular Facebook are fully dis-integrated.

Why we’re not using it. I really wanted to like Facebook Workspace. However, it’s really hard to set up across organizations. Onboarding users outside your company’s domain was so painful this solution would have upset LBB members. Any member who wanted to sign up with a business email address would first need to create a Facebook Worskpace for their business. If you’re the owner of a small local business this would have been annoying. If you work for a large venue or even large businsess this would have been something that your IT Security team would have squashed if you asked permission or could have gotten you in trouble if you asked forgiveness.


What’s great about it? It’s the chat leader. You might already be using it. Threaded discussions and search are first rate.

What’s less than great? Nothing really. I’m not sure a chat-first solution is what we’re looking at for the LBB but Slack does what it intends to really well.

Why we are not using it: Essentially the free version of slack was a little too limiting (only the first 10,000 messages are kept). A paid version which allows us up to 3 members per LBB membership is potentially several thousand dollars a month. The functionality is too similar to Discord to consider paying that.

Wrapping Up

We studied several community platforms that would scale over a thousand users looking for ones that could achieve high adoption rates but had low cost. We like our top three but I’m sure there are plenty we missed. What else? Leave a comment below and tell us.

How We’re Changing our Vendor Guide For the Better

Hey Everyone. Our Style Me Pretty Team has been working long hours getting ready for the relaunch of our Little Black Book. While the actual vendor guide is very important to us, it’s a small part of a much larger offering for LBB members. Since I know you’ll all have a lot of questions, I’d like to outline some of the biggest changes and remind everyone of how SMP’s vendor guide works. 

Sub-Categories have Become “Services”

In the past, vendors were asked to choose a high level category plus a sub-category for their listing. Additional sub-categories would cost vendors more money. We’re replacing the concept of a sub-category with the concept of “services.”

What is a service? And how much does it cost? Unlike adding a sub-category, adding services is free for LBB members. You simply tell us what services you offer and — if we’re listing them in the Little Black Book — you’ll show up when brides and grooms search for those services. 

Services will show up in our guide as filters on the left hand side of a desktop page. Clicking on a service, will filter results to show all of the vendors that perform that service. If a bride selects multiple services, we’ll show vendors that perform any of the services you’ve selected.

As part of our ongoing attempts to make our guide better, we’ll review “services” throughout the year to ensure we’re listing new service offerings  relevant to brides and vendors. (Of course, we do reserve the right to remove your listing or services if your website doesn’t actually promote that service.

No More Regional Listings

We decided to stop selling Regional Listings. Only 5% of our vendor base decided to buy them in 2017 and 2018. We felt like regions were adding little benefit and a lot of complexity. Currently, there are still ways to search for vendors by Region. However, we’re planning on removing this in Q2 of 2019 as we work to continually refresh our vendor guide.

We thought long and hard about going to all city-level listings. However, there are still some large parts of the U.S. where our most granular listing is a state-level listing. Comparable International listings begin at country-level listings.

How Filtering and Ranking of Listings Works

Just as they were able to do, before Abby and I brought SMP back, brides and grooms can still narrow their US vendor search to the city, state or  region of their choice. If your listing overlaps with their search area, you’ll be included in the results. Ranking works based on how closely your listing matches the granularity of the search. For example, if you buy a Massachusetts listing (state level) and the couple is searching in Massachusetts, you’ll show up before Vendors who bought a Boston (city level) listing. However, if the couple narrows the scope of their search to Boston – Boston based listings will show up first.

Abby and I are proud to be part of this team — a team who has worked tirelessly on behalf of brides, grooms and wedding professionals around the world — to create our 2019 LBB Offering. I’m confident that in our new plans, we have something for everyone. Or as my lovely wife would say, “We’ve got y’all covered!” 

