330 South Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21231
p 410 244 7221 f 410 244 7225
Social media is an explosive new medium that is changing the way consumers interact with brands. Wikipedia defines it as: various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. Among the countless examples of social media popular today are MySpace, Linkedin, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, bulletin boards, Wikipedia, blogs, YouTube and more-and each of these sites are giving corporations and organizations new channels through which to communicate with consumers.
As a design + communications firm that both engages and participates in social media, we often take a step back to examine how design and social media interact with one another. In doing so, we're always struck by how crucial great design is in ensuring that a user's interaction with social media is as successful and rewarding as it can be. On the most basic level, design is responsible for delivering a seamless social media user experience. Sites like Facebook and Linkedin are thoughtfully designed to be simple to use from a user's perspective, which allows mass innovation and the sharing of ideas. Add to that the fact that social media allows marketers to digest instant user feedback and make adjustments to the design on-the-fly and the result is a constantly improving interface design. In this way social media actually helps to shape design.
Outside of the design of social media sites, there are also ample opportunities for companies to extend their brand by participating in social media. Not only will customers appreciate having a meaningful dialogue with the organization, a well designed social media presence can drive home important brand messages over time as a consumer interacts with the brand.
This is most evident in social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook, which allow a user to custom design their own pages. The same is true for companies that participate in these sites-they have the ability to custom brand their pages so that their brand stays consistent with the rest of their marketing outreach. Just like on the Web the first impression of any visitor will be heavily influenced by the aesthetics of the site. If a site is too busy or doesn't convey the right message, damage can easily be done in the mind of the consumer. We recommend simplicity, which we feel ultimately leads to complexity (or rich content) for user enjoyment. Good examples of this are the Myspace Pages we have recently done for the US Department of Energy for their Hydrogen Program and for the Solar Decathlon.
Perhaps one of the social media formats where design is the most critical is a company's blog. The nature of a blog makes it a medium where people go to get an even deeper understanding of a company. As such, it's important to present a professional, branded design that is a good representation of the organization. Micro blogging, a concept purveyed by the site Twitter, which caters to the A.D.D.-prone social media user also allows users and companies to brand their own personal portals. My personal Twitter page has the same background graphic as this site, for example.
Just as social media has evolved greatly in the past several years, we anticipate it will continue to advance by leaps and bounds over the next few years. In that time there is no doubt that more and more people as well as organizations will begin to adopt this technology. At the same time, it will be important for firms like ours to pay close attention to the changing, but ever present role of design to ensure that we can deliver solutions that effectively propel our clients' brands.