Social media, at its best, is not about what you ate for lunch today. It is not even about bragging about the newest and best award you just won. At its best, social media is about making connections and starting conversations.
Building connections was the overwhelming theme of the discussion More than 140 Characters: social media + architecture, hosted by the Boston Society of Architects, moderated by our own Karen Robichaud. Panelists included Alexandra Lange, a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard GSD, Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA, BSA President and Associate at C7A and Kevin Sullivan FAIA, Payette’s President. Each of the panelists approached the discussion with a different perspective and a different level of expertise on social media, which made their shared observations on the benefits of connections made through social media even more compelling.
Attendees tweeted throughout the discussion, highlighting key ideas and Karen compiled the Twitter conversation around the hashtag #140plus. The BSA even provided a “cheat-sheet” of quick tip for getting started with #Twitter. As Karen would tweet, #noexcuses.
Kevin spoke about Payette’s blog and how it has become a conduit for revealing and growing our firm culture. In a firm of our size, the blog has given everyone at Payette a forum for developing their own voice, and instantly creates connections between people who only see each other briefly in the kitchen. I have certainly had more conversations with others in our office after I have written something for the blog than I would have if I had just shared my ideas with my immediate project team. The more that each of us shares our ideas, the more we learn about each other in quite a short amount of time.
What about connections outside of one’s own firm? Both Emily and Kevin noted connections with clients that social media have enabled and deepened. We’re all becoming more saavy in how we conduct research; clients and architects.
Just like our blog reveals our firm culture to our clients and to each other, Alexandra advocated for architects to use social media as a way to reveal who we are and what we really do to the world. Rather than only sharing the rendering or final photograph of our work, social media offers the opportunity to pull back the curtain and give a more candid look at what architects actually do. Whether it is a construction site visit or a sketch from a recent client meeting, social media can be a platform to share the everyday moments and the design process that make architects and architecture important. By using social media as a platform for more than more traditional marketing images, we are more likely to make deeper connections with people who are interested in what we do.
It may seem strange to talk about making a deeper connection in 140 characters, but as in many of the examples each of the panelists talked about, on social media it is easy to start conversations and begin connections with others. It is true that nothing can replace face to face conversation in terms of the depth of connection and understanding that you can make with another person, but social media can serve as a place to reach out to a wider audience and start conversations that can lead to greater connection. If we use social media with integrity and authenticity, then the connections we make will be similarly authentic. What happens after the 140 characters is the plus of social media.