5 Tips for Using Social Media with Intention

Despite a growing reliance on social media, the construction industry in Australia is increasingly unsure how to use social media—with architects leading this trend. According to Infolink’s social media survey of almost 1,300 Australia architecture and construction industry professionals, nearly half of architects, 48%, say they don’t know how to use social media. This figure has almost tripled from 2012. My guess is that architects in the U.S. are feeling the same rub. I have a theory about this. There is a reason why some firms are so frustrated with social media – it’s because they are using social media in isolation of everything else they do.  The fact is social media is only a tool, just like sending out a postcard, pitching a journalist, or submitting for an award.  These are all tactics. Without a strategy based on a specific and achievable goal, you will not be successful with random tactics.

If you take away nothing else from reading this post, know that you need to establish a goal before you decide to  execute tactics.

So pause from posting your firm’s latest accomplishment on your Facebook page, and think about what your communications aspire to do.  This could be around a specific campaign –promote the findings of a research project that the firm has conducted—or it could address a greater goal of the firm such as build its presence in the independent schools market. Every firm is unique in its particular goals and challenges, so how—and which— specific communications tools (and networks) you use to reach these goals should also be unique.

If you are on the fence about social media, here are five tips to use  these tools with intention:

1.  Invest the time and resources needed to think through your strategy.

Lake|Flato recognized social media as an opportunity to regain some of the public visibility lost as a result of the many shelter magazines that have dropped off newsstands. But without someone who knew social media well internally, Lake | Flato was hesitant to jump in. So they asked for help. Aside from the fact that they hired us, this was a smart move because an outside perspective often helps you appreciate what you do well. We modeled a social media approach that was both unique to their firm and that could be self-sustained on their already successful social intranet. As a result, blogging and posting to Facebook and Twitter doesn’t feel like one more obligation, instead it’s a natural extension of how they were already sharing interesting ideas, projects and information.




2.    Integrate all your communications channels to reach more people and be more effective.

As a core expertise to the DPR brand, sustainability is threaded through their marketing messaging and communications. Social media plays a big role with about 30 blog posts written about some form of sustainability since 2011, a series of videos on sustainability-oriented topics ranging from their living lab office to adaptive reuse, net zero to the company’s history with green building. DPR shares this content on its Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Twitter and Instagram. The company also publishes its expertise and research in technical papers and sends its experts to speak  at conferences like Greenbuild and ULI’s Fall conference and Verge San Francisco hosted by Greenbiz. DPR aggressively pursues net zero, LEED and Living Building certification, awards, and press coverage on its sustainable projects.

Any of these tactics would certainly help advance DPR’s reputation for green building, but collectively, they present a firm that is committed to the tenets of sustainable development and recognized broadly as leaders.

DPR blog 2



3.    Recruit senior leaders as social media ambassadors (internal) and spokespeople (external).

Array Architects created a blog as a way of showing to the public the high quality of knowledge the firm has on the needs of the healthcare market. This is where the firm shares experiences from their 30+ year history and where they explore new topics as a means of helping them to understand concepts more fully. From the beginning, this effort was spearheaded by Array CEO Carl Davis. Following his example as an active contributor, Array has a total of 28 employee bloggers (as well as invited guest bloggers) who have added more than 90 posts since the Array Thoughts blog launched in June 2012. Carl continues to be one of the most frequent bloggers and the voice of the firm on Twitter. His personal investment signals to staff that blogging and social media are not time wasters—in fact, at Array they are a priority. Their commitment to developing original and thoughtful content – whether as a blog post, a Pinterest board, or a video—has helped the firm and its individuals become a trusted design advisor for healthcare community.




4.    Accept that social media (and communications in general) is a marathon, not a sprint.

Don’t be intimidated by the pages and accounts with tens of thousands of followers—this is not a numbers game. Everyone has to start without any followers and build their network gradually. Grow your audience by contributing useful stuff and interacting with other people who you admire. It takes time and consistent effort, but people who are interested in similar topics as you will start to notice and engage with you. In time you will have an audience full of the right people. In the meantime, keep at it and celebrate the little milestones, like retweets by someone you respect, posts that inspire someone to leave a thoughtful comment.

5.    You don’t need to be on every network. Pick two or three and use them well.

Consider where your audience is and how they are already using these networks and develop a strategy that fits with their behavior.

