For our new installment of Building Your Business, we're talking social media. These days, it's pretty much a given that firms will incorporate social media into their overall pr and marketing strategy. But how do you go about it? What makes for a good approach? How do you roll it out? How do you measure success? To get you thinking (or to help you take your existing plans to the next level), we reached out to Los Angeles–based public relations professional Rich Pedine.
Since launching his own boutique public relations firm, RPpr (Rich Pedine Public Relations), in 2011, Rich has advised some of the top design talents around, gaining esposure for his clients in a host of national and regional print and digital publications. This year, he was also tapped to head social media efforts for La Cienga Design Quarter's Lengends 2013 event. Not surprisingly, Rich is active on Twitter. You can follow him @reekyrocks and see a social media master in action.
Read on for some intriguing insights into the brave new world of social media.
Why invest in social media?
It is really quite simple—social media channels allow you to deliver specific messages, as well as content, directly to your audience, on your own terms and on your own timetable. Social media also gives you an amazing opportunity to network and connect with potential clients, magazines, and other professionals within the design world to expand your business horizons.
For design and architecture businesses, what are the most valuable areas to focus on social media–wise or does it vary?
Design and architecture businesses are very visual, so I think that engaging on social platforms that highlight visuals are key—Instagram and Pinterest being the best examples. Beyond that, referrals are a huge component of new business opportunities. For that reason, you want to be connected into your network of clients, friends, vendors, etc. so that you can all support each other's business efforts via social media. I think that this is where Facebook comes into play, and to a lesser degree, Twitter and LinkedIn.
How important is it to get a professional to start you off with a social media strategy? Do you need a dedicated person doing social media at your firm?
I don't think that it is necessary to work with a true social media professional, especially for smaller and growing businesses. What is important as a business owner is to be aware of who on your team is an active social media user. Those are the members of your staff that can give you some real-world insight, and they may also be the best-suited to manage a business's social platforms. Social media is, well, just like riding a bike. Once you get the hang of it, it's easy. Make it part of your routine. I think that the most successful design and architecture professionals on social media are the ones that actually participate in the efforts. Not everyone has the time and taste for this, but in my opinion, everyone can make a little time to get involved in social media. If you don't have ANY time to dedicate to social media, it is probably best just to avoid it entirely and focus on other areas of your business.
How do you measure social media success?
For me, it is all about engagement. Are you seeing an increase in your social media audience? Are people responding to and sharing your posts? Beyond that, looking at your social media numbers can be helpful, but the numbers alone don't tell the full story. You have to look at both quality and quantity, like in other areas of your business. Sure, it is wonderful to have tens of thousands or millions of social media followers—but are they truly interested in you and your business? Are they even real people!?
What are the key components to a successful social media strategy?
Regularity is very important. No one is going to continue to follow someone on social media that posts once a month or less—why bother? Compelling content is another necessary component—as a design professional, you are seeing some of the most exciting and creative work—share it! Take photos while shopping, share photos of your mood boards. Perhaps you create a Vine video showing a product being built? Finally, engagement—like at a dinner party, don't be the guy in the corner telling the same story about his recent success to anyone who will listen. By all means, toot your own horn when necessary, but also reach out and interact with the people you want to reciprocate on social media.
What are some common social media pitfalls/mistakes folks make and how can they be avoided?
There are two main mistakes to be on the lookout for in the social media world. First, these are essentially public communications. Once you've said something on social media, you have put it out there for the entire world to see. The second big mistake that I see are folks who use social media like a bullhorn. This is about as effective as hiring someone to stand on a busy intersection whirling your sign in the air. Sharing your messaging and ideas are very important, but engaging and interacting with others is more important. If all you do is share information about your current projects and media coverage, then you are missing a big part of the social media experience. Answer questions. Ask questions!
How do firm blogs fit into an overall social media strategy?
Blogs are a great way to share multiple photos and detailed descriptions of your projects, products, inspirations, etc. Your social media channels can be a great tool to amplify the content on your blog. I don't necessarily think that they go hand-in-hand in every case.