Using social media to market interior design
by Jessica Nakata
When I first started in this business, I worked for a successful Interior Design firm in West Los Angeles. One of the many valuable lessons taught to me by my mentor was: “Your next client is based on your last client.” This meant that word of mouth was everything, the most valuable advertising tool. Many of our large clients came from a sister, friend or neighbor of another project we had recently completed. Not only was great work rewarded with new work, but how the previous client enjoyed working with the firm’s principal designer and how their personalities clicked meant almost as much as the finished product.
Naturally, when I started my own firm, The Black Door, this mantra was always in my mind. I had the pleasure of working on many interesting and successful design projects right out of the gate, and always assumed the success of those jobs would lead to the next client. So much so that, when local publications or other marketing outlets would approach me about advertising with them, I would shy away from them. I did this because of another piece of business advice given to me by my mentor all those years back: that you always wanted to trace your client back to someone else you knew. This meant that it was always preferable not to work with strangers. At the time, this made so much sense to me. Strangers were unknown, and designing someone’s home was very personal. Also with strangers, one never knew what they were walking into.
Working on someone’s home with them is often a lengthy process, and I have been very fortunate to work with clients that I genuinely like. Being able to link a new client to someone I have already worked with allowed me to gain insight into who they were prior to starting the journey with them. Working with strangers did not allow for this insight. It was almost as if I had to sit and wait for clients to find me through those referrals. This did not seem proactive or sit well with me. It seemed like an antiquated method.
However, I noticed pretty early on that the lessons passed down to me early in my career were not really working for me the way in which they worked for the designer I mentored with for several years. Did I just have different kinds of clients? Was my work not leaving a positive mark on these people? Were my clients void of any friends and family to recommend me to?
This is not to say that referrals were not given, recommendations not made. I certainly worked on many jobs (as I still do) that were connected to past clients. However, I realized that word of mouth was no longer the only way designers were getting their names and their work “out there.” I realized that waiting for clients to come to me was not the way to grow my business!
I began to notice that the ways in which designers were sharing their work with the public was changing. The huge popularity of social media outlets like Instagram and Facebook were changing the game for us all, no matter what industry you were a part of. The ability to share your work, your process, as well funny tidbits associated with design allowed my personality and voice to reach beyond the communities where many past clients resided.
In this way, using these social media platforms has allowed me to take control of my company’s marketing. It allows me to control how I and my work are portrayed, instead of a PR firm manipulating my representation and aesthetic. I am now able to invite followers into my everyday professional life. I have the ability to share bits of my design process from the inception of a new project, throughout the process and to completion. I am also able to connect with new clients this way. I know that whenever I speak to a perspective client they look at my Instagram before speaking to me. I have linked my social media platforms to my company’s website, believing that people want to see these less formal glimpses into who I am as a person as well as an Interior Designer.
Social media also serves as a cost-effective marketing and advertising tool. While I still choose to advertise in one specific online location, I can supplement that by using Instagram to share a different image each day. I can also promote a television show I will be appearing on or an article I am featured in.
While there is no arguing that social media has both positive and negative aspects for all who choose to use it, I truly believe it has been a game changer in a positive way for my industry. I have seen a shift in the way designers share their personal style and market themselves and their businesses. As designers and business owners, we have more control over the marketing of ourselves and are able to reach an audience that we previously might have not been able to access. Often, it can feel as though marketing ourselves on social media has become a job in itself, however, the benefits have proven to be overwhelming.