Does the use of social media help or hinder interior design and architecture professionals who use it regularly?
With the boom in networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and now Google+, it would seem everyone is using it, including interior designers and architects.
It remains to be seen if the Middle East is picking up on what is largely an international trend, where celebrity designers such as British MBE, Kelly Hoppen has over 8,000 followers on Twitter and Karim Rashid, over 6,000.
“As social media is evolving and becoming more popular it is very important we keep these accounts as active as possible. However it is also important we post the right content and don’t water it down for the sake of being active,” she said.
Stinson added she was conscious of companies with Twitter accounts or blogs without new entries for three or four months. “We do not want to fall into this category as it does nothing except to raise negative opinions. An inactive account is far more detrimental than having no account.”
However, Indu Varanasi, architect, ir design, discounts the importance of social media in the interior design and architecture fields. She uses social media both on a personal and professional level, but on a very limited basis, and only to announce an event. She hinted social media such as Twitter is not a serious mode of social media and said: “We cannot categorise all social media into one bracket. Blogs can be serious channels of information dissemination and opinion generators.”
Dubai-based interior designer, Dina Murali Belgami disagreed: “I don’t agree when people say tweeting and blogging are a waste of time. Doing it shows how exposed you are to trends and styles that come and go every day.”
This is supported by Mark Schumann, director – programme cost consultancy, Middle East, Davis Langdon, who said while nothing beats direct communication with clients and colleagues, social media gives equal and instant access to a network of like-minded individuals and companies. He added businesses ignoring social media could be at a disadvantage.
“In an industry where we tend to win projects and new work through referrals, recommendations and repeat business, social media gives us a simple way to engage with our followers in real-time. In just the few months that I have been using Twitter, I have renewed contact with a number of fellow professionals and businesses from my past, and developed new relationships with people and practices I had previously not been aware of.
In some cases, I would not hesitate to put my new contacts forward for opportunities simply due to the influence and social etiquette I have seen on Twitter,” said Schumann.
Varanasi disagreed and said while social media is important to publicise new projects, she has her doubts if it helps getting customers in. “Projects are secured on the basis of the confidence designers are able to convey to the client, not something written online.”
Stinson said the question on the benefits of social media is a double-edged sword. She said before social media, business was still being done, buildings were still being built and interiors were still being designed, companies survived and continued to do so without social media, which is why many say it is not important.
“Does it help with customers? There is no easy answer. Have we ever got a project directly because of social media? No. Have we had possible clients contact us because they have seen us on social media or been recommended to us because of it? Yes, so it depends what you see as useful,” she said.
Schumann agreed and said he has seen big benefits in his short time on Twitter. “One is the implementation of #ArchitectMap, where I collaborated with Su Butcher, practice manager at Barefoot & Gilles, to create a global map of all architects, designers and consultants on Twitter. The map has filled up with hundreds of architects and design consultants from around the world. It has snowballed in a short period of time and shows the appetite members of our profession have, both for social media and for looking for new ways to promote themselves.”