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A Social Media Star is Born

(May 2017) posted on Tue May 02, 2017

BDwest session detailed best strategies for making a project’s online presence a showcase for its designers and their clients.


By Oriana Lerner

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Every time you post to social media, you’re competing against countless other design firms and hoteliers for likes and attention. Great design won’t filter guests to your work by itself. So, in a session at BDwest titled “In It to Pin It: Design for a Social Media World,” we asked a panel of media-savvy designers how to stand out in the crowd.

BDwest social media session

Participants in the “In It to Pin It” session at BDwest were: moderator Mary Scoviak, Boutique Design; and panelists Sue Firestone, SFA Design; Kellie Sirna, Studio 11 Design; and David Shove-Brown, //3877 Image: Harriet Lewis Pallette

One key point to start with, said //3877 partner David Shove-Brown, is that social media isn’t a monolith, nor is each hotel’s target guest equally engaged. Facebook, Instagram and Google+ require a different approach.  With 1.5 billion FB users and 300 million on Instagram and Google  +, that's a lot of unique perspectives to plan for. Millennial travelers, he said, still tend to think in terms of using text to share information, while so-called iGen (19 and under) prefer to use images, so designers need to bear that in mind. Video is a big hit across demographics, so get your camera out.

You also need to think of social media as a campaign, not a series of images.

One big lesson, said Sue Firestone, founder/chairman, SFA Design, is not to wait until the project is complete—building pre-opening buzz is key. “With the Above the Penthouses, we have begun showcasing the work-in-progress on Instagram in tandem with the developer to highlight the grandeur and beauty of the space and finish details,” she said.

Crafting the visuals might start with rethinking where focal points are placed and making sure that guests find them actionable online. “We put artwork lower on the walls of the guest rooms in Le Méridien Indianapolis so guests could have selfie moments, and the Latin-Asian fusion restaurant Chino Chinatown has a geisha mural that’s a major selfie draw; she also got her name from a contest on social media,” said Kellie Sirna, principal, Studio 11 Design. Firestone adds that focal points that make good photo backdrops are also vital concepts.

Don’t forget the “social” part, either, said Shove-Brown. “Shots that work online need to show the experience—it’s not a design story with ‘no people’-type photography, so we walk through a site and work out what to post so that we can find images that tell a story.” And, that story doesn't have be just project focused, either. Go ahead and provoke (but don't hate on anyone). Shove-Brown captioned a picture of his daughter holding hands with both her parents with a request for politicians to do the same. It generated media requests from major news outlets in NYC and Washington, D.C. (where the firm is based). It also helps to have the whole firm involved--each team member at //3877 has admin rights on all social channels and the company has a handbook on what can be posted.

Telling that story to as many people as possible means leveraging the whole social network, added Firestone. “Vendors are typically excited for the opportunity to use images of our projects to showcase their products in the context of a designed space. They like the content and when they have big followings, we like the exposure.” And, don’t forget to promote your work on your own feeds, as well.


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