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Social Media for Architects

Life of an Architect Podcast

Social Media for Architects

By Bob Borson, FAIA | July 8, 2019

Today’s episode is loosely based on a presentation I’ve given, titled “Social Media – The Good, The  Bad, and the Crazy.”

The thing with Social media is that there are a lot of people out there that hold themselves out as experts and if I am being forthright, a lot of those people drive me crazy. There is a big difference between knowing what you should do and then actually being able to do it. Just because I know how to deadlift 400 lbs doesn’t mean that I can actually do it [for the record, I can’t] or that you should be listening to somebody just because they hold themselves out as an expert.

Andrew Hawkins and I have both been using social media for a long time and neither of us holds ourselves out as experts. Considering that I get asked to speak on this subject a lot really only means a few things – that people generally enjoy the presentation and that we know enough to be helpful. It is in that spirit that we decided to talk about Social Media for Architects.

Reasons for Participating in Social Media [03:33 mark]
You have to have a reason to get involved with Social Media because if you think the reason to do this is simply that everyone else is, that attitude will not sustain you with the work that is required to do this effectively.

• Culture
• Business Development – Position yourself as an Authority and all of this depends on the firm
• Increase your Visibility in the Industry

I am the poster boy for increased visibility. Almost overnight, the perception of who I was changed. I can tell you that I am basically still the same person I have from the time I started writing on my website, but now people actually think I have something worth listening to. Amazing!

Cautionary tale. It makes me think of this one girl I was friends with in high school. She was perfectly nice and had friends, not unattractive, but after one particular summer, when she came back to school, she had changed her appearance and she looked beautiful. At first, she seemed to eat it up and she was really enjoying this new attention. But within a year or two, she became mean and harsh. In her mind, she was the same person and she started to hate the people who now treated her differently because she looked different.  I suppose the message I am trying to say is that I will admit that there was a time when it bothered me that I was associated with the blog and now suddenly I’m worth listening to even though I was still the same person. My forum had changed and with it, my perception within the community at large.

Return on Investment [12:40 mark]
Show me the Money! Through 2018, the architectural fees generated by projects that have been introduced through the blog, are just North of $3.3 million dollars. From the time I started, that averages out to $1,500 per workday. I kept track of the time I spent on the blog for years and this fee for the time spent working on the blog works out to around $940 per hour. Now, this is all funny money because I still had to do the architectural work that actually generated those fees – so this is just to look at the results of my unintended marketing efforts.

Social Media Platforms [18:15 mark]
I actually think that blogs like mine are a dying breed – people seemingly don’t really want to read anymore. They certainly don’t want to read a 1,500-word article, even if there are loads of pictures in there to distract them. They want to digest their content in 5-second bites and if there is something there they are interested in, they’ll take a deeper dive into the content. So which social media platforms are worth your effort and attention? Based on the numbers, I suggest the following:

Facebook – 2.23 Billion monthly active users and over 65 million business using this platform. I use it and it is typically the biggest generator of engagement that I have.

Youtube – 1.9 billion monthly active users. I do not use it but more of the content that I am consuming is coming from Youtube.

Instagram – 1 billion monthly active users. If there was ever a platform tailor-made for architect and contractors, Instagram is it.

Twitter – 335 million monthly active users. I still use twitter but not like I used to – now I mostly use it to distribute my content and to engage with people that reach out to me. I rarely instigate on this platform.

LinkedIn – 294 million monthly active users. This is a really a great platform for business-to-business connections (that and finding your next job).

There are literally hundreds of other platforms available for you to use to broadcast whatever message you want … but few are worthy of your time as the 5 that I’ve listed above. There are different reasons for why you would choose one platform over another – mot of which revolve around the amount of effort that goes into distributing that message versus the amount of engagement you receive in return. You should also take into consideration the demographic you want to reach – for example, it is far more likely for you to reach the under 35-years-old crowd using Instagram than you would by using LinkedIn but for people who are interested in business-to-business connections, LinkedIn is an excellent platform.

