Is Social Media Marketing Relevant to Design and Architecture Companies?

You may have noticed that there’s been a bit of an explosion around the subject of social media of late. Companies are clambering around trying to work out how to harness the power of this relatively new marketing phenomenon, and it seems this has spread to the design and architecture world. I’m regularly asked for advice from design and architecture companies about whether they should add social media to the marketing mix and, if so, how they should go about it.

The first answer I give is, yes. The marketing function is undergoing an evolution, the social media express has roared into town and design and architecture companies that don’t get onboard now risk being left behind. There are conversations happening all around us online that design and architecture companies could be involved in. Conversations that include clients and potential clients and if you don’t get involved, your competitors will. This goes for pretty much any type of business as more and more are joining in, daily.

But getting involved in social media is not straightforward. It takes a lot more than simply adding a profile to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn et al. As with all things marketing, it needs a strategy. But before I get into that, let’s start with a gentle introduction to the wonderful world of social media.

Social media is an online tool that builds communities of people with shared interests who are interested in networking with each other. The focus here is on networking and conversation, which is the underlying premise. It’s a bit like ‘offline’ networking at events, but without having to leave your home/office and with a little less alcohol. It allows you to connect with people that can benefit you or your company, which is useful for anyone wanting to hook up with potential clients, peers, journalists, industry guru’s and anyone else that could be useful.

The key uses of social media for marketing purposes are:

Brand awareness Brand reputation management New business generation News distribution and PR Research (through online polls) Customer support Specific product/service launch campaigns Connecting with affiliate companies Improving SEO

Not bad for an activity that needs little investment other than time.

There is a raft of social media sites available to us, from blogs to microblogs to networking to bookmarking. It’s easy to get lost in the quagmire, so here’s a brief description of each:

Blogs : a blog is a company’s communication tool that allows two way interaction with its readers. They are different to standard ‘brochure’ website as they ‘talk with’ rather than ‘talk at’ the viewer. The blog shouldn’t be used for ‘selling’, instead it should contain advice and opinion that the reader will find useful and which will make them want to subscribe for updates (and thus extend the interaction further). It might even make them want to get in touch. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Microblogs : Twitter is the most talked about, and the most useful, microblog. In contrast to a blogs longer posts, Twitter contains 140 character ‘statements’. It is a powerful networking tool that allows you to interact with people in a much faster environment. It has a global reach that breaks down the barriers of communication and allows networking in real time on a very large scale. Tweeters share information, give advice, debate real time issues and generally chat.

Social networking sites : these include Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Plaxo, Xing etc, and this list is growing. So for now I’m going to stick with the main two I find useful: LinkedIn and Facebook. Xing can be useful for architects, however this isn’t being used to a great extent in the UK so far (that could change in the future so it’s worth keeping an eye on). Networking sites allow you to connect and network with others in your field. The group discussions and forums are particularly useful here and should play a major role in their use.

Social bookmarking sites : this includes sites like Digg and Stumbleupon. They allow us to bookmark a web page we like or find interesting and ‘save’ it to these sites. They also have a voting system that allows viewers to vote on pages they like. The aim here is to get your blog post or web page voted on and then, in turn, encourage others to view it.

Social media strategy

There are definite rules of engagement when it comes to social media. As I mentioned earlier, it’s all about networking and conversation. But before getting into any conversation, get your strategy sorted:

1. What are your objectives for using social media? Are you looking to increase brand exposure? Are you looking for new business leads? Do you need to improve your brand reputation? Are you launching a specific product or service? Are you looking to recruit staff? The objective/s need to be clear from the outset as these will drive your messages.

2. Who do you want to reach? Write down a list of the types of people or companies you want to interact with and be clear what messages you want to get across to them. But remember! Social media is all about two way interaction so you can’t fully control any conversation. However, having a clear idea of what you want to communicate at the start will be useful to your strategy.

3. Who should be responsible for running social media activity? Should there be a team or can one person take responsibility? Take heed here, not all conversation on social media is positive so you will need someone equipped to deal with any negative comments on behalf of your company.

