We are all familiar with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But there’s a host of other sites that can bring networking benefits to your business. Paul Wilkinson reports.
Social media is constantly evolving, with developers creating new tools to target specific markets. Content can now be published in seconds by anyone, anywhere, anytime. Individuals can Tweet, write a blog post, update Facebook or LinkedIn, or upload a video to YouTube or a photograph to Flickr. It’s all mobile-friendly too, meaning that an opinion, an achievement, or a site incident can be shared around the internet in seconds.
Trying to stop people talking online about your company, its projects, employees, services or products is like trying to stop them talking about you in the pub. It’s impossible. So it’s worthwhile taking the time to provide training and create some guidelines about what your employees can and cannot do across different networks.
While Facebook is great for promoting consumer brands and communicating with the “Facebook generation” or “Gen Y”, LinkedIn has gained greater traction across business and acts as a great recruiting tool and sharing ideas. And there are now more than 32 million registered Twitter accounts in the UK. But while these generic platforms are useful, a growing range of industry-specific applications is opening up new communication opportunities for construction managers.
Yammer.com is a Twitter-like service that can be used within companies as a means of sharing ideas internally. (It is claimed to be used by 200,000 companies worldwide.)
London-based architectural practice RCKa has deployed Evernote.com as its main content management and collaboration tool. Evernote is a suite of services and applications designed for note-taking and archiving, capturing content including text, web pages or excerpts, photographs and voice memos, along with file attachments. Notes can be sorted into folders, tagged, annotated, edited, searched and exported, with content shareable across multiple operating systems, supported by online synchronisation and backup.
Collaboration and consultation with local communities can also be supported by social media. Blogs, for example, can help project managers update people about the progress of their project. Dorset’s Weymouth Relief Road had a WordPress blog that allowed locals to comment on the project. And for projects at the planning or consultation phase, platforms such as StickyWorld.com can be used to create virtual tours of proposed designs and elicit feedback from end-users. Using StickyWorld, users can walk through, fly over, or even navigate the urban masterplan for the Lozells district of Birmingham as though on a bus, and leave electronic sticky notes with comments.
Pinterest.com has become popular, and now there’s an architectural equivalent. Extending its crowd-sourced buildings directory, OpenBuildings.com has developed Clippings.com/professionals, a Pinterest-style site that allows users to bookmark interesting building-related images and content, sort it into categories and share with others. Architects such as Foster + Partners and Zaha Hadid are using the site to create company profiles and connect with potential clients. However, the contracts section of the site is so far only populated by contractors from outside the UK.
Similarly, a US-based real estate network HonestBuildings.com is launching in the UK. Described as “a Facebook for the building industry”, it aims to connect building owners and operators with consultants, contractors and suppliers, and to streamline requests for proposals and bids. And HomesWithGreen.com is aiming to help green sector businesses to interact with home owners and others (businesses which subscribe to the network may also use a social media app, SocialWithGreen, to help monitor and manage their marketing communications).
Managing disparate platforms can be a challenge. Hootsuite.com is a dashboard tool that can manage marketing campaigns across multiple accounts across multiple social networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. It also has mobile options, so you can monitor and participate in parallel conversations from a smartphone or tablet. Pair such dashboards with “influence measurement” platforms such as Klout or PeerIndex, and you can also begin to target your interactions with top business people.
Paul Wilkinson is a construction PR and marketing consultant, trainer, and social media advocate. www.pwcom.co.uk