Phil Darwen of A Designer’s Mind

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If you’re a frequent scroller through an architecturally flooded Instagram feed, chances are you’re familiar with @adesignersmind. For those unfamiliar, A Designer’s Mind is the cleverly curated design account of local Sunshine Coast designer, Phil Darwen of Costa Homes, boasting a whopping 1.3 million followers (at the time of publishing this article). We caught up with Phil to chat about how he uses social media to propel growth for his business.

Firstly, let’s get to know you. Can you tell us who you are and what you do?

Phil Darwen: That’s a great place to start; I’m Phil Darwen and I’m a Designer on the Sunshine Coast for Costa Homes. In my spare time I manage A Designer’s Mind Instagram account, sharing a daily dose of inspiration, from architecture to interiors and everything in between.

Can you tell us what triggered A Designer’s Mind – how it all began?

Phil Darwen: A Designer’s Mind initially started as my personal Instagram account however due to my interest in architecture and design it evolved into the 1.3 million strong account it is today. I only post design images that I personally find inspiring, so it always remains genuine, fresh and fun for me and my followers.

How does A Designer’s Mind link in with your full-time career as a designer for Costa Homes?

Phil Darwen: My social profile has kind of made me the ‘face’ of Costa Homes.  In conjunction with the radio ads, the new website will feature me as the primary designer clients will be dealing with, however I’ve been adamant about keeping A Designer’s Mind separate from Costa Homes, as I feel if the two were combined it’d create confusion over who clients were dealing with and why. My role at Costa Homes is a source of great personal satisfaction for me and I enjoy being a part of this close-knit team.

And, how do you leverage your Instagram success into your daily role as a designer for Costa Homes?

Phil Darwen: I grew A Designer’s Mind for several years before I joined the Costa Homes team, and I’m very protective of the results I have achieved from my persistence and effort in making my brand what it is today. So, whilst I try to keep the two entities as separate as practicably possible, there are times during client meetings where I’ll reference my Instagram or Pinterest feeds to illustrate a design idea or gauge a client’s perspective on a proposed design detail. Social media can be a valuable resource when used in the right context.

Social media can be a valuable resource when used in the right context.

Does this often lead to business for Costa Homes through A Designer’s Mind?

Phil Darwen: With Costa Homes being a company based on the Sunshine Coast, there isn’t a lot of localised enquiry generated from my social media.  It’s true that I may have some followers who reside on the coast, however judging by the analytics of my feed, most of my followers are international. My feed has mainly been used to help solidify my skills as a designer and has played a factor in getting clients to sign up.

Time to spill the beans on your 1.3 strong following; how did you achieve this growth?

Phil Darwen: I’ve always remained true to myself in only posting images and projects that personally resonate and inspire me, plus it helps that I have great taste. I’ve also been fortunate to gain a few very high profile ‘celebrity’ followers and whilst that’s obviously boosted my account, I’ve always been proud of how organically my account has grown over time.

Can you share any advice on creating an online community through social media?

Phil Darwen: The best advice I have regarding community creation through social media is to encourage genuine interaction. I love interacting to develop real connections with people you’ve never met from so many different parts of the world and many walks of life. If someone takes the time to comment, show an interest or ask a question, I think it’s important to make the time to respond.

What do you consider to be the magic formula for creating great, engaging content?

Phil Darwen: The image quality goes a long way; make it crisp and don’t be afraid of using filters in moderation. Also, creatively craft your captions to be fun whilst encouraging engagement, questions and comments.

Have you overcome any hurdles in your pursuit to find the perfect social media strategy for your business?

Phil Darwen: I don’t believe there’s one perfect ‘one-size-fits-all’ social media strategy. With algorithms constantly changing, the idea of creating a ‘tried and true strategy that can’t possibly fail’ aligns similarly with finding a unicorn sitting on a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Mt strategy will always be to stay genuine to the vision that I want to create through my feed. People can smell inauthenticity a mile off, so if you remain true to yourself, you’ll earn respect.

And, surely, you’ve had a fair chunk of wins – can you share those?

Phil Darwen: One of my biggest wins, although I’ve never thought of it as a ‘win’, is when a few members of the Kardashian family started to follow me. They were amidst a redecoration of their house and their “designer to the stars”, Martyn Lawrence Bullard who is also a design mentor of mine, was completing some work for them and suggested they follow A Designer’s Mind for inspiration. Following a few conversations with famous followers, I’ve found them to be very approachable and down-to-earth.

Any tips for fellow designers, start-ups or small business owners trying to drive business growth through social media?

Phil Darwen: Engagement! It all comes down to engagement, so encourage conversation, respond to questions and comments, and get to know your audience on an authentic level. The more engagement surrounding your posts, the more those posts will be shared, and the more awareness your brand will receive.

Lastly, we’d love to know, are there any accounts you follow religiously?

Phil Darwen: I love to follow @martynbullard@gregnatale@renderlovers@ashleystark and @joethommas

There you have it, by creating an online community through authentic engagement, Phil Darwen is achieving all kinds of social media goals for A Designer’s Mind and Costa Homes. If achieving growth through social media is important for your business, or you’d like to know more, contact April Ford today. There are so many ways we can help you with this!

See you next week. Laura 💞

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