Best Practices for Blogging

One way to make sure your company’s blog is performing well is to analyze it against a set of best practices, and use those best practices to guide your strategy.  Here is an article that outlines five simple yet effective best practices for business blogging, which translate well to the engineering industry.  These best practices are: create consistent content, always include engaging images, keep it short and simple, include links, and promote your posts (Edelstein, 2014).

The creation of consistent content, and keeping it short and simple, are two guiding principles that can be applied to every blog post.  Creating a theme or direction for the blog, as well as simple standards for length, can help a company guide the development of good content.  In addition to these guidelines, following Schaefer’s (2012) principles for tweets will help determine what kind of content to publish.  These guidelines are to be helpful, kind, informative, and useful will your content (Schaefer, 2012).  Every post should meet most, if not all of these requirements.

There’s no need for posts to be longer than a few paragraphs is the intention is set forth in the blogging strategy.  Often in professional service fields, such as engineering, the content behind the blog posts can be very technical in nature.  Technically trained staff can struggle to condense their thoughts and information down to an appropriate blog length.  The marketing team should be aware of this, and will to help with editing.  Also, the practice of including links helps assist with this.  In the case of a publication or white paper written by a technical professional, host that document on your website or somewhere else, and have the blog give a brief summary and a link to the full document.  

Including links on your blog can lead readers to your website, to important references, or to a contact form that should result in a qualified lead.  The other important role of links is to provide links back to your blog on other social media channels.  Stantec, a large engineering firm, uses their Google Plus page as a way to share posts from their corporate blog, as well as accompanying photos.  While Stantec does a good job of sharing relevant content on their Google Plus page, including their blog posts and other interesting third-party posts, the company might benefit from following some of Brogan’s (2012) suggestions such as posting videos, adding a personal touch, and re-posting more from others in the industry.

As technology develops, we have seen many social networks embracing the use of images on a large scale.  Including engaging images on your blog posts not only gives the page visual interest, but makes it more shareable and will likely garner more attention on a network like LinkedIn or Twitter, as opposed to a post consisting only of text.  These pictures can range from something as simple as a headshot of the author of the post, to photos of fieldwork, a site your company is working on, staff in your office, or a finished project.  Engineering companies work on a lot of interesting buildings and infrastructure, so engaging images should be a part of the majority of your blog posts.  A great example of this is TRC Companies’ corporate blog.  Each post begins with an image related to the content, and the blog posts are consistent with the company’s services and offer helpful information about industry regulations to clients.  

Taking all of these best practices into mind, and using them to guide a corporate blogging strategy, will help those companies looking to start a blog, or rehabilitate an existing blog, do so successfully.  Remember not only to decide which strategies will work best for your team and your company (consider your audience!), but also make sure to check back in every quarter or so and make sure your company blog is still in line with the best practices and strategy you set for at the beginning.

Works Cited:

Brogan, C. (2012). Google for business: How Google’s social network changes everything. Indianapolis, Ind.: Que.

Edelstein, M. (2014, January 10). 5 Business Blogging Best Practices. Retrieved August 10, 2014 from http://blog.ringcentral.com/2014/01/5-business-blogging-best-practices-friday-five/

Schaefer, M. W. (2012). The Tao of Twitter: changing your life and business 140 characters at a time. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Challenges of Going Social (or not!) for Engineering Firms

A social media marketing campaign, especially for a professional services industry, can present certain challenges in both embracing and avoiding these marketing strategies.  Below are discussions on 3 challenges each for going social, or not going social, in a marketing strategy for engineering firms.

Challenges of Going Social

Support & Investment

Despite the growing popularity of social media, some engineering and professional services- firms are still slow to embrace this marketing strategy.  As explained by Joyce (2011), these firms see social media as a one-way PR tool, missing out on the conversation and listening opportunities.  These firms are also much more focused on their ongoing projects than proactive marketing opportunities, and also do not fully understand the investment needed to run a successful social media campaign. (Joyce, 2011).   

