Instagram is a great place for both interior designers and influencers to hang out and there is no shortage of either on this popular, very visual social media channel. But what’s the difference between the two? The answer may depend on whether the word “influencer” is being used in its traditional sense or in its new positioning as part of the digital marketing environment.

Traditional Influencers

Chelsea Connolly, associate IIDA and WELL AP, is a workplace strategist for SKG Inc. in Austin, Texas. Interior designers, she says, “are professional designers who receive an interior design college education and have experience practicing design.” The most professional among them pass the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) exam — a certification that legitimizes a designer’s knowledge of current building standards related to health, safety, and welfare.

According to Connolly, influencers in the industry include real estate firms, architects, furniture dealers, product and material manufacturers and sales reps, researchers and strategy consultants. Each of these stakeholders brings a unique perspective to any project environment. “Designing a space is often driven by a client’s brand, project goals, aesthetic preference, budget, and timeline. Interior design also requires the involvement of many industry influencers and stakeholders, so it’s a highly collaborative process to make it all happen. Whether you’re an interior designer or an industry influencer, each professional has a place to give their expertise to help enhance the human experience in the built environment.”

But there are influencers and there are “influencers.” The latter type include those on sites like Instagram who have built a significant following—so significant, in fact, that they’re able to make revenue based on their massive influence.

Influencers in the Digital Age

“An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience,’ according to Influencer Marketing Hub. They place influencers into four categories:

  • Celebrities—Justin Bieber would fall into this category.
  • Industry experts and thought leaders. Interior designers fall into this category.
  • Bloggers and content creators. Interior designers, if they write about their work and have established a following could also fall into this category.
  • Micro influencers, according to Influencer Marketing Hub, “are normal everyday people who have become known for their knowledge about some specialist niche.” Like interior design. So, interior designers could fall into this category too.

Tom Buckland is marketing and design manager for Bayut, a UAE real estate database and property portal. Buckland says: “We have experience in staging and have consulted many designers to help us photograph our properties for higher viewings and sales.” He’s encountered influencers too, he says, but sees the distinction as being a contrast between theory and practice. According to Buckland, influencers “seem to be more theoretical, whereas designers are very hands on.”

Still, this isn’t necessarily an either/or question. Could interior designers also be influencers? Yes, of course! And many self-taught influencers (and people passionate about design!) can be just as creative and inspirational as a professional interior designer. As the list above clearly indicates, there is ample opportunity for interior designers to dip their toes into the potentially lucrative waters of influencer marketing. In fact, many already have.

Instagram’s top 10 inspirational interior design influencers, and their following, were covered by Janna Ehrhardt for InfluencerDB. They are:

Could you become a influencer? Of course. Keep in mind that one of the types of influencer is the micro influencer—a regular person with a following that isn’t necessarily hundreds of thousands.

Becoming an “Influencer”

As John Frigo, an affiliate manager and influencer marketing lead says: “An influencer isn’t just someone who does brand deals and takes advantage of their position as an influencer. An influencer is anyone who has influence within a certain niche, industry or group of people.” So he says: “If you’re an interior designer who posts a lot of your work online and people follow you, take inspiration from you, like your style, you’re an influencer.” 

The threshold question to ask yourself when considering whether you might become an interior design influencer is “do I have something to say, or show?” If you do, and you can do so regularly and in a way that engages your audience, you can become an influencer, and you might already be one!

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