The social media is one of those rapidly evolving environments where what’s hot today is passé tomorrow. We’ve all seen Facebook become a communication staple of modern society and also an ever morphing entity. Twitter isn’t far behind.
In fact, the recent Twitter redesign incorporates several elements that are reminiscent of Facebook and Google+. A focus on visuals is apparent, including a large header image and stepping away from its strict vertical layout.
I hooked up with Jay York to get his thoughts on the Twitter redesign and how it will impact graphic designers and their clients. York is an Internet marketing expert with extensive experience in marketing dating back to the early days of MySpace and LiveJournal. He’s currently a social media strategist with EMSI Public Relations, based in Wesley Chapel (Tampa), Florida.
Q. Graphic designers are, by default, redesign savvy and welcome many design changes with open arms. The Web and its child, social media, are no exception. How do you see the recent Twitter redesign efforts effecting graphic designers and their clients?
Jay: Graphic designers are sure to love these updates. With larger spaces in which to work, graphic designers will have a bigger canvas to express themselves and the brands for which they work. A bigger profile banner that stretches across the landscape of the page and an oversized profile image will mean design moves to the forefront of the brand’s Twitter profile. These spaces will, without a doubt, become a playground for creative juices to flow, in line with what we saw after past design changes. This will immediately affect designers, who will be tasked with updating their clients’ new profile layouts, as well as their own. GDs may even see more work coming in as brands update their banners more frequently.
Clients will be affected right away, as once their pages change over, their old designs won’t suffice. Good news for all the Graphic Designers out there!
Q: In your opinion, are these design changes a positive move for Twitter? If so, why?
Jay: I see this as a positive move for Twitter on the heels of poorly received Facebook updates that are adversely affecting brand pages. Twitter’s updates bring design, imagery and content to the forefront of the Twitter profile. Making these spaces more interesting means people will spend more time designing them, as well as viewing/enjoying them. This is a feature that Twitter lifted directly from Facebook, with good reason. Twitter has an immense user base and people are happy with the fact that it has remained consistent as a platform, but it needed design changes. Still, they’re absolutely designed to directly compete with Facebook—especially on behalf of brands.
Q: Many redesigns are little more than a visual Band-Aid®. Do you feel these Twitter changes are purely aesthetic, or do they provide enhanced function?
Jay: Great question. The simplicity of these updates could lead one to claim they’re a “visual Band-Aid®,” however, the implications and the obvious poke at Facebook suggest a much more strategic approach from Twitter. The Twitter profile will certainly become a more enticing place to visit, which will offer considerable utility to brands looking to grow their followings and market their products. Pair that with the added functionality of being able to “pin” a tweet to the top of your profile and I have to say, the scales tip slightly to “enhanced function.”
Q: These days, a social media presence is expected and even required for graphic designers and the clients they serve. But, with so many social media vehicles, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pintrest, etc., how can a designer make smart choices as to where they should invest their time and efforts?
Jay: I think it’s an excellent idea to maintain Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, even if you aren’t planning to buy ads. These are great places to connect with potential clients and get them over to your website. You can also utilize your current connections to expand your reach and expose yourself to new people. Potential clients can see that you’re up to date and privy to social networks. It’s a great opportunity to show how you use design for yourself, and give them an idea of how you can make it work for them. Personally, I love Instagram for graphic designers to show their work in a very targeted fashion. You can follow potential clients on Instagram, post images of your latest designs and pair it all with highly targeted hashtags, especially those that represent your geographic location. For instance, if you’re a graphic designer in Tampa you can hashtag based on Tampa, or communities within Tampa. This is not a saturated platform and you’ll be surprised how you can gain followers just based on your artistic eye.
In the end, the best thing you can do is experiment and see what works best for you. If you find that you get 80% of your leads from Twitter, see how you can tweak it to get even more. Or take that as an opportunity to see how you can utilize the other platforms better. There are truly opportunities in every direction. Also, don’t forget that your IRL friends, family and associates are great avenues to drive traffic and sales. They’ll also be willing to help you promote yourself on social media — after all, you did help them move that one time.
Q: Looking down the road a bit, where do you see Social Media going and how can graphic designers make the best use of it for both their business and their clients’ businesses?
Jay: You’ll never hear me call myself a “Digital Prophet,” but I see two potential outcomes:
Outcome One: Social media continues to grow, connecting people all over the world around ideas, images, memes, news and the like. The main platforms of today still control the bulk of social media users, but make minor tweaks that keep people engaged and happy. This could mean reverting to old systems, or adopting new ones meant to positively impact the user experience. Social media becomes a part of life and benefits worldwide politics, human rights efforts and more as humans around the planet are more easily connected to a concept. We’ve already seen this happen, but as we get closer to a unifying language, it will become more and more powerful. People connect with augmented reality devices, holographic displays, optical displays like Google Glass, etc.
Outcome Two:Social media continues to grow as a cultural phenomenon, however, the platform competition get heavier. Eventually one or more of our most popular networks dies out, either due to redundancy, or updates that upset users en masse. Users seek out a simpler, more streamlined service that focuses on a more core group of friends and family, and less on acquaintances. These changes have an affect on society, as closer friends become more connected through events shared throughout the group. Events invites become relevant again because they’re from a core group of people and not some random person you met 6 or 7 months ago.
But really, who knows? In the end it’s up to a cultural shift that will either be brought on by social realization or technological change.
The best way to use social media for yourself and your clients is to take advantage of all of the opportunities it allows you. For a Graphic Designer, it pays to have clients requesting more and more designs for different platforms that emerge. Graphic Designers can also encourage their clients to adopt current platforms as well as new ones, giving themselves larger orders and increasing revenues.
Take advantage of Facebook Ads, Twitter Lists, LinkedIn Groups and Directory info, as well as the geotargeting on Instagram. Market yourself well and take notice of what works and what doesn’t—read the words of other artists, marketing companies, social media managers, etc. Stay up on the trends and impress potential clients with your acumen. As with the latest versions of Photoshop or Illustrator, learn the new tools, updates and the best practices for using them.
Q: Do you have any additional thoughts, insights or comments about the social media environment and the continual flow of design changes?
Jay: Expect more changes, especially in the design department, as Twitter and Facebook brawl over users. Facebook hasn’t changed its profile or banner images in several years, so we might see an answer to Twitter’s updates in that department. As these giants move further away from their IPO’s, they’ll try to impress their stockholders more and more. In the end, the happiness of the users, brands, and people like me working for a social media marketing agency will always remain incredibly important. Balancing between pleasing stockholders and users will take some careful and measured strategy. It will be interesting to see who does it best.
Those who reap the benefits of social media are designers who seek a solid understanding of social media and keep up-to-date on platform changes. In addition to their own social media presence, many graphic designers also set up, design and manage their clients’ social media presence.
Each day, more and more client-types are finding they need to add a strategic social media plan to their marketing mix. That need spells opportunity for those savvy graphic designers who add social media to their services. If a graphic designer isn’t already onboard the social media train, now is a good time to make the leap. It just might avoid a train wreck down the road.