The LBB Offering…Much More Than a Listing

When we decided to bring Style Me Pretty back we thought long and hard about what it meant to be a Little Black Book member.  We talked to vendors and industry professionals and tried to do a lot of competitive research.  Of course, while we were doing all this, the world changed about six times.  Zola raised one hundred million dollars.  Wedding Wire had a Private Equity exit and then took The Knot private.  Joy raised their series A round.  Print publications in the wedding space started running into trouble.  All the while, I kept getting more confident that there was a place for SMP… if it went back to its roots. 

That brings us to the concept of a Vendor Guide.  When Abby was starting SMP and sitting on our couch in Charlestown, MA she told me she was launching the Little Black Book: a hyper curated guide of the best wedding vendors. I told her she was crazy. Vendor guides were outdated. It was September 2008.  Of course, I was completely missing the point.  The guide served vendors and brides in more ways than I could ever see at that time.  Curating great vendors saved couples – who cared more about quality than price – valuable shopping time.  Tying a directory to a publication showed off the best work of these vendors.  This all led to allowing featured vendors to grow their businesses and defend their prices in a very competitive industry, and in a way that felt intentional and meaningful. 

So 10 years later what are we doing relaunching a vendor guide? After all, vendor guides serve a very small interaction in the life of a vendor and bride. By the time a couple is looking through a guide that couple has been to many weddings, seen millions of pins and scrolled through more Instagram posts than anyone could care to count.

We get that. The truth is, a listing in the vendor guide itself is a small part of what we’re offering with the Little Black Book.  Our attitude at the end of 2018 is, sure, listings serve a purpose – but vendors deserve more.  So what exactly can you get if you’re a wedding vendor in our Little Black Book?

Over the last 6 months, we have spoken in great detail to a cross-section of vendors and venues with different business models who served different markets. Here’s what we came up with for goals for our 2019 LBB Offering:  

  1. First, Curate.  We heard from some of you that the book wasn’t as curated as it was in the past.  Many vendors we talked to only wanted to be listed next to the best of the best.  This helps you to defend your prices, it helps to validate your position in your market and it celebrates your work alongside like-minded peers. 
  2. Get LBB Members out of their listing and the directory itself and into Posts, Pins, Instagram Photos, Videos, etc. The places and spaces where our brides and grooms spend the most time and where SMP’s daily content carries the greatest clout.
  3. Publicly and enthusiastically market LBB vendors to brides and grooms planning their weddings. Give LBB Members the marketing collateral they need to explain why their LBB Membership makes them best in class.
  4. Simplify. Make it easier for LBB members to share their work with us. Every one of you understands that we can’t feature all the beautiful weddings you send our way. But we can streamline and simplify the whole process. Freeing up YOUR time in 2019 is a huge goal for us. 
  5. Build a community of the best vendors in the world and facilitate conversations that will help them grow their businesses.

Some of these goals are achieved by the services SMP has traditionally provided.  We produce content for vendors today and work very hard to distribute this content on social at all hours of the day and night. We actively market the LBB as the best vendors in the world. We help vendors promote themselves and their membership in the book as a stamp of approval.

However, if we truly want to achieve all the goals above, we have to strive for more.  We have to be willing to perpetually research, build, and deliver products and services that help you focus on your craft and let us focus on everything else. Let me introduce a few of those features we’ve added or will be adding shortly to the 2019 Little Black Book Offering:

Quick Submissions: Pre-Submission Reviews Built Right into the Submissions Server

We rebuilt our submissions tool to allow Little Black Book members to have their work reviewed before submitting.  Starting in January, when you log into our submissions page, you’ll see a new option to send a “quick” submission that consists entirely of a Title and an Image Gallery URL (Dropbox, Pixieset, your own on-line proofing gallery, etc.).  When using this process, LBB members won’t need to upload photos, provide credits or a description unless the submission is accepted. Saving your time is one of our major 2019 initiatives.  

