5 Reasons Why the AEC Industry is 2 years behind in Adopting Social Media

Yesterday, @Ryan_Link tweeted: #AEC industry is 2-3 years behind other fields in the use of #socialmedia. Referenced from statement made at last SMPS National Conference. I don’t understand why the AEC industry is behind others in adopting social media tools. Some of the smartest folks I know work in this industry. The very people who could grasp the game-changing power of social media platforms are choosing to ignore them or dismissing them as a fad.

Anthony and I have been volunteering to help folks use social media tools at AEC conferences and events over the past year. Some conferences have embraced and supported social media use–like the APA National Conference and the TAEP Conference. Still, we get told “No–you may not volunteer to teach people how to use social media tools at our conference/event” more times than we get told yes.

There are 5 reasons that I hear over and over when we get told no to volunteering at AEC events. I’ll attempt to address why these reasons are based on misinformation or misconceptions about social media.

  1. Social media is distracting from the presentation material.
  2. It takes too long to get everyone set up and to teach them how to use social media.
  3. There is not a high enough adoption rate.
  4. Social media is too complicated.
  5. Social media is not applicable to our projects or our careers.

Reason 1. Social media is distracting from the presentation topic.
A. Studies show that note-taking and summarization actually increase retention. Twitter, a common social media platform used during presentations, requires both. For more information on how Twitter is actually positive for presentations, check out How to Use Twitter to Supercharge Presentations.

B. Audience participation via social media actually increases audience engagement. Below are some perspectives from Audience Tweeters.

“Twitter allows me to add my perspective to what is being presented and that keeps me more engaged than just sitting and listening – even if no one reads it.”

“And what struck me was the dynamic of this meeting. It was participatory. No one was talking out loud except the guy presenting the ppt. But the conversation was roaring through the room via twitter. It was exploding. People were asking questions. Pointing out problems. Replying to each other all while the ppt was progressing along it’s unwaveringly linear path.”

For more perspectives, check out the Benefits of the Back Channel to the Audience section of How to Present While People are Twittering.

Reason 2. It takes too long to get everyone set up and to teach them how to use social media.
The goal isn’t for evey single audience member to engage in social media during the event. By displaying social media use during the presentation, the minority of attendees who are already using social media demonstrate the positives (AND the negatives) of the platform to the majority who aren’t there yet.

Reason 3. There’s not a high enough adoption rate yet.
Maybe so, but unless the AEC industry wants to stay 2 to 3 years behind, someone has to go first.

One way to increase the adoption rate is to show people engaging in social media in public settings. When people see others using social media and engaging each other in conversions, adoption rates will increase. That’s the perfect opportunity for a volunteer social media table to be there to help the handful of folks who after seeing live tweets/social media engagement say “Wow, that’s amazing. Will you help me get started?”

As for Reasons 4 and 5, I’m currently working on a presentation titled “Say It To My Facebook: How EISs are using Social Media for Public Involvement” for the Texas Association of Environmental Professionals Austin Chapter that will address these two points. On July 14th, I’ll give the presentation at Carmelo’s and will post the presentation materials as a blog post then. I love to have some friendly faces in the audience. Please join me if you’re in or near Austin that day.

Will you leave comments with your experience with social media in this industry? What’s the REAL reason why the AEC industry is hesitant to adopt social media? Also, do you have any ideas for how we can help our community catch up and begin to use social media tools for our projects, our careers and our companies? I’d love to do a follow up post featuring your ideas for how to attack this problem.

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6 Responses to 5 Reasons Why the AEC Industry is 2 years behind in Adopting Social Media

  1. ritche July 18, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Great post!

    I find it ironic that for an industry that traditionally gets business from it’s own commercial-social circles (cocktail parties, conventions, meetings, trade shows, etc.) are averse to the use of online social media.

    AEC businesses usually gets clients from referrals which is basically a result from building over time their reputation. If they can only see online social media in the same light as that of their traditional channels of business (referrals, reputation) they may embrace the whole idea with open arms.

    IMHO, maybe what’s needed is a simple but powerful way of showing real world/offline examples of their traditional social & business interaction to build their reputation working in an online environment.

    Maybe we can ask the AECs, do you really know what people are saying about your company & its services? People may not say a lot of things in front of you in a cocktail party or in a trade convention but you surely can snoop & find out what they are saying online.

    Looking forward to your future posts.


  2. Kristen Carney July 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm #


    Thanks for your comment! I definitely agree with you here: “what’s needed is a simple but powerful way of showing real world/offline examples of their traditional social & business interaction to build their reputation working in an online environment.”


  3. Tom Abraham January 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Your observation on the reluctance of the AEC to fully engage in social media is absolutely true, as are the reasons you’ve listed. Our firm, Elemental Architecture was an early adopter to blogging, Facebook & Twitter – primarily as a vehicle to discuss issues/ideas that are important to our practice that didn’t appear self-serving. Our blog (http://blog.elementalnyc.com) is now fed to several other AEC industry blog sites, and we’ve since engaged other AEC-specific social media outlets and broad public SM outlets as well.

    I think the issue is primarily one of not realizing the full potential that the media offers, which are communication, education and establishing thought-leadership. Our industry broadly effects the built and natural environments in numerous ways which suggests opportunities for the knowledge and experience of the industry to explaining (or in some cases demystify) how and why we make the decisions we do that effect society.

    As an organization we’ve made it a priority to our practice. While it’s difficult to quantify if the efforts have directly translated to commissions, we can say that they’ve helped establish thought-leadership within the industry.

    If you’d care to discuss some of the issues more directly, feel free to e-mail me:

  4. Kristen Carney January 21, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Glad to see that you guys are embracing blogging and social media. I think I found you guys on twitter. @pbelemental, right? Looking forward to reading more.


  5. Tom Abraham March 24, 2011 at 5:45 pm #


    Thanks for looking us up and your response. Actually our twitter profile is @elementalnyc. Also, we can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/elemental/123533607926


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