According to the Construction Media Index, more than 60% of construction professionals now use social media to help them with work, mostly to network or keep informed about industry news.

However, for those companies looking to use social media, its inherent immediacy and potentially overwhelming nature mean it’s crucial that objectives and parameters are set, so that channels can be effectively managed and measured.

Which channels?
In the construction industry, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook are the most widely used social media channels, each with their own nuances.

Contrary to Twitter’s wider reputation for the inane, in construction it has developed into a valued tool for the dissemination of industry information and networking. Across the Twitter accounts CIB manages for clients, there were over 15,000 click-throughs on URLs embedded in Tweets last year – demonstrating a real level of engagement and receptiveness to shared content and news. For many, Twitter is becoming their primary source of industry updates.

LinkedIn’s influence continues to grow as the channel becomes increasingly used for content sharing and discussion. However, it is still largely focused on ‘people’ and to gain full advantage a company still needs to rely on active individuals. This also makes it a harder channel to outsource to an agency to manage. However, a regularly updated company page can reap results and for some clients we are now seeing a steady increase in referrals to their main website.

With online video now proving to be a powerful tool for many businesses, YouTube has an important role to play. Videos rank much higher in search results (in fact the chances of getting a page one listing on Google increases 53 times) and according to digital business analyst ComScore, 64% of users are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video. With digital cameras bringing the production costs of video down significantly, companies now have a real opportunity to bring things to life – whether that’s the thinking behind a new product or service, a product demo or a project case study.

Finally, Facebook can be an effective means of building a community, however, it’s not suited to all. We’re finding in the construction sector that Facebook is best suited to those that have a direct relationship with their customer – so merchants fair well – or have strong brand loyalty. Facebook should be seen as an additional means of engaging with an audience where there is already an affinity, rather than as a recruitment tool.

Google+ deserves a mention here but for a slightly different reason. As Google’s own social media platform it plays a significant role in SEO (search engine optimisation). We’re therefore advocating that companies use Google+ for this reason – regularly updating it with content with links to their main website, in order to take advantage of its ranking.

Getting started
First, what do you want to achieve? At a basic level, social media offers an additional channel of communication and you may just wish to demonstrate reach. Through the recruitment of more followers or likes, retweets and shares, a company can increase the OTS (opportunity to see) of its key messages.

As a natural extension to any PR activity, this is also easy to manage as tweets or posts can be generated alongside any copy written for PR purposes for an integrated approach.

For those companies that have a catalogue of rich content generated over a number of years, social media can also be used to repackage information of interest. But be cautious: social media users are ultimately seeking content of value, not the hard sell, so direct to video, white papers, research or case studies. Also take advantage of current hot topics or news items as a reason to direct to relevant content.

Ultimately though, you want to be seen as a valuable contributor and this can’t be achieved by posting about your company alone. Your posts should be a broad mix of industry news, general interest and technical detail from across the sector – and remember to inject some personality; Facebook in particular should be used to show the human side of your business, with photographs and video proven to generate the best response.

Monitoring engagement
Of course the key benefit of social media is the capacity to monitor levels of engagement, whether that’s views or reach, the number of shares, retweets or replies, or how many people have clicked on URLs. When it comes to social media there is no shortage of information – however, make sure you use that information to best effect. Understand what content generates the best levels of engagement and when you get the best response, then use that knowledge to continually improve.

Finally, remember that social media is a two-way street – requiring a company to listen and respond. This requires a robust process to ensure timely responses to direct queries or customer complaints – and also a high degree of proactivity if this extends to casual mentions or specific search terms.

Development and implementing a social media strategy

  • Establish goals; be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time scaled).
  • Determine social media channels. Don’t feel you have to use them all; choose based on your goals, your target audience and your available resource.
  • Map responsibilities.
  • Set up/customise channels.
  • Develop content strategy; plan where you will pull content from, tone and frequency.
  • Set metrics; and source software to aid analysis (I would recommend Sprout Social).
  • Set up engagement framework to facilitate timely responses.
  • Develop social media policy.
  • Start publishing content.
  • Monitor and measure; and adapt activity accordingly.