I just got back from speaking at the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) conference in Hamilton. My session was called 'Turning strangers into clients', a social media roadmap for architects. I've already shared one takeaway after giving a webinar on this topic to the Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) last November. But it's a really deep subject, so here's takeaway #2.
Social media marketing is deceptively simple. No programming. No printing. Even design is optional. Essentially, it presents no obstacles to posting content to the web. Anyone can set up an account and click away.
So, without cost or risk, many architects (and other professionals) just join in, hoping something will stick. And after numerous attempts with inconsistent to disappointing results, they are left wondering how the game is really played.
Before delving into the hows and whys of social media, there's a pink elephant in the room that we need to talk about. The hidden costs of social media marketing need to be acknowledged in order to change the mindset about how it should be approached:
- Your time - how much time do you need to spend on something before it starts to be considered a real cost? Same goes for everyone else at your firm. Architects are busy people. Those minutes, hours and days could easily have been put to good use, should they have been available... even if it simply meant going home earlier.
- Opportunity cost - What's the value of lost opportunity? If the social media marketing game had been 'played right', what would you have won? New clients? Talented employees? Media coverage? And since success breeds success, over the years how could you have built on those winnings and compounded them? If you had won one new client two years ago, what other opportunities might have followed? More projects from the same client? Referrals? A better portfolio? Media coverage?...
- Reputation - Everything you post is public. So, it becomes part of your firm's way of greeting the world. And, in many instances, it's your first impression, possibly with your bull's eye market. Would you normally treat such opportunity lightly in the real world? Not likely. Just think about the focus and preparation that you put into meeting with a prospective client, presenting a proposal or attending a networking event.
So, what's the takeaway?
While social media marketing is 'social' and very much about building relationships between individuals, in order to be effective it needs to sit on a foundation that includes clarity about what your firm does that's great, who you want to work with above all else and the way you wish to communicate with others. Why do these high level brand and marketing decisions matter when it comes to a 140 character tweet? A photo on instagram? A brief comment on LinkedIn? Every action you take - the people you connect with or don't connect with, the responses you post to others or the lack thereof, the news you share about your projects - all of it communicate something about your firm's character. And if you try to keep it neutral in order to play it safe, you'll still be communicating something... lackluster. Not a quality architects normally embrace.
Consider the ripple effect of your brand and marketing strategy. It's not just a matter of a logo, brochure and website. It's the engine behind the social media marketing posts that deliver more than likes. They deliver results.
- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management
Small to mid-sized firms are invited to learn more about our Toronto-based, architecture, interior design, engineering and AEC marketing and business development services.