This week, I had a chat with a young fellow who contacted our office for potential employment. As he was living in the remote un-Southern lands of Connecticut, I asked him how he’d discovered enough about us to warrant his interest. He simply replied “Facebook”. Of course, that was only the springboard of his research. He told me he learned enough about our work and the feel of our firm by our website and social media to peak his interest in working with us.
I’m certainly not part of the X,Y or Millennium generation. At 52, I’m at the tail end of the baby boomers. I have, however, grown to embrace the new generations’ communication tools of the trade: social media. When our firm was first developing, we depended solely upon the monthly shelter magazines to get our work and philosophies about design out into the public eye. Being a bit remote in our Deep South location, we definitely required these publications to establish our place on a national stage. With the Internet, however, other exciting venues are at our fingertips. Staying relevant in these media platforms is vitally important, especially as our real and potential clients get younger.
I get a lot of questions on how I use social media outlets in our business. The following are the electronic avenues I tread and how I see their importance in our communication and promotion:
Today, websites are as common as business cards: every business has one. They tend to have a lot of information (as does ours) but are static elements. In studying the analytics of how long the average visitor spends on a visit, it’s not long – 4.27 minutes to be exact (as of last month). Think of them as pretty billboards. Folks drive by so you have to catch the eye quickly and get to the point.
Our blog creates an active part missing from our passive website; it’s fresh and updates frequently. It’s also not a huge time commitment – perfect for the ADD client or fan. I write a new post weekly so this allows us to keep our communications open and consistent. Our followers are a mix of clients (old and new) and fans. I find it interesting to note our blog gets about twice as much traffic on the whole as our website. We can also converse about a range of topics – news, philosophies, eye candy pictures and sometimes even practical topics such as this.
Any business that’s the least bit social media literate has, at a minimum, a Facebook page. We’ve had one since 2009 and use it mainly to announce blog posts. It also comes in handy to announce speaking engagements, book signing parties and other events. I also promote other blogs who feature our work in their posts. Some pictures of our projects are posted on our page but I primarily save those for our blog posts. Facebook remains the social media juggernaut but, as my 16 year old daughter says, “Only old people use Facebook”. The younger and hipper set go to:
Twitter is by far the most spontaneous of all the social media outlets and, therefore, the most fun. I use it to announce blog posts and news but to also give behind-the-scenes snapshots of our work and travels or to just complain (such as @Delta your in-flight wifi is as slow as Christmas #holidaytweet). In addition, I’ve been interviewed on a few organized question-and-answer Twitter chat events. You really have to be on your toes when 100+ folks are rolling questions at you. Another great use for Twitter is for initiating relationships. Whenever I attend a design related conference, I begin a conversation with fellow attendees on Twitter. That way, when we finally meet, they sort of know who I am.
Pinterest is the site our OCD organized clients haunt. It has replaced the old tear-it-out-of-the-magazine file. I initially set up our account after finding many pictures of our work uncredited all over the place. I’ve also used it to set up private boards between clients and me which allow us to share photographs of ideas relative to their project. Of all the sites I’ve mentioned, I’ve noticed our followings on this site have grown at an incredibly fast rate. Everyone loves a pretty picture!
I’m fairly new at Instagram but have enjoyed it. Its main function in our promotional basket is to document what catches our eye daily. Many folks like to see, not only what we’re doing in the design world, but what we find beautiful, interesting or just plain comical.
I’ve found that most designers (of my old-school generation) are apprehensive with social media and often, don’t quite understand its place or purpose. Through trial and error, I’ve found all the tools I’ve listed to be of great use in promotion and communication. As I was told by a media expert at a recent design conference, “Your current clients and peers may not be using these venues but your future ones will be.” While keeping a firm grasp in the traditional past of my profession, I like to keep an eye on where it’s heading and how to successfully be there when it arrives.
Greg Tankersley for McAlpine Tankersley
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