Social media is a phrase so ubiquitous that it hardly betrays its ambiguity. The term “social media” refers to websites and digital applications that allow users to create and share content, and by definition refers to hundreds, if not thousands of platforms. It can be incredibly intimidating to those less familiar with it, as it seems as though everyone else on the planet implicitly knows the culture and specific ins and outs of each of the various platforms. For interior designers hoping to learn the game and use digital social savvy to support and grow their businesses, this article will fill you in on which platforms you need to know, how to use them most effectively, and how to define goals and measure the outcomes of your efforts.
If used strategically, social media is a powerful tool to help support and grow your interior design business by offering free platforms to show off your skill, reinforce your brand via curated content, and build your network while strengthening existing relationships. In order to most effectively use your time on social media, it's imperative to set goals for what you want to achieve on the platforms, create a strategy to meet those goals, and make the effort to measure the effectiveness of your social initiatives.
The first step is to assess the various platforms and prioritize those that are most meaningfully frequented by your target audience. Because visual representation is so important to interior design, platforms that are photo-centric, like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, are obvious platforms to start building your professional social media presence, but it's important to know the demographics of each platform’s audience, plus the amount of time and effort each requires to gain traction before making your selections.
Breaking Down the Demographics
Source: Pew Center For Research
The Pew Center for Research has been tracking the growth and demographic data of social media sites since 2012 and is considered to be the reigning authority on the topic. According to their most recent study, conducted between January 8, 2019 and February 7, 2019, Facebook is one of the most widely used social sites, with 69% of adults in the U.S. active on the site. Youtube is even more popular, with 73% of adults regularly using the site to consume content. The next five most popular social sites are: Instagram at 37%, Pinterest at 28%, LinkedIn at 27%, and Snapchat at 24%. Surprisingly, only 22% of adults in the U.S. are active on Twitter.
The age difference amongst users is vast, and it’s key to assessing which platform best captures your target audience. For example, amongst the younger 18-29 year old demographic, Instagram reports that 67% of the U.S. population are active users, while Snapchat reports 62%. Facebook users are more evenly spread out across age categories, with 79% of the 18-29 year old population, 79% of the 30-49 year old bracket, and 68% of the 50-64 year old population active on the site. It also has the highest number of active users over 65, with 46% of U.S. adults within the category on the platform. Facebook also has the highest level of user engagement, with 51% of U.S. adults reporting to check the site several times throughout the day, followed by Snapchat at 46% and Instagram at 42%. The Pew Center study is worth closer inspection, as it includes breakdowns by income and location that are vital to honing in on the best channels to reach your target audience.
Consider the Time Commitment and Content Required for Each Platform
After determining which platforms have the highest number of users in your target audience, consider what is required to successfully leverage each platform and whether or not you can realistically dedicate the time and resources needed. Also, each social media platform favors specific types of content, and a successful social strategy differentiates the best unique content for each site.
For example, while Youtube has the highest number of active users, building a following is difficult, and you will be competing with more than 50 million content creators active on the platform. On the upside, opening a brand account is free and comes with analytics that will show you how many views each video gets, the demographics of viewers, and how engaged users are with the content via sharing and comments.
The content of the videos you post on YouTube can be anything from how you put together a mood board to a quick tour of your latest project site (provided your client approves). Another popular format are instructional, “how-to” videos, where you can offer viewers design tips, home renovation advice, and any other expert knowledge your target audience would be interested in learning about. Youtube videos can be longer and more in-depth than the videos you might post on Instagram, for example, which should be limited to a short format. One of the most popular interior designer companies on Youtube is Studio McGee, who post a fun and engaging mix of home tours, design makeover videos, and an occasional peek behind the scenes into their offices and specific elements of their design process. Another fan favorite is the Three Birds Renovation Youtube page, which posts a mix of home tours, design tips, and inspirational content, but also does a fantastic job of capturing the chemistry of its three interior designers, making for fun entertainment in addition to information sharing.
For interior designers, maintaining a Youtube channel is most effective when used alongside other social media channels that can help drive traffic to your Youtube page. Otherwise, your channel will easily get lost in the shuffle. This multi-channel strategy also eases constraints on your time and resources, since you will be using it as a compliment to your other channels rather than focusing on building a unique Youtube following.
Despite its slower growth and spate of controversial press in recent years, Facebook should be a top priority for interior designers seeking to build a social media presence. The numbers don’t lie: its audience is massive, it’s free to use, and the format supports the visual content that designers want to share. The most successful types of content to post on Facebook include videos, images, and text, such as expert advice, inspirational quotes, and promotional information about upcoming events. This platform offers the most flexibility in appropriate content formats to use. Interior designer to the stars, Nate Berkus, has an impressive Facebook page with the perfect balance of photos, links to press, and how-to videos that come together to show off his talent while making his designs accessible to his followers.
