The Design Trust 5 favourite social media tools & how we use them successfully

Are you getting confused and overwhelmed by all the different social media that you can use? Spending far too much time on twitter or FaceBook? Many of these free social media tools are fantastic for small businesses, but they can take up a lot of your time and not add a lot to your bottom line, if you are not careful.

Before we get started I am happy to admit that I still feel like a social media novice too. I have learnt the hard way what works for me, and what doesn’t. I have stopped worrying about wanting to do them all, and now really focus on only a couple of tools that work for me.

So here is my personal and biased guide to how The Design Trust uses social media:

1. Twitter

I have to confess that I did fall in love with twitter only in November 2011. Like many non-tweeters I was wondering what the appeal could be of sending just 140 characters to others talking about their cats or what they have eaten. I didn’t understand the lingo of #ff or #hash tags. I also joint just before Christmas and was overwhelmed by the amount of people just trying to sell me their crafts.

But in less than 3 years (July 2014) that I joined I have sent 31,482 tweets, we got 31,201 followers, and I am following 6,923 others, so something must we working!

So, how is Twitter helping The Design Trust?

Through Twitter we get:

  • far more visitors to The Design Trust website than through any other promotional way (and for fairly little time effort). It also helps that we have got a ‘tweet’ button on each blog post page so that readers can tweet their followers easily too, thereby again increasing traffic to our site.
  • far bigger profile and recognition about what we do than through any other promotional way. As I tweet very regularly more people have become aware of us both in the UK and overseas, and people think that we are far bigger than we actually are … this has led to some great organisations contacting us to work together.
  • together most of the content for our newsletter, especially info about marketing and sales opportunities and business training.
  • a lot of feedback on the specific topics The Design Trust audience is interested in – not just through specific comments but also through retweets. It is very easy to change the headlines of articles and to see what works.
  • quick results: People often ask quick business questions or queries on twitter that I can help with really easily by sign posting them to other organisations or referring to our own blog posts. I also get a lot of inspiration from these questions to write business or marketing blogs for our website.
  • to know about other organisations working in this area, both in the UK and overseas. Without twitter I wouldn’t have known about Jessika Hepburn of American creative community developer Oh My Handmade Goodness @ohmyhandmade, American jeweller and creative business adviser Megan Auman of Designing an MBA @designinganMBA, Tara Gentile @taragentile who is building ‘the you economy’, social enterprise hub Bricks & Bread @bricksandbread, and many many others. I hope to work with and partner up with many of these inspirational people and organisations in the future.
  • involved with campaigns that matter to The Design Trust and me, such as London jewellers Tatty Devine @tattydevine when their work was copied by Claire’s Accessories (this was one of the most retweeted tweets ever and showed me the power of social media as Tatty Devine got mainstream press attention within 24 hours).
  • Personal connections with people and getting to know them better – from followers asking questions or giving feedback, to getting to know potential partners. No, I don’t stalk them, but I get to know them and their needs and little quirks better.
  • Lots of interesting links to videos. I love to watch short videos that show how products are made (specially letter press videos!), interviews with designers in their work space, explanation of how to do something in a creative business.

As you can see I use twitter to connect, to do research, to stay in contact, to have a laugh, to promote great opportunities and business training, to promote great content by others.

Yes, I do promote our services and products, but I only use about 10% of my tweets on selling our own services. Top tip is to keep your sales tweets to a minimum – establish your reputation and trust first. If you want to read more why Twitter won’t get you any sales soon, but why it is still my favourite marketing tool click here.

My top twitter tips

I love twitter because it is really quick (still learning to put a message across in only 140 characters!). There is lots of information out there, so you really need to be useful, or be very funny.

Use a planning tool to avoid spending loads of tweets in one go, to schedule in advance (useful when going on holiday or during a busy time!) and to get factual info about how many people clicked on your tweet.  We use Buffer for this, and I would highly recommend it.

Don’t spam or oversell, as that’s the first thing to turn people away.

And I would be careful tweeting too much about your kids, cats and personal issues.

