Marketing isn’t the only thing Pinterest and Instagram can help designers do. The ease of posting amazing images, inspiring design boards and our portfolios makes both sites great tools for sharing more about our work, approach and style.

On the flip side, both sites can wreak havoc on our productivity, self-esteem and may not directly help our marketing. There is more to these impactful platforms and it is time to better understand and take advantage of the real ways social media helps our design businesses.

The beauty of numbers

The design board does not make the room. While social media like Pinterest and Instagram both embrace and embody the importance of the visual experience, there is more to design work than beauty.

Mark D. Sikes is an internet design phenom, but he was quoted in a recent Elle Decor article giving props to his retail experience at Banana Republic for teaching him how to “execute creativity and how to manage big teams — (both of which) have been instrumental in his success as a designer.”

In other words, amazing images are necessary but no less important are project management and operational skills. And without a clear understanding of what we are using social media for and how we are tracking that purpose, we are likely wasting a lot of our limited time and money.

For those without an entire team or unlimited resources to spend building up a website, blog and active presences on multiple social media outlets, how much time can we really afford to invest in active management of our online presence?

Thus, step one in ensuring social media helps our design business: get clear today on why we are using it and start tracking right now whether it is returning on our investment of time, energy and creativity.

BFFs and likes

Second, remember that the best client is a current client. Doing our best work and ensuring our clients love us opens the opportunity for them to use us again in other rooms and other houses. Plus, they can refer us with wonderful word of mouth — sharing our posts or allowing us to post images from their project. The other way social media helps designers is by deepening our relationship with current clients.

This can happen in two ways that do not require an additional time investment from us — trend-spotting and referrals.

First, we are already monitoring what styles are trending, where they are coming from and how they are being interpreted. With social media, we can easily share those trends with our clients and if the trend is something we have already embraced, we can highlight our way of incorporating it.

If it is not something we have already implemented, we can weigh in with how we would interpret it. Both perspectives provide current clients an open, fresh line of communication with what we are doing — reinforcing our relevance and expertise.

Second, social media makes referrals easy and easily trackable in a way it never was before. We can use this as a great opportunity to appreciate our current clients for any positive media they share.

Thus, while social media allows us to easily, visually present our style and approach it can also help us appreciate and optimize our relationship with our current clients. Further, by creating clear goals around our social media purpose, we can fully take advantage of the simple ways these platforms allow us to track the impact social media has our bottom line.