Technical Content & Keeping Things Interesting

An engineering company that goes social needs to be able to provide engaging content to clients and prospective clients. The issues arising here is that the technical content may not always be interesting, or may be so technical that it is difficult for clients to fully understand.  Social networks, however, offer a great venue to face this challenge head on. For example, Carollo Engineers, Inc. maintains a YouTube page with videos about their work, including one great animated video describing the wastewater process and it’s importance in our environment.

Finding the Audience

Being able to create and publish engaging content is one thing, finding the appropriate audience is another.  Unlike consumer products, most people engage with engineering companies on a professional level for their jobs.  Social media may not play a part in these professional venues, so finding the right audience in the right mind set may prove to be a challenge.  

Challenges of Not Going Social

Inbound Marketing and Search Engine Optimization

A major digital marketing strategy right now is search engine optimization, which focuses on creating a digital footprint for a company so that the company’s website will appear higher up on search engine results.  Many companies are embracing this technique as a way to increase inbound leads through digital marketing.  Maintaining active social media accounts, and linking between social networks and landing pages on a company’s website can help to increase search result placements.  Not going social would be detrimental to any company, not just engineering firms, trying to compete in the digital realm with other companies that do embrace this marketing strategy.  

Attracting Talent

Engineering companies are built on the knowledge and expertise of their employees.  One of the biggest challenges of running an engineering company in general is attracting and retaining the best talent available.  Especially with young job-seekers, social networks provide not just a virtual jobs board, but also an opportunity to understand a company’s culture and brand.  A well established firm, Burns & McDonnell, has an extensive Careers blog and social media presence, promoting not only their company’s work but the people and culture that make the company one of Fortune’s Top 100 Companies To Work For.

Brand Recognition/Competition

In a competitive environment like the engineering industry, especially here where it can be difficult to differentiate between companies due to the technical aspect of the services, social media can help a firm define it’s brand and mission, and set it apart from the competition.  According to Anderson (n.d.), the most important part of the brand conversation is the transparency of the company.  This transparency is most easily and widely communicated through social media.

Conclusion

the challenges of going social in this case are good challenges to have – they will push not only the marketing department but the entire company to take a look at the company’s brand and direction.  These challenges should not outweigh the challenges of not going social.  Although engineering companies (depending on size) may not need fully active and listening social media accounts, there should still be a strategy involved to give the company presence on all channels. 

 

Works Cited

Anderson, T. (n.d.) The Most Important Challenge Facing Civil Engineering Firms Today. Civil Engineering Central.  Retrieved August 2, 2014, from http://civilengineeringcentral.com/newsletter.php?nlid=91

Joyce, E. (2011, October 20). Hashtag This: Social Media Risks and Rewards in Construction. Construction, Building & Engineering News: ENR. Retrieved August 2, 2014, from http://enr.construction.com/technology/information_technology/2011/1020-hashtagthissocialmediarisksandrewardsinconstruction.asp

Engineering Firms and Social Media. (2012, July 6). The Talley Group. Retrieved August 2, 2014, from http://www.thetalleygroup.com/2012/07/engineering-firms-and-social-media/

Cloud-Based File Sharing and Mobile Technology

Within the business to business and professional services industries, the exchange of information and documentation takes the place of the traditional exchange of a consumer good in the business to consumer paradigm.  Over the past few decades, the advent of computers and technology have led to many changes in the way this information is shared.  Engineering companies often provide clients with an end product that results in paperwork, permits, construction or site drawings, and reports in addition to the physical work that goes along with the development of a property or structure.  This transfer of information has become facilitated recently by the development of mobile document sharing applications such as Dropbox.

Dropbox is a form of cloud-based file sharing application that allows users to upload, access, edit, and download files from any device, as well as share files with other users of the application.  This technology can be very appealing to small and medium sized companies as it allows for easy and flexible file storage and sharing without investing in much technology infrastructure (Kossman, 2012).

Traditionally, large engineering drawings would have to be created by hand, or more recently printed out from a computer and delivered to a client.  Now, these large files can be transferred via email or such applications as dropbox.  An engineer can place these files in Dropbox at his computer, and client can receive them anywhere in the world with a mobile connection and device.      