And, you probably shouldn’t tweet when drunk either ;-s Yes, twitter can seriously damage your carefully build reputation in one tweet …

I spend about 30 – 60 minutes per day on twitter: a quick scan during breakfast and lunch time, and after 3.30pm. I have to confess that I tweet often in the late afternoon while my children are around watching Cbeebies. There are very few other business things I can do when they are around, but with an i-phone it’s easy to continue to tweet and stay in contact.


2. Linked In

Another favourite of mine is Linked In. This is a professional online network where you can post your CV and profile, connect with professionals, join Linked In groups to ask questions or post comments, get recommendations from previous clients or employers.

I have used Linked In for 7 years or so. It works especially if you have got ‘a job’ and a job title, as it is easy to describe what you do and to be found.

I have used LinkedIn for:

  • Identifying specific people in organisations to network with. You can search for specific business names or job titles, and I have connected with people directly first, and then followed up by email. Very often you can’t find this information on a company’s website, but you can find it on Linked In, especially useful if you are looking to work with people in businesses, organisations and education both in the UK and overseas. Also when your connection list grows you will get more and more appropriate additional suggestions to connect with others, which is really useful.
  • Joining Linked In groups and add to forums around design, craft and small businesses. I very often answer business questions on various forums. It is very easy to search for groups by keywords.
  • Staying in touch with people. On a regular basis I go through my connections on Linked In and see if I should get in touch with them about a specific opportunity or just to say hi. I always send personal and targeted messages to my connections. Very often this results in follow up phone conversations or meetings, and additional work.
  • Promoting The Design Trust through our own Linked In group (join The Design Trust Linked In group now here!) This Linked In group allows people to post questions or events, or to comment on discussions, and therefore builds The Design Trust community interaction. When somebody starts a discussion or comments then an email will go out to all the members, which means that people are very regularly reminded of The Design Trust. I also regularly send out a group message about specific dilemma’s or events, which is a great additional group email tool.
  • Researching people prior to key meetings. If I want to know somebody a bit better I check them out on Linked In, just to see what they have done through their CV and profile, and if we have got other existing connections. As you are able to see their other connections you can build up a pretty good picture of their profile. Also if I want a meeting but don’t know them personally I can check out if any of my connections knows them, and then ask for an introduction that way.
  • Getting recommendations. I ask past coaching and training clients to write a specific and personal recommendation about me on Linked In. This is a great way to get recommendations and referrals.

I spend about 15min each week on Linked In, mostly on updating The Design Trust Linked In group, and responding to other forums. On a monthly basis I go through my connections list and send personal direct messages.

My Linked In tip:

I only really accept invites to connect on Linked In from people who I know. I know many people do exactly the same. If you want to connect with me on Linked In then I suggest that you let me know if you met me or why you want to connect. I often get people who state that they are ‘my friend’ when I don’t know them at all – a sure way for me not to connect with them!


3. Email newsletters

Although a different type of social media, sending out regular and relevant emails is one of the most successful social media that we use for The Design Trust.  (You can sign up here for our regular updates!).

Newsletters that are beautiful are a great way to stay in touch, to drive traffic to your website or online shop (include links in your email), and can be a great tool to build trust and likeability.  You can answer questions your clients might have, offer special discounts or include invites for events or workshops you are doing, or talk about your work and inspiration behind your products or services.

Emails are a great tool to stay in touch and follow up with your audience, and to turn them into clients.

The key to successful newsletters is:

  • make them relevant to your audience. It’s not all about you you you, it’s about answering questions, being helpful with giving background info or providing gift ideas at the right time of the year.
  • use a professional provider (such as Mailchimp or AWeber), don’t use your regular email provider as it will be more likely to be quantified as spam.
  • make your newsletter beautiful and use loads of images.
  • consistent with your brand and you provide a regular newsletter.  I suggest monthly newsletters for most small businesses, and then weekly in the runup to the busy Christmas season.

If you want to learn more about how to get started with a newsletter check out this The Design Doctor post.


