To Tweet or Not to Tweet?
Increasingly, architects are tapping into social media to connect with peers and promote their work.
Although the number of social media sites continues to grow, one of the latest additions was created specifically for architects. Architizer (www.architizer.com) was launched in November 2009 and within three months grew to include more than 5,000 personal profiles, 3,500 projects, and 1,000 firm bios. Nicknamed “Facebook for Architecture,” the site was developed to provide exposure and networking opportunities for designers. “People don’t know where to go to find architects other than the Yellow Pages,” states Marc Kushner, site founder and principal of the emerging firm HWKN. “We need to carve out space and get architecture into the game. Potential clients are surfing the Internet, and we need to sit at the table, too.”
Moreover, the Architizer team — four founders and two full-time staff members — actively promotes the site’s content. For example, when one of their contributing editors posted a blog about kids’ play spaces, Architizer e-mailed, tweeted, and Facebooked the link to contacts in the “Mommy blog world.” Consequently, a number of bloggers and Twitterers linked to the story, helping create buzz about the projects. “Architects have a tendency to speak to each other about architecture rather than to those who would be interested in it,” says Kushner.
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Social media is not without its pitfalls. In addition to information overload, it can be tough to know when to clock out. “The line between my personal life and work are so blurred these days,” says Kimberly Dowdell, one of HOK’s bloggers, who splits her time between an HOK-issued iPhone and a personal BlackBerry. Many architects are turned off by the energy required to keep current on social media sites. Some see it as time taken away from billable hours for an effort that has yet to generate monetary results. “Online there is so much information, I don’t think people completely trust what they read,” says Jing Liu, principal of Brooklyn-based Solid Objectives—Idenburg Liu (SO-IL). “They need to get to know you personally before they give you a project.”
That’s not to say the firm isn’t benefiting from social media tools. Liu and partner Florian Idenburg are able to update their site (www.so-il.org) regularly because it runs off of the free, easy-to-use blog soft- ware WordPress. “We didn’t want anyone who is checking our site to be presented with a static image,” Liu says. Moreover, WordPress automatically sets up an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed, allowing individuals to subscribe and receive SO-IL news alerts. “There is a freshness to the site,” Liu says, “ and that is why people find it interesting, why they are believing in what we do, and, hopefully, how we will affect the profession.”
Liu thinks social media will gain momentum over time, noting that “the younger people who are in their 20s are very much in touch with the technology.” For now, the bottom line is that social media helps connect architects with the public and can lead to new collaborations and clients. Yet the jury is still out on whether it generates real, billable projects. “It has opened a whole new world for me,” affirms Plotnick. “A year from now, I hope we will have tangible evidence that social media has put us in the position to get more work.” Stay logged on.
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