This is the second post in our interview series with different members of the construction industry. Dave joins us from SNOW architects to talk about how his practice use social media to communicate with their audience, raise awareness of the business and generate leads.
I ‘virtually’ met Dave through Twitter over a year ago and then finally saw him in person at our digital marketing seminar in October. He has built up a large online following and often shares interesting articles on industry news and developments as well as blogging about how architects can use the latest technologies for their projects. Now, I will let him take the stage, so to say, and tell you a bit more about the company and how social media has helped him.
Introduction to SNOW architects
I’m David Cornett, Architectural Technician and Director of SNOW architects ltd. We are a trusted RIBA Chartered Practice based in Liverpool, employed locally and throughout the North West of England and North Wales by a wide variety of sectors. SNOW architects currently provide architectural services on projects with a contract value of up to £15m. Our current live projects range from extensions to client’s homes, new build residential properties, apartments, restaurants, hotels, industrial units, student accommodation and mixed-use city centre schemes. I run all the company social media accounts, my business partner doesn’t do marketing.
Why did you decide to start using social media, and Twitter in particular?
We’ve had a website since we started in 2003. I initially set up a personal Facebook account around 4 years ago which I started using to promote the business to other Liverpool based companies. I then joined Linkedin and Twitter later on and have been tweeting for around 3 years now. You can follow me at @snowarchitects.
What has social media allowed you to do that you couldn’t do before?
We are only a small practice so it’s an effective way of marketing. The Twitter account is connected to my Linkedin and Facebook account, as everyone has their favourite form of social media. People who are on Facebook are not necessarily on Linkedin or Twitter.
I’ve found that social media is a great way of networking and developing relationships and it’s always good to meet ‘tweeps’ (people on Twitter) in real life. The ice is broken which makes it a bit easier to get chatting, especially as I use my face as the avatar for all our social media accounts. When I attend a networking event, I often have people come up to me because they recognise me from my avatar. One such event is Construction Pool @constructpool (Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds), the organisers have regularly made comments about how many people attend on the back of a tweet or Linkedin update that I’ve made whilst helping them promote the event.
Being a small practice, social media also allows us to see how other people run their business. Apart from having conversations with other similar architect practices and construction professionals, I also follow and speak to business coaches, PR, web designers, marketers, photographers etc. Through this I’ve picked up a few ideas which have grown and developed. I also attended BE2camp and TedX Liverpool this year, both of which have been very beneficial.
You have been using QR codes and Augmented Reality for a few months now. How have these new technologies benefited you?
We have had QR codes for a while but were not really using them to their full advantage so for the first time, we actually printed a large QR code for a site hoarding in November. We have also been using them in our printed brochure to link to additional information on the website, such as videos or additional photographs of the project. These have been well received but I think the technology still needs explaining as many people are not aware of what QR codes are and how to use them.
I am quite excited about the possibilities of Augmented Reality (AR) and its use in the industry, especially with the majority of people having some sort of smartphone or tablet. We’ve done some image based AR in the #architectmap and some 3D models to show clients. It’s again a bit of a gimmick, but clients have been impressed when I pull out my iphone and guide them through their building.
At SNOW architects we have also been looking at Geo Located models, which are superimposed over a phone’s camera as you look at the site. We’ve had a lot of Twitter interest in this from all over the world, which is something I didn’t expect. I think the main thing disadvantage is that there isn’t a single app which can do all the things I would want so it’s a case of switching from app to app.
Who do you follow on Twitter and why?
I follow people who I think might inform me or entertain me. Most importantly it helps if they have an avatar and a bio filled in. Generally I follow people in the UK (especially local companies who we can work with or refer work to) and who are construction or property based. I regularly unfollow people who I think don’t suit me or constantly send me to a paywall website.
I follow a few product manufacturers but I don’t like people doing the hard sell to me. This is especially the case if we tweet about getting planning permission on a job, sometimes you then get spammed by lots of companies. I like to form a relationship with people first, I’m not going to recommend someone because they spammed me. I like to see informative tweets about how the product helps overcome a problem.
Do you think social media has allowed you to increase brand awareness of SNOW architects practice?
Most definitely, it has helped promote the company name so at least most people have actually heard of us when we go to industry events in Liverpool and Manchester. We have also had several job enquiries via Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook on the back of a tweet or status update which jogs someone’s memory.
Have you got any advice for other businesses who are still unsure about using social media?
I think a lot of people assume it takes a lot of time, but it doesn’t have too. I tweet whilst waiting for someone to turn up to a meeting or at the train station etc. I also automate some tweets in advance using the Buffer App. So my advice would be to just do it, you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain!
A big thanks to Dave for sharing this information with us. He made some interesting points about how valuable social media can be for small businesses who don’t have huge marketing budgets. Through their presence on social media, SNOW architects have been able to raise their profile and make local companies aware of what they do and how they work. Attending networking events to meet people you have been tweeting with in person is a chance to strengthen relationships with industry peers and prospects, which could lead to future business opportunities. Dave is always keen to try out the latest technologies and evaluate how this can improve the business and benefit his clients. I look forward to seeing how he continues to use Augmented Reality on his future projects.
If you would like to ask Dave a question or have anything else to add about how architects can (and are) using social media then please leave a comment below.