A/E/C Social Media wk 5

The Value of LinkedIn for Architectural Firms
By Kelly Steckel

LinkedIn is similar to Facebook but designed for the purpose of building professional relationships. As of August 2011, it is the largest global professional network with over 120 million users in over 200 countries. It has members from all 2011 Fortune 500 companies, and its corporate hiring solutions are utilised by 75 out of Fortune 100 companies. More than 200 million companies currently have company pages on the site (www.LinkedIn.com).

What does this mean for architectural firms? Just like any other company, an architectural firm benefits from an increase in visibility, reputation and brand recognition. The more connections that are added, the more likely people will see the firm profile when searching. LinkedIn provides a firm the ability to position itself as thought leaders to potential clients and hires. It enables a firm to seek out talent and perform market research by way of polling tactics, etc. Most importantly, it allows a firm the ability to establish professional relationships with existing and potential clients and link those clients back to the firm website, blog site and to other sites profiling the firm and global projects. It also obtains a higher PageRank in Google than other sites, making the firm more accessible to more people.

Called ‘connections,’ users can invite anyone, on or off the site, to become “linked” for the purpose of establishing a network or contact list. Direct connections, second-degree connections and third-degree connection can be established to assist in job finding, creating business opportunities, sourcing talent, etc. Users can follow different companies, establish relationships with employees of those companies and receive notifications about open positions within that industry. They can save job listings they have applied for and receive alerts about new job postings and new members joining the organisation (www.LinkedIn.com). Firms hiring can list jobs or search potential candidates. What is unique to LinkedIn is that in order to create a connection, one must have a pre-existing relationship to the person they are wishing to contact, or be invited. This helps to maintain professionalism on the site.

Because it is a professional association it also provides a firm the ability to gauge the market, individual market segments in addition to the people in them, although if interested in other geographical segments, is would be beneficial to also establishing profiles on sites more dominate than LinkedIn in other regions, such as Xing, more predominately used in Europe than LinkedIn. During a short search, it appears that only a few international firms have a profile on Xing despite having employees that work for them there. If looking forward architectural firms in the U.S., you get nothing but a two universities and one reality group. If wanting to establish market presence, wouldn’t it be beneficial to create a profile on Europe’s largest professional site?

There are several international sites to choose from, but the value translates depending on how the platform is used, the content, the updates and the analytic tools applied. As with Facebook, it is about how you are communicating with your audience. This audience is interested in knowing you on a professional level, your employees and perhaps how they would fit into your organization. If you have a profile and it’s weak, your company looks weak. Make sure that for anyone spending time connecting to your company, or your employees, comes away with a positive understanding of who you are and where you are going.

LinkedIn has grown into the largest networking site. Why couldn’t it help your firm grow as well?



A/E/C Social Media wk 4

The Value of Facebook for Architects

By Kelly Steckel

Now dubbed “Zuckerberg’s Law” by New York Times writer Saul Hansell, Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg was quoted in 2008 at the Web 2.0 Summit having said, “I would expect that next year people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and (the year after that), they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before”. Though I don’t have statistical data to support this claim, though I am sure it is out there, I do know that Facebook has grown from 100 million active users in August 2008 to 750 million as of September 2011 (source: www.facebook.com, Sept 2011).  In addition, every month, more than 250 million people engage with Facebook on external sites.  So it would seem to me that there is an awful lot of sharing going on.

And who is doing the sharing? According to www.insidefacebook.com, it’s persons within the age group of 18 – 25 that account for the largest group of Facebook users (2011).

Ages       13 – 17  account for 20.6% respectively
18 – 25 account for 25.8% respectively
26 – 34 account for 21.65 respectively
35 – 44 account for 14.9% respectively
45 – 54 account for 8% respectively
55 – 64 account for 4.6% respectively

This information is particularly relevant because according to some, an architectural firm’s target market tends to fall into the 35+ bracket, or the Baby Boomer generation, verses Generation X (and Y) that most frequently use it. Of course, this is not always the case, and as technology and social media advances it will become the norm, not the exception, to utilize social media for everything from search, research and database creation, to lead generation, sCRM, brand awareness and exposure, recruitment, etc. Architectural firms have always relied on word-of-mouth, referrals and relationships to obtain projects.

Why can’t this be achieved using social media, and in this case, Facebook?

Used by companies to connect, engage and build long-term meaningful relationships with existing and prospective clients, Facebook also provides a platform to drive word-of-mouth and referrals. When clients share news or project related content on Facebook that story is shared within that client’s Newsfeeds and their friends’ Newsfeeds. Imagine the impact when the average user has 130 friends (source: www.facebook.com, Sept 2011). One way this can be achieved is by implementing the Facebook ‘Like’ button on your website. Doing so will build connection and drive referrals to your website. To obtain the maximum benefit from the ‘Like’ button, firms should track these interactions, how they lead back to the website and how many result in conversion. Using Facebook Insights can provide demographic profile insights of visitors and clients that interact with the Like button.

