It says something about the construction industry that, given options to focus on ethics or on social media, there was more take-up for a forum on social media, but at least it meant that we had a good turn-out for Constructing Excellence‘s first social media forum, held at Arup’s Fitzroy Street offices in London yesterday. Jon de Souza said the forum was part education and part consultation; it was intended to help CE members learn more about applying Web 2.0 in their businesses, and to get some feedback on how CE might improve its Web 2.0 activities, both nationally and locally. Attendees included some with marketing and business development roles, but there were also line-of-business professionals keen to learn how social media might benefit them in their activities.
Three presentations were delivered, each prompting considerable discussion. I did the opening set, providing a quick overview of the range of tools, trends in Web 2.0 adoption and some examples of adoption and integration in the architecture, engineering and construction sector.
Jon provided an interesting overview of CE’s own Web 2.0 activities (I have played a part in this, including development of Ning sites for CE’s Generation for Collaboration, G4C, an ‘early career’ group – now over 300-strong – and for the Collaborative Working Champions, a think-tank for industry professionals focused on working in more efficient, less adversarial ways). Jon used a slightly updated deck of slides previously used by Don Ward at the Be2Awards/ConstrucTALKs event last month (on Slideshare).
Finally Martin Brown showed several examples of innovative AEC use of social media, often deploying combinations of different tools and techniques. Stand-out examples for me included: creating web-based project case studies that link to blogs, Flickr, YouTube, etc; use of LinkedIn to research customers involved in interviewing teams and evaluating bids; and re-using site progress photographs by posting them on Flick and using them for blogs, websites, Dipity timelines, etc.
A recurring theme in the conversation was the need for construction business leaders to lose their fear of social media, take the time to understand both the risks and the opportunities, and to take a more strategic role in implementing tools and techniques that are appropriate for their their businesses. Previous leaders have had to manage the introduction of new technologies including the telephone, fax, email, mobile phones and websites, often blocking or restricting access initially before working out how to manage appropriate use. Social media is presenting us with much the same kind of issues – yet many AEC business leaders still tend to focus on the risks (as they see it) of, say, 100 people potentially harming the reputation of their organisation, rather than thinking about 100 people who could be enhancing its reputation.
As a result of yesterday’s event, CE will be developing some guidance to help in-house teams show the potential benefits of social media tools to their senior managers.