Daniel Maddocks recently posted an article about how Tarmac is using social media in construction, and their presence online is certainly impressive. Unlike most construction companies they have RSS feed buttons on their websites, a blog, twitter account, facebook fanpage and YouTube channel. Admirable.
Daniel is currently studying Construction Project Management at the University of Salford and is taking a keen interest in how construction companies are using social media, and of course I think this should be encouraged. He asks if social media will come standard practice in the construction industry.
I’ve taken a look at Tarmac again thanks to Dan’s article and have a couple of things to add to his, which I hope might provoke debate. I thought I’d post my comments up here too, as they may be useful to discuss with the audience here. But you’re also very welcome of course, to go over to his site and add your 10p.
Tarmac have a blog with 17 posts so far.
But no comments on any of the posts. Wonder why?
Tarmac have a facebook fanpage with 365 ‘likes’.
But looking down their wall people aren’t commenting on the posts. Some likes – wonder who is liking and why they don’t post a comment.
Tarmac have a twitter account but they haven’t replied to anyone in at least the last 40 tweets. Why is that? Is anyone talking to them?
Check twitter search for @tarmacltd and you’ll probably see no-one is.
Does this matter? I think it does.
Social media isn’t just about sharing stuff though this is important. It is also about other things.
Social Media requires Listening. You need to listen to your target (usually your customers) and find out where they are, what they are talking about, and whether they are talking about you, or things you know about and can help with.
Social Media is interactive. You need to reach out to your audience and help them with their problems. You need to get to know them and provide useful information. You need to find what they care about and discuss it with them. You need to foster debate.
A blog without discussion is just a website which is easier to update. It might improve their SEO but it won’t lead people to recommend them. Recommendations come through human interaction, and this is what Tarmac is not facilitating, at least, not on their blog, twitter or facebook pages.
If construction adopt social media like Tarmac have, I think in a few years it will all have come to nothing because it won’t get any significant results. Indeed, if construction companies think this is what social media is, then they’ll probably be getting out of it pretty soon, unfortunately for them.
Social media is a conversation, not a monologue.
Do you agree?
Benedikte Ranum says
I unfollowed Tarmac’s Twitter account once I realised there was no interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very interested in their product and project updates, but I can get that from their website (not to mention from our very own http://www.ESI.info!).
I’m always encouraged when I see a new construction company on Twitter, but often discouraged when I realise that it’s no more than a ‘static’ information feed.
Thankfully, though, there are some construction companies that get the idea of social media. Kingspan is a good example.
Benedikte Ranum says
…I’m thinking, for example, about Mark Harris (on Twitter as @MarkHarris1863) who is the Divisional Building Technology Director at Kingspan Panels & Kingspan Benchmark.
Less active, but still a real person and not just a feed, is Simon Wardle @KingspanHWS
There are lots of smaller construction companies who regularly engage on Twitter – not just the consultants and contractors, but suppliers and manufacturers, too. Some of them can be found on this list:
Ieuan Compton says
Agree 100%. Social media (there must be a better phrase for it than this!) is in my opinion all about conversation. It afterall is just another way of having a conversation.
I explain twitter, for example, to my colleagues as a conversation in a pub, everybody in the room has the potential to hear the conversation. Some might even join in. You have exactly that same priveledge to hear others conversations and to try and join in. …and they’ve the right to ignore your views in the conversation, but they might equally welcome them.
We tweet, update facebook statuses, blog etc… in the vain hope that somebody responds, we then get a wee buzz because it means somebody is interested in what we are saying.
I’ve made some good contacts and friends as a result of ‘getting involved in conversations’ online.
Oh, and I’m an individual.
@kingspanvantage and @pottonselfbuild are my corporate accounts.
@timberuk is my timber frame passion account 🙂
and my personal account (very little work stuff here is @welshboy69
I can also recommend our (Kingspan Potton’s) Technical Director, Paul Newman, he’s new to twitter, but he’s a human too @paulnewman67
Benedikte Ranum says
Aha – how nice to see my timber-frame friend here, too! 😉
I’ll follow the other accounts you mention now, Ieuan.
Let’s keep the conversation going!
Hi Benedikte, good to tall with you ‘off twitter’ too.
News feeds have a place, but a very limited one, on twitter. So much more potential once you realise it is a conversational medium!
I’ve made the links on yours and Ieuan’s twitter handles and links live so that people can click through if they’d like to take a look.
It would be really interesting to hear from other people in this industry who are engaging using social media. I hope they’ll pipe up in the comments.
From what I can tell, apart from a few new materials in the marketplace, the building trade hasn’t moved on much in 20 years. I suspect getting social media is very low down the list for bigger firms.
I think you’re right in many areas Andy, but some things have changed a lot. CDM for example, the Building Regulations. But I know what you mean!
In any case, change only really happens when it is wanted, and usually that is because something is becoming a pain. “Everyone else is doing it” doesn’t seem enough of a pain in itself IMHO.
As a small business owner I feel that social media is an important tool that any size company should embrace, in a correct way. All too often Twitter is used as a way to advertise new products rather than bring a social side to a company, I’m sure that once compainies see it as a tool to network rather than a new advertising medium more business professionals will take it seriously and want to take part.