The challenge is to create content of value for your fans to maintain dialog and interest. The messages, video posts and newsfeeds require constant updating. Creditability will decline if you are only posting once a month or even once a week. Remember the goal is to create/extend a value proposition that attracts, engages and connects clients to your firm (Jeffery Gitomer, Social Boom), which needs to be established in strategy before ANY type of social networking is performed. Everyday postings might be difficult, but if manageable is the best way to maintain a consistent presence in the minds of your audience. They will know to look for you. And if you’re not there, they might go somewhere else – to your competition.

And to this point, which is an important one, social media is here to stay. It has changed communication and it has changed marketing. If your potential clients or recruits, etc. cannot find you, but can find your competition, on Facebook, LinkedIn, and whatever new platform(s) will emerge in the future, you are at risk. Remember back to when the website was a new marketing tool. It took some firms years to get on board. Surprisingly, there are still some that maintain there is no need; that their reputation alone brings them enough business. Well, can’t argue with that. If it works, it works. But for those firms intent on truly growing their business, it is now all about social media. And better to be ahead of the game, or at least in it, then left behind, all the while potentially losing clients and brand equity.








A/E/C Social Media wk 3

The Value of Social Media for an Architectural Firm – WOM

By Kelly Steckel

Do you remember that commercial back in the 80’s for Wendy’s with the older ladies asking the question: “Where’s the beef?” For them, a hamburger was of little value if there wasn’t a big chunk of meat to bite their teeth into, fill their bellies and leave them feeling satisfied that they got their money’s worth.

The same can be said about investing in social media. The biggest question for an architectural firm currently is about value. I believe many architectural firms see the value for a product organization, but as discussed in previous postings, they have a hard time determining the overall value and the value of each application and are put off by the overall investment. Perhaps this is the result of a lack of knowledge and understanding of the applications and/or the long-term value that can be gained by each since it is a relatively new communication platform. And of those firms that have actually taken a bite, some are currently questioning if they have bitten off more than they can chew for the exact reasons stated above.

So, “where’s the value?” Well, the main premise behind each social media application available today is about three simple things: attracting, engaging and connecting. For those who think it is about selling or directly winning projects, then for you there is no value and you will have a hard time ever feeling satisfied.

Most architectural firms currently utilizing social media, of which tend to be larger, most often due to the investment in knowledge, man-power and time required, use the following applications: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as well as blogs on and off-site. The key to success is to utilize them all in combination with each other, creating a value called word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is a form of PR, a form of advertising and a form of sales promotion depending on how you see and use it. It can be generated from blogs, social networking sites and online communities, and it can change your business forever. Due to the amount of information available online, and the social networking vehicles that clients use to share information, they are no longer dependent on a company to tell them about a service offering. In a study performed by McKinsey Quarterly, word-of-mouth is the only factor that ranks as one of the top three influencers within each stage of the consumers decision journey, prompting “consider(ation) of a brand in a way that incremental advertising spending simply cannot” (Bughin, Doogan, Vetvik, McKinsey Quarterly, 2010).

Though architectural services are not accustomed to advertising per se, word-of-mouth carries a great deal of impact and weight for a service organization due to the fact that potential clients are more likely to trust the opinion of a friend or a colleague over a firm’s. And as a result of social media, a potential client has more friends than ever before.  Information is distributed, repeated and more traffic is being driven to a company due to the conversation and interactions that are being had on these sites. And because clients decide who they are going to become followers of, firms can reach a very targeted audience.

Social media is a tool that aids word-of-mouth in reaching more people at a faster pace. As with other forms of PR, it helps to “turn customers into fans and employees into evangelists” (Jeffery Gitomer). Isn’t this the goal of an architectural firm? Isn’t this valuable?

The upcoming posts will discuss each application separately.





A/E/C Social Media wk 2

A/e/c Industry and Social Media Marketing

Branding Strategy Translation Into Social Media Within Architectural Services
By Kelly Steckel

In the branding process, there is a phase within strategy development called discovery. During this process, questions are asked to gain perspective of the brand from those within the organization itself, the customers outside it, and the market as a whole. The research that takes place before, during, and even after implementation has occurred, is critical in determining where the company is currently, where it’s going, and how it plans on getting there.

When an architectural firm has identified a prospective client, a similar process takes place. Research is preformed on the client’s business that includes not only understanding who they are and what business they are in, but what their mission and vision is for the future, how they intend to grow, and the culture of the organization itself. Questions are asked about their current markets, and locations; their competition, organizational structure, and the financial health of the organization overall, etc. Of course this isn’t everything, but the point I’m trying to make is that in the development of strategy in general, research is conducted that raises the most simple of questions, which are usually the most difficult to answer: “Who are we?” ”Where are we going?” and “How are we going to get there?”

In the development of a social media marketing strategy, the same applies – research must be carried out, questions asked, and strategy designed. Just within the realm of social media there exists an over abundance of marketing applications to select from, ranging from blogs and microblogs such as Twitter, to social networks such as Facebook, Linkedin and video-sharing sites such as YouTube, etc., all of which can be utilized to advertise, create PR buzz, engage and develop relationships and brand your firm. What can be daunting for any marketer is perhaps even more so for those in architectural firms, because let’s face it, marketing still remains an underdeveloped aspect of the overall business strategy for many architectural firms.  This concept is even that much more ironic given the following statement by Peter Drucker (a.k.a. the father of modern management) – “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” And aren’t architectural firms comprised of some of the greatest innovators of modern design? So why not market that talent; that vision? I suppose that would depend on if you define yourself as a business or not? If so, then when selecting various platforms for your social media strategy, it is necessary to be able to answer not only the above-mentioned questions, but also “who” you are trying to reach so that you are marketing to the right audience.

