Brand management is vital for career development, so what advice does a social marketing expert have for designers to best manage their brand online? At AIGA Portland‘s recent Career Tools event, 52 LTD hosted Ryan Lewis, founder and president of Bonfire Marketing, to speak on just that.
Lewis started by recommending 3 foundational channels to be active on, and once those have been mastered, 3 supporting channels to participate on:
Foundational Social Media Channels
Supplementary Social Media Channels
(Only pay attention to these after your 3 foundational channels have been mastered, recommended Lewis.)
What is Lewis’ reasoning behind the first 3?
Lewis reminded us that Linkedin is very SEO friendly, which is important if someone googles your name – Linkedin will often show up in the top 10 resarch results so your profile should be completely filled out, and your vanity URL secured. He compared Instagram to Twitter because it “puts you out in the world”, only more powerful for designers than Twitter since it is image-based. Instragram was recommended instead of Pinterest because Pintereste has no algorithm to help you optimize your content to help it get found, and in Lewis’ experience Pinterest requires a much higher rate of posting to see results. He also cited Pinterest’s cluttered interface as a reason he doesn’t recommend it – users are bombarded with a tackboard full of images, and it’s easy to overlook something. Whereas Instagram presents images one at a time, for a calmer viewing experience where your content is more likely to be noticed. Behance he recommended because it is a place people go to find designers specifically, and it allows for a full portfolio to be shared. He recommended keeping your Behance account up to date and to posting a steady stream of content on your feed.
Send people to your website
Lewis stressed that whatever a designer shares on these social media platforms should also be on your website. For example, share 1 image from a project on social media, then give a link for the viewer to see more images of that project on your website. I found this to be challenging, because as designers we are not constantly producing a steady stream of work – we have busy times and slow times. Also, I don’t want to feature all the work I do in my portfolio. In my opinion, your portfolio is not a library of everything you’ve ever done. It’s a selection of your best work. I’m not sure how to reconcile this with his advice, but I see the merit of only posting one image on social and sending people to your website to view the rest. It boosts traffic to your site, and allows you to go into more depth on your website to tell the full story of the project.
What about the supporting 3 channels?
Lewis explained that once you have mastered the first 3 channels by understanding how to use them, optimizing your profile, and getting in the habit of posting regularly, designers can further support their online brand by moving on to the second 3 channels. Medium is a newer social media channel that is something between a blog and twitter. It allows for 300-400 word posts, which Lewis suggests using to explain “why you’re awesome.” Tumblr he recommends due to its high potential to make things go viral. If you are an employee or freelance designer, Lewis recommends using Facebook as a last resort because he reports that though it offers great SEO (especially with custom URLs), it’s better for businesses to use to manage their brand, not individuals.
Once you’re on these channels, how do you optimize your profile?
A few of Lewis’ recommendations include:
- Get a professional headshot to use as your avatar.
- Secure vanity URLs, not just on the channels you’re active on, but any channel out there. That way when and if the new emerging social media channel take off, you already have your name secured. Try to avoid using numbers – go for your full name.
- Use keywords in your profile. It’s very important to include keywords in your Twitter and Facebook descriptions. Make sure you list 3-4 existing keywords that are already popular hashtags first, before you put any proprietary or less popular keywords (like your name or some term you’ve made up).
- Include a purpose statement. Tell the world about the problem you see in the world and how you seek to solve it through what you do for a living.
- On Linkedin, these fields are all search engine indexed (by Google, etc.) and should be peppered with keywords: Position, Passion, Image, Location, Industry, Previous Roles, Education.
- When describing your past experience on Linkedin, talk about the impact that you had on the places where you worked – don’t simply mention your tasks and responsibilities.
- Set up a system for yourself to help you discover things relevant to your network, and then share them in posts. Use Facebook’s “Save” link function to stash articles away to read later.
- Use a tool to help you post to multiple channels at once, such as IFTT.
- While Lewis didn’t name a metric for how often to share on these channels, or when to do so, he did mention later in his talk that frequency and a steady stream of posting was important. Lapses in posting are not good.
After giving the audience this rather daunting task list, Lewis reminded us, “Distraction is the enemy of creative thought.” He told us that we needed to remember to unplug from our devices long enough to develop original opinions on all the chatter we were witnessing online. Lewis then encouraged us to blog about this opinion, offer up critiques as blog articles, and make an info-graphic summary of quotes or facts pulled from our blog articles because this graphic would be very share-able.
Questions from the audience varied, but several people voiced concerns that they wouldn’t be able to do all this – they just didn’t have time. In response, Lewis challenged us to not to underestimate the importance of managing our brand online, and likened it to going to the gym. If we have 30 minutes a day to go to the gym, we can spend 30 minutes a day managing our brand online. Lewis pointed out that once you have a system set up to find content and share it across your various channels, it is very streamlined. He also pointed out that we could hire someone to do it for us as an alternative.
Will I be making any changes in how I manage my online brand?
While I don’t think I will be following Lewis’ recommendations to tackle all 6 of these channels, I will be making some changes. For one, I will be moving away from Pinterest and over to Instagram. His reasoning resonated with me immediately, and I’ve already been dabbling with Instagram and seen people interact with my posted images right away. The target audience and how users utilize each channel also makes me see the wisdom of concentrating more on Instagram (read a decent article touching more on this).
I also plan on not focusing as much on Facebook. I have suspected now for quite a while that Facebook traffic rewards those who steadily do paid advertising, which I barely ever do, and my business is so small it seems to be closer to a freelance individual than a business.
I’m surprised that Lewis didn’t mention Twitter. Perhaps it’s because his talk was specifically for designers? I enjoy twitter for getting information and sharing it, and I seem to get decent responses from sharing tweets. Definitely more than Facebook posts. I think I will keep Twitter on my roster of channels.
I have been meaning to sign up for Behance for a while now, so Lewis’ recommendations reinforced that. However I don’t plan on moving on to Medium or Tumblr. Right now this is certainly enough for me!