Nov 26 2010

Social media firmly on the construction marketing radar

Just seven days before yesterday’s CIMCIG conference on Strategy & Tactics of Digital Communication, I got a tweet from Ross Sturley asking if I could step in to replace Su Butcher who had had to withdraw on doctor’s orders (which was a shame as Su always puts in a lot of time to create and deliver some great content in her presentations). I was already due to attend the event any way and, while slightly daunted about stepping into Su’s shoes (so to speak) and wary about repeating messages I had delivered at a CIMCIG event last year, I agreed.

Web 2.0 now firmly on the construction marketing radar

At the February 2009 event, I was almost a lone voice in talking about social media to a construction marketing audience, but there has clearly been a significant shift in people’s thinking since then. This time, almost every presentation mentioned social media tools and there was repeated stress on the need to integrate online Web 2.0 activities into a coherent marketing and PR strategy.

For example, Jon DeSouza from Constructing Excellence described how CE’s early career professionals group Generation for Change (G4C) have been using a Ning-based site to communicate (disclosure: I have been facilitating the G4Cnet project), while NetConstruct‘s David Bentley stressed the need to integrate social media tools into your website strategy. The positive impact of social media on search engine optimisation (SEO) was stressed by SiteVisibility‘s Kelvin Newman, while Kirstie Colledge from Simply Marcoms underlined how online reputation management now involved a spread of activities, including LinkedIn and online communities such as tCn [client] and the Building Network, to support ‘traditional’ public relations work. And – after I’d delivered my talk – Craig Duxbury of IASB2B gave a powerful example of an integrated on- and offline campaign for Corus Colors.

Online engagement vs broadcast mode

As the day went on I began to fear that I would be left with nothing left to talk about, but I think I filled some gaps omitted or only briefly touched upon by earlier speakers. I also wanted to demonstrate the value of web 2.o for attracting web traffic, so I compared Google Analytics for two sites ostensibly about the same type of technology. One was a conventional B2B website for a construction collaboration technology vendor undertaking almost no social media activity, the other was my B2B blog, ExtranetEvolution.com, about construction collaboration technologies.

Which gets most visits? Which gets most unique visitors? On which sites do visitors linger longer? Which site gets more returning visits? In every case, the blog. And where does the traffic come from? I showed how successfully the blog attracted visits through links from Twitter,  from Feedburner, LinkedIn and Facebook, while  the vendor’s website attracted a few visitors from Twitter – and lots due to links from the blog!

Of course, this was a fairly simplistic comparison – I’m not comparing similar types of site, for a start. But I think it shows how a traditional, web 1.0 ‘broadcast-only’ website can be challenged by a blog that is all about sharing authoritative ideas and information. It also suggests that, by creating and maintaining a blog as part of a company’s online presence, a business might boost traffic to its main website as well as enhancing its reputation. These messages and related themes (passion, authenticity, transparency, knowledge, personality) were also addressed in Gemma Went‘s recorded presentation, Blogging for profit (unfortunately, Gemma was too ill to attend in person; I was on standby to field any questions).

Twitter-iffic!

Another sign that attendees at the CIMCIG event ‘got’ social media was how much the event got talked about on Twitter. Ross put forward a hashtag, #cimcig10, and this was used by several people at the  conference (me included), with over 300 tweets being logged during the day. So far, over 60 people have tweeted or re-tweeted the hashtag, and a TweetReach snapshot of 50 tweets showed a reach of over 13,000 people, and 63,000 impressions!

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  1. The conference was great, as was your presentation. I think most people agree that it is important to embrace Social Media, but I think what puts a lot of people off (as was touched upon in the conference) is the number of networks/sites that are available and the investment in time required if they are to be used effectively.

    Personally, I feel it is important for Social Media to be an interactive process, allowing you to engage in conversation with your customers/clients (as I’m sure you do) but a couple of the speakers, Jon DeSouza particularly, said that Twitter is really for pushing your news rather than interaction. It seems opinion is divided on this.

