Clark’s Corner: Social media for consultants

Feb 24, 2011

By Jeff Clark From a personal viewpoint, I often wondered in the past what I would say, and with such frequency, on this celebrity-glamorized and ego-centric platform called Twitter. I’m not John Mayer and if I tweet that I’m going for a run down to Santa Monica Pier, I won’t be mobbed within minutes by a host of female admirers. It’s not that my life is boring or uneventful. Perhaps I simply like my privacy and don’t want the whole world following my every move. Or perhaps you are shy, and your life is boring, so who is going to follow you anyway? Fear of not having any followers and fear of being followed sound like good excuses if you want to be an introvert or a firm without any clients. How about we set aside the fears of social media and look at the positives? From a business perspective, whether you are a contractor building homes, or an architect designing commercial buildings, Twitter works to help grow your business if used properly, like any other marketing mechanism. Eric Howerton, COO at ZweigWhite, summarized to me his belief in Twitter and social media in general: “Social media as a whole is more about listening than speaking. The people you follow are your ears, allowing you to listen to what they want or need to know. Your followers are your mouth, allowing you to give the advice people want to hear. If you can treat this environment like a personal interview with clients, you will see success. Success in the form of understanding client needs, building relationships and credibility and offering advice that is truly wanted and needed.” Another convincing example came from our CEO, Mark Zweig: “Not only have I gotten actual work from being on Twitter, I have also been much better informed about news and other happenings in our industry.” With Eric’s and Mark’s encouragement, today (Feb. 10) is my first day using Twitter to listen and learn more about the A/E/P and environmental consulting space and to understand what’s happening in the markets where my clients are most active. I’m going to first start following some of the top 50 design firms. Here’s what some of them are saying: CannonDesign: “How do we make kids care about architecture and history?” That’s always a good question to ask. KlingStubbins: “High performance starts with integrated design and energy modeling.” DLRGroup: “DLR Group to design new conference center in Jefferson City, Mo; voters approve lodging sales tax to help fund project.” HNTBCorp: “In SacBee, HNTB’s Barry McCaffrey and Rob Vining share the way forward to sustain Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.” It appears that on average less than 10% of the large design firms have their company set up to tweet. This is an amazing opportunity being lost! What it also means is there’s an even greater opportunity for small and mid-sized firms to take advantage in this medium by filling the void with their own communications. Below are some of the tweets by others on mid-sized firms we’ve had the pleasure of working with. This is what you really want: a credible third party retweeting your company’s press releases and positive communications for you. There’s nothing better: RAImagazine: “Finley Engineering to design repairs for Florida bridges after deadly car accident.” SMPSNational: “Thanks to Perkins + Will for hosting ‘The Basics of Business Development’ today in Atlanta!” In addition to following firms, make sure to follow the people within those firms. This way they will begin to follow you as well. This is the etiquette on Twitter. In general, if you spend an hour a day on Twitter adding a few contacts to follow, you will build a huge following for your tweets when you are ready to communicate. How often should I tweet and what should I say? Therein lies the rub. If you are extremely knowledgeable and in touch with a lot of people in your space, you can retweet their tweets, which is good etiquette as noted, in addition to sending out tweets every day on your own. Daily is recommended. You work, you live and you communicate with others every day, so why not tweet for free and see what good things come your way? In my first day of tweeting, I am following 40. When this article is published, I plan to be following over 400. If you like, follow me @DealGeneration. It’s fun and it works!

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.