Monday, April 1, 2013

6 Strict Rules for Harnessing Social Media

Perkins & Will has over 23,000 Twitter followers. HKS has over 12,000. AECOM has multiple Twitter accounts, each with its own focus, and each with tens of thousands of followers. People in the A/E industry aren’t following these firms just because they’re big and well-known, but because they are incredibly active with their social media, have a lot to say, and are well-connected themselves. Ignoring the whole ROI argument about social media, our industry has reached the point where firms who don’t have an online presence in the form of Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn – or all three at once! – are dinosaurs. As Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is showing up.”

Your firm doesn’t need to be a giant in order to maintain a vibrant online existence. If you follow these six rules, it’ll uplift your social media program and increase your online connections.

1. Know your audience. This sounds obvious, but it’s not as clear cut as you’d think. Are your online “followers” mostly past or current clients, are they young tech savvy A/E professionals, are they senior managers and firm leaders, or are they an amalgamation of all of these? You must create and share content that your audience will actually care about.

2. Post frequently. Many small A/E firms think it’s enough to just set up a Twitter account or a Facebook page and then hope that people will connect with you. Wrong! Social media requires regular, consistent attention. You should be posting or sharing two to-five times per day. Look into something like, where you can pile up many day’s-worth of postings in one sitting.

3. Use hashtags and locations. No one is going to find your Facebook page and Twitter account on their own. Make it easy for them by tagging things. In Twitter, you can use or create hashtags (i.e. #architecture, #engnews, etc.) and include them in your tweets. In Facebook you can add location tags to your project or offices.

4. Loosen up. Engineering firms aren’t typically known for their good humor, and architects tend to be a bit “particular” about things (if you know what I mean). Show some personality in your postings. Of course, share photos of your completed and in-progress work, provide information about upcoming events; but it’s OK to be fun and colorful – even silly – as long as it’s appropriate.

5. Engage. Connect. Share. Don’t just post your own material. That’s egotistical and counter to what social media is all about. On Facebook and LinkedIn, “like” other postings, and ask a lot of questionsto generate dialogue. On Twitter, “retweet” interesting things, and thank your “followers” when they “retweet” for you. Social media is intended to be social.

6. Get out of the way. If you don’t personally use Facebook and/or Twitter on a daily basis – if you’re not intimately familiar with the lexicon and dynamics of social media – then you have no business sitting in meetings discussing your firm’s social media plans. Many firm leaders are guilty of this, making proclamations about what works and doesn’t work online, with no data or familiarity of what they’re talking about. Get out of the wayand let your staff members who understand social media lead this charge.

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