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.