How to make social media work in construction

Jul 26, 2017

Pardon my French but there’s an awful lot of crap out there when it comes to social media. It means there’s businesses up and down the country spending a lot of money on this channel, for absolutely no return. Quite frankly, it’s nuts.

When it comes to construction, many of us will have scratched our heads, asking ourselves the question of ‘who in construction is going to be interested in my products and services on Facebook?’. The answer in truth is no-one. Get your head around that and you might just make social media work for you.

Imagine walking into a networking event. You’d never pull out a megaphone and repeatedly shout out to anyone who would listen what products you sell, how fantastic your team is, all the great projects you’ve worked on and why people should work with you. So why do companies take this approach on social media, which is essentially a digital version of that networking hall?

Social media can be over complicated in many ways (and boy, do people do it!) but essentially, it’s just a digital form of word of mouth. Enabling information sharing, conversations, viewpoints, new connections, community building – it’s allowing us to do all the things we’ve done for years amongst our peers, our network and the industry – only faster, wider and with a bigger reach than before.

So where is the real value in social media for construction companies and how can you really make social sing for your business?

1. What’s your ‘why’ for social?
Be clear and specific about what you want to achieve. Promoting your company is not a social objective (try advertising). Gaining sector insight, building meaningful connections, positioning your company as being helpful in a certain area of expertise, supporting a recruitment drive – these are social objectives.

2. Social is about people
Company pages are useful for SEO and helping you look professional but social is about people, particularly in construction. Decide who is best to be active on social, what help they might need and what specific actions they’ll take. Avoid ghost social if you can (other people pretending to be you/ your business leaders), people see through it.

3. Start small
Choose what platform will best suit your objectives/ target audience and start with that one, taking the time to listen to the network, make quality engagements and post great content that is genuinely useful to others. When you’ve started to see some tangible results and feel you have the resource to expand, think about another channel.

4. Listen up
Social is at it’s best as a listening tool. Not that you’d think it from the amount of people who storm in, bull in a china shop style. Always take the time to listen first to what the network is saying about topics of interest to you. People love it when you listen them in real life – social is the same.

5. The 40-40-20 rule
Only 20% of what you do on social should be even remotely related to talking about yourself. The other 80% should be sharing (40%) and engaging (40%) – which means being helpful to others. It’s where social goes wrong for most people (who spend 90% of their time on scheduling content).

6. Quality over quantity
There’s a widespread perception that social is a cheap way to reach thousands of people. You may feel that way (after 100 self-indulgent posts) but no-one will have engaged with you. Spend your time on qualitative activities such as adding value to social subject matter groups or following a specific group of influencers or customers.

7. Start a blog
The most important part of social real estate is a blog. It’s a hub where you can share your views, be a thought leader, reflect on the interesting work of others and tell great stories. It’s also great for SEO. Rather than set up seven social platforms and start bleating away, start one with a supporting blog.

8. Not just the big five
Social is not just Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google+ and Pintrest. In fact some of the most successful social efforts in construction don’t go anywhere near those five, instead preferring to focus on more niche platforms where they know their audience and customer base is e.g. the Green Building Forum or the Engineering Exchange.

9. Keep it simple
There’s a hoard of elaborate tracking, scheduling, posting etc. tools out there for social. Managing them can take more time than the social activity itself. Keep it simple and find a system that works for you and your needs, including enabling you to respond efficiently when you need to.

10. Measurement that matters
Shares, connections, likes, views – lots of great numbers that don’t really mean a lot. How many new meaningful relationships did you create via social? How many business leads as a result of helping people with challenges they shared? How many of your target audience read an advice article you published? These are specific measures that are meaningful.

Remember the networking hall and the megaphone? No-one wants to be connected with that person.

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