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CCA BLOG: How social media can benefit the construction workplace

CCA BLOG: How social media can benefit the construction workplace
Orlene King, director of communications at Graham Construction and Amanda Radakovitch of PCL Construction were the panelists at the "How social media can benefit the construction workplace" session, moderated by communications specialist Veronica Farmer. The session, held March 22, was held at the Canadian Construction Association's annual conference in Mexico.

Farmer stressed the importance of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Youtube in terms of importance to construction companies. Google+ is a "necessary evil" since it is waning but is also tied into the best search engine in the world.

Social media is a "virtual cocktail party," Farmer said, and Facebook is a perfect conduit for dissemination of information given the size of the audience (potentially 1.3 billion) and the connections within the platform.

LinkedIn comes with a different set of rules for engagement, and is meant for corporate interaction. Organizations leverage company profiles and have followers, she said, and closed groups provide platforms for thought leadership.

Youtube is a "massive opportunity for rich content," as more companies tell stories in video form, Farmer said. She pointed Youtube as the second search engine after Google, and the average viewing session on mobile is 40 minutes.

Instagram is becoming one of the best used platforms, but is trending more for a younger audience, Farmer said. One possible use is to use it for recruitment. The strengths of the platform are the social, community, filter and geo tag capabilities, she said.

Social media, Farmer said, can establish thought leadership, provide customer engagement, and interact with audiences. It can also complement traditional talent acquisition efforts, and build relationships. It also supports business development, lead generation and sales.

King said Graham Construction, which celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2016, is of the opinion that "social media is not going away, it's another tool in the marketing toolkit, and helps us spread the Graham story."

Social media goals, she said, are to connect with their employees, and share how Graham is doing business as well as showing aspects of the Graham culture. The platform also amplifies Graham's voice, she said.

The first social network Graham looked at was LinkedIn, and at first it was used primarily by the recruitment team. It is now used to give status reports and updates on current projects, as well as sharing community stories.

Graham's Youtube account is used for all the video content produced by the company, but use Youtube to embed on other social media networks. Twitter is "a little bit more fun," and allows for conversations with different stakeholders.

In terms of social media, "you do it and commit, or you don't do it at all," King said. Sporadic posts and resourcing that doesn't use people well versed in how social media works aren't an optimal approach.

In terms of evolving social media at Graham, King said, the goals have not changed but the approach has changed. "We want to bring our partnerships online and bring them strategic content," King said. She added they employ a three-month editorial calendar to cover the "ebbs and flows" of social media.

Determining ROI can be difficult, but because of social media Graham was able to cut back on traditional marketing costs.

Radakovitch  said PCL recognized social media as a good vehicle for brand recognition, employee engagement, talent acquisition, and business development.

PCL began by forming an action committee, developed a social media strategy and designed a code of conduct. They then decided on social media channels.

Identified risks include possible damage to reputation, negativity online, employee conduct and disclosure of sensitive information.

But when they looked at all the risks, Radakovitch said, they realized they faced the risks whether they had a presence or not, and without a presence they couldn't mitigate.

Lessons learned include discovering there were many fake PCL accounts, with people creating content, using the logo and claiming they were PCL. Another lesson happened when they were hacked. They had one person in charge of social media, and when the account was hacked that person was in an airplane. PCL has since updated their security protocols and have to date not been hacked again.

Successes include putting out their own highlights about projects. For example, PCL put out information about their BMO Centre work and then having the Discovery Channel did a feature on the project.

"Instead of spending money on a Globe and Mail or National Post ad, we had free coverage," she said.

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