Many of the construction industry’s customers are major brands in their own right (Sainsbury’s, Barclays, O2, Network Rail, BAA, etc). Thus, any part of the supply chain delivering projects should be acutely aware that their goods and services could have a direct impact on the ultimate client’s reputation – and vexing that customer is not usually a good idea.
This applies from ensuring sensitive planning and design, through good health and safety and being a considerate contractor to providing equipment – fridges, lighting, windows, door-closers, lifts, plumbing, power and IT services, heating and ventilation systems, etc – that work efficiently throughout their service life, backed up by smooth operation and maintenance processes. Slip up and the facility’s users (workers, customers, residents, passengers, etc) could soon be complaining and their irritation will – more often than not – be directed at the facility’s owner/operator, not the provider of the goods or services at fault.
Therefore, in an increasingly connected world, construction people should start thinking of themselves as partners with their clients, perhaps identifying with their client’s core business (for example, urban regeneration expert Jackie Sadek told recently how she had to think like a retailer even though she considered herself “a regeneration practitioner” while working for Tesco’s).
Ten ways to use social media to support your construction client
Adopting this perspective also, I think, offers potential for all supply chain companies to differentiate themselves and to use social media to support their work for the client – particularly where the client may be keen to stress its corporate social responsibility (CSR) credentials. For example:
- client, planners and designers can engage and consult more closely with local residents or the end-users of a proposed new facility (using web-based tools such as discussion forums, YouCanPlan, Second Life, etc)
- deploy blogs, wikis and collaboration platforms used to encourage joined-up thinking and problem-solving by the supply chain to plan, design and build a better facility for the client more quickly and efficiently
- use online materials exchange services (eg: EarthExchange, BuilderScrap) to recycle surplus materials, minimise waste and reduce transport movements
- use online carbon calculation tools (eg: AMEE) to monitor energy use associated with construction delivery: travel to site meetings, delivery vehicle movements, on-site power generation, etc
- build social media into the PR and marketing effort by monitoring blogs, bulletin boards, Twitter, etc to see what people are saying about the proposed development, the client and the project team, and continue the monitoring throughout design and, especially, during construction when local antipathy can be at its strongest if the work is seen as noisy or dirty, creating traffic problems, etc
- use the appropriate social media (see point 5) to respond directly and promptly to any perceived problems
- apply blogs, wikis and collaboration platforms (point 2) to capture best practice from each scheme so that the client’s future developments benefit from past lessons learned (blogging is something that Hull-based contractor Hobson & Porter has been doing – see this Be2camp presentation) – both at a project level and for safety, CO2 and waste reduction objectives)
- incorporate environmental sensors (eg: Pachube) that provide real-time data on building performance (effectively, a real-time Energy Performance Certificate!)
- contribute details of the development to OpenStreetMap so that this open-source mapping resource is kept accurate and up-to-date
- think how ‘hyper-local’ social media (eg: ResidentsHQ, Howzee, BuildingBulletins – see post) can be used by the client, designers and facilities managers to get post-occupancy feedback from building users, and also add value to the facility itself by improving communications among its users