Architects Look to Blogging, Social Media for New Opportunities

The annual American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Expo in Washington, D.C., featured a seminar focusing on blogging and other forms of social media available to those in the design and construction industry. The seminar, “Architects Who Blog: connecting online for influencing, educating, and inspiring about architecture,” was led by three architect-blogger panelists including Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal blogger and associate principal at Bernbaum Magadini Architects, Bob Borson. The Dallas-based architect was joined by fellow-professionals Jody Brown of INFILL pllc in Durham, N.C. and Cindy Wuellner of Frewen Architects Inc. in Kansas City, Kan.

The panelists discussed the role online mediums played in their personal professions and how they managed to gain large audiences of their blogs in addition to tapping into popular social media avenues such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube, and even eBooks. The first step is to select the best media platforms to engage particular audiences as well as link between them in order to attract readers to the bulk of content. Borson says that while his blog “Life of an Architect,” is home to most of his content, he still uses other social media sites to direct traffic there.

“Essentially I use my blog and that’s kind of the hub of the wheel and the spokes that I use are Facebook and LinkedIn,” Borson says. “I generate content in one place and I use other things to put that information out there for people to look at. The thing that has been interesting is that the type of interaction is different based on where I put it. If we take a close look at Facebook for instance, I started a ‘Life of an Architect’ fan page a year after I started and that became the number-two referrer to my site.”

According to panelists, after selecting the main media platforms it is important to develop blogging themes that will build credibility and gain access into influential conversations. For example, bloggers can create headlines and key words to optimize search engine access, format tweets that will be shared repeatedly and create blog posts that will attract readers and engage people in commenting.

“I found that the topics that I touched on were interesting to a broad range of people. They weren’t just posts that architects would like,” Borson says. “I try to make a point that I talk like an architect and I don’t write my posts like an architect. That doesn’t prevent architects from coming but what it does is create an inclusive environment.”

Another key to building an online presence is to research and find particular communities of interest including design professionals, collaborators, building users, and clients. Panelists then say to engage followers in conversations to help to build a credible and unique voice. According to Brown, his original blogging efforts were solely focused on his profession and skills – as he had recently lost his job in 2009 – but he quickly discovered he attracted more followers once he stopped presenting himself professionally in order to get a job and began writing personally with the main goal of networking.

“One of the benefits of social media and blogging for me is that I’ve gotten lots of architects to start talking,” Brown says. “I think the humor that I use, we can all kind of relate to it. What I’ve noticed, when I write about my personal struggles being an architect today, I get an overwhelming number of responses in the comment section.”

Finally, panelists say it is essential to utilize limited time well to gain the most benefit from blogging and social media. Bloggers should plan optimum times and methods for connecting with particular communities and analyze the value of cost and time versus benefits of blogging and using other social media tools. According to Frewen, there are a number of media options out there but professionals looking to grow their online presence do not have to master them all. Instead, they should find a main group of platforms and establish a routine so readers know when to expect new content and can access updates easily and consistently.

“What social media is offering is a chance to change,” Frewen says. “One of the things that changes isn’t just engaging with the larger audience but also getting use to writing and expressing yourself in public.”