Editor’s Note: Jeff Echols is the Social Media Director for Award-Winning architecture firm ONE 10 STUDIO and the mind behind Architect of the Internet, a site dedicated to helping Architects navigate the world of Social Media. He participated in our online series How to Succeed in Architecture and can be found on Twitter.
Facebook and Twitter, Blogs and Podcasts; they’re all the rage. You’ve seen them, read them, listened to them, even commented on them. You may even follow Architects that have them.
Everyone says YOU need to be on Social Media. Your favorite brands and TV shows are there. Your local coffee shop is there. If you’re not on Social Media you’re nowhere.
Stop it. Stop it. STOP THE INSANITY!!
You know as well as I do that Social Media won’t work for Architects. We’re different. We’re not like other people. We wear fancy shoes and stylish glasses and talk about form and space and order.
WE WEAR BLACK!
Ours are not like other businesses. We don’t sell a tangible product. Remember that famous John Cusack line from “Say Anything”?
“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”
Our attitudes are closer to that than we want to admit. So if we’re so different why on Earth would we want to be on Social Media?
I think that is the perfect question to ask yourself: “Why would I want to be on Social Media?”
While you’re pondering that question let me give you 8 ways that Social Media will be the death of your Architecture Firm. You decide which ones fit your situation the best.
You don’t take Social Media seriously; your competition does. You don’t understand the value of being an online presence, of connecting with a community, of building a network that you can take offline; a network of future clients. The competition wins.
You’ve never really thought about it. What are you trying to accomplish? What do you want to get out of Social Media? You haven’t laid the groundwork or drawn a roadmap. You don’t know where you’re going or how you’ll get there. You’re lost.
You’ve thought long and hard about your goals, your objectives and your mission. You developed a Social Media Strategy without considering those goals. You’ve been caught up in the numbers game. More likes, more shares, more followers don’t equate to anything profitable if they don’t align with your business objectives. You don’t know why.
You’re sold! You’ve heard the stories. You’re convinced that Social Media is the way to go but you’ve forgotten a very important lesson. Social Media is just single a tool in your marketing toolbox. You can’t build a house with just a hammer.
Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Houzz, LinkedIn and all the other major social networks are free. Your time is not free. You’ve committed to spend 1 hour every day to posting on Houzz and Facebook. That one hour turned into 2 hours when you were sucked into the social vortex. What’s your billable rate?
You’ve turned them loose. Why wouldn’t you? They’ve been on Facebook most of their lives. Now they’ve moved on to Snapchat. They don’t remember a time when the internet didn’t exist but they don’t possess the maturity or the business sense that you do; that’s why they’re interns. They’re still learning.
You don’t have time to write a blog post this week. You won’t have time next week either. I get it: you’re an Architect not an Author. Someone else is writing an article right now that answers your ideal client’s questions. Who are they going to call?
This isn’t working. You’ve spent months writing articles, posting photos, responding to comments, even re-tweeting other people’s messages but you have nothing to show for it. The Social Media Magic Bullet must have missed its target. Throw in the towel.
Maybe none of those reasons, considered in a vacuum, will kill your firm but think about it for a minute. Those are 8 mistakes that will keep you from successfully using Social Media to market and grow your firm.
Each one of the above scenarios is a common mistake or struggle that many firms face. Each one boils down to a fundamental business mistake: lack of competitive advantage, lack of focus, poor resource management. You don’t lack experience or run a bad business, you’ve simply entered new territory.
Using Social Media to market your business has been an available option for less than 10 years. It’s probably been on your radar for less than 5. Now it’s time to catch up, figure out how this works and get in the game.
Whether you remember it or not, there was a day when firms paid to be in the Yellow Pages. If your number wasn’t in the yellow book you didn’t have a business. Then came websites. If you didn’t have one you were hard to find and prospective clients questioned your legitimacy. Today we’re in a Social Age. Most people are using smart phones and tablets to search and research. If you don’t have a presence on Social Media you’re no different than the firms of yesteryear without yellow page listings and websites. Believe it or not there are clients out there that will give up and move on if they can’t find you by searching within their favorite Social Media network. Will they find you or will they just find your competitors?
This is it, the Holy Grail, Strategy. If you don’t have one, then what are you doing? You’re like the little kid at the birthday party who’s just been blindfolded and handed a big stick. You know that piñata is out there. You know it’s filled with candy. But they’ve spun you around and someone’s big brother is pulling the string to make it go up and down. Everybody’s screaming and laughing and then, there’s you. You’re flailing around swinging as hard as you can in any direction you can. Every once in a while you make contact. But the key is to hit that paper mache pig again and again and again; harder and harder and harder until it bursts open and candy flies everywhere. If you don’t have a Social Media Strategy you’re like one of the first kids in line that may have gotten a couple good licks on that paper mache pig, but you didn’t break it open. Take the blindfold off, focus on your goals, form a strategy and hit the pig!
Ebenezer Scrooge, the most famous miser of them all; cutting corners and pinching pennies. There are areas of your business where it pays to be thrifty. This is not one of those areas. What happens when your client’s project is underfunded? What happens when a project is understaffed? Those are the projects that are destined for failure. Social platforms are free but many excellent, must-have tools are not, promoted posts are not, your time is not. If you’re going to do it, then do it. Invest the time and resources necessary to be consistently outstanding online.
Yes, Architects are different, our businesses are different. Ours is one of the most romanticized professions on the planet. People love to dream about what it’s like to be an Architect.
How else do you explain Tom Hanks, Woody Harrelson, Virginia Madsen, Kevin Kline, Liam Neeson, Steve Martin, Adam Sandler, Keanu Reeves, Wesley Snipes, Tom Selleck, Matthew Perry, Robert Reed, Michael Keaton, Gary Cooper, Paul Newman, Boris Karloff, Matt Dillon, Cameron Diaz, Charles Bronson all playing the role of Architect on-screen?
So give them what they want. Be creative, tell your story, answer client’s questions and be helpful online. Don’t let Social Media be the death of your Architecture firm by making fundamental mistakes that you wouldn’t otherwise make. Develop a strategy that meshes with your goals then invest the time and effort it takes to successfully use Social Media to market and grow your firm.
P.S. I’ll send you a prize if you can name the movie and character that each of those actors played.