At our Members Forum in Edinburgh a number of delegates asked us to review our presence in social media to improve engagement and empower more members to get involved. So, following the Forum we enlisted the help of a brand strategy and communications agency to undertake a full, impartial analysis of CIOB social media. The research entailed a deep dive into all the data we have captured over the years, telephone interviews with many members and colleagues, and compared the CIOB experience against how other professional bodies approach their social channels and general best practice.
Just for context, we have been actively involved in social media for more than 10 years. In that time, we have grown large audiences in our main accounts, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter at a much faster rate than our physical networks, and we have seen many new trends emerge and new social channels come and go.
But the challenge for most organisations is in striking the right balance in our channels between generating content and managing what goes on so that we create a valuable experience for users. We know we can’t be in every social media channel all the time. Our review has sought to show us where we would be most effective to spend our time and effort, and where members and other professionals expect to find us.
An issue for us has been in the sheer size of the CIOB landscape. We currently have around 50 official CIOB social media channels and almost another 50 non-official channels set up by well-meaning members. Because it is a crowded space it makes it unclear for new potential followers to know which account to engage with. There is simply too much choice, and with such a broad landscape it becomes difficult to manage effectively with the time we all have. Not only that but there are varying levels of quality of content which has a negative effect and potentially damaging to our brand.
The review focussed on our local accounts and how our stakeholders want to engage with us. What we know is that of our main accounts LinkedIn is the star of the show. We are growing at a rate of around 200+ new followers a week in that channel. But growth in numbers is just one side of the story, LinkedIn is also the channel we gain the most engagement from. By engagement we mean what people actually do when we post something (i.e. sharing it, commenting, liking etc).
The telephone research revealed that members view Facebook as a personal channel, that Twitter is perceived mainly for broadcasting news rather than entering into a conversation, but LinkedIn is seen as the professional channel for engaging professionals about their profession. This part of the research is backed up by our data which also shows very low growth in Facebook and Twitter and poor levels of engagement, despite the effort.
Our plan is to create LinkedIn presences for our local operations and step away from local Twitter and Facebook accounts. That will do two things, firstly it will place our effort in the most effective channel and secondly it will reduce our landscape to make it more obvious to new followers how they can connect with us. We will still have the main CIOB Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts.
We need to distil our thinking further about Instagram and how we are going to gain “champions” and grow our presence to be more than our Art of Building photography competition. But our intention is to utilise Instagram for engaging the next generation with rich visual content that supports our mission but is presented in a way that creates conversation. Our sister professional body RIBA does this particularly well. In addition, the use of Instagram Stories and hashtags are areas that we will take full advantage of, bringing our voice and content into the broader conversations and themes to extend our reach and engagement.
Right now, we are investigating how we will deliver upon the recommendations from the research. Our plan will include the creation of a presence in LinkedIn for local hubs and migrating from, and then removing, local CIOB Twitter and Facebook accounts over the next few months.
When it comes to improving how members get involved we believe this focussed approach will help. It removes the need for members to create ‘CIOB groups’ in LinkedIn and instead empowers them to use their own profiles to get involved in the conversations we create. There is a perception that having a CIOB branded group is more influential than an individual’s interaction, which is simply not true. People engage with people, and those actively involved with us will also benefit by growing their own personal networks. More broadly than Instagram (as mentioned above) we will be encouraging and supporting hashtag usage far more than we have before. This will give our audiences an easier journey to find specific content by theme and interacting with those conversations using their own profiles.
While there are some practical things we need to do to over the coming months to make the transition work we will also be supporting that with specific training for colleagues who will be able to make use of the local LinkedIn pages in the same way they have in Twitter and Facebook but with greater guidance and advice to support them.
In the future we also plan to develop a series of online learning for CIOB members on how to get the most from social media and how to interact with us. Compared to other industries, construction is one of the slowest adopters of social media and we can help develop those skills within our own membership and in our own social media channels too.
You can see our infographics about the changes by clicking here.