Guest Expert Interview: Chris Olson

This month we have the privilege to welcome Chris Olson, experienced surface pattern designer and marketer, to the Textile Design Lab as our guest expert. Chris partners with brands to help them develop a marketing strategy through social media, webinars, and events. Projects include custom-branded content through design, writing, and editorial direction. Chris will be sharing some of her favorite marketing tips for surface pattern and textile designers on Tuesday, October 24th in the Textile Design Lab, but she is here today to tell us more about her work and her thoughts on social media.

Chris Olson on Surface Pattern Design Marketing

What drew you to social media and what do you enjoy most about this way of marketing your work?

I think social media marketing gives artists a unique opportunity for sharing both their art and the story behind the art. A studio scene or glimpse into the process of developing your artwork is just one of the many ways to engage your audience. By including social media in your marketing plan, each day you have the opportunity to introduce your brand to new clients and customers.

If you are only sharing your artwork and never commenting on posts and never sharing posts by other artists, you are missing out. Your brand will benefit when you engage often–not just sporadically–with your followers. Even if your studio is miles away from other artists, social media allows individual artists the opportunity to be part of a supportive and inspiring community without geographic boundaries.

What are some of the biggest challenges with marketing artwork and designs on social media?

As the manager of your brand’s social media marketing you are wearing many hats including brand strategist, photo stylist, art director, strategic storyteller and, of course, textile designer. You may be more comfortable in certain roles. However if you participate frequently on your favorite platforms you will develop expertise in marketing your brand. In my first job out of college, I was a book and magazine designer. Over time my job description expanded when my boss realized I had a talent for writing captions and marketing materials too. Chances are your design talents will also overlap with essential marketing skills.

We all want our artwork to be noticed by our dream clients and customers. In order to accomplish this, staying current on social media strategies and understanding the changing algorithms can be challenging. Social media platforms change over time. The algorithm on one channel for getting noticed may be totally new next week. Although that is frustrating—even to the popular kids on the block—keep in mind the evolving algorithm might end up working in your favor.

If you hear about a new development in social media marketing—do some fact checking. Don’t assume a short caption or tweet truly explains the issue. And double-check the date of the source. If you are getting advice from an article written over six months ago it may not be current and it may contain out-of-date information that will lead you to use ineffective methods. This can be especially true on Pinterest. Although a pin featuring a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe does not have an expiration date, a pin with a specific strategy for finding new followers on Instagram does. (If you can’t determine the date of the source, if it is pinned from a blog post, then go to the comments section and the dates are usually included when a comment is made.)

We will dive more into the topic of understanding how algorithms and analytics can help your marketing in a future post on Pattern Observer.

Do you have any tips on figuring out the best hashtags to help get your posts seen?

Be authentic and think strategically when selecting hashtags for captions. Copying and pasting the same hashtags over and over will not build engagement. This repetitive content can even lead to LESS engagement. On LinkedIn hashtags are not functional as a rule and do not encourage participation.

On Instagram and Twitter check out niche hashtags. Listen to what the community is saying and join the conversation on posts by others in a niche hashtag community. Remember, just using a niche hashtag on your posts and never commenting on other posts will not offer all the benefits of a design community online.

Chris Olson Surface Pattern Design Marketing

Have you noticed any current trends in social media marketing?

The best social media design is not a one size fits all matter. If your favorite artist or designer is successful with a specific branding format, this does not mean it will be the perfect fit for your brand. Once you understand the elements that make your designs shine, then you can begin to make a content strategy for branding and sharing online. Because of the grid layout on Instagram, this platform is a great place to experiment with elements of design and find out what works best for your brand.

Could you share your thoughts on what types of content get the most views?

The answer to this question is very specific to the platform and very time sensitive. In other words, what is working now according to the algorithm on each channel evolves over time. Right now, video tends to outperform images on Facebook and Instagram. Even in paid and boosted posts, video outperforms a photo.

How long does it take to build up a following and how much time do you think is needed to maintain a successful Instagram account?

