How Should Design Firms Approach Instagram?

Instagram for designers

Social media strategy for designers needs to bring the audience on a journey. It isn’t just about showcasing the firm’s work, but rather it is about tracking and revealing the work and inspiration that lead to the designs being what they are.

This quote, aimed at architects but relevant to all designers, is a good foundation for the approach I think works best for design firms:

“Architects need to start thinking of social media as the first draft of history.”

This is not my original idea. I found it in an article by Alexandra Lange for Dezeen, a rather searing opinion piece, actually. She goes on to write, “There’s an unofficial rule of thumb that you should only tweet about yourself 30 percent of the time. That’s a rule many architects break over and over again. … Happy happy happy. Busy busy busy. Me me me.”

Ouch! But it’s too true. 

I like serious assertions and judgment calls like the ones in Lange’s article, but I also like George Michael, and if you remember, he once had some very good advice for architects contemplating their Instagram accounts:

“If you’re gonna do it, do it right.”

Doing Instagram right amounts to going all-in and investing in the granular work that allows you to effectively tell stories your audience won’t be able to forget. These can be visual stories with some text. The stories can include observations, takeaways, and interesting facts. There shouldn’t be any throwaway posts. The quality of the posts needs to match the spirit of your firm’s work.

What is the ideal content mix for Instagram?

It is doubtful that your firm’s lead designers can tackle this with the daily attention and engagement that is required. Someone in your office — or someone at Kinship Design Marketing — needs to get inside the designer’s mind and create a portal that allows your Instagram audience in as well. It’s a bit terrifying. Invasive, even.

And that’s just one piece. As Lange said, the posts can’t portray a megalomaniacal perspective. You need content. You need a community of ideas. A good Instagrammer knows how to find the right balance of “post types.”

It is wise to fold in the adventures of not only the lead designers on the team but everyone who contributes to the company culture. Some lead designers like to share the spotlight with their team and some don’t — but giving the audience a window into the firm’s whole world generates a lot more good content and avenues into your business (a.k.a. leads) that a narrow focus. 

How does Kinship manage Instagram accounts?

At Kinship, our role is to plan ahead so we can firm up 5 posts per week (weekdays) and always have the stories ready to roll out (no last-minute scrambling). This means we regularly check in with you and your team to get the images and stories we need for posts. We usually have a primary point of contact in your office that has access to your visual assets and is a position to create new ones. This person should also know enough details about projects and daily office events to be our first stop when we need facts for the written part of each post. (Yes, the words matter. SO MUCH.)

I am a firm believer that when it comes to marketing, there should almost never be a desperate, last-minute situation. Marketing should be methodical, consistent, and strategic. Scrambling to keep up and putting out fires is commonplace for many professional service providers, and that applies not only to designers but to attorneys, healthcare professionals, and even IT companies. I totally get that — and I don’t judge. But when marketing operates that way (and I include Instagram as a marketing arm), it is significantly less effective.

Early on in your relationship with Kinship, because we work ahead, we can show you all the posts before they go live, and eventually, we will get into a groove where we’re speaking the same language and you trust us to handle the posting without wanting to see it first. 

Getting deep into Instagram is not for the faint of heart. While there’s definitely a forming –> storming –> norming –> performing progression, telling stories on social media can eventually become part of your company culture’s DNA and grow into something pretty great. We can easily spin it off into a blog, which is fantastic for your website’s SEO. We can also use the content to contribute to other design blogs, populate your eNewsletter, share on Facebook, Twitter, and your firm’s Linkedin accounts, and fold into your printed marketing materials.

The beautiful thing about content is that it can be applied in so many ways. You create its basic framework once — in the case that first pass takes the form of a photo and some spare yet moving text — and then that content can go on to take many shapes.

We want to hear from you

Do you have a question about social media or marketing in general? If you are a designer, work for a design firm, or have a design-related product to market, we’ll share some wisdom with you, for free. Yes, there are strings attached. We want your business. But we also love forming friendships with designers who don’t need our marketing services (or think they don’t). So please, drop us a line.

Sarah Kinbar Ristorcelli

Megan Padilla

Rachel Kinbar

sarah@kinshipdesignmarketing.com

megan@kinshipdesignmarketing.com

rachel@kinshipdesignmarketing.com

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