Social media seems like a cost effective tool to get new work, but how does one go about it, and how to avoid wasting time and money? Before you start, take some time to understand how it can fit into your business activities.
What is Social Media?
Simply put, social media is people having public conversations on the Internet. The Internet enables you to be found by many more people, and social media makes it possible for them to talk to you and keep in touch more efficiently. If you want to generate new business, there are three key elements you mustn’t leave out.
One of the differences between social media and other forms of marketing is its dependence upon human relations. Whilst advertising and traditional websites are often free of human faces, social media is all about people and their conversations. If one of your clients mentions your good work on their project whilst on the golf course or over a coffee, the person who takes an interest is likely to Google your name. Which name will they use, and what will they find when they search? Your practice probably gets much of its business by referrals, so you know relationships are important. Social media platforms simply help your clients recommend you to others, and can help strangers find you and find out about you before they get in touch.
Who will speak for you?
Many practices make the mistake of leaving social media activity to their office manager or junior staff, but are these the people your prospects are looking for online? Think about who the client-facing people in your business are. These people should be visible and active when your customers look for them.
When I was a student of architecture, publication in the AR or AJ was seen as the pinnacle of one’s career, something to aspire to. Whilst that is still the case, today publishing has changed. Today, we are all publishers.Many people who employ the services of an architect are novices, and will lack confidence about how to choose a practice. But if one of their friends gives them something useful you created, chances are their choice will be made. You know that credibility is determined by experience, that is why you put your projects on your website. If you can do this in a useful way on social media, you will help your advocates recommend you, driving traffic to your website and generating new leads.
What will you publish?
Look at the content on your website. Are you writing for your clients or your peers? Make sure you are accessible to lay people, and put what you create in a form that can be easily shared. This might be pdf ‘how to’ guides, visuals, opinion pieces, stories, beautiful images or even video.
An architect I know left his employer to set up his own practice in 2010. Unable to use his contacts from the previous firm, he moved to a new town to set up business. Within six weeks of getting online a new client had contacted him for what turned out to be a £1.5m refurbishment project. How did he do that?
Peter didn’t have projects to publish, but he built a website and published a project diary, telling the story of the work he was doing. He also took to twitter and joined conversations with all the people he knew and got to know in the local area. By taking an interest in local businesses, and by sharing his expertise, Peter piqued the interest of many, who visited his website to check him out. Without him having to doorstep or advertise, new business came his way.
Where will you have the conversations?
Many practices simply broadcast their successes on social media, but they aren’t getting much success. Instead, find out where your customers are active, listen to them and join their conversations, sharing good content from your website when it’s appropriate. It might not happen in six weeks, but you’ve made a machine for lead generation.