I have the good fortune to work with architecture firms from the east coast to the midwest to the west coast. Being able to help firms succeed all across the United States is what gets me up in the morning.
Working with these firms is where I developed my prescription to help architects succeed using social media marketing.
I’ve developed a system. It’s not simple, but almost nothing valuable is.
I’ll outline my system for you and you can decide if it’s something you’d like to implement for your architecture firm.
First, you have to understand 3 things about social media marketing:
- Social media has always been and always will be about communication. It’s called ‘social’ for a reason.
- There simply is no way to consistently succeed at social media marketing without delivering value.
- You MUST generate content in order to run successful social media marketing campaigns.
Here’s how my process works:
caveat: If you’ve worked with me before or heard me speak, you know that I place A LOT of value on your ‘Why’ and your Ideal Clients’ ‘Why.’ That’s another topic for another day. For the purposes of this article, I assume you already understand both your and your Ideal Clients’ ‘Why’ and where the intersections of those are. If you don’t, watch Simon Sinek’s TEDtalk and call me in the morning.
Your Target Market and Your Ideal Client
What are your target markets and who are your Ideal Clients in those markets? Since we’re putting a real system in place, I’m not looking for generalities here. There are plenty of articles and systems out there that will talk about buyer personas and avatars. That’s all well and good but we don’t have time for that.
If we’re writing a prescription we’re trying to heal your pain; generalities won’t do.
Who is a real, live human being that is your Ideal Client in your target market? What’s their name? Who do they work for? What’s their job title? Remember Rule #1? Social media is, in fact, about being social. You need to make connections with your Ideal Client and other people just like them. Do your research.
Assignment: Create a spreadsheet. List your target markets, your Ideal Client and 9 more people just like them in those markets.
You Need Content
For the purposes of this article, I’m not going to dig into what content is. You need to understand ‘content’ could be anything: articles, videos, podcasts, photographs … there are fewer and fewer limits to digital media. I always suggest you start with mediums and platforms that you’re good at; that you’re interested in. For now, I’ll equate content with articles.
Your time is valuable. Until you have a robust library of content, don’t waste it writing articles about your awards and the latest promotions amongst your team members. Remember Rule #2? You have to deliver value.
The best way you can provide value to your Ideal Clients and prospects just like them is to think like your Ideal Client. What are the 10 most pressing questions they have?
If you’re trying to find more clients who want to build community centers, I guarantee “How do I find an award winning architect?” is not in their top 10 questions. “I want to give kids a safe place to play basketball after school, but I don’t know where to start.” may be. “How do I select a good site to build a community center?” might be. “How do I find funding to build a community center in Topeka, Kansas?” certainly could be.
Stop thinking like an architect and start thinking like your Ideal Clients. You have to create content that they find valuable.
Assignment: Make a list of the Top 10 questions your Ideal Clients in each of your target markets have. Add those questions to your spreadsheet. Answering these questions will be the basis of your content creation.
Take inventory of your in-house subject matter experts. Who in your firm can best answer each of those questions? Add their names to your spreadsheet.
Let’s circle back around to the social aspect of social media marketing. It’s time to do more research. Where are your Ideal Clients having conversations online?
For the purposes of this article, I’m not going to dig into all the different social media platforms. There are millions of people around the globe, your clients included, that are having conversations on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and whatever next week’s darling new platform is. For now, I suggest you focus on Facebook and LinkedIn.
If one of your target markets is fire stations in eastern Texas, where would people be talking about fire stations and all the issues that surround them on Facebook or LinkedIn? One of the beauties of those two social media platforms is that there’s a page or a group for everything.
Think about where people will talk about the types of projects you want to design. Remember to think like your Ideal Client. You may not find a discussion titled “we need an architect to design our new fire station in White Oak, Texas.”
You’re looking for any conversation related to your market and your expertise where you can add value to the conversation.
