In June 2010 we carried out an analysis of how the top 15 construction companies in the UK were using social media to connect with their audience online. The analysis clearly indicated how many of these multi-million companies were simply ignoring social media by either not having a social presence at all or, if they had an account, it was used as a tool to simply broadcast company news. Whilst this is at least a start, social media channels can be used as a conversational tool to connect with members of the supply chain and your target audience, conducting research or just interacting with other people within the construction industry and having interesting discussions. Nearly 17 months have now passed and I have decided to revisit this analysis and investigate whether there have been any positive changes.
**Update: We have created an infographic comparing the 2010 and 2011 findings, to see it please visit http://bit.ly/top15infographic
The Construction Index publishes an annual list ranking UK construction companies according to turnover so I have picked the top 15 construction companies of 2011 for my analysis. Looking at the two lists, there have been a few companies who have moved up whilst others have dropped below the top 15. The notable fallers are Amey UK, Bovis Lend lease and Sir Robert McAlphine who will not be included in this updated social media analysis. Instead they have been replaced by Enterprise, Keller and Costain who have moved up into the top 15.
The key areas investigated were the same for each company and have been listed below:
Twitter – Do they have a presence and are they tweeting? Are they engaging? Engagement is based on the ratio of outgoing tweets to incoming tweets (mentions).
LinkedIn – Do they have a company profile? Have they set up any groups?
Facebook – Do they have a company page? How many people ‘like’ it? Are they posting unique information which is not available on their website?
Website Links – Do their websites have clear and visible links to their social media profiles?
Analytics – Do they have analytics installed to measure traffic generated from social channels?
Outbound Feeds – Do they include RSS or E-Mail feeds for people to subscribe to?
- 13 out of the 15 top construction companies are on Twitter.
- 9 out of the 13 on Twitter are actually Tweeting (posting updates).
- 4 of the 15 construction companies are replying to some of their Twitter mentions but only 1 of those 4 is starting to engage with followers.
- 13 out of 15 top construction companies have a LinkedIn company page.
- 7 out of the 13 on LinkedIn have set up groups for others to join.
- All of the 15 top construction companies have a Facebook page.
- Only 3 out of the 15 on Facebook are actually posting updates.
- 5 of the 15 companies have placed links on their company websites to their social media profiles.
- All of the top 15 construction companies have analytics installed on their website.
- 8 out of the 15 companies have an RSS feed on their website that people can subscribe to.
Last year’s analysis revealed that only 7 of the top 15 construction companies had a Twitter presence, compared to 13 in 2011. This increase shows that these companies have at least secured their brand name on Twitter and set up an account that their customers can follow. Enterprise and Babcock are the only 2 who are yet to set up a Twitter account. Of these 13 construction companies on Twitter only 9 of them are actually using Twitter to update their followers on the latest company and industry news. Keller, Vinci, Interserve and Galliford Try have registered a company account but are yet to use it as a tool to communicate with their target audience.
Mitie and Skanska were 2 of the 3 companies in 2010 that had been active on Twitter and posting updates. Unfortunately they were not getting involved in discussions and conversations with their followers but simply broadcasting company news. In this 2011 analysis, not much has changed with Skanska’s approach and they are still failing to have conversations with their followers and reply to mentions.
Mitie, on the other hand seem to be focusing more on their social media efforts as there’s an obvious change in the way they are using Twitter. Looking at their Twitter timeline, there are a number of tweets which are replies to direct mentions and retweets of other people’s content which is a good use of Twitter and helps builds up their follower base. There’s still room for more conversation such as answering follower questions, starting discussions about related topics currently affecting the industry and sharing educational material, thereby providing value to their followers. But it’s good to see a gradual improvement from last year.
As you can see from the findings table, the other 3 companies who are indicated as ‘engaging’ (showing a clear increase in replies, retweets and conversations over the last few months) on Twitter are BAM, Kier and Laing O’Rourke. By engaging I mean, a balance between broadcasting and sharing news and replying to follower mentions.
Bottom line, more construction companies now have a Twitter presence and most of them with an account are regularly posting updates. However, the majority are only broadcasting company news and not getting involved in conversations or sharing any relevant information. Mitie, BAM, Kier and Laing O’Rourke are gradually starting to have conversations with their followers and answering direct questions. It will be interesting to see if this increases over the next few months.
13 of the top 15 construction companies had a company profile page on LinkedIn (except for Keller and Enterprise) which is encouraging. The others have all set up a page so that employees and customers can follow their updates. LinkedIn is a professional network aimed at connecting industry professionals from all over the world to engage in group discussions. However, only 7 of the 13 companies on LinkedIn have set up a group (or groups) to encourage conversations amongst employees, customers, prospects and industry peers.
