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Low Engagement


Why this column on marketing your firm and your projects through social media?

We’re glad there’s so much great work coming to this blog, but we also worry that all that fine work might not be getting the amount—and especially the kind—of publicity it deserves. Social media offers an unprecedented opportunity to get the word out about architecture. It’s personal, democratic, and affordable. However, it’s also a space that’s become incredibly cluttered and confusing. Our goal is to make social media platforms such as Houzz, Pinterest, and Facebook work for you and your business, engaging clients in a meaningful and productive way.

Why is this column especially important now?

Social media has typically been all about numbers:  the seduction of going viral, racking up thousands of followers and friends. But a successful design practice isn’t all about numbers. It’s about relationships, seeing your clients eyeball to eyeball, connecting on a personal, as well as aesthetic, level.

Fortunately, social media is about to enter a new phase. Neuroscientists say that storytelling and sharing penetrate our brains through a special express route.  Marketers call this “high engagement” as opposed to “low engagement.”

“Low engagement” gets you lots of followers, but little else. That video of your cat riding your dog around the house may get shared around the world, but no one will know, much less care, who posted it online. “High engagement,” on the other hand, opens up a dialogue, favors curiosity and creativity, informs, entertains, and connects. It puts the social back into social media.

Why am I the one editing it?

I started writing about architecture and design thirty years ago because I loved the work I saw and I felt it was under-appreciated. Here was a discipline that could change lives for the better in so many ways and yet it seemed marginalized, a kind of “extra.” Later, I co-founded magazines (Design Times, New England Home) and wrote extensively in other publications, trying to nudge our culture in the right direction, if only by a few degrees.

Then social media came along. All of a sudden, architects didn’t have to wait for an editor like me to give the green light to publicizing their projects. They could tell their own stories at long last.

That was the good news. The bad news was that many architects were better at speaking in 3D than in English, or French, or Chinese. Which would have been okay if the public spoke 3D as well. But it doesn’t, and it probably won’t. People need the pictures and the words to appreciate what’s going on. That’s why I launched a series of workshops in Boston called “How to Win Friends and Influence People through Social Media” to help our design community feel more comfortable writing its marvelous stories in profiles and posts.

Whether you’re totally frustrated and fed up with social media chatter, or you’ve found that its power has helped you level the playing field between you and larger firms, I’d love to hear from you in our comments section.

Meanwhile, I’d like to offer some tips that may help you achieve the “high engagement” that can help you better connect with clients.

it's all about relationships

Every social media profile doesn’t have to sound the same.

I was leading a workshop last November at ABX (Architecture Boston Expo) on “Writing the Dreaded ‘About Us’ ” page on websites and social media. I say “dreaded” because so many architects I’ve talked to just don’t know where to begin. “Why can’t potential clients understand who we are by simply looking at our Portfolio page?” they wonder. “Why do they need all the verbiage to go with it?”

Well, that would be nice, but not everyone responds to visuals in the same way. Words can play an important supporting role. Everyone in the workshop agreed and we set to work, creating profiles using various prompts (Why is architecture important? Why is it important now? Why is it important that you are doing it?).

Then one architect spoke up, his face in a knot of exasperation. “Every firm’s profile reads exactly the same, including ours,” he said. “Everyone claims that ‘we do a great job of listening to our clients.’ I’d like to see an architecture firm say ‘We could care less about what our clients want. We just do our own thing and we get a lot of awards for doing it.’ ”

This brought a chuckle and more than a few nods of recognition. So here’s the Tip, our first in this Graphisoft series.

  • Writing in your profile that you are committed to ‘listening to our clients’ is a fine claim, but kind of vanilla. Writing that you ‘listen to our clients and here’s how’ is a far more engaging proposition.
  • Go on to tell a story that illustrates how you do this listening. Surely, there’s more than one way, and that would be good to know, too.
  • For example, I once interviewed an architect specializing in mega yachts who makes it a practice to live with his clients for a week, before anything else, just socializing, taking voluminous notes all the while. He could tell some stories about that on his profile.
  • Architects with other specialties will plant themselves in a competing high-rise for a week, a failing mall, or a cramped campus building, just to better understand what their client is saying, to really listen. Let’s hear more about that.
  • Still, other architects go through clothes closets, visit business associates, and accompany their clients on road trips to other countries to get ideas and inspiration. It could be very engaging to read about some of those exercises in the act of listening.
  • Whether I’m a corporation or a mere mortal, if I read these true accounts of really listening, I would come away with the feeling that yes, I am now convinced this firm does what it claims to do.

It may sound almost too simplistic. And yet, relating an anecdote not only distinguishes your firm from all the others out there, it also establishes a human connection with the reader (i.e.: potential client).

We listen to our clients and here are some of the ways we do it. I encourage you to try this approach in your LinkedIn or Facebook profile and just see how it feels, how it engages the public and your potential clientele.

© Louis Postel 2017, first published by Graphisoft USA