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Design thinking for social media

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Design thinking applies creativity not just to your program but also to the way you do business, especially in online strategy.

Design thinking for social media

#Instadreams by collage artist Sammy Slabbinck. Image

Design thinking is now embraced far beyond the creative industries using creative thinking to deliver benefits in health, community and environment. But not all arts organisations are applying the creativity they foster to their own way of doing business.


Innovative frameworks and design principles can be adapted by individual artists, brands and organisations to help them stand out on social media.

In the first event in DIAlogue AM breakfast series for 2015, design industry leaders explored the concept of ‘digital self’ and what they have learned when it comes to standing out online.

Conveyor and DIA Experience Design Liaison, Xisca Mairata, told ArtsHub design thinking can be effectively applied to social media. ‘If you think about your social media as an extension of your business and personality, then the rapid cycles of an iteration that design thinking promotes, the open mindedness, listening rather than pushing out (which we tend to see on social), and being open to new directions and new influences is design thinking 101.’

A thoughtful strategy for social media is a key component of creating digital self. Sina Kresse, Senior Digital Consultant at multidisciplinary creative powerhouse Yoke cautioned, ‘If we don’t actually design ourselves online, someone else might.

Being aware of our digital footprint can offer transformative insights for your organisation or art practice, but a digital self should also be monitored and crafted. ‘I believe to be successful in designing yourself online you need to have technology, creativity, and strategy,’ added Kresse.

So how can the arts borrow design thinking principles to boost their social media strategy? We share some key tips from the session.

Make the most of a level playing field

Sina Kresse said that characteristics inherent in social media – near-zero marginal costs and ubiquity – combine to create a ‘level playing field’ that can be easily leveraged by organisations.

‘Everyone can design a digital self, you don’t need to have lots of resources,’ said Kresse. The ubiquity of social media is important to consider when we are designing our digital selves, explained Kresse, because everything your making is available for everyone, everywhere.

This is great for exposure, but also comes with some risks. ‘You cannot hide from the internet, if you mess something up it will get shared, it will get commented on and it will go wild,’ said Kresse.

The good news is that ‘you can’t always manage what has happened, but you can manage your reaction to it.’ Applying creativity, genuine reflection and designing a response can transform a social media blunder as a connection to your community.

Leverage all touch points

When considering the appearance of their digital self, organisations may think setting up social media channels with their brand banner is all it takes, said Kresse. But design thinking doesn’t stop with a logo.

‘It is a crowded space, but there is still room for your brand,’ said Kresse. ‘But it is a journey – there are so many touch points.’

Applying design thinking to a variety of platforms can help increase your reach. Beyond social media channels, consider optimising search engines, email signatures, banners on other sites, forums, aggregators, partner website all contribute to your organisations digital self.

Kresse recommends designing consistent message across all touch points, which will in term help your organisation to ‘monopolise your digital self’ and prevent others from designing your brand for you.

Xisca Mairata also recommends organisations focus strongly on LinkedIn because ‘it is opening opportunities for people who work in the business world to other forms of thinking like visual communication, like design thinking’.

Make yourself attractive

Sharing Yoke’s 13 Rules of Social Engagement blogpost, Kresse pointed out that one of the key responsibilities of designers – to make things attractive – also applies to social media strategies.

This rule is planted in the real world where ‘people notice what they find interesting and appealing’ writes Richie Meldrum, Creative Director, Yoke in the blopost. ‘In the digital realm of social media, this is done through having good content.

‘By content I mean your posts, and tweets, the links to articles, vids, pictures, funnies and more that you put out through your social media platforms. This is what other social media users will see, it’s what represents you and what tells them if you’re worth liking, following and engaging with.’

Show your own work

Another rule of social engagement is to ‘not be afraid to toot your own horn a bit’.

‘When you do something good, be it a new illustration you’ve done, a flashy looking website you’ve designed or an awesome photograph you’ve taken, put it out there. It will showcase your talents and hopefully attract potential clients to get you to do the same kind of thing for them,’ writes Meldrum.

For individual artists, the act of showing your work which designers must master can propel your career and projects.

Don’t be old

Not referring to age, Meldrum explains the importance of keeping abreast with the latest innovations and the relevance of your content.

‘I’m referring to is the age of your content. One of social media’s best-selling points is how instantaneous it is. People are always ravenous for new things they’ve not seen before.

‘So if you post a live feed of conference, or the first glimpse of a new product or hash tag comment from an event you’re at, then that’s interesting because it’s relevant and of the moment. If you post a link to ‘Charlie bit my finger’ then you’re just going to look and smell a bit musty.

Take a punt on high-risk ideas

Charlie Pohl Managing Director at Conduct said that as a small team, the digital agency and design studio faced plenty of challenges around how to get noticed, but it comes back to creating a point of difference.

‘It is always difficult to stand out, it is a saturated market and everyone is trying to do the same type of thing with social media.’

What the company needed was a ‘purple cow’ – a term coined by Seth Godin to explain that the key to success is to find a way to stand out and ‘be the purple cow in a field of monochrome.’

For Conduct, this meant knowing their strengths and interests in order to attract opportunities to the business and in tern design their digital selves.

‘Some of those opportunities have high risk, but if you can work out a way to mitigate those risks, you’ll usually find the reward for those projects is quite high and a good thing to look for if you are trying to stand out,’ said Pohl.

Build it, build your tribe, then they will come

Mike Chijoff founder of the industrial design firm Chijoff + Co behind the successful Tactica One crowdfunding campaign has a new take on the ‘build it and they will come’ attitude: Build it, build your tribe, then they will come.

‘It is your tribe that believes in you, in what you do and what you stand for and will ultimately carry you,’ said Chijoff.

Honesty is one of the most powerful ways to connect with your tribe. After encountering a hiccup in the design of the product, instead of covering up, the team at Chijoff + Co found it was an opportunity to be ‘open and honest’ and tell people about the issue.

‘If there wasn’t a way through, at least we were open to talking about them. I’ve seen many campaigns go downhill fast when the people running them weren’t honest.’

Listen to insights

Integral to design thinking is embracing failure, reviewing, and learning from prototype testing. The key for the design and marketing of Tactica One was to ‘fail fast and move on’.

‘Ideas are great in theory, but it is only when they can be tested in the real world do they really develop their own voice.

Not everything you do is a success, explained Chijoff. ‘The road to success is paved with failure.’ With this in mind, the team reviewed the strategy each day to see what was working and not, and listened to their supporters advice.

Communicate like a designer

Thinking visually can really bolster your social media success. Even something as simple as adding images to your tweets makes them 50% more likely to be retweeted.

Designers have propensity to share images, which allows them to communicate on two levels, explained Xisca Mairata. ‘If you share a picture or album on Facebook you are going to get more likes and views because it captures attention and of course that is a place that designers live and breathe in.’

Put immediate profit aside

Profit isn’t the only value of a project or opportunity, especially when it comes to building a digital profile and fostering design thinking.

Pohl encourages organisations to go past the initiate barrier of entry to profit to reap some amazing opportunities.

While Conduct’s FeatherDuster app is a non-commercial project, Pohl said the team could see the opportunity for it to boost their digital self and social media presence. According to Pohl, after the launch of the app their ‘branding just went nuts.’

Supporting projects you are passionate about or sharing your resources and findings in the form of a blog or on social media posts is a strong design thinking principle that can be adopted to help you stand out.

‘Project success isn’t always measured in profit. Understand your strengths and focus on them and opportunities will present themselves. Defining your digital self is an organic process and it should be constantly reviewed,’ concluded Pohl.

Source: ArtsHub