Here it is folks, our very first episode of the Construction Industry Podcast!
Pardon my “ahns” and “uhns!”
Below you will find a transcription of the show. I would love to hear what you think of our podcast. Write me by clicking “contact” on the website main menu.
- Episode Transcription
- Full interview with Paul Wilkinson
- Illinois Institute of Technology
- Project Management Institute
- pwcom.co.uk (Paul Wilkinson’s website)
Welcome to the Construction Industry Podcast, fresh ideas for today’s construction professional. The Construction Industry Podcast is brought to you by Remontech Remote Monitoring Technologies. Find us on the web at ConstructionIndustryPodcast.com.
Cesar Abeid: Hello, everyone. My name is Cesar Abeid and this is our first episode of the Construction Industry Podcast. Thank you for listening. Today, I’m going to introduce you to this podcast project. I’m going to tell you why we’re doing it and why we think you should listen to it.
We’re also going to have an interview with Paul Wilkinson on the topic of social media for the construction industry and at the end, I’m going to tell you what the next episode is going to be about. I hope you enjoy it.
So first off, I would like to disclose that this is the first time I’m doing a podcast. I would just like to ask you to bear with me as I trip over my words here and there and the fact that I’m foreign and English is not my first language doesn’t help; but my idea here is to be authentic with you so I’m not going to do a whole lot of editing and if I make mistakes, oh well, I made mistakes. If you were talking to me in person, they would be there anyway so why try to hide it?
But the reason why we’re doing this podcast is because we feel like as a business, in the works in the construction industry, we feel like we have a different kind of view of the sector because of the nature of the work that we perform; and we thought of sharing our experiences in the contacts that we’ve made over the years with the construction industry at large. And what better way to do it than with a podcast so we can interview people and we can bring you content so you can listen to it as you drive to work or as you work out or right there on the computer if you would like to.
So, on this first show, my plan is to talk about social media for the construction industry because I believe a lot of people in the industry are not yet familiar with some of the principles and the aspects of the new Web 2.0 as they call it, in which I would say that podcasting is one of the aspects.
So, I’m assuming you know what a podcast is because you’re listening to one right now but in case you’re just listening to it on our website, I would encourage you to look at subscribing. It’s free to do. Subscribe to the RSS feed or if you have an iPhone or an iPod, subscribe via iTunes because every time we have a new episode, it will be automatically downloaded to your computer or your device and that’s the way podcasts work. It’s almost like a radio show except it’s prerecorded and it’s downloaded automatically to your device as soon as it becomes available.
So again my name is Cesar Abeid and I work for a company called Remontech Remote Monitoring Technologies. We provide services to the construction industry and I’ll explain a little bit about what we do a little later; but I have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and I also hold the PMP Certification which stands for Project Management Professional. It’s given by the PMI, the Project Management Institute. If you like more information on that, you can go to PMI.org.
I’m also married, very happily married and I have two little kids that are the joy of my life. Now, if you’re wondering where my accent is from, I was born in Brazil but I’ve been living here in North America for the last 14 years so that’s where the accent is from; and if there are any Brazilians listening to the show, please send me an email. Let me know. I would love to hear from you guys.
But I started working for Remontech while I was still in university. That was back in 2004 and our company was founded by my father. We’re a family business and he also has partners and we’ve been in operation since 2001 so it has been about 10 years now; and what we do, we provide remote monitoring for construction projects.
Before I go on, if you would like more details on what we do, you can go to our website [0:05:00] by visiting MyConstructionCamera.com. Again, MyConstructionCamera.com and you can get more information there but in short we provide a three-fold service.
Number one, we install and maintain monitoring equipment of construction sites such as cameras and other things which allows for the live viewing of the project activities on the internet. Number two, at our office here in St. Thomas, Ontario where we remotely record and capture the progress of the project; and number three, we link the time-lapse video that we record, the time-lapse video of the construction activities to the schedule of the project.
It’s kind of a unique thing so I recommend you go to the website if you would like more information and again, the address is MyConstructionCamera.com; and Remontech started at the university actually. It was developed from my father’s doctoral thesis when he was at IIT in Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology back in the year 2000. After he moved to Canada, he decided to turn the idea into a product and market it.
Now, the construction industry is a very broad concept and as you know, it covers many, many aspects but because of the nature of our business, we are exposed to a lot of these aspects and we have a different kind of view of them because we are not really a construction company per se. We provide services. So for example, we’ve worked with all sorts of projects from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, chemical plants in Peru, cement plants in the United States, all the way down to renovations, to family cottages here in Canada.
Now, through the 10 years that we’ve been in business, we’ve worked closely with trades owners, politicians and project managers and all that in different countries, speaking different languages. We’ve had projects in South America as well in which we have to manage our installations in Spanish and Portuguese.
Now, we usually report to the construction project owner and the sponsor so higher level stakeholder but on the ground, we work closely with superintendents in the trades. So, we also do a lot of our own marketing and on that side of the business, we interact with the industry at large with our blog. On trade shows, we do a lot of presentations to potential clients and things like that.
And as a result of this kind of very eclectic experience, I personally feel like we have an interesting bird’s eye view of the construction industry; but at the same time, I think we go through the same issues that most people in the industry go through especially in times of recession like the ones we’re living in right now.
