Few innovations have transformed the design world as quickly and thoroughly as social media. From Pinterest to Instagram, new social platforms are changing the way designers promote their work, sell product, and connect with clients. In this episode of the Chairish Podcast — called The Designer’s Guide to Social Media — design industry insider Michael Boodro chats with two designers well versed in social media strategy, Alyssa Kapito and Cara Woodhouse, about their success on Instagram and how to refine your own Instagram strategy as a designer or brand. Chairish’s social media manager, Skylar Frederick, joins the conversation to provide Chairish’s perspective on growing your brand and connecting with your followers.

Get to know our Instagram-savvy guests:

Experienced designer Alyssa Kapito launched her design firm using Instagram. Kapito is known for restrained but sumptuous apartments, lofts, and beach houses, where she mixes classic vintage pieces, subdued palettes, and luxurious textures, and her work has been featured in numerous publications including Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, and Vogue. She also has more than 150K followers on Instagram. 

For the past 23 years, Cara Woodhouse has been creating interiors with bold contemporary furnishings, texture-rich rugs, and colorful accents, bringing a sense of fun and energy to family living. Along with designing, she is also a brand ambassador for various companies and an influencer. She has more than 200K followers on Instagram.

Skylar Frederick is the Social Media Manager at Chairish and has been working in social media for the last 7 years. Since she joined the company three years ago, Chairish’s Instagram following has more than tripled and reaches over 5 million users per month. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Skylar has managed the digital presence of brands in a range of industries including publishing and editorial, home and consumer goods, health and wellness, and higher education. 

In this episode, our guests tackle:

  • How Instagram benefits designers through product lines, new clients, and more
  • The importance of high-quality visuals on Instagram
  • Creating goals for Instagram
  • Quality over quantity in posting
  • The value of cohesive and compelling branding
  • Using Pinterest to communicate with clients about style
  • Crafting authenticity on Instagram
  • Incorporating video into social platforms
  • Agreed-upon rates for collaborations / partnerships on Instagram
  • Advice for young designers launching their firms on Instagram

Additional resources:

Connect with Chairish and our guests on Instagram:

Design by Cara Woodhouse / Lead Photo Courtesy of Cara Woodhouse


Michael Boodro  0:00  

This is a Chairish podcast and I’m your host Michael Boodro. Few innovations have transformed the design world as quickly and as thoroughly as social media. And in less than a decade Pinterest has become an invaluable tool. Instagram has revolutionized the way designers promote their work, sell products, and even find clients. Today we’re going to be discussing how to maximize the impact of social media and how designers make it work for their business. To find inspiration, and to keep abreast of new trends. I’m pleased to have two designers with me in New York who are not only majorly talented, but are also huge Instagram stars. I first want to welcome Alyssa Kapito, who is known for her restraints with sumptuous apartments, lofts and beach houses, where she mixes classic vintage pieces, subdued palettes and luxurious textures. She also has more than 150,000 followers on Instagram. Welcome Alyssa. The interiors that Cara Woodhouse creates are shot through with bold contemporary furnishings, rugs and colorful accents, bringing a sense of fun and energy to family living. And she’s a major social media influencer with more than 200,000 Instagram followers. Thanks for being here, Cara. And from San Francisco, I’m delighted to welcome my colleague Skylar Frederick. Skyler is a social media manager at Chairish and has been working in social media for the past seven years. Since she joined the company three years ago, Chairish’s Instagram following has more than tripled, and now reaches more than 5 million users per month. I know that she will have invaluable insights into how any design business big or small can use social media to expand its audience and influence. You know, it’s shocking to me how quickly, Instagram in particular, has transformed design because I remember when I first joined Instagram, about six years ago, I was the editor of Elle Decor and they said, well, you have to have an Instagram account. And I barely knew what that was. And we had a wonderful digital editor at that time. And she set up my account and told me how to use it. But at the end of it, I said, I really don’t understand, what am I supposed to be posting? And she said, Don’t worry about it, Michael, just post lots of pictures of pretty flowers, and you’ll get a lot of followers. And she was wrong. But I think that Instagram has evolved in a big, big way. So that’s one of the things I want to talk to you all about today. And Cara, why don’t we start with you, because I think you have been incredibly successful, and getting your work out there. And I want to know how Instagram has transformed the way you do business and how it has changed the way people discover you and know about your work.

Cara Woodhouse 3:12  

Yes. So I have been in the industry for 23 years, and you know, it’s so funny. I would say 15 years ago, when I had a big design firm and I had a business partner, we had a big firm in Soho, you know, it was all word of mouth. And that’s the only way that I got clients or, you know, people knew about me vendors was just purchasing. And now with this platform of Instagram, it’s just skyrocketed. My exposure beyond and, you know, again, my style has definitely evolved over the years. I started out in the industry doing very, very traditional designs, where when people find out about that they’re shocked. I remember I was shocked and definitely have evolved to more colorful, playful, experimental designs now and being able to put it out there and being recognized for it when I’ve been doing my thing and evolving since the beginning of my career. 

Michael Boodro 4:40  

So you also get encouragement from Instagram when you post things and people like it.

Cara Woodhouse 4:45  


Michael Boodro 4:50

I think people undervalue that aspect of it, that you actually get reinforcement and encouragement. 

Cara Woodhouse  5:06  

100%. I could call any vendor even if I haven’t even worked with them before and they know who I am already. It’s amazing. I feel very humbled to have all of this recognition for my work and what I do and inspiring people and people who are starting out in the business too, who are looking to get into design. I’m always open to helping people in the beginning of their career as well. But it’s such a change on so many levels from doing partnership deals I’m doing now, you know, capsule collections. I get clients from it. There’s just so many amazing things about self marketing. 

