How many hours did you spend blogging last week? How many projects did you upload to Houzz, share on your Facebook page, Instagram, pin or tweet? How many non-cat YouTube videos have you posted, viewed or shared in the last month?
Designers, manufacturers and retailers are all heavily involved in social media, and the landscape has changed dramatically from when you first discovered MySpace on your teenager’s computer a decade ago.
What hasn’t changed is that you still need to find what works best for your brand; there is not a one-size-fits-all for everyone or every category. That being said, here are some trends from the social media front that might fit your needs this season.
Done smartly, social media can be a powerful marketing tool for kitchen and bath designers. Leslie Carothers, a Houston-based design industry veteran, founded The Kaleidoscope Partnership eight years ago to bring social media know-how to the design world. Today, all of her clients are designers.
“It is very easy to use social media to get your work published and to network with major online influencers. It is also very easy to launch a new service using social media advertising,” she shares. Here are Carothers’ top social media picks for this industry segment:
- Houzz is excellent for designers who want consumers to view their portfolios and potentially hire them. It has become the de facto place where consumers search first for design services.
- Pinterest and Instagram are both well known, and when the designer understands the power of hashtags on either platform, they can be powerful ways to drive traffic to their websites and blogs.
- Twitter is excellent for meeting brands and editors on the various chats held there.
- YouTube, when done well, can drive a lot of traffic to a designer’s site or blog and is unbeatable for telling a visual story quickly.
- Facebook Pages take an ad budget to work these days, but they are excellent for getting in front of local or regional consumers, if the advertising is targeted properly and done over time.
- LinkedIn is also a very useful way for designers to exchange peer-to-peer information.
- Carothers is also a believer in blogging for designers, as it makes them easier to find for clients seeking services, and can support their strategy and goals.
Paying for social media is a hot topic among designers. Carothers believes that it’s worthwhile for better positioning on target-rich sites like Houzz for the designer seeking new clients online.
Houzz reports that there are 21,000 U.S. and Canadian kitchen and bath designers and remodelers on their site; being seen first in your area can provide a competitive advantage. Facebook is another platform in which paying to get your business page seen is pretty much required for exposure.
Another hot topic surrounding social media is whether it’s a valuable use of precious hours. “The biggest misconception designers have about social media is that it takes too much time,” Carothers says. “It only takes too much time when you don’t have a strategic plan in place and are using it to talk with your friends or get lost in inspirational images,” she adds.
Savvy brands naturally followed their specifiers and end users online to these new social media platforms. They learned over time that there were significant differences between social media and traditional media – i.e., talking with, rather than just at, the viewer – and the smart ones have successfully adapted. High-end faucet brand Brizo was one of the earliest.
The company’s large-scale foray into social media began with creating one of the industry’s first blogger events, (perhaps the first for a manufacturer). It invited Paul Anater, creator of the Residential Kitchen and Bath Design blog, to its annual Fashion Week event in 2009, after one of its agency executives discovered his blog. Anater’s enthusiasm and social media postings inspired Brizo and its agency to ask him to develop a list of bloggers to include at the firm’s next Fashion Week program.
Thus was born the Blogger 19, and the industry’s increasing appreciation for the power of designer blogs. “We really saw an opportunity to engage the interior designer audience in a way that helped influential designers tell our story to their designer colleagues and friends,” shares Jai Robinson, one of the blog event’s creators and Brizo’s senior channel marketing manager.
German sink and faucet manufacturer BLANCO was another company that quickly recognized the potential of these new media. “BLANCO was one of the first of our clients to really embrace and achieve success in social media,” shares Lori Dolnick, v.p. at Frank Advertising, BLANCO’s NJ-based American marketing agency. They created the BLANCO Design Council, which now includes Anater, [me], Veronika Miller, the founder of BlogTour, and other well-read design bloggers. Explaining why, Dolnick says: “Identifying key influencers is one of the social media basics – you want to follow them, talk to them, generate engagement that eventually leads to sales, advocacy, exposure, etc. It is connectivity that helps you have conversations with prospects, customers, employees and influencers on a scale that was once unimaginable,” she adds.
Success in social media is no longer free, (or you get what you pay for). “This is a serious business opportunity, not a summer intern’s job,” Dolnick notes. “Social is now a pay-to-play business model. It’s still very efficient – but it’s not free to get your post out there to the world.” To get your best results, she advises, be sure to integrate your social and traditional marketing efforts.
“Keep it fresh and exciting with innovative ways to tell your brand’s story,” adds PA-based BlogTour founder Veronika Miller. Her program takes design bloggers to different design events around the world, including the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, and helps create awareness and enthusiasm for its corporate sponsors who exhibit there.
“We were looking for ways to attract more designers to the show and BlogTour seemed like a natural fit,” shares Bill Darcy, executive director of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, KBIS’ owner, about the 2013 roots of the now-ongoing relationship. Attracting designers back to the show was key to attracting and satisfying exhibitors.
Having a group of influential designers all hashtagging the same brands on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, their own blogs and other social media platforms creates a burst of excitement and energy for the exhibiting sponsors, Miller says, as well as increased industry and consumer awareness.
Community is vital to a local retailer, too, and Mrs. G TV and Appliances has been engaging its New Jersey community since 1935. Current owner Debbie Schaeffer, granddaughter of the original Mrs. G, enjoys doing so with social media. Twitter was her first platform, and one she’s still involved with. She also began a blog in 2009 and it is now the top source of her store’s website traffic.
“Owners must market themselves as a trusted expert in their field,” Schaeffer notes. “I have been able to do this by continuing on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google Plus and I continue to blog. This drives a lot of potential customers to the Mrs. G website and brands us as experts in our industry.”
“Retail is changing drastically and it is all about engaging with the customer,” Schaeffer adds. In the appliance industry, 80% of consumers do Internet research before they visit a store, she says. “By giving our customers a great experience on and offline, as well as our cooperative buying power, we continue to compete successfully with the national chains.”
Whether you’re a designer, retailer, manufacturer or even an industry association, social media, used smartly, has tremendous potential for your brand. Just don’t get caught up in the cat videos while working.
Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS is an independent designer in San Diego, the author of New Kitchen Ideas That Work, and upcoming New Bathroom Idea Book (Taunton Press), and a blogger, design journalist, seminar developer and industry consultant. She is also a member of the Blogger 19 and BLANCO Design Council.