Let’s talk about the Bad – which is vast, but almost all of them only start to show up once you reach a certain level of success, reach, and engagement. I didn’t have any issues responding to emails or comments for the first few years but as more people found the site and that amount continued to grow, I simply couldn’t keep up.

Takes a lot a time [30:56 mark]
As of this recording, I have written 905 blog posts and I have another 43 sitting in the “drafts” folder. That suggests that I either have a lot on my mind, no social life, or too much free time. I’ll tell you that it’s some combination of all three.

War and Peace is widely acknowledged as being an especially long book. Have you ever read it? I think most people use it as a prop behind the wheel of a semi-truck to keep it from rolling downhill. War and Peace checks in at a staggering 587,287 words. For some comparison, the entire trilogy of the Lord of the Rings series contains a paltry 455,125 words by comparison and it took JRR Tolkien 12 years to write those three books.

The word count on my site is currently standing at 921,976 words and it has taken me 10 years to get there. That’s more than double the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the pay isn’t nearly as good.

Some of the other issues I have dealt with over the past few years include:

Hacking – I couldn’t tell you why I was targeted for constant attacks but at one point, it became so bad that it almost forced me to quit and walk away from the web site.

Stolen Identity – luckily for me, I was never the target of the stolen identity, which I think is the concern of most. Instead, people pretended to be me (since I painted so complete a picture online) and on several occassions, I’ve received angry phone calls from people who are convinced that I convinced their mother to send me her hard-earned social security checks.

Emails make me feel like crap. It’s not the ones I receive that make me feel bad, it’s the ones that are worthy of my time and a response that I don’t ever get a chance to reply to. If these emails asked “yes” or “no” questions it would be a no-brainer, I could respond to these by the thousands. It’s the people who are simply looking for some life guidance, the sort of questions that require some time and effort to put together a considered response, those are the ones that literally keep me up at night. It didn’t take much effort but here is a recent example of what I am speaking about:

Hi, Bob!
I am a grade 11 student in Canada, and I really want to study architecture when I go to university. However, my parents don’t want me to study architecture, and they always say that it is very hard for young architects to find jobs after they graduate. Is it true? I really like architecture, but I do not know how to convince my parents. Do you have any advice for me? Thank you so much!
[Name withheld]

Ugh. How do you not respond to this question? (I haven’t responded and therefore = I feel like garbage). If it was only a handful of these I could manage, it’s the 20 of these I get each week where I don’t have 4 hours dedicated for these sorts of emails. I already farm many of these emails out to a group of people who have agreed to respond to emails when I send them along – if you are interested in getting added to my list, just let me know in the comment section.

Hypothetical [46:52 mark]
In an effort to make what I felt was a fairly easy hypothetical, one that did not have a lot of twists and turns to it, I came up with the following scenario:

Would you rather be a famous actor or a famous author?

This really comes down to if you wanted to be physically recognized for being who you are when you are out in a public space … and maybe a little bit about the amount of money that might come along with being famous. I did some quick research and learned that in 2016, author James Patterson earned $91million, but #2 Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) on that list was at $19.5 million. If you look at a list of the highest paid actors, the top 22 all made more than the second highest paid author.

Here’s the thing on Social Media … I’m not you and you’re not me, and our execution of the exact same plan would experience different results. In order for social media to have an impact, you first have to decide on what you want to achieve and from there, you actually have to put yourself out there as an individual because social media only functions when you are social – which means there has to be a 1st person narrative. I should point out that this doesn’t necessarily mean talking about yourself, it means talking about things from your perspective.


Outro [55:39 mark] …
None of this is going in the podcast
If it – uhnnn
Let’s call each other names
The gluten is killing me
You think you had a shot at this?

Many thanks to Centria for their support of today’s episode. Special thanks to Kim Snyder – Product Manager, Centria Insulated Metal Panel Systems, and Julie Schessler – Product Manager, Centria Rainscreen Systems, for sitting down with us. For more information, please visit www.centria.com/lifeofanarchitect

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