A/E Firms: Social Media Guidelines & Online Identity Theft

July 7, 2010 at 9:08 am Leave a comment

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

Ryan Link, AICP, wrote a smart article for the CivilEngineeringCentral.com summer issue. In his article: Social Networking Isn’t Just for Fun Anymore: How Emerging Media Is Changing The Way We Market and Do Business, Ryan offers interesting insights into the A/E industry’s past and future relationship with social networking. Please read and offer your thoughts!

According to a CE News survey, “most professionals use the Internet to perform their job. Specifically, 77 percent use the Internet to attend online education activities, 86 percent follow-up on articles they read, 98 percent research engineering-related topics, and 87 percent search for information about industry trends.” Yet, even with these high percentage stats, many architectural and civil engineering firms as well as industry related associations are just now writing social media policies and guidelines.

Firms and industry associations appear unable to identify which departments are responsible for handling the companies’ social media outlets. Should marketing teams oversee social media outlets? Should the human resources divisions? Social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook help brand your firms’/associations’ identity. As Ryan discusses in his article, it is potentially an important and cost effective outreach of marketing efforts, among many other outreach items. One thing is for sure, if an A/E firm/association does not take control of its social media identity and set guidelines for itself and its employees then individual employees will set their own guidelines.  Guidelines set by individual employees may not be consistent with the firms own objectives or guidelines.

Let me offer some examples:

A national A/E firm has a group on LinkedIn created by and managed by an ex-employee. The individual worked for the company for less than 3 years and stole the employers identity! Having your firm’s identity on LinkedIn hijacked in this manner can lead to a plethora of undesirable results. I am aware that several national industry associations did not pay attention to social media only to find their online identities hijacked by architects and civil engineers who started and ran their own national association group in that associations name. A/E firms and associations who do not police the social networking forums run the risk that their online identity may be misused or worse used for nefarious purposes. When your firm’s identity is used on a social media site such use is an extension of your firm. You need to be very careful regarding who is authorized to set the standard – that defines your brand.

Most of us Google our names to see how we are portrayed in the online world. We need to do the same thing with our corporate identity.  Remember that a third party’s first impression of your firm may be based on information found on Google and on many of the social networking sites.  We want to be sure that the first impression is a good one. The Internet and social media outlets are here to stay.

Ryan suggests in his article, five questions firms/associations should consider before entering the world of emerging media.  I recommend that you consider your answers to those five questions and to share those questions and answers with your management/marketing/human resources team. Help your firm take control of their image!Bookmark and Share

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Entry filed under: Civil Engineering, civil engineering blog, Civil Engineering Companies, Civil Engineering Issues, Social Media, The Workplace. Tags: , , .

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