Guidance for Firm Management and Principals
In the AEC arena, our portfolio is constantly visible—our clients walk past and through the buildings we have created, and our future clients file away what they see for when they are in need of our services. Our verbal portfolio is even more robust: a successful project often ensures that we will either be hearing from that client again or benefitting directly from their referrals.
Social media is the key to enhancing both our physical and verbal portfolios, making projects visible and accessible in a massive area of possibility and opportunity. These online portfolios introduce the idea of the “visible expert,” a professional with high marketplace visibility and a reputation for expertise. The most visible experts employ social media to its full capacity as an extension of their marketing and networking trajectories. As our industry gains traction with social media, firms who don’t utilize social media platform for exposure it will be overshadowed and more difficult for potential clients and employees to find.
As AEC principals, it is important to know just how much social media marketing and networking can benefit your firm—and to advise accordingly. Here are some AEC facts and statistics to substantiate the use of social media in our industry:
Social media can sway opinions.
59.9% of potential clients investigate the social media accounts of firms they are considering.
Today’s clients have an expectation of internet accessibility. 80.8% of professional services buyers check out websites, and from there, social media follows. One of social media’s biggest perks is how it drives clients to your website and straight to your digital portfolio. Whatever their first impression, a visitor knows they can confirm and assure themselves on their potential decisions by investigating online professionalism, firm culture, and branding. The way firms conduct themselves on social media will shape clients’ impressions.
Your target audiences are using social media.
Adults between the ages of 45 and 54 spend an average of 1 hour and 39 minutes daily on social media (2020).
The older generations’ favored platform is Facebook, with boomer engagement increasing in 2020’s pandemic lockdowns. A 2019 survey placed 69% of U.S. adults as Facebook users, with the average screen time at 38 minutes.
Instagram comes in second with average users. With an only slightly younger average audience, 120 million Americans spend about 29 minutes on the app each day. Its image-focused marketing provides good opportunities for displaying eye-capturing facets of current projects, making it a high-tier photography investment for posts and stories.
Each platform has a preferred audience—Twitter favors short-form news where LinkedIn users favor posts between 1900 and 2000 words with high lead generation. As a whole, clients with the money to spend on the AEC industry are present on mainstream media, and catering to the nuances of each platform will make those clients look.
Social media leaves lasting impressions.
By 2011, 39% of the industry businesses were engaged in social media marketing while 48% of their professionals were using social media for networking; these percentages have only increased.
Social media marketing is not just for leads, but also for networking. AEC professionals still rely heavily upon word of mouth, but architects also spend one out of every six minutes using social media. At its most subtle, marketing builds positive impressions that help make a business feel more viable when a decision must be made. 52% of the time, referrals are ruled out before anyone even starts talking about this or that firm. Talk matters, impressions matter. They both contribute heavily to the decisions both clients and your own industry people make.
Social media can build credibility.
Of visible AEC experts, 92% use LinkedIn, 76% use Facebook, and 74% use Instagram.
Visible experts are your reliable experts. Consistent and confident social media posting makes it clear that you are reliable and that your work is too. When social media marketing is done correctly, you are actively building rapport with those you cannot ordinarily reach. It is also an additional avenue to maintaining your rapport with prior clients. If you are visible enough, social media also allows you to track your own branding, helping with your brand awareness. What do people say about your firm? What encourages them to talk about you?
Social media’s impact on your firm’s leads depends in large part on how you approach it. It is critical to understand that social media is only a small part of an integrated online marketing and communications strategy. And while content is king, the content must also be correct for the platform. Know the distinctions between each platform and audience, and never stray from your brand. Talk to your clients so you understand what they are looking for, what they expect, and what they appreciate. From there, curate your social media output so that your work in this promising arena pays back.