Very important point Darren.
Social media often reduces to individuals, just like other forms of networking. This means that whilst a brand approach works, it is never quite enough, as good customer service practitioners will tell you. People deal with people. The difference isn’t simply size, its personality, individuality, connection.
Kimmo Linkama says
I’m not defending non-participation in any way, but there may be several reasons for companies like Tarmac not being active on social networks.
1. Lack of resources. It may be their own marketing department or an external PR agency who is doing the posting. The in-house marketers may be too busy (not really an excuse), and the PR agency cannot respond on behalf of the company. It might also be that the exercise was initiated by an enthusiast who by now has left the company.
2. ROI too low. Perhaps the company isn’t getting as much feedback or business as it has hoped for when starting the social media experiment. This may be partly their own doing, as the blog, for example, seems to be on Blogger rather than their own site, thus losing link juice. They seem to moderate comments, which efficiently keeps the comment count at zero in case nobody is actually reviewing the comments.
3. Readers just don’t comment. I could imagine paving contracts are rather heavy investments, which customers in general are not willing to discuss on open forums. The amount of engagement doesn’t always reflect the amount of interest.
It will be interesting to follow how the traditional, for want of a better word, B2B companies will evolve as social media participants. Thanks for the story. A B2B copywriter myself, I find it extremely useful.
A positive note for Tarmac in the fact that I spoke to their web marketing manager and she was happy to have Tarmac listed on tCn with a view to look at the ways tCn can be used to communicate with the industry – http://tcn.uk.com/m/listing/view/Tarmac
A step in the right direction at least and could pave the way for others!
Simon Denton says
Social media is all about the conversation. If you ignore that golden rule and merely broadcast then you will not get a lot out of it.
I’d hope that they are not using ROI to determine it’s effectiveness. It takes time to build up a base and only when it matures (after many months nay years) should methods like ROI be employed. Employed too early it kills social media projects stone dead.
Daniel Maddocks says
I just did a search on google for the keyword “Tarmac Twitter”. This blog entry pops up on the first page of google, whilst my blog entry on the same subject pops up on the second page.
I’m relatively new to social media but if Tarmac where listening to what was being said about their company online, would you have expected them to make a comment on this post?
If Tarmac are searching for discussions about their brand online I’d expect them to find both posts – but that doesn’t mean they would choose to comment.
Do you use Google Analytics on your blog? This will give you the number of unique visitors to each post, for example. Many more people will read than comment, and some posts (like this one) attract many more comments than others, it is a question of subject matter, style, and the interest of the readers.
I’m often contacted via other means by people who have clearly read one of my blogs – but who would never comment on one as this would mean going public with their interest. I’m guessing that people from Tarmac would have read both posts. They may even have been told about them via someone else and not been searching at all.
Daniel Maddocks says
I’m aware of google analytics but don’t use it as much as I should. I’m still relatively new to all of this.
I just thought maybe with the debate about their approach to social media Tarmac may have dropped by and left a comment just to tell us their intentions. My original post didn’t aim to criticise their approach, rather look at how they have made the first important steps and how other companies can build on this.
I am very eager to learn a about a companies experience with social media and I may try to contact one or two directly.
Ieuan Compton says
If Tarmac are anything like me (working in a Corporation) they’ll have all sorts of searches set up which track the online use of their brand. My favourite is socialmention.com
Some I respond to and some I don’t.
I also have the benefit of working within marketing teams and, believe it or not, some still don’t get social media, some are too busy with their traditional marcomms channels – and that’s cool, it happens. I suspect that Tarmac are constrained by resources, the whole of the construction industry is in a sorry state and in order to survive the current market conditions many organisations are running very lean and unfortunately marketing is always the discipline that gets trimmed first in these times of austerity.
That’s not to say, we all wouldn’t get more from social media if we engaged more. Personally, I’m happy to see companies in the construction sector using twitter etc… even if it is only, at this moment in time, as a news-stream.
Daniel Maddocks says
Thanks for the reply. You make some points that are of value to me. Basically I’m a construction Project Management Student, sponsored by a Geotechnical company. I have chosen to carry out a dissertation which aims to understand the perceptions of social media within the construction industry.
I’ve not finalised my methodology to the research but I’m hoping to get ethical approval for an online survey which aims to quantify people’s perceptions using a lickert scale. An example question based on what you said above might be…
In the current economic climate, commiting resource to experiment with social media is not viable
Strongly Disagree 1 2 3 4 5 Strongly Agree
Hopefully with questions such as these I can better understand the barriers to social media implementation in the industry. Do you think it would be a good idea?
Any input from a construction marketer would help me a lot.
Ieuan Compton says
Any research that adds to the understanding is always of value.
Your biggest barrier is going to be getting those that aren’t involved in social media to complete the questionnaire. The ones that will complete it will be walking the walk so to speak therefore your results will be biased accordingly.
Perhaps you need to talk with CIMCIG – the construction sub-group of the CIM? @Lizmale might be a useful contact as I believe she does a bit with them.
Good luck. I’m happy to help if I can.
Good information shared, like it.