Being unable to attend Monday’s SMW Be2camp event (see post), which I had organised, meant I missed Remit Consulting‘s Bob Thompson’s talk about the RICS report, The role of social media in commercial property. However, as well as his presentation (here), he also forwarded me a link to the report and I have finally been able to sit down and read it. As far as I am aware, it is the first time that a UK built environment membership organisation has commissioned a report focused on social media and its relevance to its professionals, and – hurray! – it stresses the need to engage with Web 2.0.
The report describes the Web 2.0 phenomenon and looks at two ways – the Scoble starfish and the Solis/Thomas conversation prism (which I used in my presentation to the SMAEC event on Wednesday) – to classify the different types of applications. Remit then provide a simplified version of the prism – dubbed the ‘coffee cup’ – that puts marketing and sales, plus assets, individuals and companies around the core: transactions. Different forms of content creation are then outlined: blogging, micro-blogging (Twitter), sharing of images, sound (podcasts), knowledge (wikis), RSS feeds and forums; and the report also describes the principles of tagging, crowdsourcing and networking (eg: Facebook, Linkedin).
According to Remit, while the real estate industry has a reputation of being “the last of the late adopters of technology”, because networking has always been an important part of the industry it is “probably better placed than many others when it comes to dealing with social media and Web 2.0”.
How the different platforms might be used for different RICS professional groups is summarised in a diagram (above), along with a commentary (necessarily, probably for reasons of brevity, rather simplistic in places) regarding applications for use in Agency, Professional Services, Building Surveying, Development, Property & Facilities Management, and Marketing scenarios. Some industry-specific examples are quoted (the US-focused Real Estate Wiki in relation to professional services, for example, and Facebook for P&FM), but others could usefully have been mentioned. For example, the P&FM example could have been ResidentsHQ; as well as (Ning-based) CREOPoint, Reorb and the Property Network are UK real-estate industry-specific networks; and there are innovative uses of environmental sensor data by surveyors and premises managers (Pachube).
Thankfully, the report says companies trying to block access to social media “is almost certainly a fruitless strategy”, continuing:
“Social media offers extraordinary opportunities for individuals and small businesses to grow their brand capital. It has never been easier for individual employees to network with their peers, create content online and comment upon anything they find in the virtual world.”
It goes on to add: “Trusting individuals to act as brand ambassadors is exactly what corporate use of social media demands“.
I beg to differ with Remit’s opinion that getting to grips with social media “can present significant barriers, particularly to a small surveying practice.” In my view, small businesses often have much more flexibility than larger corporates when it comes to adopting Web 2.0, and the benefits can mean that a small business punches well above its weight in creating brand awareness, opinion leadership, etc.
Nonetheless, the suggested “where next – first steps” section is sensible in its recommendation of creating an RSS feed and on using a blog to add colour to a website – although the associated diagram about re-use of content may take a while to interpret. I was also irked by the repeated stereotyping of junior personnel as more social media-savvy than senior colleagues (in my experience, younger team members can sometimes be no more clued-in than their managers!).
In summary, I am pleased that professionals characterised as conservative, late adopters of technology are being encouraged to grasp the social media opportunity rather than try to block it. The report’s brevity means it is somewhat simplistic in some of its coverage and it only fleetingly mentions the need for an organisation to develop and enforce social media guidelines on responsible use, but it will be a useful starting point for many real estate organisations. I also reckon most of its findings would apply equally to people in the mainstream architecture, engineering and construction professions.