4. Next you need to identify the right platforms for you. The model I have been using and am recommending to clients is an integration of the following: company blog, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook with, of course, links back to the main website and YouTube and Flickr as necessary. As with other marketing activities, they ALL need to be integrated for optimum results. There are tools that allow you to link these platforms to save on time, for example Twitter updates can now appear on your Facebook profile through Tweetdeck, WordPress blogs can be embedded into LinkedIn profiles, Twitter updates can appear on blogs etc.

5. Agree the wording of profile names before setting them up. For example, on Twitter do you want all profiles for your company to be prefixed with the company name then the employee or just the employee or do you want to have one company profile name that can be used by all or just your name? Clearly this has branding implications so it’s important to get this clear at the outset. I do prefer real names for Twitter profiles as it feels like you’re talking to a real person, rather than a member of a company. Once this is done, set up all profiles with clear bio’s and apply the branding to backgrounds where possible. If you don’t already have a blog, it would be a good idea to get this set up now. This needn’t be costly or time consuming. WordPress provides a very good system which is free. So get blogging with relevant, useful posts.

6. Now you need to find the people you want to network with. Get together a list of those you want to reach, search for them and connect. Once you’ve connected don’t make the mistake of diving into conversation before you get a feel for how they do things. Listen to what they talk about for a while and if you have something relevant to add to a discussion, add it. But remember, don’t sell! What you want to do here is build the relationship. So be relevant and give them sound advice. They’ll soon be nattering away with you and may even want to take it offline for a coffee at some point. How very yesteryear.

7. Next ensure all platforms are integrated as I mentioned earlier. Make the most of all available tools to streamline your social media activities.

8. Finally, timing. Social media can be very addictive so it’s worth scheduling the time you feel is appropriate to spend on these activities. There is a plethora of tools on Twitter that help cut down on the time you need to spend online. For example you can schedule your tweets to be sent out during the day so that you can get on with something else. But remember, don’t do too much of this as the conversation will be one sided which is against what you’re trying to do here.

Here are a few examples of companies that are making the most of social media:

Architects Journal, Architectural Review, Arup, Barefoot & Gilles, BDI, Blueprint, Brand Republic, Building Design, DBA, Design Council, Design Museum, Drivers Jonas, Ford Frog HOK I-am Associates Innocent Interbrand Landor Leo Burnett Loft Marketing Nokia Ogilvy RIBA Saatchi & Saatchi Design Shed Starbucks TBWA Williams Murray Ham WPP

So that’s it in a nutshell. If you still don’t think social media is for you. Think again. Those who don’t get involved now could miss out on an important development in marketing strategy.

Social Media Design and Customization

Web site design is always an important factor in visitors’ snap judgment of your site. That same idea comes across now with Facebook Fan Pages, Twitter profiles, LinkedIn accounts and any other one of the many social media tools available today. A lot is said about what social media can do for business and one very important factor is your online image and how you are presenting your message to potential customers.

This article covers some of the broad strokes relating to business who would like to start using social media in a different way or need to bring a new image to potential customers.

Here are a few main things a consistent design can do for you on the web:

• Better understanding of your target audience.
• Having a strong reputation within your niche as an authority can bring more business
• Strong connection to your fans / clients / potential customers
• Better brand awareness
• People searching for your company need to see a clear relationship between your sites

Implementing a cohesive design across the various social media outlets doesn’t need to be daunting. By simply using consistent graphics or imagery you can solidify your image on the web. You just have to respect a few guidelines.

Always utilize simple, quick and easy built in add-ons to enhance your look. Allow your social media pages to reflect the design of your site. Never forget to keep it simple.

There are very significant benefits that will improve your online presence. People searching for your company will see a clear relationship between sites. Visitors will get the feeling you have made an effort in reaching them with your message. They will know business is booming thanks to information that is fresh and up-to-date. You will also develop a strong footing in your industry and gain more customers.

