“In a ‘small world of relationships' locale, like Oklahoma City, it is very hard to gauge exactly how or where new clients found out about your firm first,” she said.
Oklahoma City's LWPB Architecture has two social media outlets, an award-winning website, www.lwpb.com, “crafted to showcase our work and office culture” and a Facebook page, said Morgan Robberson, architecture professional and marketing-social media coordinator.
“Our Facebook page is a completely different animal,” Robberson said. “Our ‘Likes' include employees, relatives of employees, potential employees and industry partners-consultants — even competitors.”
Robberson was not surprised by the lack of zeal for social media among architecture-engineering firms uncovered by ZweigWhite.
“Despite the hype and claims of marketing agencies, it's hard to see the payout of social media for unilateral application in the (architecture-engineering-construction) world. Champions of social media seem to be either mega-firms with entire departments devoted to their online persona, or small boutique firms focused on marketing to a particular niche. For many firms, it's difficult to consistently create engaging content that is relevant to all of their markets.”
Science Applications International Corp., SAIC, has embraced social media. The McLean, Va.-based Fortune 500 company and its subsidiaries has some 40,000 employees, including an Oklahoma City office, formerly Benham Cos.
The ZweigWhite survey findings “represent a huge missed opportunity,” said Terry Helms, senior vice president of architecture, engineering and technology, in Oklahoma City.
“At SAIC, we have found that our clients are present on these platforms — if not professionally, then certainly personally. Architecture, engineering and design firms must have a brand, a voice, and a presence in multiple social media forums to not only increase name recognition, but also to connect and engage with clients and prospects,” Helms said.
SAIC uses Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube “and now, even Pinterest,” said Joseph Joseph, managing director of BIM (building information modeling) and CAD (computer-aided design) technologies. “We post every day to these platforms with news of recent contracts, key projects, thought leadership articles, events and videos. We are following not only our clients, but also our competitors and news sources to stay on top of trends.”
And SAIC does have a social media strategy, the kind that some employers find risky because it diffuses control of content.
“SAIC ... empowers its experts to also engage and promote themselves through user-generated content. As SAIC professionals, we are encouraged to interact on an individual level with the company and our clients through social media,” Joseph said. “I have my own professional Twitter account, @BIMManagers, and my work at SAIC has helped ramp up my followers and engagements by promoting my speaking engagements, articles and thought leadership. This business is all about relationships and the personal expertise that you bring to each project. SAIC recognizes that.”
That approach seems to put SAIC at the vanguard of branding trends chronicled by Forrester Research.
Social media can “humanize a faceless corporation,” “bond your brand to your consumer's real life,” “engage brand lovers with a more immersive experience” “reward brand loyalists with personalized communications” and “activate new advocates using the established loyal fan base,” Forrester said.
“Social” does energize social media, Forrester said, as employees become online “brand ambassadors.”