The wrong language

May 21, 2018

Social media isn’t nuclear physics, but you have to have the right voice for the right channel, otherwise you’re speaking Spanish in China.

Would you walk up to someone at a cocktail party and say, “Attending a seminar on project management,” and then walk away? Probably not, but it’s a fairly common and acceptable statement for most AEC firms to post on social media with a picture. I’ve seen some pretty grievous breaches of marketing etiquette lately, and the only thing I’m certain of is that none of them were on purpose.

Marketing in the digital world can be tough. Every platform has its own set of rules and customs. It’s important to make sure you follow the norms of the platform you are speaking on, and most importantly, make sure you are speaking the same language as your clients. For example, if you are in China, you might not want to speak Spanish. Get the gist?

I did a humorous post on this last year for social media, and now it’s time for an update. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Your website and any social media platforms owned and operated by your firm are essentially a business storefront. Operate them as such. Set up your channels with the appropriate information. A picture that is representative of your firm or logo, address, contact information (including phone number), hours, and website (for other channels), all need to be clear and available. If someone does try to get in contact with you, don’t make them hunt around to figure out how to best reach you.
  • Remember the Five Ws (Who, What, When, Where, and Why). Most social media posts need to have at least two of these, preferably more. Advertisements need to have three or more! A picture may be worth a thousand words, but you still have to have some of the Ws.
  • “Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen.” If you’ve ever seen Mean Girls, you know exactly what I’m talking about. A character in the movie, Gretchen, keeps trying to use the word “fetch” as an adjective in hopes that it will catch on as the next best thing. This same sentiment applies to hashtags. It’s great if you make up your own that will eventually become searchable, but for marketing purposes, you need to be using hashtags that other people are using. The whole point of hashtags is that they are categorical, searchable things. You click on them to see everything that has also used this same hashtag. Hashtags also convey meaning, so make sure the ones you use mean what you think they mean. Acronyms can be dangerous, especially on Instagram and Twitter. On that note, hashtag away on Twitter and Instagram, but use them sparingly on LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • A few more specifics: In other industries, companies are now running entire businesses just off Facebook. It’s completely possible. Facebook has excellent SEO. If you don’t have a good website, but have a relatively active Facebook page, it may be the very first thing someone sees when they Google your firm. Be very aware of the quality of images and types of things you are posting on this channel. It’s not just a place to dump fun stuff for the heck of it.
  • A random picture of a project with just a caption (the what) is not an effective stand-alone advertisement, and is super out of place on Twitter. Put more than one of those in an album on Facebook titled “Recent Projects,” and you have an effective and totally appropriate marketing tool.
  • Don’t share what you ate for lunch on Facebook. It’s just not right! But it’s totally cool on Instagram, especially if you tag the restaurant location and use relevant hashtags (see below).
  • LinkedIn and Facebook are great places to announce a new hire. On Twitter it will just get lost in the fray.
  • Wrote a cool article? Share it on all social media channels except Instagram. Instagram is for good artful pictures only. Want to share some news? If it’s on Instagram, you better have a good picture to go along with your text.

This may seem like a lot of silly rules, but they are important if you want to be seen as relevant and in touch with the rest of your community. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email anytime and I’ll be happy to help.

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.