Social Media For An Architect
How do Architects use social media
I've been a fan of social media in my personal life since 2006, it answers the age old question of 'I wonder what ever happened to so-and-so?'. It is great for reconnecting people who have lost touch or for keeping in contact with far flung friends and family.
But is it any use for an Architect ?
In short yes, but it is complicated and it can be massively time consuming. My own approach to social media is constantly evolving and is by no means perfect but it does generate new leads and is a great way to stay in touch with previous clients.The big lesson I have taken from social media, is that different sites attract different users and in order to interact with more people, it is best to use multiple social media sites. Rather than see each social media site as a stand-alone element, they are all interlinked and I cross promote each one regularly. The ultimate goal is to get more people to visit my website, because it has generated about 20% of the projects I have taken on so far. And when people visit my website, I display my social media icons prominently.Several clients have reported spending time reading my blog, tweets and viewing youtube videos. They tell me this gives them a fuller picture of what I am up to as an Architect. I use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest as well as this blog and the capital A website. These sites all do different things and are used by different groups. My objective is to reach a local audience in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife, who may require the services of an Architect. Since only a minority of people will ever need my services and an even smaller group need them right now, I have adopted a long term, wide net approach. I know the demographics of my client base and I use social media to interact with similar people online.
Facebook is the most popular social media site on the internet, as of February 2012, it has 30m users in the UK alone. That's half the population! Because Facebook keeps very detailed information on its users, I can see the age range of those who view the Capital A facebook page closely matches that of my existing client base.To be honest, while I created the Facebook page in 2009, I didn't wake up to its potential until very recently. I have just reorganised the photo albums and started posting updates daily, instead of monthly, to generate more interest. I have also looked at running a targeted ad campaign on Facebook. And given the amount of personal information Facebook have available, the targeting they offer is mind blowing (and slightly creepy). For example, if I wanted to target every Facebook user who lives within 25 miles of Edinburgh, I would have 553,840 potential customers as the screen shot below shows. Most of these will probably not be interested in what I have to offer, so I would be wasting my money.
But what if I focused in on people who more closely match my previous clients? Facebook allows users to target their adverts to a very hight degree of accuracy. This is a screen shot of the process showing the fine-tuning in action. Here I selected users within 25 miles of Edinburgh, aged 29 - 45, in a relationship, with children and who attended a selection or prestigious universities. The original target audience of over half a million has now been whittled down to 3,060 people!I have yet to implement a Facebook ad campaign, I have found paid adversing to be a waste of time in other media, so I'm not holding my breath but, all the same, I will give it a go soon.
Twitter is the other big social media beast that I have engaged with the most, I have almost 1,000 followers at present and growing. In many ways it is the easiest to get into, requiring little more than a text message size input. I have found that twitter attracts other small business users as well as those with interests in particular areas such as politics, media, charity, sport etc. It is a great way to interact with those who share your interests but can be very shallow and two dimensional unless you have something else to offer. I didn't get it until I began using twitter to promote my website and this blog, every new post is tweeted to gather a wider audience. If I am browsing the internet and find something of interest, I tweet it. This can start a dialogue which can lead to more long term connections. For example I met Dave Cornett, an Architectural Technician in Liverpool, on twitter. Dave has blogged about his own social media experience, which promoted me to write this post in response. Twitter has introduced me to other professionals in the UK as well as locally in Edinburgh and can be a great resource, provided it is treated as a two way dialogue and not a platform for passive observation or a mouthpiece for endless self promotion. I try to use twitter to give a general picture of what I am up to any given day, meeting clients, drafting feasibility studies, planning applications etc. I will also try to have a dialogue with someone on twitter at least once a week.
has grown in popularity over the last few years among professionals, particularly with business owners. I must admit to not being particularly proactive with my LinkedIn profile, I set it up in such a way that my tweets automatically broadcast on LinkedIn. While I have had enquiries through LinkedIn, I have used it mostly to check out the background of people I meet during the course of business, particularly before going to networking events. This allows me to be more focused and effective when meeting a large group of business people. While LinkedIn facilitates groups who can meet on-line to discuss various issues, I have never found these very useful. I also went through the phase of collecting as many new connections as possible, I then had a cull, deciding to limit my connections to people I had actually met in person. I intend to keep LinkedIn, mostly for networking and also because I can see who has been viewing my profile, and also for the referrals it allows me to gather from people I have worked with. LinkedIn attracts older, wealthier men, who don't necessarily fit my usual client profile, but things change; over time perhaps my client profile will evolve and/or LinkedIn will attract a wider array of users.
is the new kid on the social media block and is making quite an impact. It basically allows users to create albums (called boards in Pinterest jargon) to which users can 'pin' interesting images they find on-line. Rather than saving a new copy of the image, Pinterest retains a live link back to the original website, thus allows viewers to get more information on the image if they wish. Pinterest doesn't let one join, you have to request an invite. Mine took about two weeks to approve, although I suspect it is an automated process designed to create an air of exclusivity. Pinterest solves a number of problems for me, which other social media does not.It lets me see what other Architects and Designers are up to, as I follow the collections of other Pinterest users who are interested in Architecture. I have discovered the work of several Architects in the last few months through Pinterest, such as Brouwer Architecten, ODOS and Bernardo Bader. This process of keeping up to date with contemporary architecture was once the sole preserve of the Architecture magazines such as AJ, BD and RIBA Journal, all of whom charge subscriptions, take up physical space and are hard to catalogue for future reference.Pinterest also solves a problem common to younger practices. Because I have been in business for less than four years, I have only a small small number of projects of my own. It can be difficult for me to give potential clients an idea of the type of work I am interested in. To address this I have created a collection of boards on Pinterest dealing with distinct themes, each a collection of contemporary projects which I enjoy. I make it clear that the images are not of my own work, but of Architects and designers whom I admire. The collections are of Contemporary Extensions, Contemporary Houses, Intermediate Zones, Drawings / Models, Kitchen / Dining, Renovations, Proportion, Bathrooms, Cladding, Storage and Stairs. These collections are constantly updated and edited, they are useful talking points and a way of steering clients in a direction I would prefer to go. They also help discourage potential clients who have very definite objections to contemporary design. In much the same way that publishing my Architects Fees has made it clear what I intend to charge, I hope that publishing a Contemporary Style guide will make it clear what I want to build.While social media can swallow massive amounts of time, it does have distinct advantages for an Architect; Using different social media sites spreads the net wider and exposes the Architect to a variety of potential clients. Each site gives the Architect a different means to express themselves. Taken as a whole, they can create a very deep picture of what the Architect offers and what they want to achieve. They can connect Architects with local, as well as global, audiences and expose them to ideas and opportunities they would not otherwise encounter.