Friday, December 14th, 2018

Social Media Myths for the A/E Industry

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Walter co-authored Social Media in Action

Over the past year, my co-author and I interviewed and surveyed hundreds of professionals in architecture, engineering and related industries about social media for our book, “Social Media in Action”. Based on our research, we came up with five myths that are either preventing firms from diving into social media or are keeping them from seeing the benefits of these tools.

 1. Our clients aren’t on social media, so we don’t need to be there either.

Almost three quarters of the A/E professionals we surveyed one year ago are on LinkedIn, almost half are on Facebook and more than a third are on Twitter. These numbers are increasing each day. If your client isn’t on these social networks already, they may join at any moment – will they find you there? Until then, reaching those who influence the decision maker is also an effective marketing strategy.

First impressions are now made online. Prior to your first meeting with a potential client, they most likely Google you.

Sure, your website comes up, but if you have a blog, videos, a Facebook page, or you tweet regularly, these come up near the top of the search results as well. Your social media content can shape people’s perceptions of you. People are not just looking at what you are posting, but other what others are saying about you. Generations X and Y are less likely to settle for what you say about yourself (your marketing messages) and put greater value in what others say about you. These influential people are emerging industry leaders and want to read about you on Twitter, blogs, forums and in comments. If you aren’t putting your ideas, opinions and projects out into the social web, you aren’t likely to have much content or information to offer these readers.

But there is more to social media than optimizing your content for search engines; it’s also about building relationships. Social media is changing how we communicate. 

2. Social media is free.

Yes, it is free to set up a Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest pages and accounts, but these are not set-it-and-forget-it tools.  You need to be updating these accounts regularly and engaging with your audience and this takes time and considerable thought – on an ongoing basis. Building a social media presence that supports your business requires an overall objective (that is preferably aligned with your business objective), but until you find the right formula for engaging your network, it also requires a lot of short term goals and testing. What types of content is your audience most likely to share? Tools like video, audio and slideshows require specialized skill sets and take time to produce. Will a contest or giveaway spur them to engage? This is a process of trial and error and requires an attentive and focused approach.

3. It can be run by our high school son/daughter or intern.

Who communicates for you on social media is a very important decision. Not only does this person need to know your business, they also need to have a strong interpretation of your firm’s personality and brand attributes. This person should understand your target audience and engage with others on the social web in a way that shapes and reinforces the reputation you want your firm to have. This is someone you trust with managing your firm’s community. They need to have the intellect to respond to most of the inquiries and questions and the sensitivity to know when to bring in an expert.

Your lead designer doesn’t need to write each word, but if the lead designer’s vision is what you are trying to convey, they need to be part of the content development process.

4. Social media are just new channels to broadcast our marketing messages.

Think of social media as a virtual cocktail party. If you walk in and start passing out your business card and brochures without asking about them and having actual conversations, the only thing you will be successful at is annoying others and making a negative, self-consumed first impression.

Social media is a new set of tools for building relationships. People want to engage with others with common interests. Consider your audience and try to engage in the forums that they are using. Professional organizations are great places to start. Listen for a while and chime in when you have something constructive to contribute.  Let people know if their content is interesting, by commenting, liking, sharing or retweeting it to your followers. Offer your experiences and knowledge in ways that are useful to others. For the most part, the social media community is generous and people often reciprocate. If you share their content, they are more likely to do the same for you.

A good balance of content that is 75% other people’s content, 25% your own.

5. The bigger the network the better.

Don’t get discouraged by the accounts with tens of thousands of followers. Anyone can subscribe to a service that lets you buy followers. Real social media networks take time – and not everyone or every firm needs 10,000 followers. Start by searching for people (clients, partner firms, friends) you already know and notice who they follow (Twitter), like (Facebook), or the groups they’ve joined (LinkedIn). These are great cues to where you’ll find more people like them. Follow peers you admire as well. This is a learning opportunity and if someone gave a great speech on BIM at the AIA National Conference last year, chances are you’ll find their more frequent content interesting as well.

The more authentic you are in creating your network and content, the more you’ll get from it.

 

Amanda Walter is a principal at Walter Communications and co-author of Social Media in Action: Comprehensive Guide for Architecture, Engineering, Planning and Environmental Consulting Firms.

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