The a client support perspective, mobile applications like Dropbox allow for a more customized client experience.  An engineering firm can develop personalized delivery methods for each client, and delivery is faster than every.  Also, many engineering services go hand in hand with work on a job site, property, or structure.  Mobile applications, hand in hand with mobile technology like tablet computers, allow both engineers and their clients to access, view, and edit documents right in the field.

In 2012, Facebook added a Dropbox integration to its Groups feature (Price, 2012).  While this new integration may not have immediate ramifications for professional services companies, it displays the growing importance, and ease, of file sharing across technology and social networks.  Cloud-based sharing may be replacing the traditional e-mail attachment sent to a distribution list.  

Dropbox is just one of many cloud-based file sharing systems that has seen a great deal of success over the past few years.  Similar services are Google Drive, SugarSync, Egnyte, and Box (Kossman, 2012).  The success of these applications can be measured in usership, such as Dropbox’s 50 million users (Murphy, 2012), as well as integration with other well-known applications like Facebook, as mentioned above.

There are also enterprise options available for larger companies with high levels of IT investment.  While these options may be more secure and offer customization, the familiarity and mobile accessibility offered by dropbox can be very appealing to businesses and clients alike.

 

Works Cited

Dropbox. (2014). Dropbox. Retrieved July 26, 2014, from https://www.dropbox.com/

Kossman, R. (2012, March). Everything you need to know about cloud-based file sharing. Everything you need to know about cloud-based file sharing. Retrieved July 26, 2014, from http://searchcloudstorage.techtarget.com/feature/Everything-you-need-to-know-about-cloud-based-file-sharing

Murphy, D. (2012, February 25). Why is Dropbox Successful? It’s the Simplicity (Stupid).PCMAG. Retrieved July 26, 2014, from http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2400746,00.asp

Price, E. (2012, September 26). Facebook Groups Adds Dropbox Integration. Mashable. Retrieved July 26, 2014, from http://mashable.com/2012/09/26/facebook-groups-adds-dropbox-integration/

Engineering Companies Using YouTube as a Marketing Tool

Social Media and Social networks are emerging as a strong marketing tool to reach large amounts of people through mobile technology.  However, the business to business (B2B) community has taken longer to embrace this form of marketing.  As Schaefer (2012) explains in The Tao of Twitter, social marketing is about the person to person connection and even B2B companies should be embracing this new form of business connections.

Engineering companies face a unique challenge in selling their services that the people they are selling to may not necessarily understand all the technical expertise and information that engineers excel in, making it difficult to differentiate between companies when making a decision. In order to position themselves as an industry leader, engineering companies can turn to social networks to connect with clients on a more personal and approachable level.

One tool for this marketing approach is YouTube.  A very popular video sharing site, many companies have taken to showcasing their products and employees on YouTube.  Below are three examples of engineering companies that have found a strategic use for YouTube in their marketing efforts

Example 1

AECOM is a worldwide leader in a variety of engineering services.  Their YouTube page features a variety of videos.  In particular, they have a series of short videos that describe their different service lines.  For instance, their video on Building Engineering services features employees in a variety of settings discussing the advantages of using AECOM.  There is a series of very attractive visuals of completed and ongoing projects.  These images help establish AECOM as a worldwide, high-class engineering leader.

Example 2

A small engineering company based in Portsmouth, NH, Summit Engineering has a corporate overview on its YouTube page featuring the company’s owner discussing how the company started and his approach to engineering and building his company.  Behind his humble narration the video features images of his employees working in the office and collaborating on projects.  This video give a softer image to the “rough” side of engineering and construction work.

Example 3

Another challenge that engineering companies face in staying ahead of the curve is attracting the best talent to their companies.  The best talent can bring in clients and work that will propel the company to success.  YouTube is a resource for recruiting the best talent in that it can showcase the workplace, office culture, and day-to-day activities of an employee.  One example of this is Williams Energy Company.  Williams has short videos for different career types, with each video featuring employees discussing their day to day responsibilities, how they feel about their job, and shows them working in the office.  These videos give Williams an opportunity to show their company in a very favorable light to prospective employees, and can show prospective clients the kinds of people that will be managing their work.