Michael Boodro 5:22 

I first discovered the power of Instagram a few years ago when I was at Salone in Milan, because I was going through looking at lots of new products and lots of wonderful things. And we were sort of deciding what we would put into Elle Decor. But there were tons of other things I thought were really good. So I Instagrammed. I thought, I’ll Instagram things that aren’t gonna go in the magazine that I don’t know that much about, but I think are great. And six weeks later, I was in LA at LCDQ. And this designer came up to me and said, oh, Michael, I love all the things you posted on Instagram. She said, I’ve actually ordered three things already for clients. And that was before we even edited what we were going to put into the magazine. And that’s when I first thought, Oh, my God, what is the future of magazines if this is already happening, and I think that’s absolutely been the case. And the magazine world had to adjust. And I think that how people find things and, you know, put their work out in the world is totally transformed. It used to be you’d wait to be found by an editor or whatever. And then you’d wait three months to be photographed, another three months for the story to run, or a year to have the story run now. It’s instantaneous. So Alyssa, I wanted to ask you, you probably grew up with Instagram. But since you founded your firm, which was how many years ago?  Was it an integral from the beginning for you?

Alyssa Kapito 6:05

Seven and a half years or eight years and yes, absolutely. Actually, a couple of years ago, I had an article about how I started my business, basically on Instagram, and how Instagram created sort of the success of my business. And it’s something that Instagram had come out about three years before we launched our business. But I think what was different about what we did was that we took it seriously, you know, and we saw it as a platform through which we can get our work out there, considering I was so young, and I wasn’t going to get published yet, because I just didn’t have a voice yet in the industry. And so I took the pictures of our work very seriously. And it really paid off. It was, I guess, early enough. But I remember talking about how we were going to approach Instagram and like it wasn’t going to be what we eat for lunch, it wasn’t going to be a little tiny, pretty picture, it was going to be visually beautiful. And it was going to be seriously about design. And I think that was sort of early on. It definitely had a business outlook from when we began. And I think that was kind of different from what other people were doing at the time. 

Michael Boodro 8:04 

And you raise a very interesting point, which also came up in our podcasts about PR was the importance of having really high quality visuals because I think when you started out you could just shoot pretty pictures and somebody sent me was much more casual but now it’s much more of a professional thing. In my feed for example, I get a lot of ads.  get a lot of ads for mother of the bride dresses and things like that. I don’t know why with all this. Like clearly it’s much more professional now. Skyler, you know you’re doing this as a professional for a brand, a brand we love, Chairish. But how is the approach different? I mean, clearly, you saw this as you’ve been doing digital social media for seven years. So you’ve really grown with it with the field, but how does it go about in terms of Chairish? What is your task, so to speak, in terms of social media with Chairish?

Skylar Frederick 8:04 

Sure. So for us, you know, we’re looking at what our goals are. And I think for a brand and a business that’s selling a product different than design, the goals are a little bit different. So for us, we’re really trying to constantly drive our Instagram and Facebook and Pinterest audience to So we’re not just wanting our audience to live there on the social media platforms, but we want them to then click over to the website. So we need to make sure that our content is optimized for that. And we take advantage of Instagram stories to do that the most because if you’re just looking at pictures in our Instagram feed, we share a lot of inspiration. We do share a lot of user generated content that maybe shows products or talking about things like the print shop and encouraging our following to click over to the website. But it’s a lot harder to get users to do that from an Instagram post because it is a process to then get to, having to click over to the bio, and then click that link and go to the website. So we look at what our goals are in terms of getting people to the site. And we identified Instagram stories as an avenue where we could really do that in such an easy and direct way. And we’ve actually been able to significantly increase our traffic to the website. We actually see more than double the amount of traffic coming from Instagram stories than we would see on Facebook. So Instagram Stories have become its own publishing platform. And we’re constantly trying to figure out like, what kinds of content is actually getting people to click over as well? Is it a product? Is it editorial content? Is it those inspiring images that are bringing people to the website, and then to shop? So we’re looking at things a little bit outside of social and for us social is just one small component. But at the end of the day, we’re actually trying to get people off of social media and onto the website. So our goals, and what we’re looking at from content, and from a content perspective is a little bit different.

Michael Boodro 11:11  

Okay, that’s fascinating. I want to ask the designers here how –  I’m gonna get into the social aspect of social media in a minute but first, I want to ask about it as a tool as a marketing tool, or as even a discovery for a product tool. So Cara, one of the things you had told me when we’d talked last time was about hashtags, which I was riveted by. So would you talk a little bit about how you use hashtags? 

Cara Woodhouse  11:30  

Yeah, so and it’s so funny, because the algorithms are ever changing. Yeah. And keeping on top of all of this, so I find it very useful for each photo that you tag up to hashtag appropriately to that photo, because when people are searching for things, like myself, I sometimes I’m searching for pink onyx, and I wound up finding the most incredible carved pink onyx bathtub. That was one of my biggest posts. And this was like, it’s unbelievable. It was then reposted, I can’t tell you how many times but I use the hashtag writing pink onyx and onyx bathtub. So these are ways that you actually search for specific things that people are looking for. If someone’s renovating their house, you know, kitchen or kitchen cabinets, you could be very specific, and it plugs you in. But now also with the algorithms, there are some of these hashtags, you can see there’s multi million, you know, hashtags, hashtag that. So now you have to become a little more creative. And it kind of brings you up more to the forefront when it doesn’t have as many followers on that hashtag. So it’s this constant keeping up on how you use hashtags.

Michael Boodro 13:01

So the hashtag is not only a way for people to discover your work, but also for you to discover things? Okay, and Alyssa, you use it the same way. How do you find it?

Alyssa Kapito 13:11

Funny enough, I don’t use hashtags that often. I guess it’s a little bit different. I used to, but I feel like the trend has sort of gone away from that in terms of the way I run my Instagram account. It’s just a little different. I don’t use hashtags.

Michael Boodro 13:29

So what do you do instead? How do you keep your followers up? Because I know, sometimes I’ll check my Instagram account and if I’ve lost like, 100 followers, like I’m wounded. Oh, my God, what am I doing wrong? So how do you keep your numbers up? So just because it’s a numbers game and a way?

Alyssa Kapito 13:41  

So honestly, for us, the biggest thing is just people reposting our work. And so, I’ve always felt like it’s quality over quantity. I don’t post multiple times a day, I just really try to post quality. And one thing that’s really important to what I do and from the beginning was that I kind of recognized how important a brand was, you know, the brand of Alyssa Kapito Interiors or your personality on Instagram. And so we’ve kind of kept to our personality on Instagram and obviously it’s evolved over the years. But it’s something that influences what we take on as collaborations and stuff like that. And I kind of want somebody to know that my image is Alyssa Kapito Interiors without saying anything. Like when you see it in your feed, you should automatically know and I’m sure all of you guys have seen Instagram posts that you follow that you know it’s them before you even read the content. That to me is a really strong Instagram account because people can recognize it. It has its own voice. So just in an image, but as for hashtags, we really don’t hashtag. 