Different market sectors require different approaches due to the fact that they speak to different audiences. For example, “demand” markets such as institutional building, comprised of healthcare and education, and “opportunity” markets, such as hospitality and retail, have very different audiences. For a large firm like HOK, one the first and perhaps the most active users of social media, who services both demand and opportunity markets, the positioning and placement of their brand using social media is (and should be) far different from a firm that primarily services residential.

As in so many areas of the web, there is a growing network of architectural communities – sites created for architects and designers to showcase their work for purposes of advertising, for project hire, collaboration, recruitment, etc. (www.architizer.com is the perfect example of this type of open community). There is great potential to build an architectural firm’s brand and grow the business using social media – utilizing sites such as Architizer, blogging, “tweeting” on Twitter, creating fan pages on Facebook, group and profile pages on Linkedin, etc.  There is also a very real danger of diluting it if (1) there is no strategy involved in the selection of applications or platforms, (2) there are no set metrics in place to determine it’s effectiveness, or (3) they are poorly managed. My favorite management guru, Peter Drucker, once wrote, If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

A successful strategy for a service organization, particularly architectural services, requires thinking about how customers perceive your actions and how they interact with you as a company and as a brand, no matter the size, to maintain brand integrity. In order to get here, strategy must first begin with examining who you are as a company, who your clients are, what messages you want to convey, where and how, and then making sure that all marketing communications are fully integrated.



A/E/C Social Media Marketing

A/e/c Industry and Social Media Marketing

How the marketing of an architectural firm differs from other professional services and the role of social media.
By Kelly Steckel

In 1972, restrictions were lifted on an architectural firm’s ability to market their services. To this day there still exists a limited amount of literature on the topic despite it being an essential need of an organization to generate business. One possible reason for this is that an architectural firm isn’t just providing a service like engineering or construction management, but a form of art – one that has the ability to transform our world and shape or re-shape the way we live. Walter Gropius once said, “Architecture begins where engineering ends”. I believe what he meant by that statement is similar to what David Koren was referring to in his book entitled “Architect’s Essentials of Marketing,” which he wrote in 2005 for the AIA. In it, he commented that though engineering and construction management are very closely related, that in marketing architecture “there is an opportunity to inspire and engage clients on a far deeper level than in engineering or construction or accounting or law” due to an architect’s artistic ability to compliment a client’s personal vision and inspire. Isn’t that now possible through social media?

Today we are swimming in the sea of Web 2.0 technologies, namely social media, which is comprised of wikis, widgets, blogs, micro blogs, chat, video sharing, and social networking, to name a few. McKinsey Quarterly has been conducting a study over the past four years to determine “How businesses are using Web 2.0: A McKinsey Global Survey” http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/How_businesses_are_using_Web_20_A_McKinsey_Global_Survey_1913. Amongst a response group of approximately 1,700 executives of various industries, regions and functional areas, companies reported a steady increase in their adoption of Web 2.0 based applications to interact with their customers: 45% (2007), 49% (2008), 52% (2009) and 63% (2010).

The studies also revealed that blogs and social networks were responsible for a strengthened link between the companies and their customers, having doubled in usage. These technologies were found to provide not only an economical method of connecting to customers due to the fact that most are more or less free, but also enable a company to target and tailor their searches to specific customer groups, customizing their messages to that audience. The result of those said initiatives allow companies to strengthen the relationship they have with their customers and therefore develop a deeper understanding of the needs and wants of their target market.

Robert A.M. Stern was once quoted saying that “the dialogue between client and architect is about as intimate as any conversation you can have, because when you’re talking about building a house, you’re talking about dreams”. The correlation here is that whilst an architect can be categorized as an artist or a visionary, an architectural firm is a business which has historically acquired projects/clients based on the personal relationships that they have established with their clients, the dialogue that has been generated and the trust that has been built along the way. Social media technologies such as blogs and social networks have been revealed as being responsible for strengthening these very types of relationships due to the two-way dialog they allow for. If the point is for an architectural firm to engage clients at a deeper level, and social media can allow for this dialog to potentially form into a relationship, then it can be argued that architectural firms could certainly benefit from the use of social media marketing.

It goes without saying that the social media marketing strategy for an architectural firm should differ from B2C, B2B, and other professional services including engineering and construction management companies. It should allow for that vision and artist value to be communicated. By no means am I suggesting that this is an easy task. But in today’s marketing evolution, which is filled with a multitude of platforms available to engage your clients, both present and future, one cannot afford to be passive or silent. Architectural services may be different, but like all other businesses, can benefit from social media. What will determine success is how they do it, how it’s integrated into their overall marketing strategy and how its effectiveness is measured. This, and the value of each platform will commence in following blogs.