Carillion and Balfour Beatty are worth mentioning here because they’ve both set up several groups to discuss different aspects of their business. Balfour Beatty have a closed group called ‘Social Media Forum’ where employees can discuss how best to develop an effective social media strategy for the company. The group also includes reference material that can be downloaded and shared amongst the different offices and departments. Carillion have several groups set up, such as ‘Carillion Graduates’ for training and development purposes and ‘Carillion Energy Services’ for employees and partners of the energy division of the company.
Bottom line, unfortunately most of the groups created were closed and mainly meant for current or previous employees and partners, such as the Costain networking group. To get the most out of LinkedIn, companies should create more open groups where their prospects and industry peers can also get involved in discussions. This can help with reputation management (especially to rebuild trust after negative news or PR), encourage project collaboration and improve customer service.
Facebook is the only social media network where all of the top 15 companies have a company page. But in most cases this page is not customised and merely contains some background company information from Wikipedia. No updates, no photos, no links, no conversation. This is definitely a missed opportunity because, as you can see from the figures in the findings table most of the company pages have several hundred ‘likes’, with Laing O’ Rourke leading the pack with 846. So there are actually a large number of people interested in hearing from these companies and wanting to engage with them. How many of those ‘likes’ are employees of supply chain partners that work with these companies?
The only 4 companies that are actually posting a few Facebook updates are Balfour Beatty, Mitie, Morgan Sindall and Skanksa. Balfour Beatty posts at random with one or two updates every few months and these mainly include news articles about themselves but at least it is a start. Skanska, on the other hand is run by their Swedish team so includes updates in both English and Swedish. Their page is much more active and includes comments and updates from other people, not just the company. An example is a post on their wall from ‘Inside London 2012’ who is a storyteller working on the London Olympic site monitoring the build progress, who is thanking Skanska for their support with his project. This kind of positive news and information helps to build up a favourable reputation of the company.
Morgan Sindall have posted several broadcast updates but very irregularly as the last one was in August. They do have an album with some stunning project photos so they could be putting more effort into promoting these photos and maybe starting discussions around these projects and which ones people like the most. It would be a good opportunity to get some feedback from customers and also from architects.
The final Facebook ‘page’ I want to highlight is not actually a page but a group. Mitie have set up an open Facebook group called ‘Mitie People’ which has 1,848 members. It’s very active with people posting updates, comments, links, photos several times a day. The only problem is that a lot of the updates are regarding tax, wages and other internal issues that probably should not be posted in the open for everyone to see. They do have a company social media policy on the page but I think they need to take a closer look at what people are posting and what kind of impression that leaves on potential employees and customers. The idea of having an open group is great, but maybe the focus should be on discussing industry issues and not internal HR issues.
Bottom line, compared to the ‘like’ figures from last year the numbers have increased dramatically. In 2010 most of the company Facebook pages had 0 or only 2 figure numbers with the highest being 40. In 2011, the majority have figures in the hundreds showing that more people want to connect with companies on a more personal level. This is your chance to add a bit of personality behind your brand. Show photos of your employees, your latest exciting project or what ‘green’ activities you are doing.
Out of the top 15 construction companies, only 5 have links to their social media accounts on their company websites. Balfour Beatty features them at the bottom of their homepage and also includes a link to their YouTube channel which has a total of 5 uploads. This is a good start but they need to keep the momentum going as their last video was posted 7 months ago. Morgan Sindall have links to their Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts on the Group homepage but not on their subsidiary (e.g Lovell, Overbury) company websites. And what about LinkedIn? There are no links to their company page which is surprising as LinkedIn is a professional network which can be used to entice potential employees and to also give prospects an idea of who works in your company.
BAM Construct have a tiny note at the bottom of their website encouraging visitors to follow them on Twitter. They already have over 800 followers and are starting to engage in more conversations so they should make the link to their profile more prominent on the site. This will make visitors more aware that they have a Twitter presence and can increase their following. I also found their YouTube channel which has 10 videos on it showing some of their project work. But I couldn’t find a link to this anywhere on their site! Videos are a quick and popular way of showcasing your work so BAM should capitalise on this by promoting their channel on their website to drive more traffic. Kier have Twitter and YouTube icons on their homepage but LinkedIn is missing once again. Although, I must say I was quite impressed with their YouTube channel, it’s more active than the others I’ve seen with the most recent one being posted 2 weeks ago. Below are screenshots showing the social media links on Mitie’s and BAM’s websites.
