|this instagram of ted will be the only photo from this post. you've been warned.|
the other evening, i had dinner with my new friend, australian superstar designer, thomas hamel, and two of his business associates, and the topic turned (as it so often does) to the subject of social media- mainly how and why. people who don't do really do social media are understandably curious about how it all works, and why those of us in the social media (SM) game, stay in it, so i thought i'd share with y'all a bit of a recap of what we discussed...
why did you start your blog?
i used to say it was to share design ideas with like minded individuals, and it is about that- i love the discussion i have with y'all, my readers- but the more self-serving answer is that in 2007 the writing was on the wall about the US economy, and i felt my business grinding to a standstill. i didn't know what to do to get my name out there so i could weather the coming storm, and a friend suggested i start a blog. i didn't know a blog from a frog at the time, so the whole thing was a mystery, but i lurked and learned, and now i consider social media to be part of my identity. never would have pictured that when i started!
did starting a blog help your business?
the short answer is yes, kinda sorta. the blog has definitely brought me a few clients over the years, and that saved my ass in the dark days of 2009 & 2010. now i get clients via all sorts of avenues besides the blog but it is still an essential platform for me to keep my name out there.
do you make money off your blog?
well, again the answer would be yes, kinda sorta in an indirect way (see above about clients), but the real answer is no- it's still a labor of love. the amount of time spent maintaining a social media presence versus actual business brought in doesn't even come near minimum wage... in china! i also haven't gone the advertising route (yet), so there hasn't been any money made that way either. (i *am* open to paid sponsors provided the fit is right, but i'm not going to chase anyone down either... if you are interested, and you think my audience of design enthusiasts and design industry professionals would be right for your brand, please feel free to email ;-) i *did* try pay-per-click stuff like google adwords a couple times over the years, and found that it just didn't pay enough to justify the valuable real estate in my blog sidebars, so now i pretty much just advertise me.
if you don't make money, why do it?
well, for one, i've found i enjoy it. it's sort of crazy cool to have a global community of friends that i'm connected to. i've made such awesome personal connections both online and IRL (in real life), that i doubt i could ever give it up. also the connections made for my business (or brand, in SM speak) have been pretty incredible in ways i couldn't have predicted- social media has opened all kinds of doors, and really exciting stuff continues to happen almost daily. i have some stuff in the works that is pretty cool, so i'm terribly excited about the future as well (stay tuned!).
how do you find the time?
this is a toughie- the truth is sometimes i don't, and the blog is the first thing to suffer (paying the bills has gotta come first, ya know?) i don't let anyone put anything out on the blog other then me, and there is only so much time to the day. this will probably have to change at some point, as i'm actively seeking interns to help out with both the social media and design work (know anyone?), but it will always be my POV- why bother otherwise? nothing worse that a boring, faceless blog i think, so i'm always gonna keep it personal and m21ish. i gotta be me.
how many people follow your blog?
this is a question i don't answer anymore. when i started, it was all about the number of hits to the blog and i was obsessed, but soon realized that being obsessed with the numbers was a losing game, so decided to not focus on them any longer. i reach who i should reach, and that is good enough for me. also, as social media has evolved, the blog is just a small part of the overall social media equation- if you combine teh number of people who follow me through my other SM outlets (whose numbers are right next to my name if you are curious), plus the blog, it all adds up to somethin' and the blog is just a portion of that. as a rule though, i try hard to not pay attention to ANY of the numbers of my social media outlets- even when they are published on my profile pages- because if i did, i would always be inwardly thinking things like "why don't i have as many followers as _______?" (fill in the blank with the name of one of my SM friends) "i'm just as funny/cool/smart as them, aren't i?", and in the perverse opposite of that envious sort of comparison, the numbers can also have the effect of giving me a swelled head- "yo, shopgirl/waiter/random person on the street- why aren't you paying attention to ME? don't you know that thousands of people from all around the world subscribe to my every word?" so now i just stay away from numbers- they aren't my friend. after all, i'd never go to a party, and count the number of individuals i spoke with throughout the evening, and that's how i feel about social media: i'm talking amongst friends, and whether it's just to one individual or to a larger group, it's all good.
so if your blog is just a small portion of your online presence, how many social media outlets DO you have, then?
this is where it gets scary:
twitter: this is my fave- so fast and easy, i can tweet while walking the dog or getting my car washed. it's also more about a conversation rather than me just putting out content, so it's fun on a social level as well. love the twitters.
facebook: i used to ignore my facebook business page, but now it's my other favorite. i love reposting blogs and events i find of interest, as well as putting up as many links to cute pet pictures from around the internets as possible. it's a grab bag of whatever has captured my interest for a nanosecond, and again, it's fast and easy- in n' out- so i update frequently. ;-)
pinterest: straight up design porn. i try to check in here twice a day to soak up (and spread) design inspiration. it's totes visually awesome, as long as you don't visit the unfiltered homepage of pinterest itself- that sh*t can sear your eyeballs and scar you for life. so the trick is to just follow cool people and cool boards (like m21), and have all the awfulness pre-screened for you. if you aren't on pinterest yet and need an invite, email me- we'll get you sorted.
instagram (@maison21): you want some ted & richard pictures? then follow me on instagram! it's also a glimpse into my LA surroundings and the social events i attend . it's fun & visual, plus, everyone looks good with a fuzzy instragram filter applied to them.
tumblr: i had a brief fling with tumblr, then we broke up (actually, pinterest came between us) ;-) now, it's basically just a secondary posting site for my instagram, because not everybody has an iphone.
houzz: houzz has become a pretty important way of spreading my work around the internets, and it's super gratifying that thousands of people like my work enough to save it in their personal ideabooks. houzz is also a great place to source design ideas and trends, though be warned- some of the pics on houzz should be taken as cautionary tales of what NOT to do, so have your discerning design goggles on.
hipswap: the social way of selling my stuff. i have a feeling hipswap is going to take off, so i'm glad to be there at the start.
which do you prefer? designing, or doing social media?
that's like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg? they are both so intimately entwined at this point, i couldn't separate them if i tried. i just try to be good at both, and hope for the best!
ok, i'm sick of typing now- i might post more about this in the future, so if anyone has any questions of their own about the ins and outs of SM, please either email or post in the comments! always happy to share and spread insight- it's one of things that social media is all about!