Many articles have been published about how businesses use social media, but very little information is available about how specific industries, such as the construction industry, are using this new marketing medium. This article will show how a group of companies in and around the construction industry are using social media, what they have learned from their experience, and what advice they have for companies that are just getting started in this new and somewhat confusing realm of the internet.
How Are Construction Companies Using Social Media?
In summary, construction companies are using social media to connect with others, build brand awareness, and increase visibility.
- “My strategy is to connect with others in our locality, learn and grow as a person, and bring brand awareness through the message that we are a stable company with roots in the past and a foot in the future.” – Bridget Willard, Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.
- “Visibility, consistency and relevance. If you’re using social media and are not cultivating a presence for your company, then you’ve got to ask yourself ‘is this working?’ Thus, it’s important to be visible and to be consistent in your approach (i.e. Posting 10 times on Monday, forgetting Tuesday, and maybe posting on Wednesday isn’t going to cut it.). It is simultaneously important to maintain some sort of relevance and not just tweet random information that is inapt to your industry or trade. Sure, we all deviate. That’s what conversations are often about. But it’s important to speak to your company and what it stands for.” – Bridget Mahovlic, Therm-All, Inc.
How Construction Companies are Differentiating Themselves in Social Media
- “I feel that we have a plus being a contractor in social media – not too many [other contractors are participating].” – Rhonda Burgin, Burgin Construction, Inc.
- “I have no idea what strategy other companies like us use; although, I suspect many hire consultants or those with a traditional marketing degree. My personality leans toward fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants which, in my opinion, lends itself easily to social media. The medium d’jour may evolve or become extinct; this is where it is important be easily adaptable. I mean, if Twitter disappeared tomorrow, would I be able to continue the conversation elsewhere? I think I can.” – Bridget Willard, Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.
- “I think my authentic, personal approach sets Therm-All apart from others in the industry. I try to make real connections with people, and once that happens the rest just follows suit. The tweep you tweet back and forth with throughout the week becomes more than an acquaintance. Soon enough you find yourself wondering, ‘How did their big event last night go? What do they have planned for the weekend? How is their family?’ If users come to know you as a real, living person rather than a corporate machine, true, lasting connections can be made.” – Bridget Mahovlic, Therm-All, Inc.
What Are The Biggest Challenges For Construction Companies in Social Media and What Are They Doing About it?
Some of the challenges faced by construction companies in social media include justifying the investment, getting started, and choosing what to participate in. The latter two are best overcome by watching and listening what others are doing.
- “So many options out there, just trying to determine what is the best.” – Rhonda Burgin, Burgin Construction, Inc.
- “My greatest challenge is always the justification and importance of maintaining an online presence; though armed more to counter the ROI question two years later, it seems to always come up in conversation.” – Bridget Willard, Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.
- “I’d say—and I don’t think I’m alone here—that getting started and establishing myself in social media were the biggest hurdles to overcome. I found Twitter to be especially intimidating. In the beginning I thought, “Where do I start? What should I tweet? What am I DOING?” After acting as a voyeur and observing how the larger accounts interacted with their followers, I became more confident in how to approach Twitter. I watched, I listened, and then I dove in head first.” – Bridget Mahovlic, Therm-All, Inc.
How is Social Media Different For B2B Versus B2C?
Many construction companies sell to other businesses as opposed to individual consumers. For B2B firms, social media can be trickier than for those marketing themselves to individual consumers. Construction companies agree that when businesses are selling to other businesses, building relationships is key.
- “The tactics may be different between B2B or B2C but I believe the fundamental strategy is the same: to build relationships.” – Bridget Willard, Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.
- “I view B2B as more relationship oriented, whereby the focus is on building strong relationships with prospects. B2C’s strategy seems a bit less informative or educational in nature, and is more concerned with converting shoppers into customers quickly. ” – Bridget Mahovlic, Therm-All, Inc.
When asked whether they have concerns about competitors being able to see their social media activity, construction companies were in complete agreement:
- “Not at all. Like many others, I view social media as a sort of cocktail party. At such an event, I’d walk around, make small talk, and shake hands with other attendees. Whether or not they are competition doesn’t matter. What I tweet about—and what I’d talk about at a cocktail party—is appropriate for all audiences.” – Bridget Mahovlic, Therm-All, Inc.
- “I do not. Competition is inevitable and, frankly, unavoidable. I’d like to think of myself as an innovator or, at least, someone who can catch the vision of the future. When asked why I started our accounts, I said ‘When everyone else figures it out, we’ll be way ahead.’ We are. So far, I can’t find even one of our competitors on Twitter or Facebook; if they were, I’d follow them.” – Bridget Willard, Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.
- “I don’t mind. If I don’t want it out there I won’t publish it.” – Rhonda Burgin, Burgin Construction, Inc.
How to Get Started in Social Media
Construction companies have some great advice to offer those that are interested in diving into social media. To sum it up: Watch and learn, then just dive in and stay on top of it.
- “Just do it. Holy Smokes. Stop trying to chart out a five-year plan with projections—who knows if Facebook would go the way of MySpace by 2016? Make a square avatar, write your bio, and make logging onto Twitter and Facebook part of your daily routine. If it helps, write down some of your knowledge in sentences (aiming for 140 characters) and keep it as a text file. Pay attention to brands that do a good job facilitating conversation (not necessarily focus on the numbers) and adapt their behaviors to your company.” – Bridget Willard, Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.
