Designers Break Into Social Media
Interior designers Corey Damen Jenkins, Gretchen Aubuchon, and Christian May offer tips on how to get started building your brand through new channels.
In the Las Vegas Market seminar Social Media & the Design Community: How to Encourage Influencers to Grow Your Brand, a distinguished panel moderated by designer Michelle Workman explained which platforms work best for them and how to get started.
The first misconception the panel tackled was whether a designer needed to be “famous” to start a blog. The consensus? Any designer with a point of view can launch a blog. For those in the audience wondering if it is too late to jump onto the blogging bandwagon, the amount of time that a designer has had a blog does not seem to matter to followers. It’s all about content.
One of the first well-known designers to embrace blogging back in 2007, Christian May of Maison 21 in Los Angeles, explained, “It’s given me incredible credibility as a designer.” Social media such blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are effective mediums for designers to demonstrate their design perspective by sharing looks they love, items/schemes that inspire them, projects they’re working on or just completed, plus their opinion on current design trends. In short, blogs and social media lend invaluable validation.
Where to Start
Make no mistake, maintaining a blog requires an investment of time and energy. If a designer is looking to dip a toe in the social media waters, May suggests Instagram as the best place to start.
“I Instagrammed photos of pillows I used on a project and someone contacted me about it,” May explained. “The beauty of Instagram is that you can post photos of anything you love; it doesn’t always have to be about design.”
For the past several years, Twitter has reigned as an easy way to dabble in social media. However, interior décor veteran Gretchen Aubuchon, who runs the popular trend-spotting Fashion+Décor Web site (www. fashiondecor.com) with designer Shane Inman (they also have their own TV show GRETCHEN + SHANE on The Design Network), cautioned, “Twitter has becomeespecially crowded now, which makes it harder to get
“We’re living in a world where we are overrun with reality TV, which has led to a loss of authenticity,” explained interior designer Corey Damen Jenkins of Design With Vision (DWV) in Michigan. So much of reality” TV has been uncovered to be scripted, that it has created mistrust in the medium. “People are looking for what’s real. They can tell when you are being fake,” he said, adding that it’s not volume that counts, it is value. “Maybe you’re not able to post every day, but when you do – perhaps weekly – it’s something meaningful to you. [The posts] should give a clue to who you are as a person and convey that character.”
In a social media world filled with blogs, these designers agree it can be hard to stand out. “Bloggers need to understand the industry in order to be an advocate of it. You need to know what you are talking about,” Jenkins said.
“Just because you have a blog doesn’t mean you are an expert. You can tell who’s just reposting magazine photos and who has a true passion for design,” May agreed.
Aligning With Brands
Part of Aubuchon’s business revolves around helping companies find the right design partnerships. “A lot of brands only look at the number of followers. For example, one of my clients [a well-known paint brand] told me about two bloggers that they were aligning themselves with. They made their decision based on the number of followers, but [I could tell] it wasn’t the right fit for them,” she explained.
Aubuchon’s advice is for companies to dig deeper beyond the number of followers and do more due diligence as to whether those followers are the target consumer for their brand. She added, “It’s now becoming more obvious to tell which blogs are getting paid to mention certain products.” Such an occurrence diminishes credibility.
Social media can also be a means for connecting industry people who wouldn’t have met any other way. “Through Twitter, I met a rug manufacturer and [ended up] collaborating on a line of rugs that will be launching on May 6,” May remarked. “That relationship started through social media and the collaboration has been a good match and a dream come true.”
Strengthening a Partnership
Both Jenkins and May advise letting a vendor know if the brand was featured in one of their design projects that ultimately was shown in a magazine or blog. There is no harm in a designer pointing out to a vendor how often he/she uses their brand in projects — especially if it is a company that the designer admires and would love to have a partnership with down the road. Added Aubuchon, “The brands know who their fans are in the design community.”
Aubuchon advised companies to take a look at which designers are coming into their showrooms at market. Moderator and designer Michelle Workman added, “Brands, be aware of who loves your product and who
is tweeting about it — and especially if they’re not getting paid to tweet about it.”
Old School vs. New School
While social media makes it so easy to casually reach out to people we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do otherwise, nothing can replace old-fashioned follow-up.
“Social media is wonderful, but follow it up with a handwritten card,” Jenkins said. “It takes time to write it, but it has gravity.”
In the end, it all comes down to finding the most comfortable social media platform that works best for you as a person and as an interior designer
Author Unknown. “How Designers Can Break Into Social Media.” EnLIGHTENment Magazine. Volume 4, Issue 3, 1 March 2014. Print. Page 44, 45