How Social Media Levels the Playing Field for Design Brands

A once-monopolized industry is booming, and its all thanks to the mid-size brands, small businesses, and boutique firms populating the design field. Instead of furniture tycoons and C-suite status decorators populating our Instagram feeds, its the blogger down the street and the designer with a small but mighty team. 

This emerging trend is thanks to a little marketing technique called social media. At one time it was only possible for the 'big kids' to earn any wallet share with pricey print ads, thousands of catalogs, and commercials from morning until night. Now? Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have helped to level the playing field, allowing the boutique design firm and midsize furniture brand gain market share, interest, and leverage over their larger counterparts.

How has this happened, you ask? Several reasons like the changing business climate, our move from print to digital, and the evolving consumer mind, all contribute. Let's deep dive into a few reasons why YOU as a designer have the opportunity to amount to great things, all with a like button and an iPhone. OK, here we go.

Organic Reach is Still Possible

I don't know how closely you pay attention to social trends or digital news, but Facebook and Instagram have started implementing stricter algorithms, including banning users who use too many of the same hashtags (#lame), or robots bought to generate likes or followers.

This new fence put up in the social schoolyard means a) it will be more difficult for someone not educated in social media to overcome the hurdle of getting noticed in all of the noise, and b) larger brands have to start playing by the rules, too. While robots may seem like a great short-term plan, and spamming with hashtags generates quick-and-easy likes, they aren't big picture solutions that will help build your brand over time. 

Being studious in your social media efforts is what will pay off. Slow and steady growth, short-term plans elevated by long-term goals, a posting schedule, strict brand guidelines, and an authentic voice is where you'll find your niche. In summation: Organic is still the way to go in the social world, and it will pay off after you've put in the blood, sweat, and thoroughly researched hashtags. 

Community Over Competition, Always

For whatever reason, there is still a belief that there is just not enough success to go around. The need to be better-than, more creative-than, and posting more frequently-than is not only untrue, but it's doing your brand a disservice. 

Embracing social communities is one of the shiny keys that unlock the motherlode of likes, followers, and new customers that you're looking for. Only by sharing other people's content, commenting on their statuses, and liking their pictures will you see a rise in your own shares, comments, and likes. Like in the real world, you get what you give on social media. And, read my lips, it must be authentic. 

Designers looking for a way to get their projects published should look for groups or shared interests on platforms like Facebook because that is where the chatter happens, not via a poorly written tweet to a very busy editor. Brands hoping to connect with social influencers should show genuine interest in their day-to-day: share their videos, suggest a solution for a problem posed on Instagram, and always be encouraging. 

There is enough success to go around. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats, especially the nice ones who genuinely like your #TBT pictures on Instagram.

Social Media is the Portal to Potential

Think about it: How often do you spend time scrolling on your phone? Reading blogs? Online shopping? Leaving reviews? Playing games? Your face-to-screen time is probably a bulk of your spare time, and you're a busy business owner, business exec, or principal designer. 

Now imagine your client. They're sitting on their couch or they're cooking dinner or they're on a plane to a business trip. How are you most likely to reach them? Probably not a print ad. Probably not a commercial (hello, Netflix), and probably not a billboard. I'm willing to bet that 99% of the people you're imagining are using their phone to scroll through a shoe sale while sitting on the couch, looking up a recipe on Pinterest while they're cooking, or reading through the business journal while on the plane. 

Never have business owners ever had this kind of one-on-one access to consumers. You are now able to meet a potential client where they are-- On the couch, in the kitchen, seated on a plane. With powerful tools like Facebook's Ad Manager, Twitter lists, and Instagram stories, your potential customers are actually sitting and waiting for you to appeal to them and offer them a solution.

Combining organic growth with building communities and tapping into your client's off-the-clock brain, you'll see a revitalization in your social media. Not sure how to work those three elements into an actionable plan? We may know someone who can help out with that.