This is a talk that I gave to the British Property Federation Business Development Forum’s Winter Meeting on Wednesday 3rd February 2016. The BPF Business Development Forum is series of meetings throughout the year of business development, marketing and communications professionals from BPF member companies, where they discuss a wide range of topics relating to business development, share best practice, and network.
The talk was centred around the topic, ‘Social Media – Where are we Now?’, aimed at in house business development, marketing and PR professionals in property and construction. I’m reproducing the slides here with a short summary of the things I said.
The event was ably MC’d by Kevin Marriott, Director of Marketing at Bilfinger GVA. Kevin invited the audience to introduce themselves very quickly at the start which set the interactive tone, and then managed the post talk conversation brilliantly. Everyone seemed to feel able to speak up without nerves as he had set us all at our ease. Really impressive.
The discussion was wide ranging and included questions of etiquette, who owns what on social media and how to handle staff behaviour, but one of the most interesting discussions was about how social media is changing how professional services companies manage their public image. No longer can this image be controlled simply by the will of a small group signing off all missives before they are sent out into the world. Every contact point that every one of your employees has with that world is capable of reflecting your true brand image, good or bad. It was ever thus, but now social media (and the interest that the traditional media takes in it) makes that fact more important than ever.
I hope you find the slides and notes useful. They give just a flavour of the talk, and if you have any questions, would like me to deliver this talk to your event or board or provide training, (including training for your staff) or would like to get in touch for any other reason, please use the contact methods here.
The Big Four:
- Rumours of Facebook’s death (delivered in early 2014) were exaggerated. The success of Facebook has been in its ability to monetise. Lance Ulanoff of Mashable wrote a piece last week setting out how FB could even take on Google.
- Media companies can get an audience, though Propertyweek and Estates Gazette are much more popular on Twitter. Other companies find it difficult to get an audience for two reasons; one is that our industry uses it for friends and family. The other is that Facebook has a business model based on advertising for visibility.
- The ‘Facebook at Work’ private beta of 2015 is going public 2016; however there are other better established platforms, and FB not a work environment in construction
- Facebook produced a New Privacy Guide in 2015.
- Linkedin have been messing about with Company Pages, and confirmed they have plans for CPs but didn’t implement them in 2015.
- LinkedIn is still the biggest professional social network – the data in the slides is from January 2016.
- At the heart of LinkedIn is the individual user – larger photos, new user interface. Isn’t it looking more like Facebook?
- LinkedIn hid user activity at start of 2014, and then brought it back; but it is now hidden behind a drop down button.
- Long form Posts are popular, but you should use them in moderation.
- Groups are currently in trouble as a result of a badly managed introduction of a new groups app.
- LinkedIn now has 10 different apps (don’t they look a bit like Facebook?)
- We talked about a certain junior barrister and what went wrong.
- There are many places to have conversations on LinkedIn. You may be overlooking the important one.
- Twitter has changed its user interface again. Larger photos, banners for all, moments, while you were away etc.
- There are new profiles, image editing and GIF support, and you can share tweets through direct messages. It is also now possible to mute people and there have been improvements in reporting tweets and blocking users.
- In August 2015 Twitter turned the ‘firehose’ back on to Google, which means for the first time since 2011 people can find your tweets via Google search. This decision followed SEO work on hashtag pages which showed a massively increase in logged-out user visitors. Twitter has a lot of benefits for people who want to be found.
- The latest development appears to be the 10k character tweet – long form posts for twitter. What does this mean for your blog?
- Since I gave the talk (this weekend in fact) there was another rumour about Twitter using an algorithm like Facebook to return tweets according to what the algorithm thinks the user might find of interest. Fortunately this appears to have been incorrect (or a rather swift volte-face!).
- The UI of Google Plus has also become more like Facebook
- Google plus has always had useful features, such as Circles – which help users get over problems of Facebook sharing everything with all your friends.
- Why do people use Google Plus? For Google SEO, because Google owns it.
- Whilst the concept of Authorship has gone, Author rank has not (yet). One should focus on Authority instead – which means publishing good content on your website.
- All this notwithstanding, Google Plus has pretty much died over the last year – whilst the membership numbers are contrived from YouTube and Gmail users, the platform itself is really no longer active, with fewer than 1% posting or commenting when you exclude YouTube.
That’s the big four. But big isn’t always big, and what you use depends on who you want to talk to. Our generation (30s and 40s) use Linkedin, some Twitter, FB for friends and family, Google plus for experimenters. But we need to look outside the big four at what else is happening.
Growth of the top social platforms in Q1 2015 shows that the fastest growing platforms are different. If we look at an age breakdown of the top 8 most used platforms worldwide (excluding China), it shows that platform popularity for the under 25s is almost reversed from the over 35s. So what we have is another big four.
One of the reasons for this change is the popularity of mobile. Mobile grew massively again in 2015 – see the growth in Smartphones and Tablets in Ofcom’s data. (33%) of Internet users see their smartphone as the most important device for going online. There is particularly high growth amongst the youngest. Now 90% of 16-24s have a smartphone.
Lets have a look at those other platforms and see what they are like.
The (other) Big Four
For the first time, half (53%) of online US adults ages 18-29 use Instagram. 49% of users use the site daily. Notice the use of instagram as a conversation platform – almost like a blog with the image as the post.
Tumblr is the biggest platform aside from the ‘big four’ and most popular with 16-24s. Again a form of blog-like platform, one can post an image and comment – one can also like and ‘reblog’.
Pinterest is a bookmarking tool – not just for clothes and recipes but architects and interior designers using it too. It also has a mapping function, and can act as a conversation platform, though many do not use it as that.
Last but not least is YouTube, which again has become a key conversation platform. Anyone who has children under 16 will know this for a fact! Youtube is the new forum space, the second biggest search engine. It is the home of gamers, walkthroughs, Minecraft and Vloggers (video bloggers).
If you have any doubt about YouTube’s power take a look at the statistics on slide 45, a picture taken when I attended the #ConstructContent event at YouTube in London last week.
Key to the power of Youtube is UGC (user generated content). We’re not talking about flashy, big-budget video production but people making video with their smartphones in their bedrooms and on the move.
What does this mean for Construction and Property?
If you want to find where people are talking, you need to look everywhere. A platform like Radian6 (now part of Salesforce Marketing Cloud) scrapes 97% of Internet for mentions of your search terms. Some of the most interesting and insightful information will be found in obscure forums.
Why do the changes in platform use matter? Younger people are getting older, and older people are retiring. By the end of the decade half the workforce will have grown up with the Internet. They might not think that it’s anything to do with work yet, but when they are in their 20s they’ll want to use it. Meanwhile we are facing an immense skills shortage.
“As the market continues to pick up, the biggest challenge for construction is finding enough skilled workers to meet demand. All of us – that’s the industry and government – need to do better to attract new people into the profession otherwise we’re heading for an acute skills shortage as projects come down the pipeline.“
Mark Reynolds, CEO of Mace talking to Building Magazine in January 2015.
Where will these people look for whom to work? They’ll find out about you online.
So here are my predictions
- You will be more visible if you differentiate yourself online, which means thinking about your audience and learning about them.
- You will get more traffic if you talk to people online. Which means finding out where your audience is learning how to talk to them there.
- And finally things will happen – you’ll get more traffic, more downloads, more enquiries, more recruits and more business, if you are remarkable online.
And remarkable means making good content people want to remark upon, so they have those conversations, wherever they are.
You know what the last message is. Remember the assets that you actually own, and make sure they aren’t letting you down.