In the digital age, few marketing strategies see universal acceptance and unquestioned praise across all industries. Some, like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media marketing, often do; others, like outbound marketing, do not. That is not to say the latter category presents inherent flaws – only that different industries face distinctly different implementation challenges. One such example lies in influencer marketing within the AEC industry, whose adoption can entail considerable due research. Thus, in this article, we will cover how influencers can help you grow your brand, as well as AEC-specific influencers.
A brief retrospective of AEC marketing ethics
Initially, the AEC industry presents a notable distinction regarding advertising and marketing ethics in the US. In brief, the American Institute of Architecture “condemned” advertising, on the grounds of it “lower[ing] the dignity of the profession “. A subsequent ethics review of organizations, including the AIA, by the US Department of Justice, only occurred in the 1970s, allowing the industry to advertise and firms to differentiate themselves.
The 21st century saw drastic changes as regards public perceptions of “dignity”, however. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer identifies a trust crisis, as consumers value perceived ethical drivers increasingly more than perceived competence. Moreover, consumers consider all major institutions to be either incompetent or unethical, with only NGOs considered ethical.
It is on these grounds where influencer marketing, often combined with cause marketing, stands today. Within half a century, the AEC industry acquired both the ability to advertise and the need to do so.
Refining your website and social media presence to facilitate influencer marketing
A second notable factor lies in the advent of SEO and social media marketing. The AEC industry has had to delve into both over the past two decades, as the former now spearheads search engine visibility, and the latter reshapes storytelling. However, shortcomings, as regards both, can hamper influencer marketing and thus deserve proactive attention. Therefore, before exploring how influencers can help you grow your brand, it is wise to ensure a healthy digital foundation.
1. Create a service section on your website
One of the most common oversights lies in neglecting one’s website concerning immediate presentations of value. Influencer marketing, the PR and branding aspects aside, explicitly focuses on visibility and traffic generation. To be substantive, however, this surge of traffic needs your website to effectively turn it into potential conversions. Thus, you may first ensure to make your offer easily accessible; a service section will serve to do so effectively.
2. Ensure fast loading speeds
On the subject of conversions, it is not uncommon to overlook SEO factors that effectively hamper influencer marketing. Fortunately, the AEC industry has embraced many SEO tenets, such as crafting engaging blogs and alluring content for their audiences. However, the most fundamental oversight in this regard across industries is, arguably, page optimization toward faster loading speeds. Google/SOASTA research found that slower loading speeds directly correlate with increased bounce rates, effectively diminishing the returns of influencer marketing. Thus, you may proactively consider image optimization and compression, removing heavy design elements, and other best practices toward faster speeds.
3. Maintain a consistent presence
Finally, influencer marketing creates a funnel between your social media channels and your website. As such, a consistent presence is imperative toward maintaining engagement, meeting expectations, and securing conversions. In this regard, “consistency” refers to a plethora of factors, from NAP information and pricing to content tone and style. Thus, as you expand your marketing operations, it is crucial to present customers with an identical experience across all channels.
How influencers can help you grow your brand
Hopefully, the above context established the aspect of ethics and trust, as well as optimal proactive adjustments. With it in mind, we may proceed to explore exactly how influencers can help you grow your brand.
1. Improved visibility across multiple platforms
Social media reach is a significant metric for all social media marketing campaigns. In essence, all such campaigns seek to enhance visibility to raise brand awareness. In this regard, influencer marketing offers to enhance visibility through exposure to a wider, engaged audience, but also to do so across multiple platforms.
That is the case because influencers, most often mid-tier and above, will typically have profiles across different platforms. Moreover, their audiences often include active bloggers, vloggers, and otherwise engaged audience members. Therefore, influencer content can benefit from naturally occurring cross-posting, much like how traditional social media strategies strive to.
2. Enhanced SEO
Similarly, influencer marketing can have a very notable effect on your SEO efforts. However, it is crucial to note that this is not due to social media shares and metrics. This is a very pervasive myth which John Mueller, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, has often debunked. For example, on episode 366 of the EDGE on the Web podcast, he asserted that “[s]ocial media shares of a page and other social “applause” metrics simply don’t play into ranking”. He continued to assert that “[b]eing active on the social media platforms is a great way to test and refine your website content to see if it’s connecting with users, but it’s not a ranking factor.”
“Connecting with users” is how influencers can help you grow your brand. In the case of SEO, this is achieved through higher volumes of traffic, enhanced on-page engagement signals, and more conversions. The latter is typically the case on the grounds of traffic quality, not quantity; influencers attract engaged audiences within your niche. Understandably, such audiences yield higher conversion rates compared to regular, less qualified leads.
3. Inspiring trust
On the subject of engaged audiences, the aforementioned context of trust and loyalty is equally significant. Especially given the trust crisis between brands and consumers, AEC firms can leverage influencers to inspire trust through humanization.
In essence, influencer traffic is conceptually similar to referral traffic – a universally valuable metric. This is arguably the foundation of influencer marketing; influencers attract audiences who trust them. Their reputation functions as social credit, and their appeal ensures their audiences are invested in their niche.
In addition, as consumers exhibit increased distrust of “salesy” language and hard sell marketing, influencers offer to humanize brands. Their identity and projected authenticity let them captivate and resonate with audiences that traditional marketing will not. This is arguably why the global influencer market more than doubled between 2019 and 2021, according to Statista.