Of course, there is a lot more to launching a full force, effective marketing campaign and social networks will only play part of it. However some of the ideas described here are simple enough for anyone to do while some are simple, quick and effective services web companies can handle for you.

Social Media: Where to Begin?

Social Media is everywhere. There is no escaping it.

Twenty years ago there was a raise in households buying PC’s. This encouraged more and more people to get on the Internet. Then there were PC’s for each individual within the household. Now there is a never ending grow of people purchasing SmartPhones, which almost carry out all of the functions of your standard PC. This is making it easier for everyone to be on the Internet on the go. It is now hard to find a point during the day where you cannot access the Internet.

What do people look at whilst on the Internet? – Social Media.

Everyone is constantly online talking to their friends, sharing what they’re doing and finding out what other people are up too. It’s happening all day, every day. Social Media never sleeps.

What is Social Media?

The best way to define Social Media is to break it down. Media is an instrument on communication, like a newspaper, radio or television. Therefore Social Media would be the social instrument on communication.

In Web 2.0 terms, this would be a website that doesn’t just give you information, but it will interact with you as you receive the information. These interactions can be as simple as asking for your comments or letting you vote on an article. It can even be as complex as Flixster recommending movies to you based on the ratings of other people with similar interests to you.

Try and think of regular media as a one-way street where you can read a newspaper or listen to a report on television, but you have very limited ability to give your thoughts on the matter. Social Media, on the other hand, is a two-way street that gives you the ability to communicate too. This allows you to express your opinions and thoughts on any matter and have them open for discussion with other people.

Is Social Media and Social News the same?

It is very easy to confuse Social Media with Social News because we often refer to members of news teams as

“The Media”. To make matters worse, we also get confused with the fact that a Social News site is also a Social Media site as it falls into that broader category.

Saying that Social News is the same as Social Media is like saying that Cars are Transport. A Car is a type of transport, then again so are Bikes, Boats and Planes. So while Social News is a form of Social Media, so are Social Networking and Wikis.

Here are some examples of Social Media Websites:

Social Bookmarking: Delicious, Blinklist and Simpy. You interact by tagging websites and search through websites bookmarked by other people.

Social News: Digg, Propeller and Reddit. You interact by voting for articles and comment on them.

Social Networking: Facebook, Twitter, Hi5 and Last.FM. You interact by adding friends, following people, commenting on profiles, joining groups and having discussions.

Social Photo and Video Sharing: YouTube and Flickr. You interact by sharing photos or videos and commenting on user submissions.

Wikis: Wikipedia and Wikia. You interact by adding articles and editing existing articles.

What is it?

Social Networking is based on a certain structure that allows people to both express their individuality, opinions, emotions and thoughts whilst meeting people with similar interests. The structure will usually include having profiles, friends or followers, blog posts, widgets and quite often something unique to the site itself. For example on Facebook you’re able to “Poke” someone, on Twitter you can “Re-Tweet” someone and on “Bebo” you can share love once a day.

Profile: This is where you fill out an online portfolio regarding basic information about yourself. It gives you a chance to upload a photo of yourself, mention where you live, how old you are, your interests and some personality questions. The questions are usually something quite standard such as “What is your favourite Film/Book/Colour?”

Friends: We’ve all got friends and there is no doubt that your friends are already on these sites. Friends on your Social Networking sites are trusted people of the site that are allowed to post comments on your profile or send you private messages. You can also keep tabs on how your friends are using Social Networking, such as when they post a new picture or update their profile. This is how we stay connected.

Friends are the bread and butter of Social Networking. I should point out that not all Social Networking sites will refer to your friends as “friends”. For example on Twitter they are known as “followers” and on LinkedIn they are known as “connections”.

Groups: Most Social Networking sites will use groups to help you find people with similar interests with you. It can also be used for to engage in discussions on certain topics such as Global Warming or The Lost Series.

