Yes, you read that correctly. According to expert sources like PRweb.com, this is the current state of affairs in social media and it is gaining momentum in the architecture sector. The key takeaway here is: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
When it comes to marketing and social media, if the only thing you are interested in is ways to quickly produce new billable projects, then the argument is lost. Architecture clients are smart and successful enough to know that social media is part of a long term approach to brand building, community engagement, and business growth. The simple truth is that their customers, the public, and especially younger promising staff are all using social media, and that if they don’t speak up, they’ll be left behind. Even if a firm feels like it doesn’t have a lot to say, the reality is others are saying things about you and your work already, so social media also offers a free source of market research and gauging consumer sentiment!
Many architectural firms rely on business via word-of-mouth, networking events, and/or traditional advertising avenues such as the yellow pages and industry dinners. As prospective clients are spending increasingly more time on social media, this gives professional services firms like architects and engineers an opportunity to engage clients directly on sites such as LinkedIn (underutilized to date) and Facebook (1 billion users and growing). Firms that actively participate on social media enjoy a very real advantage over the competition, even if it’s not always easy to quantify in the beginning.
From Architectural Record, in their article written over two years ago called “To Tweet or Not To Tweet”, they mention that design firms that have integrated social media into their practices report a spike in interest in their work—particularly from journalists, publishers, other architects, and potential staff. The bottom line is that you need to give them something of yours to look at.
Professional services firms who don’t see an automatic fit need to think of the potential for alternative media sites like YouTube as a place to showcase beautiful projects in ways photography can never capture, such as the video we produced for HCMA. Or use Pinterest pinboards as an inspiration and reference resource . Here’s a great example of a use of pinboards from an account called Architizer. They have over 2000 followers and many more repins.
There is an opportunity cost for not engaging in social media—you might not get your Twitter handle or desired Facebook URL— but more importantly you don’t stay current and you make it easier for your competitors to gain an upper hand.
We’ve seen examples of public consultation via social media being a key factor and even requirement of winning key projects in urban settings. We’ve even been involved in some of the projects ourselves, helping our clients build social media into the overall project. And in purely practical terms, engaging in social media is a proven tactic to improve search engine results and website traffic, which we all know leads to winning projects and business growth. All of this takes time of course, and that’s where we tend to lose patience. We see it happen time and again, and we encourage our clients to jump out ahead of it—sooner vs. later.
A cornerstone of the practice of architecture is bold thinking from its best practitioners. Architects play an important role in the manufacture of the human environment and as such are cultural leaders in the public’s mind. The “public” has already shifted their attention toward social media, so this is the perfect place for architecture leaders to stand up and express bold opinions, exercising thought leadership about issues relating to the craft of architecture.
It’s simple math in my mind: Connect + Communicate + Community = Caché + Cash.
Hey, that’s five Cs! Let me go and tweet that…