Skylar Frederick 15:00  

There’s definitely a way to grow without hashtags. And I completely applaud you Alyssa. But from a business side, also, just from what we’re looking at on the analytic side, they also don’t hurt. And I always recommend them, especially for when you’re starting out on Instagram, just because when we look at the numbers, we can see that half of our, you know, 100,000 impressions coming from each post are coming from hashtags. And that’s how a lot of people find us. And I think that’s how a lot of people are finding Cara as well and her work, are searching through these hashtags. And so it really has doubled the size of our reach on Instagram, and does really help in that department. So I think if you’re starting out, it is a really great tool to use to make sure that your work and your posts are being seen by multiple people and Alyssa, you’re right, there are so many other things you can do. Hashtags are just one very small part of it. 

Michael Boodro 15:56

Well, I guess it’s also a question of who you want to reach. Because, you know, numbers are great. But, you know, both of you designers are on the high end here. So you want to attract a very sophisticated audience, as does Chairish but Chairish wants a broader audience.

 Alyssa Kapito 16:13

Well, because that’s a very good point. And I think it actually is one of the reasons why we don’t hashtag we’re still a boutique firm, and we only have, you know, X amount of spots. And, you know, Instagram is an incredible business tool, we get almost all of our clients through Instagram.

Michael Boodro 16:32

I remember the first time a designer told me that they’d gotten a client from Instagram. And they’re not small clients. And I think in that sense, Instagram really has replaced shelter magazines in that sense. Not that there’s still good ones out there and whatever, and I love them. But I think the immediacy is really profound. It’s an amazing tool.

Cara Woodhouse 16:57

There’s so much work out there. And it varies across the board. And there’s an audience for it.

Alyssa Kapito 17:02

Exactly, that’s what’s so great about this recording is that you see that there’s a lot of different ways to do things. I think people are looking for a way to grow your following. And there are ways there’s more than one way to do it. 

Michael Boodro 17:16

Yeah, I know, you can go by followers. I mean, for us to be able to do that. I mean, I’m but but to what end? I’ve never understood that. 

Alyssa Kapito 17:24

But well, I think that you can tell the people who do that. Yeah, we’ve always been obviously very against doing that. But it’s been a long time. I mean, I don’t think you should expect to go from zero to 160,000  in like, you know, a month or even a year. It takes a long time to build a following And I do think that, you know, that expectation, you see, like these accounts that have a million followers, it takes a lot. Even with those accounts, it took a really long time to build those followings. 

Skylar Frederick 17:51

Right? Yeah. And to your point, Alyssa, there’s so much more that matters than following/ I mean, you’re getting business from it. That’s what matters. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you have 1,000 followers or 100,000 followers. Your goal might just be getting projects and that’s amazing. 

Alyssa Kapito 18:07

And one more point on that, which is something that always comes up for me is that my business is not Instagram, you know, my business is an interior designer. And Instagram is an amazing addendum to that job. But in terms of like, taking on collaborations, everything comes down to is this the taste that I have in my firm? I think a lot of influencers are taking it on and it’s the way they’re actually making money. So each collaboration they get is necessary to.

Cara Woodhouse 18:39

I agree with you, I think the same thing, you have to make sure it aligns with you and your brand. And you know, not just taking everything on, being super selective and making the right moves. 

Alyssa Kapito 18:51

We say no, all the time. 

Michael Boodro 18:57  

You’re in a position to say no. I always say that the definition of success is when you can say no, but it is like Instagram is also a tool. It’s part of how you do your work. But it also can be a huge time suck. So my question to you is, in terms of your business day to day business, and Skylar, you do this all day long. This is your job. But if you’re a designer, you’re hopefully spending some hours a day working on design. So how many hours are left for you to work on your photography to work on your feed to make sure everything’s right. Do you use those tools to release the post at certain hours? I mean, how does that work in your day to day with your staff and your team? How do you fit it in? Because I mean, every designer I know is so busy, they said they don’t even have time to go to the showrooms.

Cara Woodhouse 19:43

Yes, it’s true. Well for me personally, so I kind of have a set kind of schedule so I post once a day, and I do kind of have this set thing where I post inspiration of space that inspires me and I also like supporting other designers in the field. And I post my work and then I post some sort of product.I don’t know where it came from. But that’s my pattern that, you know, it looks pretty to me. So I’m constantly, for clients, researching, right? So like Pinterest. It’s not outdated. I use it daily. And I am still a huge fan of Pinterest. I use it all the time to communicate with clients. I save boards, and you can now have folders within boards. And I’m constantly looking and you just go down this wormhole of, you know, finding things and I have my Instagram folder that probably has more photos than any other folder. But you know, it just kind of happens organically, where I find my inspo, my photos, and I have them all kind of tagged up and ready to go, when I do have some spare time. I do all the posting myself. No one ever posts for me, and it’s all genuinely, you know, my luck, my feel and my ideas. And I have a set schedule. So I have two little boys that wake up very early. So I’m up at 6:30. And I go on. It is a lot about supporting other people too. So, you know, so I genuinely like and follow a bunch of people. 

Michael Boodro 21:30

So which is a nice thing about Instagram is a community in a way, so definitely respond and people make comments. 

Cara Woodhouse 21:37

100% and I have like, you know, a set. It’s turned into a bigger group than a while back. But you know, I do that first, kind of supporting everybody commenting, liking doing everything. And then I have a set time, usually between 7-8 am is when I post, and then kind of throughout the day, you know, I will check on a little and go through and comment and be interactive. And then at night, before I go to sleep, it’s what I do before I go to sleep. Just to stay on top of things. And, you know, I get a lot of DMS and all these things and I am following up on stuff, but that’s kind of my schedule, my routine every day.

Michael Boodro 22:18

And what about you, Alyssa, is it similar?