A group can be named anything from “Reepham High School ’08” to “Kittens” to “One Direction Fans”. They are both a way to express your interests and connect with like-minded people. I should also point out that not all Social Networking sites name them “Groups”. For example on Facebook they are known as “Networks” and on Google+ they are known as “Circles”.

Discussions: One of the primary focuses on groups is to create interaction between users in the form of a discussion. Most Social Networking sites support all discussions, providing they’re appropriate. You will find that most of them allow you to post added content such as Photos, Videos or Songs which are related to the subject.

Blogs: Blogs are a feature that some Social Networking sites will have. These will not be as extensive as a WordPress or Blogger, but they are still there for you to keep people updated. Consider it as a longer Status or Tweet. Sometimes there are moments when you’d like to share something reasonably long but just don’t want to start up a full time blog. This is where the blog feature comes in handy.

Widgets: Another way of letting people know what you’re interested in is through Widgets. Some Social Networking sites have what we call a ‘Widget Gallery’. From here you can select which Widgets suit you and post them on your profile. This allows people to take polls for example, or experience a new piece of music. Even fill out a questionnaire that you’ve devised.

Why Start Social Networking?

Social Networking, as I’ve said, is everywhere. There are so many people already on Social Networking sites and more and more people sign up each and every day. Besides texting and phone calls, it is the most advanced and common way to connect with your friends and family. It’s phenomenal and not just for personal use. Thousands of business have flourish because of Social Networking. It’s free advertisement and enables you to create a reputation for yourself. You’re able to promote yourself, explain upcoming offers, deals and general news.

Most of us have hobbies or things that we are highly interested in such as Films, Books, Games, Sports and Music. Social Networking allows us to reach out to other people who share the same interests. It’s a great way of discovering new things. You will find that people will similar interests might like something else also, which in turn, will gain your interest. For example if you and someone else share the same interest for the band ‘Enter Shikari’, you might find that they also enjoy other bands of a similar genre that you have not heard of.

Am I too old to start Social Networking?

No.

You’re never too old to start Social Networking. If you’re worried about it being too difficult or technical for you to use, then don’t be. Social Networking sites are designed to be simple and easy to use so that they can widen their audience to everyone. There isn’t an age limit to Social Networking. It is advisable not to let children on without parental supervision but other than that go ahead and sign up!

You will find that there are specific groups dedicated to people of certain generations. This could be anything from “Music from the 60’s” to “Are you scared of you computer too?”. There will be other people of a similar age if not older than you, who can help you with certain problems or issues you might be having with Social Networking. If you have children or grandchildren, ask them for help. Social Networking has become almost second nature for children these days and so therefore they should be able to guide you through everything that you need to know.

How do I get started with Social Networking?

Just like going to a party, going camping or joining a book club, Social Networking can be a lot of fun.

It can be very productive for your business and or career, just like attending business seminars or a business conference. Social Networking means different things for different people. Everyone has their own gains from it but you’ll never know what you can achieve or experience through Social Networking until you give it a try for yourself.

The most common Social Network, Facebook, has reached over One Billion users as of September 2012. This includes celebrities such as Actors, Comedians, Musicians, Bands, Scientists and Athletes etc. Businesses are also on Facebook. For example Game, the gaming industry retailer, has got a main Facebook page and one set up for each individual branch or location. Game uses this to promote what deals are currently on, when you can pre-order new items and general news to its friends and followers.

Facebook however isn’t alone. There are many other Social Networking sites that cater to general interests such as MySpace, Google+ and Twitter. Then there are those that cater to specific interests such as Flixter which is a Social Network for Film Lovers.

What Social Network is right for me?

The first question you have to ask yourself is; ‘What do I want to gain from Social Networking?’

Are you looking to discuss films with someone? Are you looking to be able to stay better connected with your friends? Are you trying to promote your business? Are you trying to gain internet fame? Are you unsure and just want to find out what all the hype is about?

What ever the question is, you need to think about what you expect to gain from it.