- “I’d suggest first watching how influencers in your industry or field operate. After you’ve got an understanding of how they interact—and who they interact with—jump in with both feet. When it comes to social media, you’ll gain the most by doing. You can’t afford to be reactive. You must be proactive.” – Bridget Mahovlic, Therm-All, Inc.
- “ Consistency is the best solution. Stay on top of it. Engage with people.” – Rhonda Burgin, Burgin Construction, Inc.
What (or Who) Are the Social Media Resources Construction Companies Look to For Guidance?
- Copyblogger (www.copyblogger.com, @copyblogger)
- Mari Smith (www.marismith.com, @marismith)
- Seth Godin (www.sethgodin.com)
- Peer mentors. Bridget Mahovlic of Therm-All, Inc. says “When I first started out, my mentors included @RigginsConst and @ToyotaEquipment. These were—and still are—folks that ‘get’ social media. They lead by example, and they truly helped pave the way for my Twitter experience. Current tweeps that are also great resources include @MrsPickle_ (former tweeter of the @Sundt account) @ETPlastics, @ABC_Plastics, @Combotronics, @SmartWraps, @AzDuraWrap, and @neslusa
Social Media Tools and Applications Used by Construction Companies
Managing social media can seem overwhelming without organizational tools. Construction companies are primarily using tools like Tweetdeck (www.tweetdeck.com) and Buffer (http://bufferapp.com/) to help to streamline social activity.
Tools like these are great for Twitter; however, they may not be as well-suited for Facebook.
- “You loose a lot of what is great on Facebook if you only view it from a text-heavy application like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, in my view. It can also produce some bad habits that are frowned upon like cross-posting and double-posting.” – Bridget Willard, Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.
Promoting Social Media Presence, Online and Off
Construction companies are using the following tactics to promote their social profiles both online and off:
- Social media icons on website
- Links in email signatures
- Printed materials
- Vehicle marketing
- Attending local “Tweet-Ups”
- “Online, I stay as engaged as possible. I comment on photos and articles shared by others, retweet interesting stories, and glean through the twitter feed for great content to share. As the proverb goes, ‘if you want to have friends, be a friend.’” – Bridget Willard, Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.
- “…in anything and everything we do.” – Bridget Mahovlic, Therm-All, Inc.
How Construction Companies are Measuring Their Social Media Success
Measuring success in social media is tricky and can vary based upon your goals. Construction companies had these perspectives on the matter:
- “I loosely look at my Klout (http://klout.com/) and TwitterGrader (http://tweet.grader.com/) scores as well as the follower count on Facebook and Twitter. Admittedly, I am excited to see that we have over 5,000 followers but that’s not the measure. I subscribe to alternative views on metrics for social media: how do you evaluate and measure relationships? Which kind of relationships are better? What source of the relationship is better: social media or the chamber of commerce, conferences, golf games? You get the point. Erik Qualman of Socialnomics says it best: ‘What is the ROI of your phone?’” – Bridget Willard, Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.
- “Tweet Reach (http://tweetreach.com/). It’s a good source for measuring the exposure of our tweets as well as the types of audiences that are watching on Twitter.” – Bridget Mahovlic, Therm-All, Inc.
Participating in social media brought the following unexpected benefits to these construction companies.
- “The friendships I’ve made with both industry and non-industry folks alike have been very worthwhile. Also, the networking opportunities I’ve gained through our social media efforts have proven invaluable.” – Bridget Mahovlic, Therm-All, Inc.
- “There are so many people I have met over the last two years that have made an indelible mark on me whether it is personal or professional growth. Just by reading content shared on the internet I am changed; when that shared experience becomes fuel for a conversation, you have the beginning of a relationship. Is that an unexpected benefit? It shouldn’t be. Seriously, if your goal is to build relationships, then the outcome of those relationships shouldn’t be unexpected. But there are serendipitous moments, indeed.” – Bridget Willard, Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.
- Riggins also had the opportunity to turn around the negative sentiment of a customer via Twitter. To read more on that, check out their article titled “Case Study in Customer Service – Twitter Style“.
The construction company interviewees had a few final words for those about to embark on their social media journey.
- “Tell your friends and colleagues to join the social media sphere, regardless of their industry. There is something to be gained for all on Twitter, Facebook, etc. When it comes to our industry (construction) folks are few and far between. I’d like to see that change. As Sinatra sings, ‘Start spreading the news’…if you enjoy social media, tell your colleagues. Let’s keep the construction industry moving forward!” – Bridget Mahovlic, Therm-All, Inc.
- “Social media is quickly moving from an alternative marketing platform to the marketing platform. Get on board before you’re quickly left behind.” – Bridget Willard, Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.
- “Always be open minded and open for change, [and] be prepared to meet so many people!” – Rhonda Burgin, Burgin Construction, Inc..
About the Participants
Riggins Construction & Management, Inc.
Riggins Construction & Management, Inc. is a full-service construction firm that specializes in design-build commercial improvements. Riggins can be found on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and at their blog. Bridget Willard, Office Manager and self-appointed head of the Marketing Department, contributed.
Therm-All, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of insulation for metal buildings and also offers doors, windows, duct wrap and green building products for most commercial and industrial construction applications. Bridget Mahovlic, Marketing Specialist, contributed. Therm-All can be found on Facebook, Twitter,and LinkedIn.
Burgin Construction, Inc.
Burgin Construction been serving Orange County for more than 20 years as an Award Winning Home Remodeling Specialist. Rhonda Burgin, Vice President, contributed. Burgin Construction can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.