Marketing the Social in Architecture

Tonight I attended an event with the fantastic Nic Granleese of BowerBird and Bek Drayton from BeKonstructive Marketing, learning about marketing and communication within our architectural industry. I have been a massive fan of BowerBird since it’s inception and love what it has done for the accessibility of architects and architecture within the media. It was great to hear their insights of past, current and upcoming trends in marketing and social media, and how we, as architects, can increase our use of marketing to benefit our industry.

It was a really interesting chat with these two directors and I learnt a lot about how architectural (and other) businesses can utilise social media better to market themselves, without forgetting the endgame – to get more work. Broadly, the more successful platform for our industry still appears to be Instagram, so most of the talk focused on that platform.

These are some of the things I learnt:

  • SM and marketing is getting more automated and you may as well jump on board and use this to your advantage. There are a few free and paid apps that you can use to schedule your SM posts, even up to two months in advance. However, as a direct result of this over-automation, customers now want authenticity and interaction more than ever. So posts need to be mixed with real, live ‘fresh’ posts to show current events and activities. In particular, customers want to know who you are, what you believe in, what you’re passionate about, what happens behind the scenes. With the emergence of video content, the use of live stories is increasingly how customers are choosing to get content.
  • Content creation is key. In a professional setting, customers are looking for brilliant images, clear messages and regular updates. While content creation can be done in-house, it takes time. It needs to be allocated appropriately, with automated help where applicable, and if that’s not possible then this can be out-sourced to an external company. Bek explained a bit about how this works for her company. As an example, she might send a list of ten questions to an architect and they send back the answers (even just in an audio file if this is easiest) and then this is used to create numerous posts and content when required. It’s important to have good and relevant content for static posts, as they are a long-term representation of your brand.
  • In opposition to the above, Stories are much more ad-hoc, flexible and personal. Nic advised one of his firm’s strategies for stories – let everyone in the company contribute. A quick picture from site, a detail sketch, a supplier presentation – show people the life of what happens in your company. Often there are so many levels of approval and management sign-off that posts don’t get off the ground. SM needs to be much more agile and time-sensitive than that – you need to show what you’re doing now, not what you did two weeks ago. As there can be so many different activities happening, sharing the load of who can (and does) post, means it actually gets done, rather than falling in the lap of one person. If you trust your staff enough to do your work, deal with clients, create compliant structures and spaces, then you should be able to trust them to post some pictures. And, worse case, if something is posted that is not right, it can easily be deleted. Things move so quickly now that deleted posts are quickly forgotten in the rush for new content.
  • And lastly, engage engage engage. You need to use marketing as a way for people (customers) to get to know the value you can provide for them. They don’t want that exact pretty picture building on their site – they want to know how you think, how you work, how you treat people, how you see the world. Connect your message with their message, and create real relationships with your community.

I really liked the analogy Nic shared about marketing through electronic media – that’s it’s like going to the gym. You have to make a commitment to do it regularly. Schedule it in your diary and make sure you uphold your promises. And just like the gym, you can’t expect to go once or twice, come home and look in the mirror and expect the view to have changed. Sometimes it takes six months, or a year, to see improvements. Be patient, but keep going. Also, don’t be afraid to put out to the world what you are trying to achieve. Are you dreaming of designing a certain type of building, or toning those troublesome calves (to keep the metaphor)? Ask for help and show people that you are genuine about wanting to work with them and create the kind of built environment that can change the world. You’ll be surprised how supportive and helpful people can be.

Happy Marketing!

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