"Content is fire. Social media is gasoline." This profound statement, made by Jay Baer, a social media and content strategist and speaker, resonated with me because the primary benefit of social media for businesses is to amplify the power of your marketing content.
The majority of the construction and design community is ignoring and/or misusing social media. What a wasted opportunity.
To be clear, "content" can include news releases, graphics, project photos, videos, advice, or even relevant articles from third parties such as trade magazines. By not harnessing the power of this ever-growing free tool known as social media, you’re leaving a lot on the table.
Remember the Limited Reach of Print?
Allow me to create some context. My professional journey started in a construction advertising and communications agency back in the early 1990s when we still used typewriters and printed marketing collateral. We typed labels, stuffed envelopes, and used terms like "shelf life" when it came to the reach of promotional materials.
If you sent a direct mailing to 5,000 people, and your database was up to date, you could be fairly certain it would at least get to your targets. After that, it ended up on a bookshelf, in a desktop clutter tower, or in the circular file.
Magazines, and to some extent brands and their marketing agencies, prayed for pass-along circulation when it came to the eyeballs that would descend upon their printed masterpieces. It was fairly simple. The more people that saw your materials, the more you could potentially sell.
The Exponential Expansion of Reach
And then something changed. The Internet emerged and it was followed by social media.
Social media threw gasoline on our content and multiplied our reach exponentially. We could create a post on LinkedIn in January and a valuable prospect stumbled onto it in October. That same piece of content could resurface two years down the road during a Google search. Shelf life as we knew it had been redefined.
Social media not only expanded, but also diversified our reach. We now had a way to get our message in front of an even larger audience without the added costs of print and distribution. Social media also gave us a way to reach a potentially untapped marketplace since those that read print are not always online and vice versa. They even knocked down borders by allowing us to go global.
Too Many AEC Firms Have Short Arms
The design and construction industry has been too slow to adapt to social media. Let’s ignore the reasons and focus on why it’s a problem.
The AEC firms that produce content but have no social media presence are fanning a brush fire while their counterparts on social media are taming a blazing inferno. It’s that simple.
We need to demystify the concept of social media for the non-believers. It’s nothing more than building and communicating with an audience that chooses to follow us on a website owned by a third party. Think of your followers as digital sales leads. You can build your contact list and cultivate it by posting content that is relevant to them.
Why Not Use a Free Tool?
Think of social media as another tool to promote your firm. More importantly, it’s a free tool.
It’s not entirely free, of course. You can join and post content on LinkedIn or Twitter at no cost. The only hard cost is the production of content.
You have options. Produce it in-house, or hire a consultancy like Fraley AEC Solutions to establish and maintain a presence. It is very doable to produce the content in house, but make sure you understand the protocols and have a strategy for each social media platform. Despite the term "social," for the purposes of this article, we’re talking about generating business. Without the right strategy, you will find it difficult to convert your activity into new business.
Do it Right or Don’t Do It
Some AEC firms are misusing social media and damaging their brands in the process. If content is fire and social media is gasoline, misuse is the fire extinguisher.
The most common offense I see is blatant promotion, which goes over like an OSHA inspector on a jobsite. My gut tells me that these missteps are committed out of misunderstanding as opposed to intentional sleazy sales pitches.
LinkedIn has a publishing platform where any member can write and post an article. The intent is to convey helpful information to your followers in your area of expertise. I have seen individuals blatantly abusing it with snake oil sales pitches. If your call to action is "Call us at (insert number here) to have your underground storage tank removed," you’ve just posted an advertisement and violated the intent of the platform.
Here are some basic questions you need to answer to develop and execute a strategy:
What type of content gets results on this platform?
What is our brand personality and how will it shape our content?
How will we attract, engage, and convert relevant followers into customers?
Is our posting frequency consistent and appropriate for the platform?
Is the way we present content creative enough to cut through the noise?
Is our profile complete? If so, does it properly reflect our brand?
Do we have a system in place for interacting with other users?
How will we respond in the wake of a crisis or bad publicity?
It’s Time to Set Your Content on Fire
Design and construction firms have a lot of preconceived notions about social media. Now is the time to start fresh and begin capitalizing on this new form of communication.
Your marketing efforts need to anticipate the future, as well as the present. The next generation is flooding the market and beginning to jockey for future leadership. Whether to participate in social media is not a decision for them. It’s a lifestyle.
The beauty of social media is that, like everything else in life, you can put in whatever level of effort you prefer. Identify the platforms that make sense for your business, draft a strategy, begin posting helpful content, and you’ll be on your way to building a following that can be converted into new business over time.
"Content is fire. Social media is gasoline." Add some fuel and ignite your results today.
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