Last Friday I attended a panel called “Using Social Media to Generate Business” as part of the San Francisco Design Center’s annual conference, Design San Francisco. Among other things, I discovered that there are still many professionals out there who aren’t sure how to use social media; as someone immersed in the tech world it was a good reality check. I also learned, not surprisingly, that design professionals love Pinterest. Although the discussion was geared towards the design community, the take-aways were universal.
Scot Meacham Wood suggested to “play with [multiple sites] and find the one you’re most fluent in.” He’s correct. Not every site will make sense or feel intuitive for everyone. If you’re a professional with a very specific area of interest, maybe a single topic Tumblr is right for you. If you’re constantly on the go but love taking photos, having an Instagram account may make the most sense. Or if you constantly find inspiring images on the web, you might find your best audience on Pinterest. You shouldn’t feel compelled to maintain a presence everywhere just because you can. Try multiple social media sites, but only stick with the ones that are a logical fit with your business and your brand.
2. Don’t be afraid to start small.
When Melanie Coddington launched her Facebook page it got 11 likes. Now it has over 17,000. She advised the crowd, “if you have a point of view and something to say, you’ll be fine.” It’s normal to feel trepidation when creating a new online presence, but don’t let the doubts keep you from starting! Remember that when you start a new profile or page, you can set the tone. You choose how often to post and what to post about. Being open to sharing your interests and opinions is the most important step.
3. People will find you.
Grant K. Gibson shared with the audience how his relationship with Elle Décor started when met the editor at a party and randomly mentioned that he had a blog. The editor checked it out, liked what she saw, and decided to feature him in the magazine. As he summed it up, “editors and writers are out there reading [blogs], and looking for [stories] and talent.” In fact, each of the three design professionals on stage shared a story illustrating how their online presence helped them snag a new client or a feature.
Left to right: Michela O’Connor-Abrams, Grant K. Gibson, Melanie Coddington, Scot Meacham Wood.
Even with words of wisdom from been-there-done-that-learn-from-my-experiences professionals, navigating the smorgasboard of social media sites can still feel overwhelming, and the constant connectivity can feel tedious. Given that social media is not going away, panel moderator Michela O’Connor-Abrams, President of Dwell Media, proposed taking the following perspective: “I have a chance to use [social media] in a way that will increase my ability to manage my persona in the way I want to be seen; to reach out to people without having to have purposeful meetings all the time, in a fluid way; and that reasonably speaking, I control.”