If you’re looking to gain a reputation or trying to self promote your business then Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are great for advertising yourself. Social Networks such as LinkedIn and Google+ are better for gaining good business contacts and connections.

If you’re passionate about music there is a great Social Networking site called ‘Last.Fm’. It combines the idea of a personalised radio station with Social Networking which therefore allows you to create your own playlists and will suggest music to you based on your tastes and interests. It also allows you to listen to playlists that have been created by your friends, this is particularly helpful for when you’re at a party and need quick access to a good selection of tunes!

Unfortunately while there are plenty of different Social Networking sites which cater to most interests and needs, there isn’t one specifically catered for everything. This is where the user created groups on sites such as Facebook come in handy. Facebook comes with a search box; this enables you to look up anything that is on Facebook. If you’re trying to find a group to discuss the pollution in the sea, I guarantee that there will be a Group or Page dedicated to such conversations.

If you’re just looking to meet a wide variety of people and not just those interested in a specific interest then I would recommend a general Social Networking site such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or Hi5.

Summary

As you have learnt from this article, there are many different forms of Social Networking. You just now need to sit down and put in some time to find the right one for you or your business. You should start by defining your objectives. Please also be prepared to be flexible within the early days of Social Media. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Above everything though, make sure you enjoy it!

Social Media Web Design for Small Business

How important is social media marketing to the small business owner?  Well it depends on what you want to achieve.  If you are looking to take your brand to a national or global marketplace then yes – invest in social media marketing.  If you are a small business whose products and services are primarily geared to servicing your local area, then the question needs to be asked:

‘How much time do you have to dedicate to raising your social media profile and what return on investment will it provide in terms of sales or market growth?

Websites versus Social Media – what to focus on?

Websites make sales, social media pages generally do not.  Establishing good search engine rankings for your website should be the first goal for new start-ups so potential customers can find you.  Great content and the ability to convert visitors into sales create a successful online campaign. 

Building a list should be the prime focus of tapping into the potential of your site traffic, otherwise opportunities are lost.  You have the three time convincers, those people who need to connect with you more than once to be convinced to invest in your product or service.  List building provides the opportunity to stay in touch with customers that have yet to purchase and gives them a chance to get to know you more.

Social media can help connect at a deeper level with potential customers and used well can drive traffic to your website via promotions and competitions.  Integrated with your blog; social media pages can create a coordinated online marketing campaign with your website to build your brand.  Most people using social media are doing so for the same purposes as you – to promote themselves and for its social aspect.  That means sharing photos, videos, music, humour, inspiration, information, advice and connecting with stars, media and people of interest. 

When embarking on an integrated social media campaign you will need to think about what it is that you are going to share (that’s not directly selling) with your followers?  What have you got to offer that other people and businesses will find intriguing, inspiring, entertaining or useful?

Building Your Brand – Facebook, Twitter and Blogging

One thing I know is that people want to connect with you personally, they want to see your face on your social media profile not a logo.  The exception to this is if you own a well-known magazine, trade journal or charity.  Otherwise, my advice is to post a good photo.

Social media web design provides the opportunity to build your brand through images, slogans and profile information.  Important is your by-line, if people get what you are about in an instant through the use of visual media and a one liner, the light goes on…connections can be made.  When creating your slogan or by-line ask yourself ‘What is your higher purpose’ for doing what you do. Think in terms of how your products and services create value for people, ultimately what is it you are trying to achieve for them?

Transfer that message and branding through your Facebook page, Twitter page and Tumblr blog and when integrated with your website you have created a coordinated online social marketing campaign.  Social media web design gives the ‘wow’ factor to your social media pages.

Let’s talk about Blogging

Blogging if used cleverly can boost your search engine rankings and establish you as an expert in your field.  To save time, write your blog posts all at once and queue them for release at set times each day with automated posting to your Twitter and Facebook pages.  EBusiness Courses offers an integrated social media web design package that does all of this for you, except for writing the blog content.  Writing a blog takes commitment on your part and if you are using the medium to establish yourself as an expert, no one knows your business like you do.