Finally, the aforelinked Edelman Trust Barometer and other studies have, in recent years, encouraged corporate social responsibility (CSR). Cause marketing is indeed an effective way for AEC firms to inspire trust with audiences, which influencers can promote further.
4. Increased authoritativeness
Moreover, public perception as regards trust can manifest into a vital SEO metric; authoritativeness. Authoritativeness is one of 3 page qualities that benefit search rankings, which marketers consolidated into the “E-A-T” acronym:
Search engines define trustworthiness differently from the aforementioned colloquial meaning, of course, referring to security certificates. Similarly, authoritativeness refers to the PageRank ranking system, as SEMrush explains.
In this sense, influencer marketing does not directly yield better authoritativeness metrics to enhance SEO. Rather, it does so indirectly, by building Follow backlinks – which do affect PageRank. In this regard, then, influencers can help you grow your brand by enhancing your link-building strategies.
As regards audiences themselves, however, influencer marketing does directly enhance perceived authoritativeness. As outlined above, influencers effectively endorse your firm. Thus, an influencer who is an established AEC expert lends credibility to your firm by promoting it.
5. Content-richness and content quality
Finally, influencers can help you grow your brand by simply enabling you to create more diverse, rich content. To enable this, you may use their audience insights to refine your content creation and content marketing strategies. Similarly, you may adapt your content to better fit their platform(s) of choice, benefitting your social media marketing strategies in the process.
Finally, your collaboration should enhance your overall content quality. SEO rightfully holds that “content is king”, echoing Bill Gates, and audiences evidently value content quality. Indeed, SEO dictates careful keyword research, quality length and depth, citations, and other content refinements that denote quality. By adhering to these tenets, you may please both search engines and human visitors, securing more conversions and sales.
Challenges of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is not without challenges, as outlined above. The 3 most notable ones are, in no particular order, platform(s) of choice, influencer costs, and identifying niche-specific influencers.
Initially, it is crucial to select the ideal platform(s) on which to engage in influencer marketing. Business Insider reports on notable findings in this regard; Buzzoka’s 2020 Influencer Marketing report ranked social media platforms as follows:
- Instagram: 82%
- YouTube: 41%
- TikTok: 23%
- Twitter: 23%
- Facebook: 5%
Most notably, Instagram’s popularity is only projected to continue to increase over time. However, choosing a platform must also depend on your own social media activity and audiences. Consider where audiences invested in the AEC industry typically reside, and how they prefer to consume content. At the same type, consider if these platforms align with your content marketing strategies and other factors unique to you.
Influencer tiers and typical cost
Another factor toward investing in influencer marketing lies in calculating the final return on investment (ROI). Forecasting gains may be simple enough, but influencer costs must also be factored in. These understandably vary, both among individual influencers and depending on their tier.
Influencer Marketing Hub categorizes influencers as follows:
- Nano-influencers – 1,000 to 10,000 followers
- Micro- influencers – 10,000 to 50,000 followers
- Mid-tier influencers – 50,000 to 500,000 followers
- Macro- influencers – 500,000 to 1,000,000 followers
- Mega- influencers – 1,000,000+ followers
It then defines influencer rates depending on both their tiers and platforms. To outline the 3 most popular platforms, these are:
- Instagram. A nano-influencer’s post may cost between $10 and $100, while a mega-influencer’s may cost $10,000+.
- YouTube. A nano-influencer’s video may cost between $20 and $200, while a mega-influencer’s may cost $20,000+.
- TikTok. A nano-influencer’s post may cost between $5 and $25, while a mega-influencer’s may cost $2,500+.
Understandably, tiers are only partly indicative of how well influencers can help you grow your brand. As highlighted above, their expertise and relevance to your industry’s audiences should always be crucial factors to consider.
Identifying AEC influencers
Finally, therein lies a considerable challenge; identifying prominent influencers within one’s industry. Understandably, it does not suffice to collaborate with a social media personality who boasts a large following. As highlighted above, they must be an expert within your field to drive substantive engagement and bolster your authoritativeness.
In this regard, Autodesk’s construction blog identifies prominent AEC influencers. Among them are the following:
- Brian Ahmes, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Parafin.
- Kim Bates, Corporate Service Leader at DPR.
- Darren Bechtel, founder and Managing Director at Brick & Mortar Ventures.
- Jay Bowman, Managing Director of Research & Analytics at FMI.
- Dr. Giovanna Brasfield, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Flatiron Construction.
- Kevin Bredeson, Vice President of Preconstruction and Technology at BE&K Building Group.
- Mallorie Brodie, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Bridgit.
- Jean Brownhill, founder and Chief Executive Officer at Sweeten.
- Mark Bryant, Chief Information Officer at PCL Construction.
- David Burns, Director of Innovation at McCarthy Building Companies.
Understandably, however, such personalities are likely not influencers in the traditional social media sense. Their endorsement would offer immense value, but they are influencers by status, not by occupation. Thus, MarketScale’s Bryce Stuckenschneider and Daniel Litwin outlined professional AEC influencers you may consider, including:
- Dana Tomic Hughes
- Cindy Allen
- Sarah Sherman Samuel
- Alexander Gorlin Architects
- Bob Borson
- Lee Mindel
Such personalities will of course differ drastically, in terms of both their reach and role within the AEC industry. As such, due research prior to outreach is always highly advisable.