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04 Aug, 2015

Marketing Through Social Media Recap

Laura Ewan

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Read time: 5 minutes, 24 seconds

Two weeks ago, I sat on a panel with fellow industry experts Kate Erdy, CPSM, Mary Moore, Shawn Broxson, and moderator Katie Garrett in front of a sold out crowd at the District Architecture Center for the SMPS DC and AIA|DC joint program, Marketing Through Social Media. I use the word “experts” lightly (no offense panel!) because as the conversation proved, the world of social media is changing rapidly, and there are too many platforms, resources, and strategies in the mix for any one person to claim expert status across the board. But that’s exactly what makes these types of conversations so valuable. The opportunity to hear how other marketers are incorporating social media into their marketing strategy, and what tricks they’ve come up with to plan and monitor their activity always leaves me inspired to try something new. As with every panel I’ve participated on, I got just as much out of the experience as our attendees, and it was interesting to go back over the stream of live tweets from the event and see what parts of the conversation stood out for the audience. For those of you who weren’t able to make it, here are a few of my favorites with a recap of the panel discussion that followed.

Social media has played a leading role in blurring the line between our personal and professional lives online. And though many of us have carefully crafted resumes on LinkedIn, that's not the only platform potential employers, or clients, are checking out. That's why it's just as important to strategically manage your personal social media strategy as it is your firm's. Think about your different audiences (family, friends, professional network, influencers) and make deliberate decisions about which platforms you'll use to reach them. Make sure you know how to use the available privacy settings, and have them set appropriately to support your strategy.

Being diligent about your privacy settings is one way to go. But the majority of the panel's discussion around this topic focused on the potential of cross-platform promotion and personal branding. Successful marketing is all about authenticity, and that extends to marketing yourself. Instead of taking a divide and conquer strategy, ensure consistency across all of your platforms and make sure the content you share portrays an authentic personal brand both your mom and your boss can be proud of.

Go ahead. Google yourself. Now take a look at the top five results. I'd bet that at least one of your social profiles ranks in the top five results. Not only do social media profiles rank high in results from a standard web search, but the social platforms themselves are now among the most popular "search engines" used to learn more about a topic, company, or individual. In addition to YouTube being ranked as the second largest search engine, now studies show that millennials turn to Facebook, after Google, when they want to do a deep dive on a topic.

This alone should be incentive enough for professional services executives to support the use of social media as a part of their marketing strategy. It's also my go-to argument for why technical staff need to have up-to-date and robust LinkedIn profiles. The first thing anyone will do when they want to learn more about you before a meeting, or after seeing your resume in a proposal, is look you up on LinkedIn. If your profile is empty, and your competitor's has an engaging bio, recent project examples, and a complete work history, who do you think is going to have the advantage? Within five minutes, the client already knows more about, and has a stronger connection with, your competitor. So spare your clients the frustration and take a few hours to complete that profile. Your bottom line will thank you for it

Though nothing replaces a personal connection when it comes to forming relationships with the press, connecting via social media is a great way to start the conversation. The panel agreed unanimously that the best social platform for this is Twitter. Make a point to follow your target publications and reporters to learn more about their interests and where you can help. PR pro Carrie Morgan of Rock the Status Quo recommends making use of Twitter lists to organize and keep track of accounts based on market, publication type, or region. You can also follow Help A Reporter Out (or HARO) on Twitter. The HARO feed shares posts from reporters who are looking for sources to help complete their stories. Keep up with the HARO feed to identify opportunities for your firm or projects to support stories already in the works.

Don't be scared to reach out to press via social media, but remember it's still about them, not you. The basic rules of PR apply, whether you're making a verbal pitch or using 140 characters.

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Like all marketing efforts, your firm's social media activity should be strategic and measurable. Before committing to a platform, you should ask yourself:

  • What are you trying to achieve? What are your goals?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Which platform is most appropriate for reaching that audience?
  • And how are you going to measure the success of your efforts?

As marketers, for years we struggled to make a direct connection between social media activity and a clear return on investment through a project win. Now that social has become an integral and accepted part of most firms' marketing strategies, it's not about that one project (though that would be nice) as much as it is about ongoing impact on brand awareness, visibility, and relationships. Panelist Kate Erdy shared that she no longer refers to ROI as return on investment, but instead measures their social media success using return on impact. This has helped incorporate anecdotal evidence, as well as shift the conversation away from project-specific benchmarks to broader campaign goals.

However you choose to define success for your social program, there's now more ways than ever to take a deep dive into your analytics. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have stepped up their game in order to compete with third-party analytics platforms, and now provide robust reports including information about your audience, the success of your content, and how you compare to your competitors. If you're paying for a third-party platform for your analytics, it might be time to revisit what the platforms are able to provide themselves.

Thanks to everyone who attended for helping make this program such a great success, and for live tweeting the event. If we learned one thing from this panel, its that the SMPS DC membership wants more programming around social media. There is only so much we can cover in 90 minutes, and there are so many more voices to add to the mix, including yours. If you have any tips to add, or an idea for our next social media program, let us know in the comments. Our panelists will be monitoring this post to answer any follow up questions shared below.

Laura Ewan is Manager of Communications and Culture at MGAC and currently serves as Director of Education for SMPS DC. An active member of SMPS since 2007, she’s also a proud cat mom, cartoon fanatic, and one of the voices behind Communiqueso.com, a blog and podcast covering marketing and communications in the AEC industry.