How important is social media to a construction news and search website?

Welcome to the third post in our interview series with various companies within the construction industry. Today I’m joined by Paul from The Construction Index (TCI), an online search engine which is used by a large majority of the UK construction industry, the site also includes the UK’s largest construction search directory. In October 2011, Experian Hitwise confirmed that The Construction Index continued to be the number 1 website for UK construction search and construction news. It’s free to access, with no subscription or registration pay wall. The website provides a wide range of content including: comprehensive coverage of the main news and issues affecting the construction industry, online advertising, tender information, market data (which we used in our social media analysis of the top 15 UK construction companies) and a unique search facility that delivers targeted local and national results. TCI have a prominent social media presence, especially on Twitter which is how I met Paul. We have had various conversations about industry developments, interesting news (sometimes in German!) and inevitably… good food. So here we go… enjoy the post!

Please introduce yourself to our readers

I’m Paul Buist, publisher of The Construction Index @TCindex, a website used by more than 3.9 million visitors that reaches more than 60% of the total UK construction industry (absolute unique users). Our advertisers’ renewal rate is about 89%, with the industry average being just 43% – we must be doing something right. Our 15-strong team includes some of the best and the brightest people, who are motivated, customer-oriented and passionate about all things web. Our culture is balanced against the pursuit of excellence and a relentless focus on our customers. As well as a truly staggering amount of coding (we have been known to go through 24 packs of Red Bull in just one week). Our welcome video also has a number of other interesting stats and facts about us.

We all consider ourselves to be marketers for the site. The difference within TCI is that everyone is responsible for all aspects of the product, from user experience to future developments. I encourage trying new things and thinking ‘outside the box.’ The editorial team, headed up by Editor-in-Chief @will_mann, have over 40 years construction journalism experience between them and we hope to be adding to the team in the New Year. We have sales and marketing staff based all over the UK, supported by our main office near Peterborough.

Has social media helped drive more traffic to your website? If possible, can you give a rough estimation of how much of your traffic comes from social media?

We have used Twitter, blogging, and to a lesser extent LinkedIn and Facebook, to drive traffic to the site. It has been good for our profile, but saying that, around 17,000 visitors out of the last million came directly from social media, so we could do much better. (Sometimes I do wonder whether tweets go past so fast that they are missed…?). However, majority of our visitors do come from search engines (65%) and I do know that social and search both have a direct relationship in attracting more loyal visitors to our website.

Traffic sources overview report

I personally am a big fan of the opportunities social media can offer. I’m always trying to explain the value of being more ‘social’ to our clients, encouraging them to connect with buyers and end users of their products/services, as well as promoting and encouraging open discussions around brands and products. These platforms offer an opportunity to make the industry more open, helping people connect and share information, best practice and new ideas, as well as what @Ayaan_Mohamud is having for lunch!

Most businesses, even the sceptics, will be able to see on a daily basis, just how the internet and social media has changed our lives. Your audience can now connect and search the internet without a keyboard or even a mouse, they don’t even need to be near a plug! I recall the Editor of The Construction Index @TCI_PhilBishop, once said to me “This is all very Mission Impossible esk!” Potential clients are finding new and easier ways to source products and engage with new suppliers, slowly replacing most of the ‘old school’, traditional ones.

With the introduction of iPhones, iPads and other mobile/tablet technology, we’ve seen a truly massive shift in the market. There’s now an app for most things, including The Construction Index – our Pocket Edition is FREE to download.

You recently launched a new service, TCI Ads. Has there been a large uptake of the service? What role did social media play in promoting it?

TCi Ads is a great service and in its first month more than 200 companies joined us. Over the last 8 weeks, we have delivered more than 2.5 million advertisers’ messages. We promoted it on all our social media outlets, particularly Twitter. The service works in two ways. When our visitors are searching TCI for products and services, TCi Ads can deliver an advertiser’s message at the exact time a user is searching for them, just like Google AdWords. The second part of the service allows advertisers to offer their message alongside other content, this is not as targeted, however based on the information the visitor is viewing at the time, it may be of interest to them. The current Facebook advertising model is a little like this.

TCi Ads is capable of delivering over 26 million advertisers message each and every month. We just need everyone in the industry to sign up and start adding their keywords! It comes with no fixed term contract and only takes a few minutes to get started. We have even put together a step by step video.

TCi Ads comes with its own analytics area to offer users more details about how, when and where your messages are being displayed. Over 30 days, these are just a few of the keyword search volumes and click through rates:

Keyword impressions

Clicks and impressions

How has Twitter helped you connect with your audience? Does it help you keep up to date with the latest news from members?

We went into it not sure what the response would be, and now have more than 5,000 followers. All our journalists tweet as well. It’s a great way for our news to reach the market, useful for us to keep up with what our readers and the rest of the industry is doing, and at times, it provides a direct way of engaging with people. For example, if they have a question about one of our news stories or our up and coming 2012 Forward Features Schedule, they can send us a quick tweet.

What has been the response to your iPhone app?

Out of our last one million visitors, just over 51,000 were mobile users. That figure is growing all the time. Construction is mostly a site-based industry so it makes sense that more people will use mobiles to access news and other services. This is a key part of our thinking, we are currently developing new versions for both our iPhone and iPad users, offering users so much more free, up to date information at their finger tips. We are very close to finishing our first android edition so…watch this space. The Construction Index Pocket Edition is FREE to download on iTunes now.

We like the videos in the ‘Construction Index TV’ section. Have you got any advice for members on how they can make more use of that section?

Construction is a very visual market, so is ideally suited to video and construction companies should certainly include this in their marketing plan. We encourage companies to send us their videos, which we may feature in the TV channel and promote via our newsletters, Twitter, and so on. The Construction Index also provides marketing services to some of our clients, and we are considering offering video production as part of that.

Summary

Thanks to Paul for this great insight and I hope others can take away some useful points and examples from this post. I was particularly interested in the new TCI ads service and how social media helped promote awareness of this, resulting in such a large amount of sign ups just a few weeks after launch. I am sure the mobile app is also handy for many construction professionals who want to keep up with news on the go or want to search for information whilst they are out on site. Do any of our blog readers have the app? Leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts about it and if you have any questions to ask Paul then please do so below.

 

About Stuart Dinnie

Stuart has worked in the world of digital marketing for over 15 years. With his measured and planned approach, he has delivered robust digital strategies for construction companies to achieve real business growth. He now heads up the team at Pauley Creative as Managing Director and is leading his team & clients towards digital marketing excellence. He’s helped over 100 construction clients; helping them on their digital transformation journey, providing sustainable strategies that return year on year incremental growth, delivering award-winning websites and adding value from board level to marketing assistant.

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