Charles Elliott is a landscape architect at LRM in Los Angeles. The firm doesn’t have a social media presence on any channel except Pinterest. As one of the principals, Charles is the firm’s front man on Pinterest. He has more than 70 boards, and over 10,000 pins. His approach is to pin beautiful examples. He attributes images to their original designer but also includes a caption that shows his grasp of the design intent and broader applications. He comes off as someone with a strong sense of design and style – even though most of what he has pinned isn’t his work. He has become a resource of outdoor design ideas to anyone on Pinterest – and has amassed over 500,000 followers through this very simple strategy.



What other social media mantras have been helpful to you? We want to hear your story.



Top 4 Architecture and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of August 5, 2013

081113 Night out with bats. Using wood to build high-rises. Cultural vibrancy in Chicago. Effectiveness of user groups. Tweeting to help the homeless.

Night out with bats. Lake Flato talks about the nightly feeding exodus of Mexican Freetail bats from their roost at Bracken Cave, an event managed by Bat Conservation International which is a San Antonio group that seeks to educate people and protect bats.

Bracken Cave is home to the largest colony of bats in the world, with 15-20 million bats living in the cave. Before dusk, the bats steadily stream out of the cave for more than 3 hours en route to their 60 mile trip to feed, during which the lot will consume thousands of pounds of insects per night.

Via The Dogrun

Using wood for high-rises. Andrew Lawrence, a structural engineer at ARUP, discusses how urbanization is driving cities to build densely and sustainably and using wood to build tall buildings seems like a good alternative.

Wood is the only completely renewable building material and has almost zero embodied energy because it’s grown with solar power. Wood is also cellular material like bone, so it’s strong and light. Relatively easy to work with, wood lends itself to high quality prefabrication techniques. It’s light to transport to site, reducing transport costs and carbon emissions.

Via Arup Blog

Cultural vibrancy in Chicago. Keith Campbell, a vice president at RTKL’s Chicago office, explains why he likes to pay property taxes in Chicago – and why he thinks it’s a good deal.

The City of Chicago devotes a small percentage of taxes to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, which is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy.  This includes neighborhood music festivals, farmers markets, pilates, tai chi, yoga and zumba in Millennium Park.

Via RTKL Blog

Effectiveness of user groups. Martin Valins, a principal at Stantec, examines the validity of user groups, or if by asking the right questions, you can get what you need.

“Planning around the specific requirements of a user group (or in some cases, that of a dominant personality) can lead to a solution that is a net fit to that one view point. The result will probably be fine, but how often do we find that the person with the most dominant voice leaves before the project is even completed?” – Martin Valins

Via Stantec Blog

Innovative Social Media

Tweeting to help the homeless. A new program called Everyday Connect leverages social media to help the homeless in San Francisco. Project Homeless Connect’s team of staff and volunteers meet between 10 and 20 homeless children and adults each day with a specific, urgent need such as a wheelchair or pair of socks.  A tweet (via @PHCSF) is sent to the community asking for an item with the hashtag #EDCDailyNeed. Usually, it takes less than a day to fulfill the request.

Via VentureBeat

Top 4 Architecture and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of July 8, 2013

071413 Embracing daylight. Architect Barbie. Texas sand sculpture. Alternative outputs. Sharknado is Twitter bait.

Embracing daylight. Florence Lam, who leads Arup’s global lighting design team, discusses how daylight is critical to sustainable urban development in addition to a person’s health and well-being.

“Up until around the 1980s, architecture students were encouraged to develop an instinct for daylight and its qualities in different parts of the world. Today, I believe this part of their education has been neglected. The complex and crammed curricula of modern architectural education leave students lacking the necessary opportunity to observe, imagine and embrace daylight experience at the beginning of every design.” – Florence Lam

Via Arup Blog

Architect Barbie. Lisa Boquiren, chairwoman of the AIA SF communications committee, explores the changes needed to keep women practitioners engaged in the architecture profession which was discussed at the symposium The Missing 32%, which is the opt-out rate of women in the industry.

Boquiren looks at the advent of Architect Barbie, which was a partnership between AIA national and Mattel in which “architect” lost to “computer engineer” in 2010 for Barbie’s 125th career, eventually advising Mattel on “Architect Barbie’s” design.

Via Metropolis POV

Texas sand sculpture. Gensler’s Houston office was asked by Mayor Annise Parker to build a patriotic-themed sand sculpture for the city’s 2013 Freedom Over Texas Festival.

