Social media in 2020

Nov 08, 2020

If you don’t have a social media and online marketing strategy for your AEC firm, now is the time to get started.

Social media has come up as a hot topic again recently, and it’s as polarizing as the election.

Almost all AEC firms (98 percent) are using social media in some way. Since the pandemic started, we’re spending more time on social media than ever before, yet most AEC firms still aren’t convinced it’s an effective way to market, and many are still questioning their ROI. Here are the top issues I’m seeing:

  1. Absolutely no strategy. If you’re using social media for marketing or BD, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Every firm needs a unique strategy tailored to their brand, goals, and even each individual channel. Each one of these social media channels is developing and changing rapidly – so be ready to adjust quickly and often to take advantage of new features and algorithms.
  2. There’s a disconnect between the social media strategy (if there is one) and what is being posted, and how this content is received by the intended viewer. For most AEC firms, the intended audience is similar to those individuals in the firm. If you don’t know who your desired clients are and who the decision makers are, it’s your No. 1 problem! Regardless, it’s still a human being who will view your post. If your message seems fake, phony, contrived, or robotic, it’s going to be perceived as these things. Is that really the message of your brand? Many firms are not thinking about what they truly want to accomplish with the messages they are sending out and also struggling with authenticity.
  3. Social media is for being social. Zweig Group research shows that AEC industry firms are not re-sharing, commenting, or encouraging interaction on LinkedIn (42 percent), Twitter (54 percent), Facebook (52 percent), or Instagram (64 percent). None of these channels are a pegboard for announcements. If you’re just looking to post a weekly update on newsworthy headlines coming out of your firm, learn to write a good press release (here’s an article on that) and send it out to contacts who work for publications. Participating in and starting conversations is integral to effectively marketing on social media.
  4. Social media channels are not all the same. Every channel deserves its own strategy, unique content, and specialized methods of interacting. Instagram is for beautiful photos – but it also has “stories,” a polling feature, and the ability to create highlighted collections of similar images – all of these should be used. Facebook and LinkedIn have highly interactive groups where people discuss everything from diversity and inclusion, to bridge building techniques, to engineering projects at a public park. Join these groups and participate in these conversations – this is the biggest source of immediate leads on social media.
  5. Pressure! I recently moderated a roundtable and some of the participants talked about the pressure to post and put things on social media, even though they weren’t sure they were effective. This goes back to point No. 1 and also the most important part of social media, authenticity! Just because every other AEC firm posts work anniversaries on Facebook doesn’t mean you need to. Stick to a strategy with defined, reasonable goals, don’t just do what you think everyone else is doing.
  6. Terrible mug-shot like new hire posts. Yes, this one deserves its own bullet point because it’s so commonly done and they are so bad. Don’t post employee mugshots! Don’t post unflattering pictures of any person or project/building/job site; they do more damage than good.

Social media can be used to effectively market, and it’s here to stay. A recent McKinsey and Company survey shockingly found that only 20 percent of B2B buyers want to interact with sales reps in person, even post COVID-19. If you don’t have a social media and online marketing strategy for your AEC firm, now is the time to get started.

Christina Zweig Niehues is director of marketing and media at Zweig Group. Contact her at

Christy’s article “Talent Numbers in the AEC Industries” was featured in the October 2020 issue of Marketer, SMPS’s bimonthly journal which reports on current business development and marketing practices, issues, and trends. Click here to see the full October issue of Marketer.

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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.