Guaranteed Social and Editorial Promotion

Many vendors we spoke to wanted to know that they were getting some social coverage with their listing.  They didn’t want to go through a submissions process and wonder if their work would be published. After doing this for ten years, we feel very strongly in SMP’s ability to curate vendors, work with them to find their best work and present it to the world.  Therefore, many of the new LBB plans come with guaranteed ‘spotlight’ Instagram features or on-site posts sprinkled throughout the year. These are promotions that will focus on you and your business, essentially a profile piece.

A Community Platform for the Best of the Best

We pressure tested the idea of an online community with the many people we spoke to. Most vendors liked it.  Some told us they’d be too busy to use it.  We’re going to try to win everyone over. 

Here’s how: by leaning into many of the same problems vendors have.  By actively structuring our business to meet challenges head on that vendors can’t avoid – marketing in a competitive world, building an effective content strategy, publishing on social media, diving into local SEO.  We spent the first six months of SMP’s reboot finding the right resources to go out and win at these very things. We’ll be bringing those learnings and those resources into our newly launched forums to connect with you.  SMP team members, including Abby and myself, will hold office hours in forums. 

We’ll try to bring topics into the forums relevant to growing your business.  We think vendors will benefit from a place they can interact with their most successful peers. Those we’ve spoken to, are often unsure if they should pay attention to that up and coming new social network. They aren’t sure if they should be spending money on social amplification or services claiming to help with local SEO.  They don’t know how to vet a freelance developer. We study this stuff daily and regularly hire people to help us with it. We’ll bring the knowledge from our own experiences into the forums directly, sharing what we’ve learned in a way that can help you make informed decisions for your business. 

Early rejoining LBB members will get a say in helping us choose the right platform for this group.  The forum will go live on 1/15/19, once all complimentary listings have expired.  

Rebuilding Posts and Portfolios to Emphasize LBB Members

We are redesigning the way that vendor credits within posts are listed on desktop and on mobile. With this new design, couples planning their weddings will be able to see, at a glance, which vendors are members of the LBB network and will be able to easily interact with them directly from the post. These are ALMOST ready but may not launch until Q2 of 2019.  We want to get these really right and need more vendor feedback.

Give People a Chance to Invest in What They Really Want

If you just want to be an LBB member and chat with a community of like-minded peers it shouldn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.  We have options for rejoining LBB members that start around $40 a month (billed annually). If you simply don’t want to spend time on lengthy submissions, there are options for you.  If you want us to do the heavy lifting for you – from guaranteed social and onsite posts, to handling your paid amplification and marketing – there are options for you. Point is, we understand that each one of you have different business needs and goals and this can’t be a one size fits all program

So, that’s the start of our relaunched Little Black Book offering in 2019.  You can read about the full list of benefits here.  We’ll continue to add to this throughout 2019.   If you are an LBB member who is re-signing up with us, thank you so much for your support. If you need more time to decide, we totally get that. It’s been a long and very personal journey getting SMP going again. We wanted the LBB at the center of this journey.  We promise we will do our very best to help make you even more successful in 2019.


Tait Larson

President, Style Me Pretty

The Reboot Timeline

We have received a lot of questions on timing of this amazing little reboot so we wanted to share a general look at what our timeline goals are.

We plan to be up and running on 5/19.  Expect some site hiccups through 5/26. Further details below!

office (and hands) of Gemma Bowman of Ibiza Wedding | photo by Ana Lui

5/4/18 – Posting on Facebook and Instagram will ramp up for @stylemepretty and @SMPLiving accounts.

5/11/18 – Posting on Twitter and Pinterest will ramp up for @stylemepretty and @SMPLiving accounts.

5/19/18 – Posting begins onsite at Style Me Pretty and SMPLiving.  We formally start accepting submissions again.

5/26/18 – It might take us a little time to work out bugs and transfer all images over to our servers.  We expect to be running at full speed by this date.

This timeline is an educated guess at this point so it is definitely subject to change. If you have more questions about how SMP is operating throughout this transition, check out our Transition FAQ.

If you have questions specifically about the schedule mentioned above, leave them in the comments below!