Bottom line, integration still seems to be an issue but has improved from last year. Good to see so many companies starting to use YouTube to promote their videos, but they need to make people aware of their channel by having links to it on their website. The most surprising finding was that out of the 5 companies who included social media links on their websites only 2 (Balfour Beatty and Mitie) had links to their LinkedIn page.
Moving onto measurement, all of the construction companies actually have Google Analytics (or another analytics provider) installed on their websites. This is definitely encouraging to see, as last year Vinci, BAM, Mitie and Skanska did not have any. But as Pritesh said in his 2010 analysis, the big question is whether they are using the data obtained to make better online marketing decisions? I wonder how many of them know exactly how many downloads of their ‘Sustainability Reports’ have come from Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook?
Bottom line, having analytics installed is one thing, but understanding how you can use the data to make better business decisions is key. This is something only the companies themselves know but I suggest reading this article ‘measure what matters’ to see whether you’re focusing your efforts on measuring the ‘must knows’ and not the ‘nice to knows’.
Outbound Feeds Analysis
8 out of the top 15 companies have an RSS feed on their website that you can subscribe to. Some of these also have a ‘subscribe to our latest news’ option so I wonder what the difference is between the two. Is the information fed through the RSS feed different to the one distributed through the latest news option? Carillion is one that has both options but when you look at their RSS feed, the last piece of news was published in July 2009!! Why are they encouraging users to subscribe to something that they seem to have completely neglected? This seems to be another case of “I want this on my website because everyone else has” without actually developing a strategy or plan of how you are going to use it and what information you will be feeding through it.
Mitie and Babcock have the option to either sign up to an RSS feed of the latest news and press releases (media centre) or to receive regulatory news. The media centre feed is relatively active so this differentiation is beneficial to those only interested in regulatory news which is published less frequently. Interserve include both an RSS feed and a news alerts subscription option on their website. They give users the opportunity to define what type of news updates they subscribe to by categorising their content into sections such as ‘Contracts’, ‘Corporate Responsibility’ or ‘Stock Market Releases’. This segmentation allows customers and prospects to define what types of news they want to receive, so the information will be relevant to them.
Compared to the 2010 analysis there have been some positive improvements in the way the top 15 UK construction companies are approaching social media. More companies have started to claim their social profiles and are starting to share news, publish photos and videos, create discussion groups and use analytics to obtain relevant data. To ensure that social media contributes towards achieving business goals and your bottom line you have to develop a strategy and integrate it into the rest of your marketing activities. Many seem to just have an account but have not thought about what they will be using it for and who in their company is going to be responsible for their social presence, whilst this is fine they will also have to bear in mind that they may be playing catch up for a while. When deciding to jump on the social media bandwagon, construction companies should develop a clear social strategy with defined goals and objectives, in the same way they plan their other marketing activities. Think about what you want to achieve and then use the social platforms that your audience is using. No point being on a social network if none of your target audience is present. Do some research first.
Social media is a relationship building platform and a real time communication channel. It allows companies to listen and monitor conversations going on about their industry, their products, their competitors and their company. But are any of these 15 companies actually doing this? Are they connecting with customers and supply chain partners via Twitter? Are they producing and sharing content that will answer their questions and solve their problems? Are they proving their expertise and thought leadership by getting involved in LinkedIn discussions, producing videos on YouTube to show their latest projects or using Facebook to add a personality to their brand name/logo and connect with other member in their supply chain? Are they providing any value to followers?
The answer to most of the questions above is not yet. There could be many reasons for this; lack of education and support from the exec team who fail to take any notice of it, fear of the transparency of social media, lack of resources or being overwhelmed at the number of available networks and platforms. Change is always approached with caution but to get any valuable returns from social media, these construction companies need to change their approach. Your employees are your greatest brand advocates and banning social media at work means you are stopping them from spreading the word about you. Create a social media policy to protect your online reputation and set guidelines for employees to empower them to use social media to build relationships and share your content. Potential customers or employees want to get an insight into your company, how you work and who works there so what better way to do this than through their social media profiles.
What do you think are the barriers to social media engagement and how can these be overcome? Compared to other industries who have been engaging on social media for several months, why is the construction industry so far behind? Have you come across any good examples of a construction company actively engaging and providing value online?
Here is a table showing the full social media analysis:
Note: Data correct as of 27 Oct 2011.
Blue tick: Starting to have conversations and reply to mentions.
X*: ‘Mitie people’ Facebook group, not page.