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Ask the Experts: Social Media for AEC Industry?

November 11, 2010

Sarah McGillicuddyA month ago, you asked Sarah McGillicuddy (formerly Cotter), the Marketing Manager at Walsh Brothers, a few questions. Today, you can read her thoughts on social media – including her favorite blogs!

What are your favorite blogs & do you see the AEC industry making any significant shifts toward using social media to market their brands?

I feel the AEC industry has already begun to more readily embrace social media. I believe strongly that social media will in the (not-too-distant) future serve as a critical platform for a firm’s marketing strategy and communication, as important as a company’s web site is today. However, the challenge – as with any relatively new innovation or trend – is just that: it’s new, it’s not proven and social media is like an onion with many different layers and associated ramifications. For instance with the implementation of social media comes the complex issue of setting guidelines and policies to govern its use internally as well as how it will be applied, monitored, and measured. Due to social media’s “infancy” there are not many concrete results which can be used to prove its potential ROI which makes selling the idea of increasing or implementing social media especially difficult if you are trying to promote the concept to an already skeptical audience. I definitely see that a lot of firms have begun to dip their toes into the social media waters and more and more I notice the Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn icons surfacing on client, competitor, and colleague web sites alike.  I also have colleagues in the industry who have successfully and frequently had their press stories picked up from Twitter. There have been times that I have sent a press release, been excited to learn it’s been picked up, only to have our firm’s (or client’s) name misspelled in the translation of our text or worse left out completely! The uses for social media are limitless and one of the greatest aspects is that it allows a firm the ability to send an unedited and targeted message. I think another valuable use is with photography, think about how much money, time, and effort our firms invest in photography, what is a better vehicle to show that off (aside from traditional methods of course) than a Facebook album, flicrk gallery, or twitpic? It’s communication is instant and (at present) aside from the time that is dedicated to maintaining it, it’s free!

I think social media has a future in the AEC industry. Given the importance of networking in growing one’s business, the built-in networking infrastructure of social media allows for endless opportunities to build business relationships, to communicate industry events quickly and easily, and to provide a clear path to check in on your neighbor to ensure you are keeping up with the Joneses.  Social media is redefining communication and interaction for everyone in the business world. On 60 Minutes recently, President Obama addressed those who criticized his multiple appearances on television talk shows (e.g. The View and MTV). He made no apologies, explaining that, given the multiplicity of media outlets across cable television and the web, one has to embrace forms of communication that were once considered unserious in order to reach an increasingly fragmented audience. In that vein, many business are embracing methods of communication – Facebook and Twitter –  that just a few years ago were considered the of realm of only college and high school students.

Regarding blogs, an excellent source of inspiration and great links to other pages is the local site designboston.org.  Additionally, Karen Euler, the Marketing Manager at Carol R. Johnson Associates (and SMPS Boston Communications Director), recently told me about mashable.com which is a great social media site. Filed under my personal interests — when I was prepping for my recent wedding I was, I’ll admit it, mildly obsessed with stylemepretty.com and etsy.com.

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