Designers, clients and social media

This post was inspired by a conversation in a slack channel I host.

Sarah asked for reviews on social media scheduling software; which led to a conversation about the scheduled ‘post and forget’ social media strategy many employ; which led to a broader conversation about the role of social media for small businesses; which started me thinking / researching the role designers play in their own, and their client’s social media accounts.

Here’s what I found…


A majority of designers have a social media presence in addition to their website however the return-on-investment (of time and energy) is difficult to assess. The latest ‘What client think’ research from the UK reports only 17% of clients claim to follow their incumbent agency on social media. And it’s worth noting 17% said they’re rarely engaged. (Those figures exclude LinkedIn. The same research said 93% of clients rely on LI for business development purposes.)

So, unless your clients are ‘creatives’ such as inhouse design departments, architects, photographers et al, it is fair to surmise most designer’s Instagram accounts talk to other creatives. And that’s not invalid — creative posts are proven method to building a reputation to attract good designers, it’s just not a reliable way to develop new business.

That said, understanding the power of Instagram is valuable.

Social media management is one of the ‘additional services’ offered by some agencies to extend engagement with a client. It makes perfect sense – we devise the strategy, conceptualise the creative, write the copy and then build engaging, on-brand collateral. Posting the material and managing the channel can be a true win: win scenario. It is a perfect service to bill on a retainer basis (making reliable income for the designer), and it’s a set and forget for a client.

But it’s not without perils…


Websites aside some but certainly not all clients have a social media presence. Those that are active tend to go one of two ways:

Set and forget

When the online world first emerged, Greg and I attended many workshops and courses, one of which discussed scheduling software (like Hootsuite). The software was used to schedule a number of posts at the one time for maximum efficiency.

That always worried me. (Worried may be too strong a word – insert puzzled – it puzzled me.) If social media is about sparking ideas to start conversations and build relationships, why would you put something out there and not respond to any feedback?

That workshop was probably 15 years ago now, but the ‘post and forget’ still happens. I know because it happened in my inbox just last month. At the beginning of the COVID shutdown, when the pandemic and the unknown impact to our home, our businesses and our health was all anyone was talking about, I received a number of email newsletters/updates that didn’t mention the issue at all. They read as ‘business as usual’ and smacked of a dated, scheduled post.

Set and respond

Connecting to customers on social media is powerful – it’s starting a conversation in ‘real time’, but it has consequences. Because the posts look immediate, users often demand an immediate answer. That has all sorts of connotations – the first of which is the tendency to post a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction because it seems like there is less time to discuss options and form a well worded response.

That started me asking what is an appropriate time in which to respond? What should our clients expect?

Managing expectations

Research differs slightly but here’s what I found:


In the US (where the majority of the research is conducted), 69% of customers believe fast resolution of the problem is vital to good service.

Nearly half of all consumers use social media to ask questions, to complain or to report satisfaction.  Those clients expected a response to a social media question or complain immediately or within an hour, regardless of timezones.

Specifically: Facebook

71% of all social media complaints are posted on Facebook.

85% of customers expect a response within six hours even though the average response time is one day, three hours and 47 minutes.

50% of customers claimed they would stop buying from a company who failed to respond to a social media post.

62% are influenced enough by negative social media comments they would cease dealing with them.

Enough said.

Specifically: Twitter

Twitter is an immediate platform viewed more regularly and faster than Facebook but interestingly, only 17% of social media complaints are posted on Twitter.

64% expected a response from a company within one hour even though the average response time is one day, seven hours and 12 minutes.

Specifically: LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a more considered social media channel. The posts tend to be longer and the platform is not commonly used for consumer gripes. LinkedIn tends to be more business to business than business to consumer. And while the algorithms rate your post better (which means it will appear in more feeds) the quicker it gets traction (likes and comments), most research suggests replying to a comment within 24 hours.


Successfully managing your own, and your client’s social media comes down to managing expectations:

  • designers managing the expectations of clients
  • clients managing the expectations of their customers.

When expectations are managed, designers can certainly add value by managing their client’s social media presence – it’s a natural extension to our services. But it’s not a role to be under-estimated or under-serviced. Much reputational harm can come from inactivity or the wrong activity — remember nearly 50% of all consumers use social media to ask questions or to complain.

It is possible. We work with a few studios who manage their client’s social media extremely well. They do that in three ways.

  1. employing social media managers (often called community managers or stakeholder managers)
  2. writing a social media contract aimed at managing client expectations (including timelines)
  3. having a robust process to manage escalating consumer complaints (sadly there tends to be more complaints than accolades).

When those three things are in place, designers can play a valuable role in managing a client’s social media



Carol Mackay

If this article was of interest, you may also like:

How to help your clients give feedback.

A sure fire way to capture that elusive client feedback.

The way we respond to feedback can set the vibe for a relationship or a project.

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After 30+ years running a graphic design firm, Carol pivoted from client-focused projects to consult to the design industry. Now with the Design Business Council she uses her experience, and research, to help designers build robust, sustainable businesses, and help businesses integrate, and profit from, design.

The core of the DBC is the building a design community – over 85% of designers work in businesses with less than 5 employees, many less than 3. That means designers don’t have the same support network of other professionals. The DBC’s solution is supplement paid gigs with mentoring breakfast meet-ups, informative UNseminars and practical workshops in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

An archive of her design work at
Her current work can be viewed at and

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