A Blogger Meet Up: Interior Networking At West Elm
I've been posting my home interior shots on Instagram for two and a half years now. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that things on the 'Gram have changed dramatically over this period. During this time, not only has Instagram grown from 200m monthly users to 1 billion monthly users (I kid you not), the interiors network has grown, without doubt, at the same rate. It's created an interiors community that is inspiring, forward thinking and most of all, booming. In a way that no one could have predicted.
But why is this? There's a very good reason why social media has cottoned on to interiors in the last two years. Facebook - the first real social media platform - launched 14 years ago to anyone over the age of 13. The primary users were the internet savvy teens who embraced the concept of social connection. From pouts and selfies, they moved on to fashion and beauty which saw a huge increase in focus of these areas, in conjunction with the launch of Instagram in 2010.
These early teen users are now older and have moved up to the next stage - buying or renting their first homes, looking to style their spaces on a budget. This is patently clear from my engagement statistics - my largest demographic is 25-35. It's only natural that they will turn, as they've done historically, to social media for inspiration.
Anyway, taking all of this on board, writing and posting about interiors has quickly gained in popularity. The use of interior hashtags here in the UK (an idea taken from the USA, who had been using community tags for years) has meant that anyone who enjoys styling their home can join this rapidly growing network of interiors obsessives. Instagram is the perfect platform - whereas previously we've been limited to the High Street and interior magazines for ideas on how to style our homes, we can get an instant fix from the steady stream of interior posts on our feeds.
On top of that, brands are now working with both large and small interiors accounts to produce advertorial to promote their products. Using Instagram for this purpose, or combining with a blog, means that it's actually becoming possible to work on interior based social media as a full time job. Who could have predicted that?
So when West Elm asked me to host an Interior Networking Event at their very gorgeous showroom on Tottenham Court Road, I jumped at the chance. A year and half ago, I was invited to a similar event hosted by Sarah Akwisombe and can honestly say I didn't know a single person. This time, I knew nearly everyone. Mostly because I was involved in the guest list (ha) but also because Instagram has expanded my networking circle to include friends and colleagues from all over the industry. We set the date, booked alcohol and food (priorities) and sent out the invites.
We decided to ask a group of five experts from the interior industry to take part in a panel to talk about the impact of social media and interior trends - a sort of Mrs Merton style heated debate. So who was on the panel?
the panel questions
After a refreshing G&T, we kicked off with some pertinent questions. You can find out how the panel answered by checking out the video of the event on both the West Elm and my own IGTV (Iink to be storied this week).
How would you describe your role? Do you think social media has been an integral part of your business growth – how have you used it?
Which platforms do you use?
The Future Of Interior Magazines
Instagram as a platform has had phenomenal growth over the last two years. The online interior network has grown rapidly alongside this and people are regularly taking inspiration from social media rather than traditional sources such as magazines.
Views? Do you think there is still a place for the glossy interior magazine? How do you see the position of magazines going forward?
Do you think what we see on social media has any impact on the interior trends that we see on the High Street? Does it have any influence at all? Or are we still heavily influenced by the big name brands and Design Shows?
Where does the trend start and how does it work its way into our homes?
The Role Of The Interior Designer
What about the traditional route to becoming an interior designer. Does this still apply? Has this route changed over the last two years? Is the role still the same?
How do you see this role progressing in the future?
To Blog Or Not To Blog?
From a blogging perspective, do you think it’s important to have a strong social media presence in order to maintain and continue to grow your blog? And vice versa.
Do you even need a blog or is a strong presence on social media enough to grow a successful business?
The Spon/Ad Question
The rise of advertorial on social platforms via both small and large interior accounts is a hot conversation topic. What’s your take on content creators/influencers who work with brands and businesses on social platforms and blogs?
How do you think this role will develop over the next few years? Can you maintain authenticity whilst creating paid content for a living?
We finished with questions from the audience (both Live and present) to the panel, who answered ably considering they'd drunk about four gins each by this point.
and finally, the networking
Over the last couple of years, Instagram has brought so many like minded people together, people that otherwise would never have met had it not been for a common shared interest.
They say that Facebook is a place for people you know but don't like; Instagram is for people that you like but don't know. So when fifty interior bloggers and Instagram aficionados descended on the West Elm showroom, we knew it would be fun.
With many thanks to West Elm for hosting us and to the fabulous panel - 2LG, Sarah Akwisombe, Bianca Hall and Dee Campling - who made the event such a success and gave us plenty of food for thought! Here's to the next one.