social media

Social Media 101 for Designers and Builders

These days, the three top platforms I think are successful at helping designers and builders reach potential customers are Instagram (if you take great photos in the field and can upload them right from your phone, this will hit a younger demographic), Facebook Pages (for the 30+ demographic, which is probably most homeowners) and Houzz (folks who are interested in design, and are already primed to be looking for contractors and ideas).  Be strategic—only set up social media if you can commit to maintaining it. A “dead” page can be worse for your brand than nothing at all. Pick the platform(s) that you feel most comfortable with and which matches your target demographic.

Your social media should be the place for frequent updates, process photos, daily musings. Here are a few ways you can generate social media content:

  • Share what you’re working on, especially if it is beautifully designed and crafted, or has a unique feature to it;
  • Share your expertise by writing about topics you care about—whether it’s the latest in building science or how to install a newel post;
  • Talk about your clients (with their permission, of course)—tell a story about how you’re building their dream home, and offer a great testimonial quote with a photo of them in front of their home;
  • Share relevant articles or products you think your potential clients would also be interested in;
  • Profile members of your team to put a face to your company;
  • Give a shout out to a supplier or subcontractor who you want to thank (especially if they have a good social media presence, this can help magnify the reach of your posts if you tag them or use their brand hashtag).
  • Share a great review from a past client (and read our tips on how to generate online reviews)

Goal Setting: To keep your social media presence fresh, for platforms like Facebook and Instagram I would recommend setting a goal to post AT MINIMUM once a week. 2-3 posts a week would be great, but not everyone can do that while running a business and having a personal life. Pick a goal that is reasonable, put it on your calendar, and do it.

Scheduling: without getting into advanced social media techniques, I’ll just say that there is a feature on Facebook Pages called “schedule”. You can queue up a whole week or two of posts at the beginning of the week and not have to think about it again, and still add other posts on-the-fly. To schedule posts in Instagram you’ll need to sign up for a third party app like Later (free) or AgoraPulse (monthly fee, but also manages other social media content for you). These won’t actually post for you, but they will send you a notification/reminder and make it easy to just click and post what is in your queue.

Who: is there someone on your team who is already social media savvy who could manage your company’s social media presence for you? If there’s one designated person, and they know it’s part of their role, and you’ve set specific guidelines and goals, this work is much more likely to actually get done. Let the folks on your crew know who is doing social media, and ask them to send in cool photos or ideas to that person. If you’re going to delegate, define expectations and what the key aspects are to your brand (including what is and what is not OK to post, so they have a little guidance).

Grow Your Network: Once you’ve set up your platform(s) let people know about them! Start following your colleagues, competitors, collaborators, friends and clients. They will often follow you back, and your network will grow. If people are seeing what you do on a regular basis, and thinking about your company, they will be more likely to refer a job to you down the road.


Developing Your Company’s Online Reputation

Managing your brand online may feel like one more task on top of an already full plate, but these days even if you’ve gotten good word-of-mouth recommendations, the first thing a potential client is going to do is search your business name online. You need to make sure you make a good first impression, or it’s likely they will never pick up the phone to call you. Don’t be afraid to take a hard look at your current marketing strategy and re-direct your time and effort into digital marketing.

Website Tips for Architects & Builders

Lots of our clients have been meaning to update their website for months...or even years. It is one of those things that never makes it to the top of the to-do list, yet in this day and age, if clients can't Google you (and your website isn't mobile-friendly) then your business is at a disadvantage. We came up with a few tips to make your website effective and attractive to prospective clients.

Nice lighting, bright colors, no clutter. Image courtesy of  Tim Matheisen  and  Mathes Hulme Builders

Nice lighting, bright colors, no clutter.
Image courtesy of Tim Matheisen and Mathes Hulme Builders

1.       Pictures are worth a thousand words. Don’t put any picture up on your website that is not high resolution and well-lit, or doesn’t show your best work. As much as you might geek out on process photos and showing projects you’re currently working on, most clients want to see the finished product—the eye candy. If you do put any action photos up, make sure they pass an OSHA sniff-test (no crazy ladder hijinks, everyone wearing proper PPE). It’s better to have 10 awesome photos on your site than 100 mediocre ones. Invest in professional photography, and if you can’t afford that, you can take decent photos on an iPhone but you need to stage each photo with intention. That means no clutter, great lighting, a few nice props to bring color (flowers, a bowl of apples, a bright tea towel).

