Content: Can’t Get There From Here

Near the end of 2012, the typical A/E/C marketer was still not finished with the website redevelopment project she had planned at the start of the year. What might have been a quick project dragged on indefinitely – due, no doubt, to the marketer’s attention being constantly diverted to proposals, and indifference or indecision from those at the top of the organization who don’t know what she is trying to accomplish with a website redesign, only that it is taking quite awhile.

This means that websites in 2013 are still not very interactive or manageable. They are slow as ever to take advantage of current web technologies, and to publicize current activities of their owners. So social channels and email marketing have finally found their marketing value – as workarounds. They have provided marketers with a “real-time” (or nearly so) outlet for sharing and gathering new information, seemingly in the nick of time. But make no mistake! These tools compensate for sluggish progress on the main web property.

Even as A/E/C companies have adopted social media platforms for marketing and recruiting purposes, the same question occurs immediately to both marketing managers and HR managers: “Is it wiser for my company to have a social media policy or a social media culture?” (Note that “culture” is code for “control”.) Both groups of managers are motivated by suspicions that ironically mirror each other: Marketing people tend to be Gen X and younger, while HR people tend to be Gen X and older. A seasoned HR manager dreads the misuses of social media by younger staffers. Conversely, a younger marketing coordinator can’t trust her principals to tweet or blog with care.

Design firms that have invested time into developing Facebook and Twitter presences have reported that these have generated a lot of their website traffic. Also, individual architects are increasingly engaging all of the social media channels to express their opinion, build community, and advocate for the profession. Mike Davis FAIA, vice-president of Bergmeyer Associates and 2013 BSA President, is setting an example for mature and professional use of these tools. You can read his blog at http://mikedavisfaia.wordpress.com/. Similarly, larger firms maintain internal blogs from which their marketers can further develop content ideas submitted by employees. This infrastructure helps keep a company blog active and fresh.

Like social media sites, email marketing platforms are getting easier to manage, and their campaign management and design features can make a broadcast communication seem like a personal one. Analytics can even prove how effective this charade is in click-through numbers. But who opens and reads these email newsletters? A better question is, does it even matter? The email newsletters I receive from Precision Marketing Group feature professionally relevant articles, timely advice, news about their firm, plus recommended reading! They arrive in my inbox regularly, too. I’m familiar with their structure, so I can elect to read them. I don’t think it matters whether your emails are opened and read. Consistency is the key. Email newsletters help you keep your tribe loyal, which is slightly better than just showing the world that you’re alive. They also appeal to the diverse interests of bloggers and freelance journalists who collect ideas and sources for their stories.

Architectural marketers and business owners used to look to print publication in Architectural Record, ENR, or the trades to “validate” them. The “metrics” being dreamed up in the analytics are just as useless. They’re giving marketers a false sense of security and accomplishment, and certainty about the effectiveness of what they do every day. That mass market public audience doesn’t really exist anymore. This is clear in your social graphs and email lists. Nakedly, it’s just you and your employees, and their friends and followers that have any exposure to your marketing news, and that have any reason to care. Good for you. In a recent article, blogger Trond Lyngbø wrote, “Boasting and bragging about accomplishments can be counter-productive for businesses. The more relevant questions to ask about your content are “Who will +1 this on Google?” and “Is this ‘Likeable’ on Facebook?”” The best you can hope for is that these people spend enough time on Facebook to be influential there, and are sophisticated (and generous) enough to hit the “Like” button next to your latest status update or photo.

Website, social, and email marketing are currently not being balanced very well except by the few firms that have the money, time, and motivation to invest there. Those firms are demonstrating that a balance is possible. But that possibility still has a high price tag. New projects don’t make it onto company websites over 83% of the time, and this is either an oversight or a “bleeding indicator” of inefficiency or overwhelm.

If company website content is unable to keep pace at the end of the chain of links, tweets, shares, and Likes, it could be due to the still unanswered question, “Who Is In Control?”


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