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It's time to construct your social media strategy

Over the past year or so we have seen growth and a big change in attitudes to social media, perhaps particularly with Twitter, which is now an accepted element in today’s communication mix.

Those who a few years back were adamantly against social media have now joined, often with a fanfare of “we’ve arrived, we’re innovative” and with some organisations once totally anti social media now proclaiming expertise in helping others.

In 2012 I wrote in The Guardian (Why the construction sector should engage with social media) that one of the barriers to social media take-up, and hence by default a barrier to collaborative working communications, BIM, learning and sharing and general construction improvement is the reluctance of directors and senior managers to recognise, embrace or enable social media.

Of course there are as ever some great exceptions to this. But all too often directors have tinkered out of curiosity, and empty LinkedIn and Twitter accounts now tell a different story: of organisations and directors who are poor communicators.

So why are built environment organisation leaders slow to embrace these communication platforms? Maybe it’s the:

Need to retain control

The beauty of social media is in its open sharing. We can never know who staff will reach, converse with, learn from, share with, collaborate with and how those we converse with will respond.

Lack of understanding

Digital communications are expanding rapidly, beyond the understanding of many. Consequently many directors feel vulnerable in engaging with something they don’t understand, so stay away.

Fear of just being a fad.

Without a clear vision of how social media will evolve, and how it can be used strategically to benefit an organisation, many directors are reluctant to invest in seemingly unchartered waters.

All this is sad for a 21st century construction sector, where communications are so often the root cause of most of our problems, where most companies promote a vision of innovative, open, collaborative and where most directors sell themselves as enabling role models for innovation.

Social media presence is increasingly used as a good test of an organisations, and indeed the organisation’s leaders claims within PQQs, bids and PR material to be innovative, and having effective internal and external communications.

Earlier this year we started Sustainability Leadership Conversations, powered by social media, to enable leaders of smaller built environment organisations to engage with the sustainability conversations that take place across across social media. Initially these are monthly Twitter conversations with leading individuals, but will expand to facilitate conversations between SMEs and organisations in the UK and US. 

Having a strategy for social media in your organisation is essential, as it is with other initiatives, and should be the starting point for adopting social media approaches. To discuss support for getting your strategy under way, get in touch (Martin in UK, Andrea in USA).If you are UK based, we can help you apply for Innovation Voucher funding to ensure your social media, digital communication and BIM journey sets off on the right footing.

Martin Brown (@fairsnape) is a built environment improvement consultant and blogger

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