2.       What do you do? This is your opportunity to show how and why your business is unique. Show the kind of work you WANT to be doing, not just what you ALREADY have done. For example, if 50% of your jobs are roof replacements, but what you really want to do is kitchen remodels, then show pictures of kitchens and don’t even mention roofs. If you have special expertise, certifications or licenses, this is the place to mention them.

Wouldn't you want to hire these friendly folks? Image from the Byggmeister website.

Wouldn't you want to hire these friendly folks? Image from the Byggmeister website.

3.       Who are you? Clients are attracted by your business brand, but typically they associate the business with YOU, the business owner(s). Make sure you have a section on your website with your photo (a nice head shot, where you look professional and people can see your face). If you want to show you still wear a toolbelt, then get your gear on, but this is not necessarily the place for an action shot. You want people to recognize you and perceive you as trustworthy.  It’s also great to show your team—often clients are curious to know whether you’re a one-woman operation or have 3 crews running at a time. It can be hard to keep an up to date roster of all your employees current on your website, but take a nice group shot at your annual company picnic and update it on your site every year. In a larger company, you may want to include bios for your management team if they are the ones that will have a lot of client contact.

4.       Location, Location, Location. One key thing many builders forget to put on their website is their service area. This may be less critical for architects, but often clients are looking for someone local to them who they can meet with in person throughout the design process. Include a little map showing where your past projects have been located, and talk about the region or towns that you work in (this will be key for SEO or search engine optimization). Think about all the ways someone might want to Google your area, and include all of them in your website text. Here’s an example, with a bit of overkill: “Serving the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, with offices in Northampton, Springfield and Amherst, our clients range all along the Connecticut River Valley of MA.

5.       Keywords. Close your eyes and brainstorm the first 5 words you want someone to think of when they think of your company. Rattle off a bunch of ideas—get your team involved—and then refine down to 3-5 keywords that define your company. Then look at how to use these frequently in your website text, in as many different ways as possible. Being consistent and repeating yourself is OK—it helps build your SEO.

Lewis Creek Builders includes a great  infographic  on their website showing the design-build process.

Lewis Creek Builders includes a great infographic on their website showing the design-build process.

6.       Process. Here’s your opportunity to talk about not just WHAT you do, but HOW. For a potential client thinking about designing and building a home, it’s almost always their first time going through this process. Explain how you work in clear and simple terms. Describe the steps from the first inquiry to the handover of the keys and how you will provide them with expertise and information along the way. Again, this is a place where you can really distinguish what you do from the rest of the pack.

7.       Making Contact. Your contact info should be super clear—I like to always put it in the footer so it shows up on every page. Create a contact form or just get your phone number and email up there. Be professional and get a business email address (ex: not Make it clear who the primary contact should be for inquiries, and name that person. If you are a business with multiple partners, decide who the best point of contact is and list only their phone number (ideally the person who is most comfortable with sales AND has the capacity to return these inquiry calls within 24 hours of first contact).

8.       Updating Social Media. Your website should include clear links to your social media platforms. But if you’re not going to update them frequently—don’t bother. There’s no point in creating a Facebook Page for your business if you are only going to post something there once a year. In fact, having a “dead” page can actually hurt your brand. Pick your preferred platform(s) and stick with them until the tide changes and you need to adapt to the latest thing.

Has building or updating your website been on your to-do list for over 6 months? If so, HELM can assist you with moving the process along. Check out Mathes Hulme Builders and TurningLeaf Housewrights for two examples of recent projects, and stay tuned, as we have a few more sites in the works. With our experience in the building industry, a strong design aesthetic, and excellent writing skills, we can help you get a professional website up efficiently and affordably.