I was the social media manager for Instagram at Pattern Observer for three years. During that time the reach and overall engagement grew at an amazing pace. Initially Instagram was a reverse-chronological feed of posts from accounts you followed. In other words, each time you opened your Instagram app you would see the most recent posts first. In 2016 Instagram changed this format and introduced an algorithm similar to Facebook. The idea behind the shift on the Instagram app was to enhance the user experience by helping people find the posts from the accounts they followed that would be most interesting to them. At the time, many critics thought Instagram would be ruined by the introduction of this new algorithm. There is some good news: people adapted to the shift. Initially the change created some panic among many users, but Instagram still works–just in a new way. On Instagram currently the algorithm boosts posts that gain more likes and authentic comments. And since comments take more effort on behalf of the user, these are weighted more heavily than likes.

Instagram continues to evolve. As I am writing this article, marketing experts are commenting on the newest developments on Instagram regarding paid promotions and how your posts are selected to reach a wider audience.

To answer the time management question, my word of advice is finding shortcuts or ways to save time does not always help you. A good rule of thumb is to avoid using automated solutions. In fact, on Instagram your account can be cancelled if you use automated posting apps. Read and follow the app terms of use and platform policies. This will explain what is allowed. If you strive to keep your account authentic, you will develop a marketing strategy that will benefit your brand over time.

Chris Olson Surface Pattern Design

What would you recommend to a newbie getting started on Instagram and Facebook?

Community over competition is a mantra worth following if you want to survive for the long haul in your design business and on social media. All of us–the newbies and the rock stars—face creative block and even failures. When this happens, nothing helps you get back on your feet quicker and stronger than talking to others in the community. This is exactly why the forums on Textile Design Lab are often the helpful hand that can be career changing.

Facebook has private groups that also allow individuals to share ideas and concerns that are relevant to a group topic in a private setting. Remember, you don’t have to share all the messy details of your so-called disaster, just start the conversation. Asking for advice can open doors to great friendships and even career partnerships.

And if that huge “disaster” happens—perhaps your newsletter subscription stops growing or an Instagram post only gets seen by 20 people–chances are someone else in your community has faced a similar issue and found a way to move forward.

Do you have a favorite platform and why?

It changes every day. That is exactly why I like social media marketing because the challenges and new discoveries continue to keep me interested. Each channel—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn—has a unique style. Depending on the account management, the audience for each platform can also be unique.

What would you say to those who are social media shy?

Think of social media as a way to keep in touch with your design community. Discuss the challenges and share success stories. Make thoughtful comments on the posts by others. Share the best ideas and images that represent you. That is how your brand will survive.

Taking a risk and sharing your art in the online world can seem daunting, but you will find amazing courses, podcasts and mini tutorials for social media marketing to help get you started. Before you enroll in a course or follow a tutorial, make sure it is current.

Here are a few online resources that stay up to date with trends and offer helpful guides and courses: Pattern Observer online courses, Textile Design Lab, Skillshare, Braid Creative, Being Boss Podcast, and Mediabistro.  I have used the resources in this list and I found them very beneficial for expanding my skills and introducing me to experts in the field.

Just as expanding your artistic expertise is important, learning new marketing skills will improve your brand. A few content suggestions to try: learn how to create a video post, promote your work with a Facebook ad, or join the conversation with Instagram Stories. All of these are great ways to grow your brand’s presence and widen your audience.

Can you tell us about your upcoming presentation in the Lab? What will you be covering?

I will be sharing some of my favorite tips for content creation and editing—including my favorite apps—to enhance your marketing in the Textile Design Lab later this month.

Want to learn more? Join us in the Textile Design Lab for the live presentation or say hello to Chris via her website.

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5 Comments on “Guest Expert Interview: Chris Olson

  1. Hello Chris, thank you for sharing. Up until now, I have been chronically social media shy as far as putting myself out there is concerned, although I really enjoy seeing how others get to grips with the challenge of being efficient and having fun! This well documented post has encouraged me to “go to and go do”! Thank you!

  2. Great interview with great advice for someone like me – been trying to bring my social media to the next level and I feel this will really be helpful! Thank you!

  3. Loved this post! Thank you Chris; this is so helpful and encouraging for those of us who are just starting out or wondering how to make a meaningful brand presence on social media. Thank you Pattern Observer from bringing this to us!

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At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and private design community, The Textile Design Lab.