What emerged was a sand sculpture that included iconic American structures like the Statue of Liberty, Liberty Bell, Washington Monument and iconic Texas structures such as the Alamo and the Houston skyline. In the center of the sculpture is a star above a map of the US and flanked by the US and the Texas flags. Special elements that memorialized the teachers, students, runners, firefighters and factory workers that had lost their lives were also included: a book, an apple, a hammer, running shoes, a rose, and firefighter’s helmets.

Via Gensleron Cities

Alternative inputs. Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG writes about how UK artist Ryan Jordan led a workshop in Montréal, building musical instruments out of geological circuit boards, an experiment in terrestrial instrumentation he calls "Derelict Electronics."

Manaugh says we should “plug our cities not just into giant slurries of wood pulp, like thick soups of electricity, but also directly into the forests around us, drawing light from the energy of trunks and branches, is yet another extraordinary possibility that designers would do well to take on, imagining what such a scenario literally might look like and how it would technically function, not solely for its cool aesthetic possibilities but for the opportunity to help push our culture of gadgets toward renewable sources of power.”


Innovative Social Media

Sharknado is Twitter bait. Syfy's made-for-TV movie 'Sharknado,' which is about tornadoes that scoop up sharks from the ocean and dispense them on LA residents, inspired a feeding frenzy on social media. The show generated 318,232 tweets during broadcast and 5,000 tweets per minute at its peak.

Two key factors contributed to Sharknado’s social media success: smart buzz generation, led by Syfy's senior vice president of digital, Craig Engler, and participation by leading Twitter celebrities such as Wil Wheaton, Damon Lindelof and others.

Via Mashable


Top 4 Architecture and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of June 24, 2013

062413 Design is a research project. Pattern of blooms receives recognition. Renaissance in the Windy City. Women in engineering. National Zoo uses social media to find missing red panda. Design is a research project.

Peter Hourihan, an architect at Cannon Design, discusses how research opportunities are everywhere in a firm’s design work.

“There are a number of ways that project or design goals can be generated: overall client specific outcomes; design team design strategies; pressing or ongoing research topics; or novel, untested design innovations. Any of these categories can spawn specific large and small scale design goals. They can each become a hypothesis when the designer or team collects data and draws conclusions about the intended or possible outcomes of the design idea.” – Peter Hourihan

Via Cannon Design Blog

Pattern of blooms. OLIN Studio’s Lines in Four Directions in Flowers on the west lawn of the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been recognized by the Public Art Network as part of the group’s Year in Review Program, which honors outstanding, exceptionally creative, or innovative public art works.

OLIN Partner Susan Weiler, who led the design team for Lines in Four Directions in Flowers,  said the team “spent months researching the color and flowering cycles of dozens of species and were able to design a system of plantings which ensures that there will always be an even pattern of blooms throughout the spring, summer, and fall.”

Via OLIN Studio Blog


Renaissance in the Windy City. David Broz of Gensler talks about how downtown Chicago is going through an urban renaissance as companies are returning, apartment construction is booming, and hotel stays are increasing.

These new urban inhabitants are digital native residents who expect a hybrid urban environment, different than what was previously in downtown Chicago. They expect pedestrian friendly streets, bicycle accommodating traffic lanes, a place to sit in parks and plazas, temporary pop-up-galleries and food trucks.

Via Gensleron Cities

Women in engineering. Emily Jones, architectural technician at Stantec, talks about Techsploration, a program that aims to increase the number of women working in science, trades and technology by promoting careers in these fields to young women in grades nine to twelve throughout Nova Scotia.

Jones, who became involved in the Techsploration program in 2011 while attending school, discusses events she was involved with and how girls are being encouraged to do anything they want to do in the fields of science and technology.

Via Stantec Blog

Innovative Social Media Campaign

Zoo social media swoop. The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., turned to social media to find missing red panda named Rusty. The zoo announced Rusty’s disappearance to its thousands of Twitter followers in a tweet at 11:51 a.m, which was retweeted nearly 3,000 times in an hour. Politicians and journalists, including Newt Gingrich, joined the online search. Around 1:15 p.m., a Washingtonian posted a picture on Twitter of Rusty in a patch of weeds in the Adams Morgan district, not far from the 163-acre zoo.

Via The New York Times