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Architects, Social Media, and Time Management

by Jared Banks, AIA | Shoegnome, LLC |

Remember in school when your professors were always asking to see your process? Do you recall how in all your job interviews your future bosses spent the most time on the diagrams and sketches in your portfolio?

The unpolished byproducts of process are fascinating for many reasons. They provide glimpses into the inner thoughts of designers. They engender an intimate beauty that suggests the finished project while also representing something more pure. They can be read as part of a larger body of work and for their individual aesthetic qualities. They can be meaningful or pure eye candy from a dead-end.

Likewise, one of the greatest joys of being an architect is seeing your designs built. And I don’t mean seeing them completed. I mean seeing them constructed piece by piece. Visiting finished work is nice, but the bigger thrill is walking onto a job site and seeing a hole where there was none the day before; watching the formwork go up for the foundations; walking into the empty kitchen space for the first time; climbing the temporary stairs to the unbuilt second story. We love these moments. There is so much excitement, so much potential. There is the wonder of being a part of the transfer of design from theory to reality, from possible to definite.

These joys—two glimpses of creation—are the perfect solution to a sustainable social media strategy for architects. They offer the right mix of images and stories to draw in viewers and prospective clients. They provide a relaxed, personal connection that is often lost when looking at professional images of finished work. And most firms are constantly producing one if not both of these experiences.

To make these two concepts the cornerstone of an online media presence, you need to properly manage the time it takes to collect and share this information. As clues to your working processes, they need to be gathered and broadcast with minimal distraction and interruption from the actions that create these moments.

Time for Collection

Whether you work digitally or via more traditional methods, getting images onto social media sites needs to be easy. For digital media, you can typically save or export from your primary authoring software to an image format (.jpg, .png, etc.). But honestly, that’s often not fast enough. Do you really want to pause in the middle of working in Revit or ArchiCAD to save as a jpeg, and then verify everything worked correctly? Do you have the time to set up the view, making sure the exported image is capturing the parts of the model you want without having lots of white space around the image or other distractions? That is too slow. And when working in so many different programs, the answers aren’t always the same. Do you have to save as a PDF first? Is it Save As or Export or something else? Is the short cut CTRL+S or SHFT+S or SHFT+CTRL+S? All those micro-decisions are simple, but enough to prevent good habits for fast image collection.

My favorite cheat is to use a screen capture instead. Screen shots are all about speed. When collecting images for online sharing, you want the execution to be as fast as possible, and as integrated into your workflow as possible. On a Mac, the keyboard short cut Shift+Command+4 will allow you to capture a screen shot of a selected area. Shift+Command+3 will take a screen shot of your entire monitor (which can easily be cropped later). It’s been so long since I used a PC professionally that I don’t know what the analogous keyboard shortcut is, but I’m positive it exists—just Google “Screen Capture Windows [version you are using]”. Screen shots are PERFECT for social media. The resolution isn’t great for printing, but it is more than adequate to share digitally.

And remember these images don’t have to be polished. I can’t stress this enough. It doesn’t have to be a beautifully rendered image. It can just be from the 3D window of your BIM or modeling program. The ephemeral from the program can remain; axes, highlighted objects, cursors, or a hint of a menu bar can all add to the ‘on the boards’ nature of the image. And these images certainly don’t require post-production—unless of course you need to do that post-production anyways to share with a client or city official in a more formal setting.

For printed media, you can pause and scan your work. But just like Save As, that can be cumbersome. Not all firms have scanners and not all of your sketches nicely conform to the size of the scanner you do have. And furthermore scanning takes FOREVER. So here’s the cheat: take a picture with your phone and e-mail it to yourself (or the person in charge of social media). The shot doesn’t have to be perfect. And it doesn’t always have to be perpendicular to the sketch. If you compose the shot, the image can be both about the idea on paper AND the environment you work in. A skewed shot is quick, easy and often more interesting than a perfectly scanned image.

As for construction photos, the answer should be obvious: a photo (or short video) taken with your smartphone. Please don’t tell me you don’t have a smartphone.

Time for Sharing

Set a schedule for posting. Pick a day to share your sketches—your “On the Boards” material—and pick a day to share your construction images and stories. Share on whatever social media sites you have on those days only. Don’t try to do more. Don’t let yourself do less. If you are ambitious you can write a lot of text to accompany these images, but don’t feel obligated. One sentence is enough.

The core tenant of a good social media strategy is execution and consistency. There are of course optimal frequencies for sharing, but consistency is paramount. A barrage of posts in one month followed by no posts for three months is much worse than that same number of posts spread out over those same four months. In many ways a dormant social media account is worse than no social media account.

Time for Implementation

Set a goal of doing either construction photos or on the boards images weekly for a few months. See how it goes. Start this week and be diligent. Involve your entire firm in the process of gathering and sharing. And make sure to share your results with other CRAN members so that we can all learn from each other and help spread our awesome work.

In a future article I’ll talk more about why you need to include all your employees in this process and why you should be sharing with your fellow architects, construction partners, and AIA networks.

Looking at the lot lines and setbacks today. And yes that’s the neighbor’s driveway going through the site!

There's a bit of work to do before the pool is ready for swimming.


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