You can answer questions, share examples, even share an article you’ve written that helps explain the issue at hand. Your goal is always to add value. Interjections like this, do exactly that:
“Hey Steve, I noticed you were wondering how many apparatus bays a fire house typically needs to serve 10,000 residential roofs tops. You may be interested in this article I wrote about fire station design. I walk through design considerations like that in the article.”
Hopefully by now you can see how we tie social and content together. For you purists and those of you who love labels, I refuse to believe that social media marketing, content marketing, relationship marketing and the like can successfully exist in a vacuum.
Assignment: Make a list of 5 groups or pages on Facebook and 5 groups on LinkedIn for each of your target markets. Add those lists to your spreadsheet.
Create A Calendar
If you’ve been doing the math as you follow along, by now you’ve realized your spreadsheet has about 30 cells for every market you’ve targeted. We’ve covered target markets, Ideal Clients, content topics and social media platforms. You need a way to organize and prepare all this information for deployment.
Think about anything in your list of topics that relates to a season or time of year. Are school board issues decided in January? Do homeowners in your region need to consider certain advice in the fall? Think about how you can create content at certain points during the year to make it as timely as possible.
Assignment: Create a content calendar by assigning every content topic in your spreadsheet to a day a week or a month of the year. You may even develop monthly themes to guide the process.
Consistency is key. Develop a cadence that you can stick to for the entire year. If you’re just getting started, don’t be afraid to start out on a once-per-month schedule and work towards a higher frequency like twice-per-week.
Engage And Empower
Almost every successful, content-driven organization has some way to engage their subject matter experts and empower people beyond the marketing team to create content.
My system involves an interview-based process. You know what your content topics are. You know where they fall on your calendar. You also know who your subject matter experts are. Get them involved.
One week before each piece of content is due, interview your subject matter expert. Record the interview. Use their words, their expertise, even their personality to create the content. You can let them do the heavy lifting without even feeling like they’re doing much work.
When I tell most architects they need to create content to start generating leads, they usually say “That’s great Jeff, but I just want to be an architect, not a writer.” The interview-based process is a way to remove that objection.
I Thought This Was About Social Media
You may have realized by now that the system I’ve developed to help architects succeed with social media marketing encompasses much more than you might have imagined. I told you it isn’t a simple system.
Now that you’ve begun creating content you have a platform to work from. No matter where you’re publishing your content, you can share it on all your favorite social media channels, but consider this:
I didn’t outline this methodical system for you to get to this point and begin randomly sharing your content here there and everywhere.
Focus people! Where are the conversations happening? How can you bring value to a discussion by sharing relevant content that you’ve created?
Your ultimate goal is to engage with your Ideal Client; to tell great, relevant stories and to use those stories, that content, to draw people back to your platform where they can find more and more valuable content that’s been crafted with them specifically in mind.
That’s how architects can find success with social media marketing.
Finally, one more pro tip for you to consider:
Since you’ve begun to develop a list of Ideal Clients for your target markets, why not do a little more research. Gather a few more names and start emailing your prospects. Start a conversation around offering value to them.
I notice your congregation is growing in our community. Since I figured expansion may be on the horizon for your church, I wanted to offer an article I recently published. It’s titled “The 5 Things Every Congregation Should Consider Before Expanding Their Facilities.”
I hope you find it useful. If you have any questions I can answer, don’t hesitate to call.
Keep up the good work,
Frank the Architect”
My prescription for helping architects succeed with social media marketing in a nutshell:
- Identify your Target Market and Ideal Client
- Create a list of content topics based on your Ideal Clients’ 10 most pressing questions
- Find groups and pages where people are talking about your Target Market
- Create a Content Calendar
- Create Content - remember the my interview-based process
- Find ways to deliver value by sharing your Content
So what do you think? Is this a system you need to implement for your firm?
Need help customizing the system for your unique situation?
Want my team to expand your capacity and help you implement this system?
UPDATE: I've outlined the interview process I use to help Architects create blog posts in "How I Use Interviews to Help Architects write Blog Posts."