Crack the whip

Nov 05, 2018

Firms are using social media for marketing, but the frequency, consistency, and quality of the content needs to improve.

Chaos. Zero strategy. Lack of metrics. Zweig Group’s just released 2018 Marketing Survey shows that while more firms than ever are embracing the use of social media, they still don’t feel it is an effective way to market. The reason may not lie in the medium itself, but instead in the fact that many are not employing the discipline needed to make it effective.

In 2018, 92 percent of survey respondents stated they had a presence on LinkedIn, 86 percent on Facebook, 54 percent on Twitter, and 28 percent on Instagram. The most frequent platform to post on is Twitter, which on average AEC firms are doing at least twice monthly. Firms are also using Facebook and Linkedin on an average bi-monthly basis – not nearly enough to even be marginally effective. On a platform like Twitter, the scrolling news feed of bite-sized information means that even weekly tweets are not going to work. They will just get lost in a mass of other information. It’s something that needs daily attention, and something almost no firms are doing.

Marketing is about relationships, and engagement is an important component of social media. A social media platform is like a huge, crowded party with music playing and drinks being served and everyone having their own conversations. The numbers show most firms are walking into the room, shouting something random – once – and then leaving the room for a week or more. The survey found that 78 percent of firms are not actively liking photos posted by other Instagram users; 62 percent of firms are not actively re-tweeting; and 58 percent are not sharing content from other Facebook users. Only 63 percent of firms said they strategically post different kinds of content to social media in an effort to increase engagement.

When asked what kind of content generates the most engagement, 59 percent of firms said “pictures.” Ironically and unfortunately, one of the least effective forms of engagement, job postings, was one of the most common types of content published (80 percent).

With any marketing method, metrics need to be tracked and adjustments need to be made based on factors of success or failure. Unfortunately, because social media is free, many AEC firms treat it like a veritable dumpster for all things “marketing.” Without a schedule, a plan, or any measures of success, many firms are posting terrible images of unsuspecting new hires mixed in with unrelated projects, charity events, in-office parties, and even announcements about the weather. Worse yet, most firms abandon all graphic standards when it comes to social media. I’ve seen firms with five pages on the proper use of their logo have Facebook accounts with terrible quality images, 500 different fonts, 50 different clashing colors, and inconsistent graphics.

Last year, I would have advised firms to dip their toes in the water when it comes to social media. Something, after all, is better than nothing. Today I wouldn’t say the same thing. I would say this is a real marketing channel that people are paying attention to. It’s as important as almost anything else. Exercise a strategy. Have standards. Show some restraint. Stay committed to your branding. Do all these things and then tell me how effective your social media is at getting work for your firm. You might be surprised!

Christina Zweig Niehues is Zweig Group’s director of marketing. Contact her at

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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.