Business start-up: using social media

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Caption: Helen Stevens’ design brand Surfacephilia

Helen Stevens, founder of surface design brand Surfacephilia, and social media enthusiast, talks us through how to start using social media to market your new business.

You can find Helen tweeting here, on facebook, writing her blog and pinning images on her Pinterest boards.

These days social media is used by most types of businesses of all scales in order to help communicate and promote their service to potential clients and business partners.

Social media has existed for years but has recently become one of the most powerful sources of advertising and news updates due to the launch of the internet platforms Twitter and Facebook which provide the chance for social ‘networking’. Outlets of social media include blog sites such as Blogspot and WordPress, micro blogging such as Twitter, online magazines through sites like Issuu, internet forums, podcasts, content communities such as YouTube, Vimeo and Flickr.

Many social media platforms offer themselves as a free service to its users therefore making it accessible to all business based users and their followers alike. Due to high advertising costs in physical magazines and newspapers this free service is becoming an essential for any business owner in order to generate interest towards their work. The use of social media has become so important in modern times that educational curriculums now write it into student work tasks from primary up to degree level.

Social media sites allow anyone to present an extension of their skills to the world for free. From artists and designers, to music bands and future journalists… it basically cuts out any middle man who would normally stand in the way of your own professional development, allowing you to present and disclose any information you wish to ‘brand’ yourself with.

Sites such as Twitter and Facebook allow us to connect with the people we want direct contact with, from general members of the public to our peers and even industry leaders. On sites like these, ‘networking’ occurs meaning a level of interaction between a business delivering its information (making a post) and their followers. Therefore it is wise to think about the persona you wish to project before you begin making your posts.

Taking time out to plan your target market is vital within any business, this also applies to social media. For example you may need to attract the attention of the buying public for sales, as well as magazine editors for coverage, brand managers and maybe interior designers all at once, and so your approach to what kind of content your posts should have needs to be considered.

Making a list of every market you need to target will be helpful, you can then research which media platforms they are most likely to use and how and when they use it.
Get a feel for the jargon and style of interaction on that site. A few examples of your potential target market are below:

1 – Clients/consumers – people to buy your work

2 – Buyers & galleries – to sell your work through

3 – Design media- magazines, blogs – to get your work featured

4 – Trade shows/ selling events / exhibitions you will be at – to network and promote your work to customers, buyers, magazine editors

5 – Design organisations that you belong to – to help promote you to a wider audience, other organisations and connect you to your peers

6 – Museums & Galleries – to network with

People like to follow and buy into brands and so connecting on a personal yet professional level with potential clients is key. In my experience there is a fine line between appearing personable and friendly as a business and then crossing the boundary into being unprofessional. It’s good to have posts that show a little character so followers can get a feel of who you are and what you’re about, yet at the same time nobody cares to know what your choice of tipple is whilst out socializing at the weekend. Keep your posts in relation to the business and if there is any doubt it may make you look unprofessional or offend someone, it most likely will. Idle chit chat between you and your friends will alienate people, although connecting with peers and forming ‘professional’ friendships online will help generate a buzz around your business.

How often you make your posts is also something to be considered. A constant bombardment of updates can become quite annoying for some followers, I myself have un-followed brands I like because of this. Information overload is almost like listening to someone who talks too much and can have an adverse effect on people’s reactions towards your news.

Scheduling your posts and deciding how much time you spend on social media and networking is a personal choice. It is very easy to let time run away with you and to spend hours online updating and connecting to your audience. You cannot put a price on having an excitement and hype around a brand but it is important to analyze how beneficial your efforts are through checking your site statistics and sales.

Perhaps you are limited to the times you are able to make posts, some sites allow you to schedule a delay on a post. And most sites allow us to make quick updates even from our mobile phones. Try and recognize what hours your target market might be online. For example, your buying customers may have full time jobs and so will spend their hours online during evenings and weekends. Where as people within industry who’s job it is to keep up to date with new developments and news may be online for most of the day but not at weekends. Think about your target markets and realize their lifestyle habits. This may also help you to judge your posting style during the course of a week.

If you have a product launch, show or event coming up this is the right time to get promoting yourself. Get clever with your networking and generating interest! Maybe announce you are going to choose randomly selected prize winners for sharing your page or a post, offer out product discount for people who sign up to your newsletters or visit you at a selling show. It is a very quick and fun way to gain more followers and a lot of hype around your business.

Helen Stevens & Surfacephilia

Helen Stevens owner of Surfacephilia, is a surface designer and illustrator who graduated in 2002 with a first in BA Hons in Textiles and Surface Design.
Recently featured in The Telegraph Magazine as ‘One to watch’ and Glass Magazine’s ‘Top 5 designers to have in your home’, Surfacephilia is a surface design brand which creates contemporary bohemian patterns for the interiors and homeware market.

The highly decorative and elaborate designs feature unexpected imagery for the interiors market and a playfulness of scale. The patterns are built up using layers of hand illustration, painting and college giving a very tactile almost 3D quality to the designs.

As well as being open to commission work, Surfacephilia’s well critiqued debut collection ‘NAVAJO’ spans across a range of digitally printed wallpapers, luxury feather filled cushions, bone china and greeting cards, all manufactured here in the UK.

© 2013 Arts Thread