Alyssa Kapito 22:20

It’s a little different. We really mostly post original content. So it’s, it’s more quality over quantity. I don’t post every day. I do use it tremendously as a tool myself in terms of researching and saving things. So that new saving thing that came out, you know, like about a year ago has completely changed. It’s taken over Pinterest because I save so much on Instagram and it’s like more in real time and you can save it so easily. So that’s a huge tool. And then at work, the girls that I work all have, we all have like a joint group that we basically Instagram each other pictures of things for different clients and like a text message group but it’s incorporated into Instagram. It’s a great tool in terms of running a business. 

Cara Woodhouse 23:04

I do that with clients too. Like they send me, you know, message me and back and forth photos and inspo and it’s even amazing. 

Alyssa Kapito 23:34  

If something gets posted and I’m like, find out how much this coffee table is or put this on hold. It’s so in real time. And it’s great. 

Michael Boodro 23:38

And when you’re communicating with your clients, do you use Pinterest as well? 

Alyssa Kapito 23:48

So we do this personality test with all of our clients on Pinterest. We give them a Pinterest personality test. I think, because I speak pictures. If they pin enough pictures, I know what they want. It takes out so much legwork on my end. So Pinterest is an amazing tool, though I am using it less and less just because Instagram is so convenient, I guess.

Michael Boodro 24:07

Well, things are evolving. I mean, you know, Twitter was so hot. 

Alyssa Kapito 24:14  

Instagram and Pinterest are really visual.

Michael Boodro 24:16

Yeah, exactly. It’s waiting for us. I mean, Twitter makes sense for politics and social things and all of that. But I think we’re such a visual field. Although hopefully that doesn’t exclude podcasts. I’m actually very into podcasts and automotive.

Cara Woodhouse  24:34  

I’m actually very into podcasts and audible books.

Michael Boodro 25:21  

Now I want to ask you in terms of social, the social side of social media, and Skylar, I want you to weigh in on this too. Because like you were saying, it’s part of your daily routine, which is fascinating. I remember the first time I really discovered Instagram, I had just started. We did a panel for Elle Decor about six years ago. And it was for the Italian advertisers who were in town. And they had no idea what Instagram was. So we had several young designers and every single one of them agreed that the first thing they did in the morning was check their Instagram feed. The first thing before coffee. I guess this  has replaced cigarette morning cigarettes.

Alyssa Kapito 25:57

I do. I also have a really young daughter. I usually wake up at 5:30. And she’s up at six. And it’s like my half hour that I could just zone out and just check my Instagram. 

Michael Boodro 26:11

And Skylar, what about you? Because you’re doing it all day? Do you have a personal side? Do you do any social media for pleasure?

Skylar Frederick 26:19

I do. I have a personal account that I enjoy using. And I’m always logged into all of our accounts at once. And I definitely check everything. As soon as my eyes open in the morning, I have comments and messages turned on for all of our brand accounts. In case there’s any kind of customer service inquiry or anything like that, I can answer that immediately. And I like to take care of it as soon as I wake up rather than wait until I get to the office a few hours later. But we spend a lot of time answering messages and responding to comments. And luckily, I have help on my team. So that I have a little bit of extra time in my schedule to do some other things and schedule and curate content. But we do spend a lot of time interacting with our audience because it is so important. And that’s also how we find a lot of images that we’re going to source as well. But to the point of spending a lot of time on Instagram and how much time it takes up in your day, the most helpful thing and something I recommend all the time is being able to schedule your content, especially for someone like Cara, when you’re planning out, you know exactly what your feed is going to look like. And you have a set schedule, you know what you’re posting each day, or what order it’s going into. Scheduling your content can just save you so much time. We schedule every two weeks. So we’re looking at two weeks at a time planning out content in advance, writing all of our captions, gathering all of our images, and then scheduling everything. And you can use free platforms for this. is a great one, rather than having to pay for something and it saves so much time so that we can be done with scheduling and do that in bulk and then spend so much more time doing the engagement and actually interacting with our followers. There is a nice element, though. And I think brands are very different from something that’s a little bit more personal. I think, you know, Chairish is a very different Instagram account than let’s say a designer and there is a nice part of that in the moment feeling where you’re like you wake up and you’re writing a post right there. And it feels a little bit more connected to an individual person out there who’s like, I don’t know, in a way you feel like you know them. But I do think Chairish is very different. 

Michael Boodro  28:36

And it is sort of the difference between somebody you know, and which is what you want to have versus somebody like an artist and you work with, and maybe you love the work or whatever, or somebody that you shop with or somebody like that. So I think it’s different. Of course that raises a question. Because I do think for both of your firms, your feed, like you were saying Alyssa, is its signature, it’s really who you are. So do you ever delegate it to somebody else? Cara, do you have somebody on your team?

Cara Woodhouse 29:10

I’ve had people recently help with engagement, you know, so going on and engaging because that’s a big part of growing where you find accounts through hashtags or whatnot. And sometimes my girls will go and like things that actually inspire them when they are going through but like a few photos in a row and comment and then you gain a follower doing that. They’re like, oh, this person likes my work and you know, they see that I have a big following and they kind of jump on without debating them in a way sometimes. Sometimes we do want to know them better. You know, we want to grow and we want people to know our brands and who we are and what we’re doing and I’m doing a bunch of furniture design and jewelry design all these different things that I’m going to be selling soon so I am kind of growing an audience for that, and starting an online publication and doing all these other things kind of inspired by, you know, social media and the following. But I wanted to make a point. Recently a friend of mine, who’s a big influencer, just went to this big talk at Instagram. And they said that the biggest thing right now for Instagram is stories that and yes, well, Skylar, you were mentioning that. Like you were saying, I think people really want to see, like, what you do, not only like the design process. I get so much engagement when I post my kids and my son who’s four, he has the craziest dreams. So I’ve been posting his crazy wild dreams. And people go crazy. And I have so many work people looking and commenting and they love seeing my personal life and my kids and all these other things and I am going into some beauty products now that I’m trying and all this stuff, you know, my day to day kind of life. It’s hard, because I don’t really have so much time to give it that much attention. But he said that the biggest thing moving forward is that people really want to see from the minute you wake up until the minute you’re going to sleep, they want to see what you’re doing in your life. It’s exposing yourself.

