Starting out as a new designer can be daunting. Fortunately, social networks can help an aspiring novice propel their design skills and career and build meaningful professional relations. This article will set you on the right track to becoming a top-tier design influencer.
Helping new designers get discovered is not easy, but it is necessary. Only by injecting talent regularly into the community can it continue to grow and flourish without falling prey to stale design concepts.
As any new designer can attest to, it can be tough to get noticed when initially looking for feedback, and ultimately, for more paying work. To earn that break, it can help someone starting out to think through all the steps required to become a top-tier influencer to reverse engineer that process to the beginning. It is vital to understand the role influence plays in your development as a designer.
One of the first lessons in acquiring the influence, aside from developing expertise and finding a niche focus, is to pick the right social network to operate within. An influencer focused on complex issues requiring 30+ minutes to explain (e.g., in-depth COVID-19 vaccination considerations for senior citizens) is likely to be more successful if the chosen network is YouTube or Facebook versus TikTok. The same is true for designers looking to iterate and grow, so what platform will make the most sense for them? To answer that question, one must ask what features are the most critical, load them into a logic decision matrix, and choose the best fit.
Here’s an example of a social network usefulness matrix:
For the sake of explanation:
- Open Reach means the profile content is not gated and is publicly viewable.
- Visual is self-explanatory – does the network cater specifically to visual content?
- Casual is a reference to accepted tone; is it normal to encounter off-topic material? Professional is somewhat inverse to Casual – is the content for a professional audience? This is usually the question that comes up to those looking to appeal to a B2B audience.
- Detailed refers to the format – is it supportive of in-depth explanations? In the example of medical considerations for senior citizens, YouTube clearly allows for such long-format content, whereas something like Instagram does not.
Pivoting back to design, which of these networks would matter the most? For the designer to be able to achieve a broad enough following, a public profile is helpful. Catering to visual material is an absolute must. The casual tone may not matter too much. Professional can be beneficial, and detailed tone might matter most in the context of feedback loops.
Which of the social networks makes the most sense? 5 or 6 years ago, Pinterest could have been the superior network for designers. Now, one can still argue that it is no longer just an aggregation of delicious-looking recipes and has moved beyond fashion and, thus, is still an excellent choice for a designer. In fact, it is easy to admit that it is a strong possibility for experienced and accomplished designers primarily using the platform for lead generation. However, there’s now another choice for newer designers that checks all the influence boxes.
Within the Dribbble platform, the primary method of use as a designer is to simply dive into the market.
Step 1: Adding a website is a fairly straightforward step one
Within the platform, the new designer is initially thought of as a prospect within the system. Therefore one can’t actually start posting images right away. If you want to get something out of it, they expect you to give first.
From a new market entrant perspective, this makes so much sense because community interaction is required. While it may feel punitive early in the process, it is a control mechanism to assist in personal development. Following the designers one admires, commenting with helpful feedback, and basic interaction is necessary in later stages of becoming a top-tier influencer in any field.
Step 2: Follow the designers you admire on Dribbble, comment on their posts, and build relationships
However, don’t rely just on Dribbble for this step. Once enough learning is shown, an existing member can draft prospects from the base of new designers so that they can start contributing their work. For a designer to reach the drafted prospect stage, it is necessary to build those relationships.
One method to fast-track community status would be by relying on the Icons8 community. Members could use the multiple community approach by interacting with those designers within the community forum and following them on Dribbble, too. While a new designer is expected to interact on Dribbble itself, take those conversations back to the Icons8 forum as well to develop relationships across multiple platforms and increase the likelihood of building on overall community trust.
Like any rule-based system, some degree of cliques and manipulation does occur. Still, Dribbble has managed this reasonably well via established limits. Since drafted users are limited to a certain number of posts (referred to as shots within the Dribbble ecosystem) per month, there’s an emphasis on quality over quantity, which makes perfect sense in the design world. This is also why Icons8 community members have an advantage; the forum conversations can help better understand which shots will appeal the most in the Dribbble community.
Step 3: Use Dribbble shot selection to capture trends and test new concepts
As a designer’s prominence grows beyond gaining attention, which Dribbble itself has a guide on, the goal becomes fine-tuning one’s expertise as a Player within the platform. When A/B testing design iterations, it may be necessary to upgrade to a Dribbble Pro account. This will increase the amount of context provided within the shots, allow to attach files, and add considerably more detail than on standard shots. As a Dribbble Pro, one can measure statistics related to the shots and even schedule future shots if using Dribbble as part of an influence campaign.
Step 4: Give back
When the efforts on Dribbble and in the Icons8 community are yielding client lead flow, consider helping out new designers now following in the same footsteps. This will keep the overall design community’s ideas and concepts fresh. Interact with those newer designers and invite them as prospects.
It is easy to foresee Dribbble only growing in prominence over the next several years for aspiring designers looking to grow their capabilities. By building up one’s talents within the Dribbble ecosystem and creating a network of peers that might help later in one’s career, Dribbble should be worth the time spent.
Afterward, the expert designer can always branch into the more traditional visual networks like Pinterest and Instagram.
About the author: Joe Sinkwitz has 20+ years of involvement in digital marketing, focusing primarily on SEO (Principal of Digital Heretix) and influencer marketing (CEO of Intellifluence).
Title image by Alexey Sokolov from Icons8 Photos.