IKM—Using Social Media to Raise Brand Awareness

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Patty Swisher

By Daniel Casciato

IKM is an architecture, planning and interior design firm from Pittsburgh that has been providing professional design services for over 100 years. Its mission is to provide innovative and informed architecture that positively impacts the world through understanding, exploration and decision making. Healthcare-related projects such as the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, West Penn Allegheny Oncology Network Infusion Centers, UPMC Mercy Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, Allegheny General Hospital Cardiovascular Institute, and WPH Forbes Hospital OR Suite are some of the local projects designed by IKM.

Like other marketing-savvy organizations today, IKM is taking advantage of the opportunities social media offers to connect with its customers as well as potential customers. Western Pennsylvania Hospital News invited Patty Swisher, Director of Marketing/PR for IKM, to respond to some of our social media questions via email. Swisher has been with the firm for 15 years. In addition to marketing communications, she also manages the majority of its social media communication initiatives.

What role does social media play in your overall marketing and communications strategy? 

Social media plays an active role in IKM’s communication strategy in raising brand awareness. We collaborate with our clients and consultants to provide highly specialized professional design services. Social Media allows us to reach different segments of the public with targeted messages about what we do.

Why did IKM decide to execute a social media campaign in the first place? 

Initially, IKM decided to execute a social media campaign related to recruitment and retention of staff. We had a crop of newly hired, graduate architects. They were actively communicating via social media so it was an informal way to reach out and respond with positive messages about the firm. Since becoming involved with social media we have realized its enormous potential and have worked to become familiar with the nuances of the various platforms.

Tell us about some of the most common misperceptions organizations have about social media marketing?  

One of the greatest misperceptions that organizations have is that clients are not active in social media. While I would strongly agree that today, Ms. Vice President of Hospital X is not going to purchase architectural services via a Facebook ad, that does NOT mean that he/she is not participating in social media. Hospital News’ 7,500+ contacts alone are proof that key constituents are actively involved in social media on a regular basis. The other big misperception that I would mention suggests that social media is free. While there does not have to be a dollar outlay to begin to use social media, there are numerous factors that must be considered, each with cost implications. Staffing, Time, Resources, Content, Software, and Hardware are all very general factors that can contribute to the “cost” of social media.

What are some of the issues an organization could face without a successful social media strategy? 

Some of the issues an organization can face without a social media strategy may include:

  • Aimless participation aka waste of time—without a strategy an organization doesn’t know what it wants to achieve therefore has no direction;
  • Unpreparedness—without a strategy an organization may be caught off guard with negative comments, crisis response, or a larger than expected positive response that results in damaging a reputation; and
  • Becoming irrelevantwithout a strategy an organization risks being unknown, out of touch and irrelevant to the marketplace.

How can today’s healthcare organizations better engage in social media? 

Today’s healthcare organizations can better engage in social media by more narrowly defining their target audiences and key messages. It’s the ‘shooting at the flock’ theory, the more you target the general population the fewer people you will reach with your target messages.  Identifying where key groups of constituents are and targeting those individuals with messages that are specific, timely and relevant, organizations will have more success with social media.

Also, healthcare organizations need to remember that social media is just one tool in the communication toolbox. It is not the answer to all communication issues. It needs to be integrated into the overall communication plan. This also means using social media networks, communities to spread messages. As you know, IKM is an architecture firm, one of our key target markets is healthcare. We follow many healthcare organizations on Twitter. As an ally of our healthcare clients we regularly pass along their messages of events, press releases, and general news to our audience to help increase the reach this is an excellent example of using the network to increase message reach.

What are some of your favorite social media applications/tools? 

IKM uses Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn actively. We also are on Google+ and an industry specific community called Architizer.  I like Facebook because of the reach and ease of mixed-media use. You can share updates, photos, and even video fairly easily on Facebook. IKM uses Facebook for recruitment and retention of staff. We share industry news and firm-related news including project updates and posts that provide a glimpse into the IKM office culture.

In my opinion, Twitter is one of the best ways to build community and increase reach. I, personally, am a huge fan of Twitter, I regularly engage in Tweetchats and have “met” many great people on this social platform.

Besides Twitter two of my favorite “tools” (since this is a design and construction issue!)  are Hootsuite and Buffer. Hootsuite is a third-party platform that allows you to manage or post to multiple accounts including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at the same time or selectively as you determine appropriate. It also permits keyword or #hashtag searching via Twitter, tracking mentions and direct messages, and scheduling of tweets. Hootsuite is the ‘dashboard’ I prefer.  Buffer is a great add-on app as well. Buffer provides flexibility. I’ll explain more below.

Many of us can’t find enough hours in the day, how do you find the time on social media, and more importantly manage it? 

I hear this all of the time, particularly with small businesses or sole practitioners. Yes, it can be a significant time commitment to participate in social media. I would encourage everyone to consider this as they make their communications plan. Understand what you want to accomplish and the resources that must be allocated in order to achieve those goals.  Using tools like Hootsuite and Buffer allow participants to manage their social media efforts. For example, I commute to the office on public transportation. I use that time (30 min, 2X each day) to read and catch up on posts. I forward, share and respond based on what I find. Typically, I do this from my smart phone.  Once I’m at the office, with the tool mentioned above, Buffer, I can schedule multiple postings to occur throughout the day. I have 6 or 7 times prescheduled in the program for updates. When I come across something that I want to share, I add it to my Buffer account and I can forget about it. The program takes care of posting it when specified. I can tailor messages, share links, or include photos or images with my updates. It is a great tool, clearly I’m a fan and happy to share this with anyone who asks.

What does IKM tweet or write posts about? 

IKM tweets about current events, industry news, cool architecture, innovative design trends/topics, our project updates, job postings or happenings in the office. One of the rules of social media, that I’m sure you covered in previous articles, is the balance between self promotion and educating and informing your audience. Too much self promotion is frowned upon, a good way to lose fans and followers. So we try to keep self promotion to a minimum. But, I am always thinking social media. The staff in my office have called me the paparazzi because I rarely go to a meeting without my smart phone (with camera) or my DSLR to take photos.  If we’re having a design review on the programming of a particular hospital unit I will attend, take photos, and tweet about it.

What things should we absolutely avoid in terms of social media posts and tweets? 

One of the best pieces of advice is to be responsible for what you write, consider that you are signing your ‘electronic signature’ to each tweet or post you send. Exercise common sense; use good judgment. Always be sensitive to other people’s privacy. Respect copyrights and fair use and protect confidential and proprietary information. Generally, treat others as you would want to be treated.

Where can our readers find IKM on social media? 

IKM is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ikminc. We are on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ikminc; LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/ikm-inc. You can find me on Twitter @pmswish.

Is there anything else our readers should know that I didn’t ask about? 

While social media has been around for a number of years, social media is new to the design and construction industry and how that interaction occurs with the healthcare community is still unfolding. I like to say social media is about the conversations happening online. It’s growing by leaps and bounds and new tools and platforms are being developed everyday.