TAPping into Social Media in Architecture

An Interview Brian Skripac, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD + C

By Patty Swisher Posted on March 19, 2013

I recently met Brian Skripac, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD + C, at the Master Builders Association/AIA Lunch and Learn on Social Media and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get his take on social media in our industry.

Brian, what is your title and role at Astorino?
My title at Astorino is the Director of Digital Practice. I’m responsible for providing firm-wide leadership in defining BIM workflows that integrate across all areas of the firm’s design processes, while defining the future vision for digital design technologies within the organization.

You recently gave a presentation on “Social Media in Architecture, Broadening the Perspective in Architecture Practice.” What was the focus of your presentation?
My presentation was titled Social Media in Architecture, part of the AIA Technology in Architectural Practice’s Broadening the Perspective event which looked to provide sessions that took the conversation of Technology in Architectural Practice beyond that of just BIM. The intent of the presentation was to define how social media is transforming how architects communicate. People often limit the use of social media to simply a broadcast channel and don’t realize that it can serve as an effective catalyst to turn that communication into interactive dialogue.

The presentation also sought to demystify social media as something only used in a personal context or as something used by celebrities and athletes by citing practical examples of how the tool could be utilized in a professional environment. Some examples were from architects who have been cited in publications, blogs or books, and others came from personal references and follows that I have, like Knowledge Architecture and AIA Pittsburgh…

I also shared some of the “ahh-haa” moments that I’ve had with social media which have led to my understanding of it as a way to promote thought leadership at both a firm-wide and individual level.

I see social media as a key component to learning and staying up to speed on what other thought leaders are doing. Social media technologies are a great way to focus on and interact with other like-minded individuals, companies, publications, organizations, or committees. You don’t have to sift through magazines and e-mails to see if there is something of interest, you can focus in on receiving only the information that is most interesting to you at that time.

It’s also great for those with a short attention span – the immediacy of information can often be an extremely valuable way to gather info and learn.

You have a section about Knowledge Architecture in your presentation. Tell us how it relates to Social Media in architecture?
I think Knowledge Architecture and their Founder/CEO, Chris Parsons, have done a good job of relating how Marketing and Knowledge can work together to create competitive advantages for those in the AEC community. Thought Leadership can provide a strong differentiator for AEC companies on multiple levels while also serving as a means to engage the community as a whole. Social media enables a company or an individual the platform to be seen as an industry expert as well.

What, in your opinion, is the greatest opportunity for social media in the design industry?
Knowledge gathering and knowledge sharing.

Do you have a favorite or preferred platform? (Professionally? Personally?) Which one? Why?
I tend to use Twitter professionally and Facebook personally. I will admit that even though Twitter is 95% professional my personal life has spun over to it which I think is interesting. When using social media you have the opportunity to share your personality and it really breaks down barriers of getting to know people. When you have these interactions virtually it makes for a more meaningful conversation once you meet somebody in person, you feel like you already know them.

LinkedIn is a standard for professionals and foursquare is another good app that I’ve found to be interesting. I’ve had acquaintances from Twitter that I became connected with on foursquare which led to being able to meet people when we’re at a conference. When you’re at a conference with 10,000 people and a peer checks into the same session or restaurant that you’re at it makes it much easier to seek them out and get introduced in person.

Do you think there are firms that haven’t embraced social media of some sort yet? If so, what are your three tips for firms hesitant to get going?
I think there are a tremendous amount of firms that have not adopted social media, it is a fairly opened ended conversation which my presentation tried to break down and make more tangible or obtainable for people. I think that since so many people use social media personally, they find it to be a difficult switch over to their professional life since the value of it may not be immediately visible.

Three tips to get started:
1. Get over the hesitation and start building your following…take a look at LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets.
2. Start following your clients, consultants, and publications/organizations of interest. Observing is the best way to learn about how to use social media. This will not only give you some insight about how each technology works but they will help your organization better understand which social media outlets would provide the most impact for your firm.
3. Share information: a blog can be the most simple outlet. Be the one to start a conversation and leverage the collective brainpower of your firm. There are probably a lot of specialists in your organization that could easily create a diverse range of topics that you could start to blog about. Once you start the conversation begin to test out how you can leverage that content via other social media outlets.

Any closing thoughts?
For more information check out Social Media in Action: Comprehensive Guide for Architecture, Engineering, Planning and Environmental Consulting Firms by Amanda Walter and Holly Berkley.

Brian and Patty will both be panelists at Build Pittsburgh 2013, discussing marketing in the age of social media. Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianSkripac or the AIA TAP Knowledge Community (of which he is on the National Leadership Team): @aia_tap.  You can also download his presentation from the Broadening the Perspective conference, along with all of the other presentations, at the AIA TAP Knowledge Net.  

This is the fifth in a series on social media in architecture.  Read the firstsecondthird, and fourth parts, too.

Patty Swisher is a 15+ year veteran marketing communication professional in the A/E/C industry. She is an SMPS Pittsburgh Past President, current member of the MBA Social Media Task Force (and presenter), and co-founder of Social Media Group Pittsburgh – an organization dedicated to sharing best practices in social media marketing. She can be found on Twitter @pmswish.

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  1. Do you have questions about using Social Media for your A/E/C Firm? Post them here, or Tweet to @pmswish. Your questions may become the next article or even be answered at our session at Build Pittsburgh!

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