    Another thing I have noticed with the rise of Social Media, is the decline in commenting on blogs like this. For example, this blog post has been tweeted and re-tweeted many times, but no-one has posted a comment!

    The Building Centre and I are relatively new users of Social Media, but the more we use it the more we see the value in it.

    I look forward to seeing/attending more events like this and reading your future posts.

    Michael

  2. Thanks, Michael
    I talked to another attendee about the time commitment and echoed a point also made by others: you can reuse content across several channels by use of RSS, LinkedIn’s blog service, Twitterfeed, etc (ie: if I publish a blog post it is automatically made available in other social networks that I have linked to the blog). And rather than try to spread the message across every possible channel, the key is to select those that are important to you and your organisation’s audiences.

    For me, Twitter is about interaction, but there are some Twitter accounts I follow that are simply useful news feeds (eg: travel updates, BBC headlines, etc). Apart from these, I quickly weary of people who’s Twitter accounts just broadcast and don’t receive – I soon unfollow them.

    The decline of blog commenting is something that has been remarked upon by others, particularly since the arrival of Twitter and other status update services (so-called micro-blogging). I occasionally get blog feedback delivered via Twitter which is great for immediacy, but it doesn’t help others who might read the blog days or weeks later. Like you, I prefer to have the conversation continue in the context of the original post.

    Glad the Building Centre is working on its social media. I talked to Andrew Scoones about its Web 2.0 presence nearly two years ago, and finally it seems things are falling into place. If there are any areas I can help you with, please let me know. I also regularly use the BC cafe so you may see me online there sometimes! 😉

  3. You’re welcome (not sure where the avatar came from, seems I was logged in as our product directory – specifinder.com!).

    The connectivity between these services is great and is getting better all the time – the ‘Login/Comment with Facebook/Twitter’ options which are appearing more and more are also great – and is a reason that organisations need to think about implementing this functionality on their websites/blogs as well, allowing the millions of Twitter/Facebook users to have easy access to their sites – and not only Tweeting/Blogging etc. themselves.

    Some of the less tech-savvy organisations just find this concept a bit daunting, one attendee yesterday said to me that it just “all went over his head”.

    Keep up the great work and I look forward to seeing you around The Building Centre!

    Michael

  4. It seems that everyone who attended is very positive about what was said and the potential outcome, which, as far as I’m concerned, is a new and cost effective approach to the marketing mix for a very hard hit construction sector. The way that we as marketers are addressing the Socio/Digital revolution is inspiring and I’m glad we know we’re onto a good thing. However, the tough part is NOT convincing the likes of Balfour Beatty, Galliford Try, Bovis etc, but the SME’s. These are the guys most in need of some help and yet they’re still reluctant to embrace what’s happening. I spoke to a director of a reasonable sized construction supplies company yesterday and he was almost proud that he’d “never sent an email or a text!”. I told him I couldn’t believe what he’d said and he just laughed defiantly. His company is well established and has a turn over of millions of pounds a year and he’s still living by fax! It’s good that we like a challenge!

  5. Thanks Peter. For every Luddite, I reckon there is an enlightened competitor looking to steal their business. Certainly, there is a sense that social media means SMEs can punch above their weight, demonstrating expertise or insights that sometimes their larger rivals can’t – or won’t – share.

    Such dinosaur-like attitudes will hopefully disappear as the elder statesmen retire or get shown the door, and there will be a new generation of industry professionals with an intuitive grasp of new technologies to take their place.

    Fax machine – sheesh! Freecycled mine three years ago!

  6. Not having attended, I was wondering what the conversation was like when the topic turned towards ROI?

  7. Hi, Darren
    To be fair, the evidence on ROI was mainly anecdotal and case study-based, and gave little/no figures on costs. As the industry matures in its use of the tools, I would expect marketing teams to be challenged to show the impact of their activities on desired business outcomes.

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