Conclusion

The three videos above show three unique approaches to video-based social media marketing for B2B professional services companies.  Engineering companies can put their talent and experience to best use for marketing by giving their image a more personal feel and showcasing their successes.  If these videos are well made and engaging, they will be more likely to be shared across networks, expanding the reach of the company’s brand.

Works Cited

AECOM. [AECOMTechnologyCorp]. (2014, May 30). Building Engineering  [Video file]. Retrieved July 13, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynl5PuTp9Bw

Schaefer, M. W. (2012). The Tao of Twitter: changing your life and business 140 characters at a time. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Summit Engineering. [SummitEngineering]. (2013, March 7). Summit Structural Engineering Overview [Video file]. Retrieved July 13, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Qievy_GyJ0

Williams Energy Company. [WilliamsEnergyCo]. (2014, May 19). Williams Environmental, Health & Safety Careers   [Video file]. Retrieved July 13, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFKgo2yrZ-U

Social Media Tools for the Engineering Industry

Social Media Tools for the Engineering Industry

The engineering industry is a wide and varied industry, featuring companies form large, multi-national organizations to very small, local, specialize niche companies working only in one geographic region. Similarly, the ranges of engineering work vary from large scale buildings, bridges, pipelines, and other infrastructure projects, so very specialized building technologies or the site engineering of one stand-alone small building.

One of the challenges in marketing engineering services is the highly technical nature of the services. Clients and prospective buys may not know or understand all of the detail soft her services they are looking to purchase, but at the same time they need to know they are getting high quality professional services from a trustworthy team of people and company. Marketing, in this situation, is an opportunity for engineering companies to explain their services and benefits in an approachable way, and social media is an opportunity to get that information out to the public.

In his 2012 book the Tao of Twitter, Schaefer emphasizes that twitter, a form of micro blogging, and other similar forms of social media, should not be avoided by business to business (B2B) companies. He explains that social media is Person to Person, or P2P, and it is important to remembers that it is still people that purchase these professional services. Below, three versions of blogging will be analyzed and compared in the context of social media marketing strategy for engineering companies.

Traditional Blogging

Engineering companies have technical expertise that they can exhibit to their advantage. A traditional blog is the ideal place to display this information, as it offers a venue for white papers and technical publications as well as interesting photos of projects, and more personal entries to showcase their personnel. A good example of engineering blogging is TRC Companies’ blog hosted on their website. This blog features industry news and updates on regulations, as well as articles written by employees explaining the company’s approach to engineering.

Video Blogging

Video blogging requires a different approach to traditional blogging, but also offers a better venue for engineers to give personal explanations of highly technical processes and projects, or to showcase their presentations in slide format or as videos from conferences. A worldwide engineering company, AECOM, has a robust YouTube video blog featuring highly produced service overviews, videos of conference presentations, and more casual videos about their corporate responsibility and volunteering efforts. This wide variety of information gives viewers an understanding of AECOM’s services and brand.

Micro-Blogging

Twitter is the major micro blogging feature, and companies like Tetra Tech make great use of this strategy within their overall marketing plan. Tetra Tech’s Twitter account includes photos from field projects, conference interactions, and links to technical information and news announcements on their website. Twitter, as Schaefer (2012) explains, is a space for meaningful helpfulness and targeted connection. Engineering companies can offer technical explanations to questions and give a personal image to their brand. They can showcase traditional and video blog entries as well as connect with potential clients in an amicable environment.

Conclusion

As the engineering and professional services industries venture more and more into social media marketing and online brand awareness, a strategy that involves these three types of blogging can give companies an edge in building a loyal customer base and attracting new business.

 

 

Resources

AECOM [AECOMTechnologyCorp]. (2014) YouTube Videos [YouTube page]. Retrieved July 13, 2014 from https://www.youtube.com/user/AECOMTechnologyCorp

Schaefer, M. W. (2012). The Tao of Twitter: changing your life and business 140 characters at a time. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Tetra Tech [TetraTech]. (2014). Tweets [Twitter page]. Retrieved July 13, 2014, from https://twitter.com/TetraTech

TRC Companies, Inc. (2014). TRC Blog. Retrieved July 13, 2014 from http://blog.trcsolutions.com/