Social media tends to be an intimidating topic for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction firms. Some professionals are willing to dip a toe into the more simple networks like LinkedIn, where the business benefits are more apparent, but social networks like Twitter are often deemed too “new” or foreign for A/E/C professionals to try.

Tweets, hashtags, and mentions…oh my! While these words sound strange, Twitter itself is actually quite simple. Yes, simple! The main purpose of this social network is to quickly and succinctly share (and gather) information. What business could not benefit from reaching additional prospects and gaining online intelligence on competitors, industry news, and trends? If you understand the basic terminology of Twitter, the following tips will help you get your firm’s Twitter page up and running and working to your advantage. If you still need to brush up on your Twitter terms – I highly recommend The Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaefer to get a working knowledge of the network.

  1. Make the personal connection. There is a common misconception that a profile for a company on Twitter should be a generic entity, represented by your firm’s logo. Surprisingly, this is not the case. Because people are on Twitter to share conversation and engage with others, your best bet is to use your company name in your twitter handle (i.e. @companyname) but use the profile photo and description of an actual employee/person, who will be the voice of your company. People will be much more likely to connect with an individual than a “faceless” business.
  1. Optimize your bio. Use the bio section to clearly describe your firm. Be sure that your bio gives an overview of what it is you do, but that it also includes key words that people would use to find a company like yours through search engines. This might include services, specialties, or geographic region served. For example, an engineering firm might want to include the area(s) in which they truly specialize, such as municipal engineering or environmental engineering, and so on.
  1. Find and follow. After you’ve set up your profile, you will want to look for people to follow. These should be people that you are interested in connecting with or learning from. Some good places to start are to find and follow competitors, vendors, industry news sources and professional associations your company belongs to. You can also search for key industry terms or hot topics and see who is sharing the most interesting and relevant information on that topic – then follow those thought leaders in your industry. You can also use free tools like Twellow to search for people to follow by topic area. Many of these people will follow you back.
  1. Curate content. Another common misconception about Twitter amongst A/E/C firms is the idea that firms only share content they’ve created. This is simply not true! In fact, people on Twitter expect and WANT you to reshare their content. With this in mind, you should always be looking to collect and share articles, blog posts, videos, etc… relevant to your audience. There are a number of amazing tools out there that can help you curate content. A few of our favorites are: Google Reader, and LinkedIn Signal.
  1. Find Balance. It’s important to strike a balance between sharing your own content and that of others. While it’s great to share case studies, site photos, and blog posts that may be on your own company website, make sure you also use the curation strategy described above to find and share interesting content from your peers. This will help you establish credibility and prevent your firm from developing an overly self-serving image.
  1. Create a follow campaign. Once your profile is up and running, let people know where they can find you on Twitter! Include the Twitter widget on your company homepage, in email signatures, and link to your twitter profile on other social networks. You can also use company communication such as print or e-newsletters to let your close contacts know about your page. Another simple tactic is to send out an email blast specifically announcing your firms Twitter page – let people know what they will gain and ask them to follow you.
  1. Think automate, not autopilot. Tools like Hootsuite are great for scheduling tweets throughout the day, especially for sharing evergreen and “just for fun” content to keep your twitter stream buzzing while you and your team are out on job sites and visiting clients. I absolutely recommend using these scheduling tools, just be sure not to abuse them – you don’t want to sound like a robot. Schedule tweets but be sure to check in (at least) morning noon and night to share timely updates and respond to mentions.
  1. Create a keyword strategy. In addition to your twitter name and bio, each actual tweet is indexed by numerous search engines. Bottom line? This means that each tweet is an opportunity to be found by your prospects. Create a list of important keywords for your firm and keep this on hand for social media and blogging. Weave these words in to your tweets as appropriate, but be sure not to stuff tweets with terms.
  1. Interact. In addition to sharing content, it’s important to remember to take time to interact with others on twitter, rather than just spewing information at them. Be sure to check mentions of your twitter handle and respond to them in a timely manner. Periodically, you should also reach out to followers to comment on an article they’ve shared or written.
  1. Research. In addition to gaining visibility for your company – Twitter can also be used to gather information and conduct research. Have a question about a particular tool or piece of technology your company is using? Throw it out to your followers – chances are some of your peers may have already encountered this issue. You should also use Twitter to regularly search for key terms such as: your company name, competitors’ names, names of services you offer, sectors of interest, and key industry terms. This will help you stay abreast of what’s happening in your industry.

Have you tried any of the tips above? Or do you have your own recommendations for effectively managing your A/E/C firm’s Twitter page? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.