Social media marketing has become a critical communication channel for A/E/C firms to use in their marketing mix. But using the right social media platforms to reach and engage your target audience plays a critical role in achieving success.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to have a presence on every social media platform! It’s important to understand the social media landscape and choose the channels that align with your social media strategy with a focus on your overall objectives, target audience and content. Here’s a breakdown of the social landscape and some thoughts around where your A/E/C firm should invest your time.

The big three: LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook

According to Econsultancy, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook account for 90% of all social referral traffic to business-to-business (B2B) websites, with LinkedIn accounting for more than half (64%). There are certainly other social platforms we’ll consider later, but “the big three” should be front and center in your social media strategy.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is THE social network for business. And unsurprisingly it’s the platform where B2B firms are seeing the most results. Currently, LinkedIn has more than 414 million members worldwide, with 1 out of 3 professionals having a profile. It’s rated by B2B content marketers as the most effective social media platform and research has found that 80% of B2B social media leads come from LinkedIn.

While other platforms may have demographic disparity, LinkedIn is fairly well represented across the board. Which means that those senior-level clients that some claim “don’t use social media” can most definitely be found on LinkedIn.

The business nature of the platform and the ability to reach your target audience means LinkedIn should be a cornerstone of you’re A/E/C firm’s social media efforts. LinkedIn provides a wide range of opportunities for engagement, including company page updates, personal publishing, and groups. Just be sure to leverage LinkedIn to promote thought leadership and content marketing, NOT just as a bullhorn for firm news and accolades.

Twitter

For A/E/C firms, consider Twitter the virtual newsroom of social media platforms. It’s real-time, news-oriented and second only to LinkedIn in terms of effectiveness as rated by B2B marketers. Twitter currently has 305 million active users and is a helpful channel for connecting with industry influencers, reporters, publications, associations, teaming partners, prospective employees, as well as clients and prospects.

Due to the real-time nature of the platform, frequency of use should be higher than other platforms. With Twitter, its best to follow the 4-1-1 rule of social media: one self-serving, news-oriented tweet, one thought leadership-oriented tweet and four tweets that point to other industry influencer content such as articles from ENR, Building Design & Construction, Wall Street Journal, etc. Additionally, research from Buffer found that tweets that include an image receive
 18% more clicks, 89% more favorites and
 150% more retweets.

Facebook

Facebook is a very different platform with a different context than LinkedIn and Twitter; however, it still remains an important piece of the social media mix. Facebook currently has nearly 1.6 billion active users and drives the second most social referral traffic for B2B websites. Similar to Twitter, visual content is important as Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without images.

Facebook is arguably the most social of the social platforms. It’s more akin to a backyard barbecue or company picnic, than a tradeshow or business networking event. Business people using Facebook are not likely to be using it with a business purpose, as they would on LinkedIn, so it’s important to keep that in mind with the kind of content you share.

While other platforms are better served with a thought leadership purpose, Facebook is a great place to showcase your company culture, share community outreach activities and highlight employees.

B2B Social Media Usage 2016

Other Social Media Platforms to Consider

In addition to the big three, there are a slew of other social platforms to consider depending on your objectives, audience and content. As you’ll notice, there is a growing trend towards more visual-oriented platforms:

Instagram

Instagram is a growing platform for B2B social media marketing, with 40% of marketers planning to increase usage in 2016.  A/E/C firms who substantially invest time and resources in photography to tell their client’s stories and showcase the interesting work they’re doing might find Instagram to be a great platform. Similar to Twitter, Instagram is real-time (for now), leverages hashtags and relies on quick hitting messages to accompany photos or videos.

YouTube

YouTube is considered the second largest search engine and boasts over 1 billion users with more than 4 billion video views per day. It’s undoubtedly a powerful platform, with high engagement and amazing exposure. For A/E/C firms who have high quality and frequency of video content, YouTube is a logical platform to include in your social media mix. While we would recommend Vimeo over YouTube for integrating video into your firm’s website, YouTube is a better platform for attracting an organic audience for your video content.

SlideShare

LinkedIn-owned Slideshare is a professional platform specifically for sharing presentation content (aka slide decks) and has been branded by some as the ideal social platform for B2B content marketing. SlideShare receives 500 percent more traffic from business owners than Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

If your A/E/C firm speaks at conferences, hosts lunch-and-learns or seminars, and are willing to share the content of your presentations, SlideShare is a great way to showcase that content. For a per-lead fee, you can also use SlideShare to collect contact information from viewers using the lead generation functionality.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a pin board-style social media site that allows users to discover, organize and share visual content. While originally a craft and fashion-themed social site comprised of nearly all-female users, Pinterest’s user base has expanded to include a much wider variety of content including B2B brands. Additionally, the audience has become increasingly diverse, with nearly 30% of the user base now being male.

A/E/C firms should strongly consider their audience and content before deciding to use Pinterest. While Pinterest may be a great fit for an interior design firm with visually captivating work to showcase, it’s probably not a great fit for a wastewater engineering firm whose less likely to get their work re-pinned.

iTunes

Don’t think of iTunes as a social media platform? With the rising popularity of podcasts, iTunes has become the go-to destination for discovering podcast content.

According to Edison Research, 30% of Americans have listened to at least one podcast and podcast listeners are actually “super listeners,” spending more than 25 percent of their total audio time listening to podcasts. For on-the-go users, on-demand Podcasts offer listeners a unique, convenient experience that can both educate and entertain them. A/E/C firms can leverage podcasting (and the iTunes platform) to establish authority and thought leadership while engaging a target audience.

Periscope

Video blogging (or vlogging) has become more prominent in the B2B space, but now with tools such as Twitter-owned Periscope, marketers have the ability to easily produce live streaming video as well. Periscope uses Twitter to notify and link users to the live streams as well as manage the comments and chats within the streams. While this may be a bit of a stretch for some A/E/C firms, live streaming could be used for virtual lunch-and-learns, Q&A sessions, behind-the-scenes tours of project sites and other things that might be interesting to your target audience.

Google Plus

While once a promising and trendy social platform, Google Plus has undergone a lot of changes over the last couple of years and has never seemed to develop into the Facebook killer it was supposed to be. There was a time when having a Google Plus profile was a must have for your firm, if for no other reason than for its intrinsic SEO value. And today, there is no shortage of advocates for the platform’s value, but with the exception of A/E/C firms that are focused on GIS and other geospatial-related technology offerings, its tough to argue that the platform is worth the attention (Google Plus users skew male and tech-oriented). You can’t be everywhere, so it’s likely that other platforms are a better match for your objectives, audience and content.

All the rest

There are plenty of other platforms that have not been mentioned here, including, but not limited to, Flickr, Tumblr, Meerkat, Vimeo, etc. And there will most certainly be newcomers to add to the conversation. However, the same previously stated principle applies when deciding on which platforms to use.

Choose the platforms that most closely align with your A/E/C firm’s strategic objectives, target audience and content. It’s better to invest in fewer platforms and build a loyal following, than to spread yourself thin trying to be in too many places at once.