Michael Boodro 31:32

It is exposing yourself. And that’s an interesting thing, because somebody else who knows Instagram,  said, the more stories you do, the higher your engagement gets. And the higher up your thing goes. But again, it’s exposing yourself. I remember, even last year, we bought a new house in Connecticut, and my husband’s like, don’t post any pictures of the house. And I said, well, people want to know. But it’s like, it’s not that fancy. It’s just but you know, this is the thing. And then it’s kind of weird. And now people tell me, Oh, I’m obsessed with your house. I love seeing your house, what the process is and how you’re doing it. But it made me a little queasy, quite frankly, and I’d love to know your take on this, Alyssa.

Alyssa Kapito 32:12

I actually think this conversation is so great, because we actually have successful Instagram accounts and we do things very, very differently. I don’t post anything personal. My private life remains private. I’m not on social media. I’m very private, in terms of my actual life. I don’t think most people even know I have kids or I am married or anything about me other than my interiors. I think, you know, there are different accounts for different things. I think that people want to go to Cara’s account sometimes to see her son, and they want to go to my account to see the projects that I’m working on and I think that figuring out what your niche is, and making that your thing is really important. I think being all over the place is a bad idea. So like if your decision is to sometimes post personal stuff, and then other times, keep it really professional. That’s kind of not here, not there. But I think that if you are consistently doing something that people can expect when they go to your page, then I think that you’re creating that brand that I think that people have different flavors. 

Cara Woodhouse 33:31

Yeah, like the keyword is consistency across the board. Whether it’s luck or you know, you’re posting daily, so people expect it because if someone stops posting, then you lose, you know, no one’s looking because they’re like, ohh, she stopped posting two weeks ago or a month ago. Everything has to stay consistent from what I’ve seen with Instagram. 

Michael Boodro 33:55

And well, I guess in a way your Instagram is a reflection of your personality or an aspect of your personality. Do you like this person? And Skylar, how does that translate into a brand? Do you see Chairish having a personality? I do. But I’m curious how you see it? 

Skylar Frederick 34:12

Well, I’m glad to see it.  it’s something that I think we could do a lot more with. But it’s tricky, not having, you know, just one face behind the account. And like Cara said, and being able to show you know what makeup she’s wearing or things like that. And when it is a brand, it makes things a little bit more difficult. So we show our personality in a different way. And we do that through the different collections and trends and stories that we’re telling on a regular basis. And that’s really where our design personality comes through. But it also comes through in the consistency of our account and when you come to our account, you know what you’re getting. I am so strict on what images I allow on our feed and what images I allow on stories and what stories we are actually going to tell because I want to make sure that that personality level is at the same place every time. So we’re super strict. And we’re only going to show images that actually really portray the Chairish look and feel, which like Alyssa was saying, you know what you’re getting when you come to our account. It all looks like the Chairish brand. And you get a really good sense of who we are and what we’re talking about, and then design trends that we see. And that’s really where our personality shines through. I definitely don’t think Instagram is going away anytime soon. It is very pertinent to our industry and very image forward. It’s definitely changing. And there are new things, and there’s something just about new every day, it seems, that you can really use to your advantage and different things, but I don’t think it’s going to go away entirely. That being said, I always caution everyone with,if it does disappear, what’s your plan B? Where’s that marketing going to come from? What else are you doing? Do you have a website? Do you have an email newsletter or some other way that you can get in touch with your fans? An email newsletter is a great thing to have or just to have people’s email addresses. If you needed to message them on another platform, how would you do that? And then looking at TikTok, I mean, this is something I get asked all the time, and is it you know, are we going to pivot to TikTok? Personally, I don’t love it. It has a lot of humor, jokes and dancing and is not relevant to our industry. But there are a lot of things to be learned from TikTok and one of the reasons it’s taking off and so popular is because it is video. So if you’re looking at TikTok, and saying, you know, maybe that platform is not right for me, but what can I learn from it? It might be that you want to do more videos on your Instagram. Maybe it’s time to do more Instagram TV, or do Instagram Lives, where you can connect with your audience through video rather than just still imagery. And that’s something that we’re definitely going to see continue to increase and change a lot more is that this need and want for video is just going to get greater and greater. 

Cara Woodhouse 37:01

There’s been a lot of talk about TikTok, you know, through other influencers and people that I’ve been kind of chatting with. And I think that the younger generations are very into that right now. And everyone’s like, get on it. And I’ve seen people in our industry making videos of projects that they’re working on – house tours and making it a TikTok video, which I don’t have the time or the desire to do that. 

Michael Boodro 37:31

But I suppose that that eight year old girl now who’s making Tik Tok videos, 40 years from now she’ll be buying a coffee table right?

Alyssa Kapito 37:39  

That’s actually a really good point. It’s who’s your audience? You know, because eight year olds don’t make the best clients. So we kind of want to stay away from that demographic.

Michael Boodro 37:52  

But it brings up something else I want to ask you about which is and both of you are influencers, whatever that means. But the idea of influence and the sort of the commercialization of Instagram. I remember when I did that same panel I was telling you about, they had just started putting ads on Instagram. And I said to all the designers, who are you know, young and had grown up with Instagram, does it bother you to have ads on there, and every single one, just as I said, that was the first thing they’d looked at in the morning, not one of them was phased by the fact that there were essentially commercials on Instagram. And then, of course, the influencer thing became commercialized in a way. First, you had a big following. And then you would be paid by Chanel to show the product or carry the bag, or I don’t know, use the piece of furniture and design a room. I don’t think that’s happened. But it’s no longer the person to person communication, or put it out in the world and see who responds. It seems more calculated now and more commercialized. So is that going to have a bad effect? Or is that just our modern world?

Alyssa Kapito 39:00  

I think both. I think that it bothers some people, but Instagram has to make money as a platform in order to grow and exist. And so yeah, you kind of accept it. The only thing that’s creepy is when they give you an ad, like for instance, your wedding dress or you’ll be talking on the phone to your sister about something you saw and all of a sudden you have an ad and you’re like, yeah, that’s really creepy. And I wish they would stop doing that. Yeah, but it doesn’t bother me that much. Especially because you can actually scroll past it pretty fast if you’re not interested. It’s not like a TV commercial.

