10 Tips for Improved Social Media for Architects

What does it mean to you and your firm to “get more out of” social media? Meeting the daily minimum of tweets and posting the occasional update on Facebook only goes so far in building awareness and generating fresh connections with your audience. To make your A/E firm’s social media more valuable, consider these tips.

1. Follow more target clients than peers

It’s easy to get caught up following other people that like the “same stuff” as you, but instead of keeping a stream of only architects and architecture firms, look for connections with your clients and their peers.

2. Read and interact with your clients’ trade pubs

If your firm practices commercial or retail architecture, identify trade publications that your clients may read. Following more of those types of accounts will make you a more valuable partner to your clients.

3. More fun, less funds

Don’t think about making money with every blog post or tweet. Have fun, share a little personality.

4. Try chatting after 5 pm

Connecting with clients on a personal level sometimes requires sharing or tweeting when you’re not in the office. We’re not talking about answering work email here, just remember that your clients care about their business even when they’re off the clock. Chime in every once in a while with a share or RT after 5.

5. Integrate your approach

Your website and your social media profiles aren’t two separate entities. In fact, they’re more like two stories in the same building. Make as many connections between your social media and your website as you can.

6. Monitor your web stats

If you don’t have Google Analytics (or something comparable), get it immediately. Knowing your most popular content, common search terms and traffic sources will help you create relevant future content.

7. Email can be social

Email marketing doesn’t stop with an open. Integrate your emails with social media platforms and consider repurposing email newsletters for blog posts.

8. Go beyond the big name tools

Start looking for blogs or online social communities that are more related to your clients and less generic. Houzz is a great example of a tool residential architecture firms can use with a much better impact than Facebook.

9. Solve a problem

If you want to prove that you care about your clients, help solve their problems when you aren’t getting paid. Creating a LinkedIn group for your clients to converge and converse can help them solve challenges while building your understanding of what your clients need.

10. Purge

If you’ve been active on Twitter and Facebook for a while, you’ve probably amassed a long list of likes and follows. Some of them are fantastic, while many may just be clogging your feed and distracting you. Twitter lists help organize your feed, but nothing is as easy as just plain deleting people. Don’t be afraid to clean up your accounts every once in a while.

 

I love white space too, but…please do something with your homepage

It still amazes me when I receive a list of firm websites from someone – and more than 50% of them are dysfunctional. Perhaps even more surprising is that I usually receive them as a list of aspirational competitors, top-notch designers, distinguished panelists, etc. Basically, “these are people that we look up to, so go check them out.”

One thing I see entirely too much of is completely useless homepages. Literally, the face for what could impact 97% of your client’s decisions is a barren wasteland of a screen with a cleverly placed firm name…maybe an address if you’re lucky. Fifteen years ago, as businesses were clamoring to “just get something up there” this might have cut it. But today, it’s a shot in the foot to architecture firms everywhere.

Regardless of where your architectural sensibilities fall on the form/function debate, your website doesn’t have to prove your point. Your homepage has a few seconds to impress people (to be read: potential clients) and convince them to hear or read what you have to say about design. USE IT. Here are five reasons why your homepage might not be doing its job.

  • The majority of traffic to your website starts at your homepage, unless you’re doing a great job with custom landing pages and marketing campaigns for your architecture firm. Keep in mind that likely 40% or more of that traffic “bounces” immediately from the first page they see. Translation: 40% of the people that came to your website saw your firm name on a blank page, then left.
  • If you have a one HTML page website with a bunch of Flash embedded circa the 90’s/early 00’s – you can likely assume that search engines see one page with very little (or no) info about your firm. That’s pretty much killing your firm in the SEO department.
  • Thumbnails alone don’t cut it anymore. There’s nothing wrong with using the images themselves, but if your homepage is 95% empty with a few images on the screen – the impact of those thumbnails has been diminished significantly by current monitor resolutions/sizes.
  • You may be unconventional, but most of your visitors probably aren’t. They need things like links back to your homepage and consistent positioning of nav. Hiding your navigation or making it difficult to stop a swooshing, sweeping, portfolio to see one project description won’t help even the most creative of clients realize how much they like you.
  • Last, but not least – don’t make people wait! If you have a Flash (shudders) or heavily scripted homepage that takes a few seconds to load for you, assume it takes much longer for a first time visitor to your site. This is because, depending on how your site is built, certain aspects are saved or cached to speed up your browser’s load on the next time around. Compound that with the fact that all of your homepage content is contained in that fancy animation and you have potential clients looking at a blank screen for several seconds.

 

What If Our Work Isn’t Sexy?

The architecture world is full of photos that make people drool. It’s an aesthetically-charged profession, with awesome resources like ArchDaily and Architizer making a high percentage of the profession feel inadequate.

The dirty little secret is that every project isn’t making the cut for the next issue of (insert coffee table design magazine of choice here). In fact, MOST projects don’t make the cut and most firms don’t have a Hadid, Pei, Wright, etc. at the helm. And guess what, that’s ok!

To be enjoyable, fulfilling, marketable and highly successful, your work doesn’t have to be sexy. Well, at least it doesn’t have to be considered sexy by EVERYONE. It has to be considered sexy by your potential clients and more importantly by you. That means that you’re not trying to compete with the museum design firm down the street to win the next warehouse job, even if they’re going after it against you. You just have to share your value, your skills and your experience in language that the client understands and needs to hear. You have to solve the challenges they have, not wow them with a bunch of stuff they didn’t ask for.

Mechanical and Electrical Engineering firms often get caught up in this as well, assuming that there isn’t much of a story to tell in their work beyond a few bullet points with square footage and technical info. That’s just not the case.

The story is there, and it’s what your clients and partners need to hear to select you for the next project. It’s explaining your project scope and effort as a series of challenges that are similar to the ones they are likely examining in the next project RIGHT NOW. It’s being bold enough to use targeted, client-specific language that may alienate others but will set you apart as an expert in their project. It’s realizing that a photo and description of a huge data center or server room may put some people to sleep, but will impress the clients that have been trying to solve their uptime challenges for months now.

Some people like glasses, some like brunettes, some like surfers, some like librarians. Whether your portfolio represents the sports car or the smart car – your clients will think it’s sexy if you position it right, and you’re talking to the right clients.

Social Madness – Driving You Mad?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been inundated with requests lately from contacts and companies that you follow to vote for them in the “Social Madness” Competition that’s currently going on.

The DC rankings are here. View the rules here.

I love a good competition as much as the next person, I really do. But after numerous requests to vote for companies in a social media contest (many that use social media poorly), I have to ask “why?”

If you just started a Facebook page, have a dozen or so followers on Twitter and have a blog with ten or fifteen posts…why enter a social media contest? Why not get your “sea legs” and find your voice a little bit before entering a competition? Why not spend additional time building connections with your audience, friends, fans and followers?

I don’t want to take away from some of the awesome firms and businesses in the competition – there are some great ones. But as marketers, we tout the use of social media to build connections, to enhance dialog with our clients and potential clients, to build our brands…and much more.

Furthermore, we often seek to shift the focus away from fan counts, ROI (as it relates to direct sales) and other short-term metrics to emphasize the long-term value of our web presence and client loyalty.

Can we accurately say “it’s not about the number of fans” to management in one breath, while pleading for votes and fans in the other?

I believe strongly that the practice of social media is about the quality of interaction, not the quantity. The award or reward comes from your clients’ feedback and the additional dialog you can develop with industry professionals, not from a promise of exposure for your social media accounts to a mixed bag of readers. What makes sense for a small residential architecture firm does not makes sense for a large commercial contractor – or a restaurant, IT consultant or a membership association for that matter.