How should designers and studios approach their own marketing? We spoke to Socio and Company Policy
Whilst it would be ideal to give your studio marketing the love and attention it requires, design firms, especially smaller ones, don’t always have the time nor resources on tap. For some teams who are inundated with work via word-of-mouth, marketing isn’t necessarily a priority. However, engaging with marketing in any form does reap benefits, as Socio’s Nigel Bates and Nic Carter reveal, alongside Company Policy’s Adam Katz.
As a means to reach vast swathes of the population, social media is the obvious choice for studios to market their services and build their brand, all while hoping to attract new clients. “We’re not as consistent with self-promotion as we should be, but that’s part and parcel of running a small, busy studio,” Bates and Carter tell us. With a lot more plate-spinning than perhaps a larger studio with its own marketing team, smaller practices like Socio are limited by their schedules. For the London-based team, engaging with relevant design platforms, such as blogs and social media accounts, “feels like a healthy thing to do.”
You have to make sure it’s working for you and not the other way round.
On the other hand, for New York-based Company Policy, the process feels a bit easier. “We’re a pretty open, honest and straightforward group,” Katz reveals, so marketing our studio has felt like a natural extension of ourselves. Instagram seems to be the best place to be ourselves.” As their preferred platform, Company Policy use their account to share their work and studio news such as new people, jobs and the internal projects they work on. “The ability to reach the design community there has been amazing,” he adds “and we can be more natural and fun there through stories.”
As a highly-visual social media platform, Instagram is ideal for sharing the best and latest client projects. However, thanks to its pesky and indecipherable evolving algorithm, users are tasked with increased demands (i.e. motion and reels) in order to stay relevant and visible to their audiences. “Social media platforms change over time of course – Instagram today is nothing like it was five years ago – so their relevance isn’t set in stone,” Bates and Carter point out. “Social media is a hungry beast, so you have to make sure it’s working for you and not the other way round. In an ideal world, we’d like to be able to get more out there, but it’s all a matter of hours in the day.”
We would rather put our energy into making interesting work than toward feeding the beast.
Having dedicated focused periods of time to social media content creation, the value is hard to define when weighed up against the time and effort involved. “We would rather put our energy into making interesting work than toward feeding the beast,” Bates and Carter admit. “We’ve recently begun working on a few internal things that I expect will make their way onto social media at some point, but we’re viewing the idea of social media content as a happy byproduct, rather than a goal.”
When it comes to “feeding the beast,” post quantities and timings play a role in the amount of engagement an account may receive. “We don’t post on a schedule or allocate time but we try to post around 6-8 times a month to stay fresh,” Katz notes. “We try to stay up to date on holidays and calendar events if possible and share any news that might happen.” When it comes to showcasing their work, Company Policy aim to tell the project’s complete story “so we’ll only post work when it can take over at least three posts on social media and link to a case study,” he tells us. “Three is a magic number after all.”
Following on from this, we were curious to know, to what extent does social media actually result in new business? When we asked Socio, they felt that there is a correlation, though their proof is often anecdotal. On the other hand, for their sister company Sociotype, it is greatly beneficial to present their work to their followers, as they are also their direct commercial audience. Saying that, “everyone has their own audience,” they continue, “so the more you share across those platforms, the more those audiences overlap. It’s good to share things and support each other where you can.” Support from other creatives in the design community mustn't be ignored or underestimated here either, as Bates and Carter recall, “we’ve had several projects come our way after in-house designers have put our work in front of their managers.”
Everyone has their own audience.
There’s no doubt that social media helps foster a sense of community with other creative studios, near and far. “I feel like online we’ve attracted more people in the design community than clients,” Katz tells us. Meanwhile, offline is more fruitful in gaining new business for the New York-based studio, “when they've seen our work in the world or through old-fashioned networking.” In the cases where online engagement does lead to work, Katz notes that “it's usually on places such as LinkedIn or through our contacts sharing our work.” Ultimately, Socio ensure their marketing echoes the type of clients they are looking for – “those who appreciate what thoughtful, well-informed design can do for their business.”
While it can be an extremely powerful tool, it’s worth remembering that social media isn’t the be-all and end-all of marketing. Followers and likes don’t necessarily equal success, it comes down to how you use them to suit your offering. Tangible, real-life content can go a long way too. “Sociotype Journal is our current best example of where we put real time and effort into marketing,” Bates and Carter conclude, “we often speak with clients about the value of long-term thinking and allowing a brand to unfold over an extended period. The Journal’s a good example of that. If we didn’t really believe in it, we wouldn’t be doing it.”