Preparing a talk for the South London Society of Architects last week, I updated some slides from a previous presentation covering online communities for the architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) and property sectors. I had a quick look at the the number of members of some of the groups, and noticed that the property groupings on my radar seem to be bigger and growing faster than the mainly construction-oriented ones. Are property people more ‘social’ then construction people?
For example, looking at the number of people who have joined the two Ning-based networks run by UBM publications (see post) showed that (as of Tuesday 11 May, at least) the Property Network was more than twice the size of the Building Network:
Similarly, two networks built on proprietary platforms also show a lead for property over construction. Reorb (post) is currently more than twice the size of tCn – the Construction Network (launched in March; Disclosure: I provide consultancy services to tCn).
|c. 2,440 members|
||c. 1,000 members|
The maturity of a particular network will, of course be a factor in how big it is. The Property Week Network, for instance, was launched two months ahead of its Building stable-mate; Reorb launched in August2009, so has had a six-month start on tCn. But I wonder: are there industry or professional traits that might make people more likely to use networking platforms? For instance (and in no particular order):
- Fragmentation – Many commercial property and real-estate professionals tend to be members of the RICS, while there are numerous professional bodies for individuals in the AEC sector (CIOB, ICE, RIBA, CIAT, etc). Having frequent opportunities to network with one’s peers through one institution may make it easier for property people to build up lots of contacts, while construction projects are more multi-disciplinary.
- Duration of projects – I get the impression that projects in the property sector tend to be completed more quickly, and professionals will often be engaged in several parallel assignments. Construction projects, on the other hand, tend to take longer, with individuals often solely focused for weeks, months, even years, on delivery of a single project.
- Scale of personal networks – Both of the above potentially make it more likely that property people will encounter a bigger network of contacts, and with scale comes the challenge of keeping tabs on everyone – something readily answered by inviting those contacts to join LinkedIn or an industry-specific networking platform.
- Business-to-Consumer – Particularly among professionals involved in house sales and lettings, there may be a marketing driver to target consumers through use of highly interactive websites and social networking platforms, whereas business-to-business use – most construction PR and marketing is B2B – has tended to lag behind in its use of these newer tools and techniques.
- Corporate acceptance – I wonder if AEC organisations are more likely to block employee access to ‘social’ network platforms than businesses in the property and real-estate sector?
What do you think? Have I missed some potential explanations for the differences? Or is there actually little or no difference between the two sectors and their use of social media?