Michael Boodro 40:00  

Um, so they do a pretty good job. But what about the influencer where you don’t know if somebody’s been paid or if it’s genuine or not. Well, I think it’s more probably an issue with fashion and beauty.

Cara Woodhouse 40:09

Now, like there’s regulations with partnerships where you have to actually reach out and say, whether it’s an ad or partnership. I would say a lot of the influencers that I follow are pretty genuine and upfront about things. So as long as they’re upfront, you’re fine. Yeah. And the same thing, you know, if I’m representing a brand or partnering with someone, or gifted something, and I’m sharing it, it’s always genuine. And I always make that like, super clear. People are like, we want to send you a rug, and I go on their website, and then it’s horrible. I can’t find one that rug to even give to somebody you know, and I’ll say absolutely not. This does not align with who I am or  what I do, you know, I definitely am just like, no, this is not for me. And thank you very much, you know, bye bye. But I really do only work for myself and partner with very genuine aligning companies, brands, products that I either stand behind or really, I like it to be very genuine, for sure. It’s very important. 

Michael Boodro 41:18

And Skylar, how about in terms of you being you know, Chairish being a brand? How does the influencer thing work? Is that something you grapple with? Is it something you think about?

Skylar Frederick  41:26  

Yeah, it’s tricky. Because with Chairish, obviously, we are selling vintage and one of a kind items. For us, it’s really hard to give an item to someone and say, hey, can you promote this, because if they do, then they have the only one that exists. So we can’t say, oh, you can buy this on, which makes it sound like a Chanel lipstick. So it’s a lot different. Very different from clothing, or beauty or anything like that. We’ve been really lucky with Chairish to have a lot of just organic shout outs from really great people. A few years ago, Drew Barrymore tagged us on Instagram, and we got 4,000 followers in less than 24 hours and stuff like that is really awesome. It goes back to just having a really strong consistent brand and having different goals than just working with influencers or trying to get different sponsorships or anything like that. But because it’s so tricky, and kind of a weird space to be in, when it comes to influencers, when we do want to work with people, we just find different ways to do that. So it might be we feature them in a blog post, or we share their imagery on our feed, you know, as something we’re inspired by, or get them to do an Instagram takeover, or something like that, where it still helps build that relationship between a brand and a fan or or person who we want to work with and have good terms with. But it’s just a different way to do it. And so we’re not necessarily paying for these things. We’ve been really lucky to have all these organic shout outs, and just organic love from our fans. And so it’s something I think about all the time, and almost wish we could do a lot more with but I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do without having to worry about setting aside so much of our budget just for paid sponsorships or anything like that. 

Cara Woodhouse 43:18

Right. You know, it’s also, I think it’s so interesting, because you guys are a brand, you know, and selling products, but I’m on the other side of it being this, a so-called influencer. I’m purchasing a house, we’re actually closing on Monday. And we’re doing a big gut renovation. And, you know, there’s always people constantly reaching out. How can we place products with you and this and that. So this is the perfect opportunity. So actually, you know, and I have some amazing partners, you know, exclusive partners who are going to be gifting a major product to my project. And it’s so interesting. And you know, my marketing team, and it really is such a new marketing platform. There’s not like a set template of like, this is the contract. And this is you know, it’s kind of making it up and putting together a deliverables package for people and customizing what’s happening. And it’s so interesting for Chairish. Like you said, it’s been very organic, but you sometimes work with influencers and whatnot, but how these deals are all put together. And it’s such a creative way of marketing now because you’re creating it almost as you go and kind of experimenting and playing with what you’re giving, what you’re receiving, what you could do, how can you expand it further?

Michael Boodro 44:47  

Well, I think and this is a big problem for print media because it used to be the budget that a brand would allot to buying ads, they’re now doing it more organically or I don’t know authentically is the right word, but it’s more immediate, and it’s more widespread, and much less cost for them than to take one page and on Architectural Digest. And it’s so immediate, and I think it’s just the world has changed. It’s very true. And it’s still changing. It’s evolving, because I know, somebody’s like, you know, we’ll give you this product if you do two stories. And, you know, it’s like, nobody knows what works, right? I guess they’re finding out as they go along.

Alyssa Kapito 45:30

So the people who are collaborating are also really navigating that. We’ve been asked to do collaborations where they don’t have the contract in place yet. And a lawyer isn’t actually writing it. And we’ve gotten contracts  and I come from a family of lawyers, where it’s like, what, I’m not even a lawyer but look at this, I’m like, this does not make sense. So you have to just be careful with what you’re signing and also making sure you can deliver what they’re asking you to deliver and also knowing, like, what other people are doing. I think that’s very confusing for people. I’m part of a design chair, actually, where a lot of interior designers get together, and we just  talk about stuff. It’s like a therapy session. And somebody recently sent around a question like, if somebody wants to do a collaboration, how much should they be paying you for a post? And it was actually a really good question, because there’s no standard. It’s different for everyone and every brand. There’s no union for collaborations. Yeah, but it’s a real industry and so I think it’s pretty confusing for a lot of people. Skylar do you have the answer? What’s happening over there? What are the rates?

Skylar Frederick  46:53  

It’s definitely not exact. It’s different. You know, for everyone, everything you’re asking for, every brand, and every one is something different. My biggest recommendation is don’t hesitate to reach out to a brand. We have a lot of partnerships grown out of direct messages. So people who just message us and say, hey, I bought a house, I want to work with you guys. This is what I can offer you. We’re happy to have those conversations. And I love when people do that. Just always have a contract. That’s the biggest thing, whether you’re getting paid $10 or $10,000, always have a contract in place. And like you said, just be super, super clear about what’s being asked of you and what you’re going to deliver in the end. There is no exact science to all of this. Just make sure you’re disclosing everything, per the guidelines of the FTC. And if a product is given, if there’s any kind of exchange of goods, you have to disclose that. So just do that. Have a contract and everything else will be fine.

