On Dec. 8, Andrew van Leeuwen, Assoc. AIA, and Kevin Eckert, LEED AP, principals of the Seattle-based firm BUILD LLC, explained to a crowd of architects why the firm embraced social media some years ago and why more architects need to step up their efforts.

“As architects we have very little training in promoting ourselves,” van Leeuwen told the audience. “The typical mindset is if you work hard enough and do great enough work, the clients will be lined up outside your door. And as great of a vision as this makes, in our experience, we have found that this vision is a fallacy.”

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Instead, van Leeuwen and Eckert stress that architects need to understand the concept of self-promotion, and tactical social activity is all the more important for young firms that do not yet have a strong social network. Social media, the designers say, attract a tech-savvy crowd that is affluent and favor modern design, which means potential customers. Moreover, the duo says the architectural profession could use more transparency.
Eckert and van Leeuwen wanted to be communicative and share information wherever and whenever they could. This epiphany aligned well with blogs coming to prominence and the birth of social media, they note.
As a result, BUILD LLC uses social media platforms on a daily basis, including Twitter, Facebook, and its own popular blog. The firm uses the platforms to support good architecture and foster a dialogue about design, but social media also allows the firm to play a significant role in the evolution of the profession.

Since launching the blog, the firm has found that Sweden is the third most-popular country of its readership after the U.S. and Canada; 1,815 is the average number of site visits per day; and 23,153 is the highest number of views for any single post.

The two designers have these pointers for architects looking to start their own social media efforts:

  • Blogs should show photography and lifestyle themes;

  • Look for inspiration from tech geeks, artists, and photographers;

  • Use blogs for case studies with presentations, sketches, and drawings;

  • Take your own photos;

  • Remember to be consistent;

  • Try for two posts per week;

  • Talk about process, such as drywall, concrete pouring, etc.;

  • Social media allows self-promotion and 24-hour marketing;

  • Blogging is successful only when you deliver truly valuable information;

  • Give up the veil of architecture, start sharing, and meet people who aren’t architects.

“The new economy requires an evolution of thinking by architects and designers,” van Leeuwen said. “It’s apropos that the new economy has so closely aligned with the social media revolution. We’ve embraced social media in architecture and it’s hard to imagine going back. It’s allowed a full workload in an otherwise challenging economy, we’ve never been so engaged in the dialogue of design in the world, and we’ve never had so much fun sharing useful information. Social media is separating architects into two camps; those who use old math and those who use the new math.”