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Feb 04 2015

Construction #hashtag campaigns

Do construction #hashtag campaigns have any great impact? And can businesses use hashtags and other people’s networks to further their own interests?

Last month I was contacted by a recent client who was considering a social media campaign targeting the construction industry. He talked about building pride in project achievements by supply chain members, with content (site photos) flagged by use of a campaign hashtag (of course the ulterior motive was to raise the profile of the promoting business). My initial reaction was sceptical, but to back up my gut instinct I suggested we look at a couple of other hashtag-based campaigns, and also see where the suggested hashtag had previously been used (as a result, he decided to reconsider his approach).

#LoveconstructionLove ConstructionEven a campaign run by a well-known trade publication, Construction News with numerous supporters (including me) – #loveconstruction – hasn’t really made a big impact, apart from, perhaps, on Twitter. Some 18 months after its launch in July 2013, Googling the hashtag delivers just over 3000 results; only 39 people have liked the LoveConstruction Facebook page; there are 2,122 Twitter followers of @LoveConstruct, and 52 videos associated with the phrase (not bad, IMHO).

#BorntoBuild – Not solely driven by one organisation or publication, #BorntoBuild’s partners include some pan-industry bodies (CITB, Considerate Contractors, etc), and has backing from notable organisations and from CN (though such relationships may deter rival publications from getting involved). It also focused on a key issue: the skills shortage, and on a core audience of teenagers. Launched almost exactly a year after #LoveConstruction, #BorntoBuild shows 455 results on Google, 1,343 Twitter followers, and some videos (among others on unrelated topics such as body building). However, the hashtag may gain further currency next month when its related initiative, OpenDoors weekend, takes place on 6-7 March.

My view

Both experiences suggest that such campaigns require a long-term approach – many construction businesses are still ignorant of, or resistant to, social media, or simply regard it as another broadcast channel, not as a way to promote conversations between people. Successful campaigns also often rely on mobile device use, and some construction businesses restrict use of mobile phones and tablets on site; some employers also block social media access from their corporate networks.

Social media-oriented campaigns created and run by private companies rarely take-off unless they are run by well-known consumer brands, and, even then, will tend to require some significant investment in ‘seeding’ content and in advertising both initially and at intervals when momentum starts to dwindle. B2B campaigns tend to need the same investment but will sometimes target different channels (Linkedin rather than Facebook, for example) and will often take a longer-term, relationship building approach rather than achieving short-term sales targets.

Beware naked self-interest

Coincidentally, my friend Su Butcher and I (and possibly others with large Twitter and blog followings) were yesterday approached by the marketing coordinator of a construction-related company to support another “aspirational”, “positivity-creating”, hashtag-based campaign.

I have been asked to share a blog post and retweet various campaign tweets, include the hashtag in my Twitter bio and “publish our press release”. In return, I will be mentioned in a blog post, get some social mentions, and have my Twitter handle on “designed promotional material”. I’m keen to help improve the poor image of the UK construction industry, I don’t want to appear negative, but it seems an inequitable arrangement.

As a small business owner, I am being asked to volunteer my time, social capital and network to drive traffic to a commercial business’s blog and tweets, to amend my carefully crafted Twitter bio (I use almost all 160 characters – what do I take out about myself to accommodate this company’s hashtag?), and to include that business’s self-promotional content on my website. Sorry, but no.

I will happily share content where I think it might be interesting and valuable (or occasionally entertaining) to my Twitter followers, blog readers, etc, but that shareability has to be genuinely earned, not be part of a cosy bit of mutual back-scratching. The content I include on my blogs from commercial businesses depends on its relevance to my readers – it’s usually harshly edited and it’s not included as a favour (nor can it be bought). And my Twitter bio is personal – not available to commercial interests.

And does the #construction hashtag soup really need further dilution?

2 comments

2 pings

  1. Su Butcher

    Hi Paul, thanks for posting this.

    I agree that hashtag campaigns, whilst sometimes successful, take time and effort to make them work. More importantly, they need to be sincere and genuine. People aren’t stupid, they can see a marketing campaign when they see it, and why should they participate? What’s in it for them?

    It amused me that the person who wrote to us had a job title, ‘Senior Earned Media Executive’. The phrase ‘earned media’ is commonly transposed with ‘free media’, that is, advertising you can get for free, in contrast to paid, or ‘owned’ media (platforms you own and can control’.

    The problem with this is that the person who contacted us hasn’t ‘earned’ our contribution, never mind those of our audience. It was an enquiry out of the blue, without any previous relationship, and no genuine indication of any benefits to the participants, only to the originator.

    What the emailer didn’t really get is that the reason we have maintained and grown good, responsive and yes, large networks is that we are useful. Where was the usefulness in her proposition? There was none.

    1. Paul Wilkinson

      Thanks, Su
      I talked about this to someone else yesterday and we both felt anyone’s endorsement of such campaigns needed to be authentic. Being cajoled into a supporting somebody else’s campaign – however well-meaning – is markedly different from spontaneously deciding to blog about, like, share or retweet something that just strikes a chord.

      I also look at the many hashtags that are used simply as easy ways for people to mark, monitor and find content relating to particular subjects (#BIM), causes, events (#bbcqt), communities (#ukbimcrew) or incidents (#JeSuisCharlie), and I think their bottom-up emergence and adoption is somehow much more genuine and authentic than the calculated use of one for a marketing campaign.

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