According to a series of 10 studies analyzed by Co-Schedule, users can publish 1 post per day to effectively gain followers and maintain brand awareness, which is on the low end of effort needed to maintain a meaningful presence on a social site. If your stated goals include building your network and strengthening your relationships, engaging with your followers is a must-do and a source of great effort. Not only must you post content and reply to comments on your own pages, but you’ll also need to spend time following your followers, liking their photos, and commenting on their content as well. To successfully use Facebook and Instagram, plan to devote about an hour per day to the initiatives. Both sites offer user analytics so that you can measure ROI.
Instagram is another platform that interior designers should prioritize, especially because the platform is designed for visual content, like images and videos. Interior designers can post photos of their work, inspirational images, action shots or video clips from events, and text promoting upcoming events. Your Instagram account will also have a sub-feature called Instagram Stories, which are only visible on your page for 24 hours. This is a great place to post lighter content meant to show off your personality, interests, or design details you come across spontaneously that you would like to share with your followers. You can always promote a Story to become part of a Highlight, which are curated collections of Instagram Stories available at all times on your profile, and serve as great opportunities to build a narrative around specific projects, sources of inspiration, or any other themed content you would like to showcase. If you visit the Instagram of interior designer, Jenna Sue, you’ll see her best stories organized in a series of Highlights right under her profile picture and bio, providing her followers with easy access to her latest, ongoing, and most popular projects. Facebook also has a Facebook Stories features which follows the same rules as the Instagram version, but are less popular with users of that platform.
If you look at examples of interior designers who are super popular on Instagram, you’ll notice they post visually interesting content that shows off their work, but also gives credit to their sources of inspiration. They also make use of hashtags, which allows platform users who do not follow their accounts to more easily find their content. Instagram requires 1-2 posts a day, which is a similar amount of effort to Facebook for a smaller audience, but Instagram is growing in popularity across all demographics and is another important piece to a successful social strategy.
Pinterest is another social media site that lends itself well to the visually driven business of interior design. One of its greatest benefits is that it acts not only as a social media platform for marketing your business and interacting with your network, but also as an electronic file cabinet for keeping and sharing your design inspirations. The site allows you to easily assemble digital mood boards, traditional staples in the interior designer’s toolbox, which you can post publicly or share directly with contacts of your choosing. Other popular content on Pinterest are infographics and step-by-step photo guides, similar to the Youtube “how-to” videos, but in still-photo form. It’s no surprise that Studio McGee, successful on YouTube, is also one of the most popular interior designers on Pinterest. Other interior designers who are dominating Pinterest include The Zhush, which mixes in beauty and lifestyle posts alongside interior design content, and Savvy Home, which is exceptionally prolific in its number of posts, while remaining organized and thoughtfully curated. You can also use Pinterest as a means of paid advertising by creating “promoted pins,” or posts you pay to promote in areas of the website where more people will see them.
Keep in mind that providing exclusive content is part of successfully using Pinterest to promote your business, so be thoughtful about which images you post on one social media platform versus another. Also note that according to the Co-Schedule study, using Pinterest effectively for business requires an average of 11 pins per day, making it one of the more labor-intensive initiatives.
Other social media sites, like LinkedIn and Twitter, are not worthy of a meaningful concentration of your efforts, but establishing a landing page for your business on these sites is a good way to appear professional and make your contact information more widely available. LinkedIn is generally used to post jobs, company information, and professional content. Twitter is mainly used to post short-form prose, news, and to a lesser extent, pictures and gifs. Neither are designed to highlight visual representation, but can still offer value as a portal to share basic company information. A simple home page with a link to your website can be enough to satisfy people that are using these channels to find interior designers, or you, specifically.
Why Interior Designers Need A Social Media Strategy
While using social media as part of your marketing plan for your interior design business is important, trying to navigate the process without a plan can be time-consuming and yield questionable results. According to Forbes, close to 80% of professional interior designers are active on social media, yet only 17% believe it has been effective in promoting their business. Word of mouth is still considered to be the most powerful driver of new business, according to the 85% of designers surveyed.
Define your social media goals according to the time and resources you are able to devote to them. To help ensure you stay on track with the recommended cadence for posting, create a schedule and plan content at least one week in advance so that you don’t have to worry about what you will post on a day that has become unexpectedly hectic. You can always adjust your plan as you go to reflect posting opportunities that arise in real time.
Lastly, no matter how social media trends change or demands for content increase, always stay true to your brand. For some interior designers, it may be more beneficial to limit your social presence rather than expand it. For example, if you aim to work with a high profile clientele that prizes privacy above all, you should minimize your social media exposure and think twice before posting clients’ project sites, especially without prior approval.
All in all, social media is a fun and effective way to interact with your network and a chance to display your creativity in a business-savvy way. Have fun with your social media presence and don’t waste the opportunities these platforms offer to show the world who you are and why you are someone worth following.