Dear Design Doctor
I have been a textile designer maker for over ten years. I want to start using social media, but don’t really know where to start.
I’m not strong in marketing or using computers, but I feel that I need ‘to keep up’ with the younger makers! What’s the best way to start and not waste too much of my precious time?
Patricia van den Akker, Director of The Design Trust, answered this question as The Design Doctor in Crafts Magazine January/February 2013 where it was called ‘Turning a technophobe into a tweeter’ (page 26):
‘Welcome to the world of social media! You are definitely not the only crafts person who wonders what is going on. In the last couple of years there has been a major boom in social media, and they can be a wonderful tool for creative sole traders.
The first thing to know is that social media isn’t just for selling your work.
Especially if you work by yourself all day they allow you to stay connected with the (creative) world, to build your tribe, to network with (potential) clients or suppliers, to announce events, do market research, or just to find out what is happening in your niche – and that across the world!
What are the most popular social media tools?
Twitter is my personal favourite. I only started using twitter a year ago, but I now use it daily to find out about events and opportunities for our newsletter and to stay in touch with our many followers. I use clickable links in most tweets to generate traffic to The Design Trust website.
Twitter easily finds people with similar niche interests, and has put me directly in touch with potential collaborators and journalists. You can share your creative ideas or opinions, images of work in progress, or invite people to your website or exhibition.
The way Twitter works is that you have 140 characters to create a ‘tweet’ (your message), that you send to your followers. You follow people and get their tweets.
(You can follow The Design Trust on twitter: @TheDesignTrust Come and say hi!)
Facebook is incredibly popular, but as most people use it for personal conversations it isn’t the best social media platform to do business. You can set up a business page with your branding and separate your private and business profile. Facebook can work very well as an online record to show exhibitions with images, or if you sell to consumers only.
The Design Trust has a Facebook page, but we use it rarely – especially as they seem to be changing the layout constantly and I don’t find it user friendly.
LinkedIn has become a more popular social media tool for creatives, especially if you want to work directly with people in specific jobs or organisations. It has a corporate feel but as so many professionals use it to network and promote their skills, it is a good tool for creative businesses too. You put together a short profile and a CV, and then connect with others who can find out about your specialisms, skills and career history.
It is very easy to find and network with specific job roles or people in museums, retailers, press or universities, or other freelancers. A great benefit of using LinkedIn is that your name will come up very high in any Google search.
You can ask for recommendations for your work or skills, that will be publicly displayed, which is good for your reputation. You can join specialist groups (such as The Design Trust Linked In group!) with discussion forums, where you can ask or answer questions related to your expertise.
Signing up takes only a couple of minutes, but make sure you spend a bit of time on creating a good profile and CV. You probably don’t need to spend too much regular time on Linked In. On a weekly basis you can read and contribute to forums, give recommendations and use it to identify and network with specific people or jobs.
Pinterest is one of the latest but fastest growing social media platforms, and especially interesting for visual creatives. The idea is that you ‘pin’ (share) images with your followers in beautiful and inspiring boards. Think of it as an old fashioned mood boards, but then online.
When it launched Pinterest divided opinion as there were major issues with sharing images without providing details of the intellectual property owner, but these seem to have now been settled in better terms and conditions.
Pinterest is a great way to promote your products, as well as your design and composition skills. They can be a great online window shop connecting back to your website, and potential sales. You can identify and network with others with similar tastes. No doubt Pinterest will stimulate you visually and creatively, and before you know it you will have spend hours looking at gorgeous mood boards!
So where to go from here?
Take a quiet day off to explore these most popular social media tools. Sign up for each of them (they are all free, and it only takes a couple of minutes) and just try them out! See if you can find some useful people on there. Ask yourself these three questions:
- What do you want to get out of social media? Want to network? Drive traffic to your website? Get inspired? Depending on your answer(s) select the most appropriate tools for you.
- Do your (potential) clients, suppliers, collaborators use these tools? It is very easy and quick to find out.
- What social media tool suits you best, and how much time do you want to spend? Some of these tools need more and regular time investment to build your profile and learn how to use them than others.
Please don’t try to use them all!
It is far better to use two or three regularly, then to spread yourself too thin. Have a go, and enjoy your social media journey and start building your own online tribe!’
What are your favourite social media tools and how do you use them in your creative business? We would love to hear from you, so comment in the box below!