Michael Boodro 47:48

It’s a very nebulous world. It’s kind of fascinating how it has evolved and changed. One of the things I want to ask you Skylar and I want to ask all three of you is like, what would be your best advice to a young designer starting out with their firm in terms of Instagram, because one of the things I do know is to be an influencer, you don’t necessarily need a huge number of followers, but like somebody told me a story once about Hermes, that they were launching a new product for their classic equestrian line, and they were looking for micro influencers. And they wanted somebody who knew that world of you know, very high end horsemanship, and dressage and all of that. And they only wanted somebody who had fewer than 3,500 followers because that’s what the product was for. So it’s not like numbers per se. But Skylar what, let’s start with you. What is your best advice in terms of social media? I thought your point about the newsletters was great and having a backup for Instagram. But what are some of the tips you would give a young designer?

Skylar Frederick 48:55

Yeah, the biggest thing is that brands and really whoever you’re working with, even Cara, I would put into this category, is that you need content. We are looking for content to share on Chairish  and we’re constantly looking for different designs and photos to share on our feed. But like I said earlier, I’m very strict about what I’m looking for. So when I’m looking at images, I don’t care how many followers you have, I don’t care. If you’re really small or you’re really big. I’m looking for good content. My biggest tip for anyone is to be super, super strict about the photos that you’re taking and be really intentional about the photos, making sure that they are straight on well lit good angles. And the biggest thing I’ve noticed and picked up on is that vertical imagery outperforms square and horizontal, constantly. Use vertical imagery, a four or five crop is the best thing you can do. That’s what I’m looking for if I’m looking for images to share on the Chairish feed. I always use the rule of thumb that I want to be able to see either the ceiling and or the floor, to really make sure that the image is framed nicely. On Instagram, most of the time, I want to see a pulled back image of the whole room, or most of the room rather than a vignette. Obviously, it’s different depending on who you are and what you’re sharing. That’s just what our audience has become accustomed to and prefers. But when I’m out there looking at imagery, I’m looking for something very specific. So if you’re small, and just starting out, the best thing you can do for yourself, is to prioritize your imagery, whether it’s professionally shot, or just done on your iPhone. Either one works, but make sure it’s the best imagery that it can be. And that’s really how you’re going to start to get shared. And more and more people will find your content. And brands like Chairish are going to repost you and get your name out there if you’ve got really, really strong content. 

Michael Boodro 50:51

Right. Cara? What would you say in addition to that?

Cara Woodhouse 50:54

Definitely content. You know, people pop up in my feed as well and they could have, let’s say, 3,000 followers, right? And I go on, I’m like, oh, wow, like, this is great content. I could find content from their little account from my big account, you know, and help tag up and give credit to whoever. So, you know, definitely having incredible content, original content, I would say is definitely super important. The other thing that I see too, is I think sharing content of bigger designers for people who are smaller looking to branch out and get noticed. Reposting and also stories like, you know, there are a couple of other designers and we kind of do a thing where we do Sunday shares with each other to have our work kind of help each other. So we’ll post each other’s work on Sundays, and kind of support each other. And then I see random people jumping on like, oh, they’re sharing whatever. So you know, the smaller account shares my page, and I will repost it and say thank you so much. And then they’re being seen by my larger audience. So, you know, it’s definitely engagement and it’s photos. You know, someone who doesn’t just post my work, I’m looking for amazing content.So it could be a small person. And I think maybe some people get scared away, like, oh, like, they have such a big following. They won’t, you know, notice me and people are shocked when I will write back or repost but you know, I am not saying that I’m a star at all, but it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, whatever it is, it’s beautiful. It’s amazing content. And I will share. I don’t know, I think those are my biggest tips and engagement, you know,

Michael Boodro  52:51  

An editor that I know told me that everything that he posts, he puts a particular filter on so that it will look immediately like it.

Cara Woodhouse 53:05

I hate filters. Okay, I never use a filter. So I never, maybe on a story. I will but never on my actual posts.

Alyssa Kapito 53:09

So we don’t use filters either. But I think that goes back to what we were talking about before where you kind of want to recognize somebody’s. I guess this was his signature. Yeah. It might be a filter that he applied  professionally, like, not the Instagram filters. That might be something that he did through Photoshop, but yeah, I think, right. 

Michael Boodro 53:32

But determining, you know, we all have handwriting, but some signatures are better than others. So how do you go about making sure that everything is up to your standards? Do you? How do you shoot stuff, Ayssa? So do you have a photographer? Because all those photographers who used to shoot for the magazines now don’t have to work. 

Alyssa Kapito 53:37

Right now, mostly all of our images are shot with photographers. But if I wasn’t an interior designer, I would probably be a photographer myself. It’s something I always loved. Well, you kind of just see a room in images. And that’s sort of actually how I design. I kind of designed them through the way I would see it in real life. Yeah, it’s actually very important to the way I design. But when I started out, I was taking all the pictures and so, you know, I was able to control that voice. But the pictures were always really good. And then, you know, as we grew and the projects got more serious and they were being published, then, you know, we were paying photographers, and I don’t only think getting your work photographed by a professional is something that’s really important for Instagram. I also think it’s really important to do that on your own for your website, and your website, the ability to do a book and own the images are something. That’s really important to me personally. And so, right now all of our images are professionally shot. And the credit is always there with the photographers who we use. But I think that good images are images, like, that’s all you have. That’s all you have to show, you what I mean, actually, that’s not true. There’s what you write and sort of the content. And there’s plenty of Instagram accounts that I follow, not for the images, but for the information and the information, the voice of the person, you know, the dialogue. Some people are really funny, and I think that’s great. But my personal account is clearly very much about images, and very much about quality. And it’s one of the reasons why I don’t post as much as you know, maybe the next person, but I think we maintain a standard that’s really important to me. It’s totally authentic and it’s all original content, which is why I think it brings people back. f you’re looking for new images to share on your own account, our account is providing new content, or the Instagram community type of thing, right.

Cara Woodhouse 56:07  

As far as images, I actually split up. I do some professional shots. I actually do take a lot of the photos. My husband is in marketing and advertising, super talented. And he does some retouching and fixes the lighting and yeah, I don’t know what I would do without him. But he really could take any image and any kind of lighting and turn it into the perfect photo that looks like it was professionally shot. And I also would say I’m pretty good with the camera. And it’s something that I love photography, and anytime I do a shoot, with a photographer, I’m always showing every angle that I want. And the same thing, I’m very visual and see the shots. 

