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Book Review: Social Media in Action: Comprehensive Guide for Architecture, Engineering, Planning, and Environmental Consulting Firms by Amanda Walter & Holly Berkley

This practical handbook is invaluable for practitioners who realize that social media is not a passing phenomenon and can play a part in their business.

By George Calys
May 1, 2012


Often thought of as the vanguard of innovation, architects have been anything but in the forefront of social media as a tool for promoting their work, thinking, and firms. Amanda Walter and Holly Berkley, two colleagues hailing from the marketing and communications side of the design world, have tackled the question of how architects and other design professionals can harness the vast power of social media in their new volume, Social Media in Action: Comprehensive Guide for Architecture, Engineering, Planning, and Environmental Consulting Firms (Watermelon Books, 2012).

 

Walter and Berkley conducted a rather comprehensive survey of A/E firms’ use of social media; the results are illuminating. While 100% of the responding firms had a website, only 45% were using Facebook. A mere one half of one percent used YouTube; for a profession that deals with a highly visual product, that’s surprising.

 

Without philosophizing on why design professionals are slow in adopting social media (particularly in light of its overwhelming use for nearly all other commercial activity), the authors simply and directly discuss the practical issues involved in utilizing Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media. This is very much a “how-to” book for those who wish to use these tools or expand their current use.

 

Social Media in Action asks the reader to assess the same questions that all publicity and marketing efforts pose: What is the end result desired and who is the target audience? In fact, those are the first two chapters of the book. Walter and Berkley go on to tackle the tricky area of employee involvement, rightfully pointing out that employees are design firms’ key assets and ought to be used effectively within the social media space.

 

The core of the book is the chapter on expert positioning. Identified by A/E firms as the most important goal by Walter and Berkley’s survey, expert positioning (using your particular expertise to gain a market advantage) is likely the most powerful aspect of social media for design professionals.

 

The concluding chapters on the analysis and evaluation of your social media presence fill an important space; even when using conventional marketing and publicity activity, most A/E firms don’t attempt to measure the impact of their efforts. Walter and Berkley make the point that what is termed “social media monitoring” is an essential part of this process.

 

Those who aren’t yet convinced that social media should have a role in their firm’s marketing will still find reasons to avoid it. But for practitioners who realize that social media is not a passing phenomenon and can play a part in their business, Social Media in Action will prove to be a compact and practical handbook.

 

George Calys is the architecture critic for the San Francisco Examiner. An architect and journalist, his writing has appeared in Urban Land, IFMA Journal, Land Development Today, Faith & Form, and The Architect’s Newspaper, among others.



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