With each passing year, the importance of social media in the design industry has continued to grow—and 2023 was no exception. As technology and trends evolved, designers found new ways of expanding their businesses online, utilizing social media as a tool for lead generation, product development, brand partnerships and direct monetization. As we head into 2024, we’re taking a look back at some of the most actionable tips design influencers and content creators shared with BOH.
Behind the scenes, each designer has their own arsenal of apps and tools for crafting content. One prevailing piece of advice: In most cases, an iPhone will prove easier to wield than a more expensive, high-tech camera—and can produce content that’s nearly identical in quality. Massachusetts-based interior designer and TikTok home renovator Emily Rayna opts for a Canon camera for long-form video, but defers to an iPhone-centric strategy for on-the-go shots and a more personalized touch.
“I can’t pull out my camera and lighting equipment when I’m doing a renovation—renovations already take significantly longer when you’re trying to film every single step,” she says. “[Instead, I] have two cell phones; on one of them, I film in horizontal [for YouTube], and the other, I film vertical [for Instagram and TikTok].”
After shooting content, Rayna uses the CapCut app on her phone to edit short-form videos and the Final Cut or iMovie programs on her computer for long-form videos. Other options include the Splice app for video editing, and the Lightroom app for photo editing—both preferred by New York–based Shelby Vanhoy, the content creator behind lifestyle blog Pretty in the Pines. To save time on photo editing and ensure a unified aesthetic on social media, Drew Scott—the designer and content creator behind the YouTube channel and home business Lone Fox—uses the coloring and filtering app Tezza, which allows the user to save preset filters.
When content is shot, edited and posted, it may be tempting to move on to the next project. But taking a second look at your performance metrics (which most apps compile in a private tab) can help illuminate the path to further success. Interior designer and content creator Julie Sousa maintains a running spreadsheet to track the likes, shares and comments of each of her posts. “Looking at your own analytics can show you exactly what you need to work on,” she says. “If people aren’t commenting within the first few seconds of the video, was the hook not strong enough? … You have 20 seconds to engage someone—you want to keep people engaged the entire time, right? You don’t want to leave filler spaces or moments of silence, because every millisecond counts in 20 seconds.”
Another data-based strategy involves pinpointing when your audience is most active and posting content around their schedule to maximize engagement. “For me, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at 9 a.m. is my highest engagement, so that’s when I prioritize posting,” says Vancouver-based interior designer and content creator Jordan Samson. “That’s in your analytics, and it should show you, to the hour, when your followers are most active.”
Based on your success, those stats can also be leveraged to secure partnership and product development deals with brands. Tyka Pryde Edwards, an Atlanta-based interior designer and television art director, made a media kit using the graphic design website Canva to clearly communicate information such as follower count, audience demographics (including age and gender) and typical partnership rates.
It can also be worth crunching some numbers of your own. “There’s something called your interaction rate, which is a percentage based on the amount of views and comments you’re getting [relative to] the amount of videos you post,” says Pryde Edwards. “You could have a lot of followers but a 3 percent interaction rate, or you could have 50,000 followers … and a 10 percent interaction rate, which is really high. That is what I was told is really important to brands.”
The best route to success on social media may sound simple—keep your audience engaged—but it quickly becomes more complicated in the face of fast-changing algorithms and an ongoing competition for viewers’ attention. When short on ideas and in need of something to post, Samson opts for a simple and effective approach: Take popular client questions and turn them into how-to content.
“I keep a running spreadsheet of common questions that people ask,” he says. “In the Google search bar, if you type in a really basic question, like ‘how to hang art properly,’ it prompts you with other Google searches that people are looking for related to that topic, so you’ll get, like, 10 more prompts. There, you have maybe five additional videos that you can make. I also use Reddit basically as a Google search—there are quite a few threads that are home-renovation-focused, with people showing a picture of their space and asking a question, so there’s lots of good insight in there as well.”
Blogger and interior designer Marissa Nelums stresses the importance of interacting with your audience. A flood of endless comments on a post may seem insurmountable, but she recommends responding to whatever you can within the first hour of posting, which translates to better numbers. “Many platforms make your engagement rate visible on your page, so if people are reaching out, it’s almost an obligation to respond,” she says. Another way to boost engagement: Post interactive content, such as Instagram Stories with polls, to get your audience more involved on your page.
Despite a designer’s best efforts, the metrics surrounding high-performance content are often tied to new features that platforms want users to adopt—which helps explain why Instagram Reels content helped skyrocket some small accounts to viral status. Cara Newhart, the Houston-based designer known by the Instagram handle @neverskipbrunch, has seen these new features come and go over the years. She’s diligent in using a new platform or feature immediately after it rolls out. Still, she advises designers to assess whether or not the feature or format will work for their audience and their content long-term before getting in too deep.
“You’re going to need to use the trends—and the sooner, the better, because you’ll be an early adopter and understand how it works,” she says. “[But] I think it’s a healthy balance—definitely try it, but don’t make it your strategy to just chase trends. You have to have a core business that can survive without trends.”