Michael Boodro  56:57  

I think most designers are gonna have some visual sense. They may not be great photographers, but I don’t want to leave the impression for somebody who’s starting out that they have to immediately hire a professional photographer.

Alyssa Kapito 57:09

And I would say, you know, look at photography, you know, go to magazines, go to Instagram, see how things are shot. They’re still books.

Cara Woodhouse  57:23  

I love books more than anything.

Skylar Frederick  57:26  

One really quick photo tip to I mean, obviously, hiring professionals is very important. And like you said, you want to think about where else you’re using those photos, whether it be your portfolio or a book. And then if you can shoot for social media, great, but if you need to crop photos, that’s fine, too. Something that I think not a lot of people know is that Photoshop has a free mobile app. So you can kind of sneak your way into having that really professional editing with maybe not necessarily editing to that for it. And you can make your images stunning for mobile just by using the free app and taking those shots that were done for your portfolio or your website, and then transfer them for social. 

Alyssa Kapito 58:08

One thing I think that’s also great is that there’s a lot of Instagram photographers out there who are really inexpensive, you know, don’t only be scared by the crazy prices that are magazine photographers. They’re very talented. But I think if you’re an interior designer yourself, you should have a point of view. And you should be able to set up the shot yourself. And then work with an inexpensive photographer to just help you execute it. But there’s a lot you can do on your own without even knowing how to work a camera and just collaborating with somebody who does and sort of, you know, making sure that you’ve set up the shot the way you want to take it. Like Cara said, she sets up all of her shots. I do that too, even working with photographers who are very established, 

Michael Boodro 58:55

And most Instagram accounts will put the photographer’s credit on there, though. Yeah. So you can look into that. If you find somebody whose work you like consistently, that’s maybe worth reaching out to that photographer. Good advice. Is there anything else that you would advise someone?

Skylar Frederick 59:13

I think I would say to make sure that you’re giving your audience something. I do account audits all the time for a variety of different industries. And one of the things I always look at is, well, what’s your goal? And what are you offering to your audience? And a lot of the times I found that some people maybe don’t or just aren’t very clear on what they’re offering. And so as a designer, make sure you’re showing off your work. I’ve seen a variety of different Instagram profiles of designers and they maybe have one out of every 200 photos that’s an actual interior that they completed. So make sure you’re showing yourself off and showing off what you’re able to offer to your audience so that then they can say, oh, I want to hire that person. I know what I’m getting when I’m looking at their account..

Michael Boodro  1:00:00  

Very important, I think people forget, they think it’s kind of obvious. I’m a designer, so they can, you know, put on beautiful sunsets or whatever. But some of that is fine. But you’re right. And I think that’s an important point. Because you know, being a designer means collaborating with your client and it’s a very intimate relationship. You get to know these people, and you have to work together, and you’re dealing with money, which is always an issue. And you’re dealing with taste, which is a very personal thing. So I think allowing people to have a sense of your personality through Instagram is only going to help if they reach out to you, because they like their aesthetic. They’re also going to have a sense of your perso and they’ll have a sense of who you are. And I think that social media is a very valuable thing in that way. And I do know designers that people have reached out and hired them. Basically, as you were saying, you’ve all gotten clients from that, just because of their Instagram. I remember, one designer said, somebody reached out to me and said, oh, I’ll send you my website. And you can look at my portfolio and they said, no, no, we know you already. We want to hire you. That’s all it took.

Cara Woodhouse 1:01:03

The other thing too, is I recently spoke on a panel with a bunch of other designers, and it was so interesting that one of the designers was designing spaces, hotels and restaurants, but they weren’t real. They were renders, but he’s like, you know, I want to attract this type of clientele. So if I’m not getting hired for it, I’m gonna put it out there. It looked real, like it literally was. Renderings are real and amazing. And, you know, it also is a channel of putting out there like, this is what I could do, even though I haven’t done it yet. This is my vision. And whether it’s real, or I’m putting it down and rendering, he’s projecting what he’s capable of. I mean, which I think is also, you know, for someone starting out in the business, maybe you don’t have the clients, but maybe you have the skills to do something to put out what, what you would do for clients. Yeah. And you know, it’s a visual thing for them to, you know, connect to people with. 

Skylar Frederick

Yeah, one thing I would say is just, you know, looking at your profile, you want to optimize all of it, to get the most out of it that you possibly can. And one tip I always recommend to everyone is to make your link in bio work for you. And obviously, you can only have one link there. But maybe you’ve got press you want to share. You want people going to your portfolio, and you want them to also go to some article you were talking about in stories or something like that, but you don’t have the swipe up feature. I cannot recommend enough using something like a link tree, which is a free service, or any other kind of link in bio optimization tool so that you can actually make your one link in bio, multiple links, and be able to link to all this different stuff at once. So that you’re not switching out your link to press and then taking away from people clicking over to your website or over to where you want them to go or signing up for your newsletter. Using something like that will allow you to have people go in different directions all at once, while not missing out on your main message. And something like that’s also going to give you insight into what people are clicking on also, which is really invaluable data. And something that I love to see. But getting people to click over or go somewhere, make that link in bio work for you and use something that’s going to help you do that. 

Michael Boodro 1:02:10

Fascinating. I had no idea you could even do that, Skylar. 

Skylar Frederick  1:03:36  

One last thing. There’s no one size fits all for what’s going to work on Instagram. Everyone is going to be different. Look at your own data. Look at your own insights and figure out what’s working for you. Don’t necessarily try to copy everyone else because what works for them isn’t necessarily going to work for you and what works for you isn’t necessarily going to work for everyone else. And I think this conversation is a perfect example of that. Like you said, three different people doing three very different things. But we’re all doing wonderful at it. So what’s working for the person next to you isn’t necessarily what you want to do. It’s really not a one size fits all solution to growing your Instagram or your social media. 

Michael Boodro 1:04:27

Right. Wow. And I’ve learned so much today. So I want to thank all my guests here at the Chairish podcast. Thank you Cara. Thank you Skylar. And thank you Alyssa.

March 18, 2020

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