I noticed this question on Quora yesterday – here it is in full:
Will the UK construction sector finally embrace Social Media Marketing in 2011 and what will be their strategy?
What Social Media platforms do you think, apart from the obvious Twitter, Blogs, YouTube & possibly Facebook do you consider suitable. Quora? Behance?
I thought it might be worth thinking about how things have panned out, so here’s my answer:
2011 has been very uncertain for construction, what with the hiatus in planning legislation, cutting of funding to various public building projects and slow down in the economy (again). These circumstances produce effects of risk aversion and lack of funds. They also may make construction companies look at new, more cost effective ways of marketing, but this doesn’t mean they will do it wisely.
Look at the sector in different parts, because they do operate in different ways:
Construction Consultants – Architects, Engineers, Surveyors
Firstly you have the consultancy sector which is notoriously averse to spending money on marketing or strategising about it. Traditionally consultants like architects and QSs did not advertise and obtained all their commissions through networking and referrals, though they don’t use this process very intelligently on the whole.
Social media is an excellent way for construction consultants to extend their networking reach, but if they aren’t doing it properly in the traditional manner they won’t necessarily do it properly online either. They are also strapped for cash.
Building Contractors and Subcontractors
What about contractors? Squeezed by falling budgets and cutthroat tender processes, clients are playing them off against each other. Events and Corporate Entertainment were always the mainstay of a contractors marketing budget, and these can be expensive, but social media can help extend their effectiveness through online promotion and signup, virtualisation and live blogging, and post event self publishing of photography, video and writeups.
The question is, before anyone has some big success on the back of these techniques, will any of the naturally conservative contractors breaks ranks and take a six month stab at widening their influence like that? I’m not convinced they would be able to commit to it with margins as they are.
Construction Product Manufacturers and Suppliers
Then there are the product manufacturers and suppliers. Here a popular marketing technique, aside from traveling sales representatives, print advertising and trade shows, is the CPD seminar. Making seminars attractive to busy, hard pressed specifiers smarting from recent redundancies is difficult to do, but the internet can help, as can some sensible tactics like blogging and putting your content online so it can be shared properly, instead of hiding it behind an email form.
I think product manufacturers are probably the most likely part of the industry to take a punt at social media. They still have reasonable marketing budgets, and whilst they are very traditional in their approaches, at least they have the wherewithal to make a commitment to saving time and money on the print bill and mileage and thinking more intelligently about what they do spend.
Will any of this happen in 2012, as it hasn’t much in 2011? I hope so. I’m banking on it.
What do you think?