4. FaceBook

Yes, The Design Trust has got a facebook page, and please do ‘like’ us!

But to be honest I spend very little time on it as I find it really confusing as FaceBook seems to be changing the way it works every couple of weeks. I personally don’t find it very user friendly. Also a lot of the content is more private and personal than on Linked In, so for me less interesting probably. It makes me feel a little bit too old too …

We used to have our Twitter feed connected to our Facebook page, but that got really boring and there was too much stuff on there.  I know update content around once a week, in particular when we have got events or free webinars coming up.

In the future I might be looking at some Facebook advertising, in particular for specific ebooks or online courses that we are developing.


5. Pinterest

Pinterest is an online pin board, and a Walhalla of visual material for creatives! Highly addictive, and there is some great boards full of eye candy out there.

The Design Trust hasn’t got a Pinterest account as we don’t produce great visual images ourselves, and I have got very limited time.

At the beginning of Pinterest I was put off, due to the copyright issues of people pinning images and then either claiming them as their own, or copying the products featured. Pinterest didn’t help themselves with confusing terms and conditions either (but these have been adapted now). You might like to read this blog post by Oh My Handmade Goodness on the ethics of pinning and how to stay legal.

However, as a creative business Pinterest might be a great way to promote what you do, but also to do visual research. If you want to learn more about how to use pinterest, I suggest that you check out Hilary Pullen’s Craft Blog UK website for some great practical blog posts on this topic.


The Design Trust top tips for successful social media

  • Try them out, spend a bit of time to get to know them, and then as a small creative business owner stick to probably one or two tools only. You will have limited time to learn how they work, and to really make them work you need to be regularly updating your account with useful information, not just trying to sell yourself. In fact with Twitter you don’t have to tweet, just follow others and find out about things.
  • Focus, be consistent, spend regular time on there, and make sure that your potential clients, partners, competitors, role models or suppliers use this social media tool too.
  • If you know your niche and communicate about your interests consistently, you will be surprised who you will meet online!

Want to learn more about how to use social media for your creative business?

Hilary Pullen coverSocial media expert Hilary Pullen has written a very useful and practical book on social media that can help you become much more effective in using social media.

In Online Marketing for Your Craft Business: How to get your handmade products discovered, shared and sold on the internet Hilary gives a great overview of the various social media tools, gives practical tips for both beginners and more advanced users, and shows you how to set goals and create an effective social media strategy.

You can read our book review here.



Did we miss something? How do you use social media for your design or craft business? What are your favourite tools? Do let us know in the comments below.


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6 Responses To "The Design Trust 5 favourite social media tools & how we use them successfully"

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  1. Phil Morcom says

    Enjoyed your post – it echoes much of what I feel and experience, particularly for smaller organisations with limited resources to engage with communications, social media, PR or whatever.

    When I’m chatting about comms with small organisations (typically not-for-profit) I find the focus on realistically achievable activity coupled with getting results (oh, and having some fun too) is key. Twitter works well for that, as you have demonstrated!

    Good luck :-)

  2. says

    Great article Patricia! I launched my website 2 weeks ago and trying to get it on Google as well as promote through social media gave me a headache as it was just too much. Thanks for ensuring me it’s fine to focus just on few tools.
    Linkedin works well for me, it brought 150 people to my website and that’s just from private messages to my network (2 days). Twitter is next although, I haven’t used it yet so would appreciate any suggestions on how to start as a business? I sell green amber jewellery, shall I follow other business, potential customers or both?


    • Patricia says

      Dear Joanna
      Thank you for your great comments.
      There are a couple of blog posts on Twitter on our site, so I would suggest you search above under ‘Twitter’ to find them. I personally think that Twitter is one of the best marketing tools to do research, increase your profile and find out what’s going on. I suggest that you follow both potential clients (although these would be more likely trade clients than individuals, as these are hard to find) as well as other businesses. Also I suggest that you start checking regularly around #greenamber as a hashtag to find others interested in the same material as you.
      Good luck with your new creative business.

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