Next week I’m speaking at an event organised by the Norwich Forum for the Construction Industry (NFCI) called ‘Recession + Recovery – Challenges for the Construction + Property Industries over the Next Decade’.
I’ve been asked to talk about ‘Making use of the Social Network’, so in the last month or so I’ve been giving some thought to what has happened in the last five years, and what might happen in the next ten (by which time we may yet be in another trough).
The focus I’m taking is human and that is for good reason – social networks are all about people having conversations.
Social Networks are about People
Five years ago (October 2008) I had just joined Twitter and started looking for architects and construction people using it. Most of the accounts were overtly individuals, with individual headshot avatars (though there was one dog).
In the years since then I’ve watched as companies have piled into twitter (that is, their agencies have) and turned it into a re-enactment of the Internet boom in the 1990s. Huge numbers of branded accounts grew up, mostly broadcasting the PR their agencies were creating, a little like how in the 1990s (when I was teaching at the University of Liverpool) the internet turned from a hugely rich but badly connected, rather grey set of text documents and interactions, into a garish, over pimped advert for anything and everything that might make money.
But things have changed now, and since I went into consultancy in 2011 many companies have realised that social networks are not about pumping out PR. The next step is to accept that social networks are about people, and they are changing the way people are working.
One good example of this is how many people have told me that they had overlooked the value of LinkedIn. They hadn’t thought of Linkedin as a ‘Social Media Platform’. In some cases, they had been advised that Linkedin wasn’t relevant to marketing in construction, even though it is the most used and most permitted platform in the UK construction industry. But then Linkedin is truly a human network. You can’t just get an agency in to ‘be you’ on Linkedin.
Others had overlooked Linkedin because they thought it was about people looking for jobs and recruitment agencies looking for people. And two or three years ago it might have been, but not any more. During the recession, Linkedin has been an essential tool for people moving about in our industry to keep in touch with their valued contacts.
How Are People using Social Networks?
The social networks such as Linkedin, Twitter, and latterly elements of Google+, and the many other places online where people engage, are helping us work in a completely different way. For example,
Instead of staying in a job without promotion prospects, young architects and technicians are leaving to work with companies that value their skills set, companies that they found out about from their networks online.
Others have set up joint ventures with people they met online, who live on the other side of the country or the other side of the world, from their back bedrooms.
These new ventures are nimble, flexible, and most suited to take our industry forward into the next ten years.
The people making these changes are following along pathways that were not available to us five years ago. The Social Networks have made the way ahead visible and achieveable.
What is Your Experience?
I’d like to find some examples of people who have changed the way they work in construction, with the help of their social networks.
I’m looking for people who are looking ahead to the return of growth in our industry with fresh, innovative eyes and who have something to say about how that is going to be different. I’d like to share some of your thoughts with the audience in Norwich next week.
- How are you working today that is different from five years ago?
- How are social networks helping you in your work?
- What platforms help you most and how?
- How do you think you’ll be working in the next ten years?
If you’d like to help me talk to the audience next week, please share your thoughts with me in the comments below (or privately if you wish). Lets see if we can blow away the cobwebs!