How big of a role does social media play in your firm?  If one of those whose answer is still a frustrated “I don’t know!” or a tentative “Um, not very much,” don’t worry—you’re not alone, really!
In a survey by A/E/C industry publisher Info link, it was discovered that, while firms in the architecture, engineering, and construction believe the use of social media is more important to their success than a year ago, many of those same firms still have a less secure grasp on just how to use social media to benefit themselves.
In addition to each of the trades—architecture, engineering, and construction—recognizing the importance of social media, each had a higher profile on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+ than they had the previous year; yet, the befuddlement with how to best use the top social media outlets remained. Not to mention, newer ones such as Instagram and Pinterest.
In construction, the percentage of those saying they did not know how to use social media doubled to 36 percent over last year’s 18 percent. For architects, it nearly tripled—48 percent from 18 percent.  And for other design firms, it more than tripled, to 36 percent from 11 percent.
What’s the cause for all this confusion?
According to Infolink sales manager Adrian Wilson, as reported by Michael Bleby, many businesses have given up on social media after being unable to measure a solid ROI. Says Wilson: “To generate regular content, creative content, and thought leadership—that takes time. Most people look at it and think—it’s too hard.”
Yet, statistics don’t lie—we know that businesses that use social media (inbound marketing in particular) have higher lead generation and higher profits (according to Hubspot, 41% of marketers say inbound marketing produced measurable ROI. Clearly, we feel this is true: after all, the survey did acknowledge that our industry sees value in social media—we just don’t know how to use it!
So, what’s the answer?  What can you do as an A/E/C marketer to effectively weave social media into your firm’s marketing strategy?

  1. Start small. Stop looking at Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ like the behemoths they seem to be.  Stop Googling “Social Media Marketing Techniques” and becoming overwhelmed by the thousands of pages that pop up.  Start small.  Resist the temptation to allow yourself to get overwhelmed.
  2. No, really.  I mean it.  I wasn’t kidding.  Start really, really small.  I mean, 5-10 minutes a day small.  You know that really great blog that you read once a week?  Or that website you ran across?  Or that app your grandson just told you about?  Or that interesting e-mail forward from Flipboard someone sent you?  Post it on Facebook.  Post it on LinkedIn.  Make a comment about it.  That’s it.
  3. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. You spend a lot of time in meetings.  You have a lot of ideas—some of them that go against the grain.  You know, the ones that you ramble to your spouse about.  Write them down:  I’m not talking prose, I’m talking bullet points.  The next day, put a few of those bullet points into sentences.  Then post it on your company’s blog site.  And most important—say at the end of the blog post that you’ll be posting another one next week.  Promises made to the world wide web are often ones we keep.
  4. Tweet what you learned.  Next time you go to a conference, keep a running tab of points and tips you learned.  And tweet them!  Tweet the tips along with a few pics of the conference.  It’s a great way to keep people engaged, let people in the industry know you’re staying relevant, and reap some potential re-tweet love.

Most important, don’t let yourself become a statistic next year—set a goal to be a company that not just knows it needs social media, but knows how to use it.
The takeaway here: Build your firm’s social media smarts, and you ‘ll find that it is powerful business development tool that can establish your firm as a thought leader, extend your brand awareness, and build relationships with your existing and potential clients.
Now it’s your turn: Does your firm still lack social media smarts? What are the obstacles?
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