Now in this podcast, first and foremost, I want to be authentic with you and what I plan to do is to share our stories as we navigate the waters of the industry; and I also love to connect with you and hear from you of what is happening to the construction industry as you see it. And to write to us, you can write to Feedback@ConstructionIndustryPodcast.com. Again, Feedback@ConstructionIndustryPodcast.com.
This address and a lot of other links and things like that will be on the show notes on the website so you can go to ConstructionIndustryPodcast.com. Look for the episode one show notes and you’ll find the links and email addresses there.
Now, one of the greatest things that I can share with you is our network of great professionals that we’ve met during our history. Our partners, our clients, coworkers have been professionals of the highest caliber with lots of great information and insights; and I will share with you my conversations with them on point of topics and I’m sure that you will learn something from the best in the industry, believe me.
We’ll be able to basically pick their brains on different topics that relate to the construction sector such as sales, marketing, construction project management, accounting, best practices, social media, that’s what we’re talking about today on the interview, trends in the industry or any other topic that you and I find relevant to conduct our businesses and careers. So in short, my goal is to take over learning in the industry and share it with you.
[0:10:00] So, as I said before, feedback from you is really important so we can hear from you so we can direct the podcast so it will be the most beneficial to all. For now, you can write us at Feedback at ConstructionIndustryPodcast.com or you can just visit our website at ConstructionIndustryPodcast.com and use the contact us link there.
Now I hope this first episode will convey to you what our plans are for the podcast and I hope that you enjoy the interview that’s coming. Again, I absolutely would love to hear from you.
So on today’s interview, we talk to Paul Wilkinson, a London UK-based construction PR and marketing specialist with in-house and consultancy experience dating back to 1987, including spells with an engineering consultancy, the professional services arm of a main contractor and a construction software developer.
He’s also a consultant helping businesses learn and apply social media for the architectural engineering and construction sector. He’s also the cofounder of the Be2Camp Movement, an online community for construction and property people interested in applying Web 2.0.
He’s a regular speaker at academic institutions and industry events and has written numerous published articles about social media and construction technologies, book chapters and a book about construction collaboration. Enjoy the interview.
And now, our feature segment. [0:11:32]
Cesar: Hi, Paul. How are you?
Paul: I’m well.
Cesar: So you’re in London, England, correct?
Paul: That’s correct, yes.
Cesar: Alright. Well, I’m in London, Canada so there’s a five-hour difference so it’s 5 o’clock in the morning here.
Paul: It has just gone 10:00 AM and it’s bright and sunny.
Cesar: That’s beautiful. So, Paul, first of all thanks for answering my questions today and welcome to the Construction Industry Podcast. This is one of our first episodes.
Paul: Oh, pleasure to be involved.
Cesar: Alright. Now, Paul, what is social media? I think we hear this term being thrown around a lot. But can you give us like a definition for it or is it just another name for Twitter and Facebook?
Paul: I think Twitter and Facebook are part of it but the bigger picture is essentially the use of web technologies and web design to help people creatively share and collaborate. A lot of that collaboration can happen anywhere almost in real time and much of it has to do with people having conversations. I use a simple definition when I talk to organizations about social media of people having conversations online. I think those four words, to me, epitomize what social media is about at the very core level. You can expand it to cover a whole range of other things like video and photographs and so on but the core is really about exchanges between individuals so people having conversations online.
Cesar: Okay. So in other words, it’s almost like everything we do, like email or telephone or even face to face. Maybe it’s just a different platform for us to have these conversations.
Paul: Yes, I think the technology has evolved gradually over a period of time and what we now have are additional tools alongside the conventional platforms of email and websites. They haven’t been replaced. It’s just that we now have more tools in the toolbox to play with and some of the conversations can be taken out of email for example and undertaken in different ways perhaps in more real time than the asynchronous, delayed response approach that you typically have with email.
Cesar: I see. Now, how did you get started in all of this, in social media?
Paul: I started before social media was called social media, I guess. In the late 90s, I started working on collaboration tools for the construction sector. These were web-based platforms to help construction professionals, architects, engineers, project managers and their supply chains to share documents and drawings to do with projects. As those tools developed, the point about people being able to share and collaborate became more and more important and we began to look at other tools and technologies within the business I worked with at the time. Things like wikis and intranets added other ways in which we could share knowledge and keep information and share it with our colleagues.
So since 2003 for example, I’ve been editing Wikipedia. I still do so and over the last four or five years, I’ve also looked at other tools that have become more widely used, things like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube and for photograph sharing sites like Flickr and a whole host of other tools as well.
Cesar: Okay. So what do you think are some of the social or technology factors that are driving the adoption of social media in tools like Twitter and Facebook and others? Wikis I guess too.
Paul: I think there are some key factors. Simply we are much better connected today. We have better telecommunications, broadband connections to the internet and now much more common than the dial-up modems that we used to use a decade ago for example.
So we have better telecommunications. We also have [0:05:00] more communications on our mobile devices. We have seen literally in the last year the sale of smart phones now outstripping the sales of laptops and more and more people are using their smart phones as a way of connecting to the internet. I think the experience in most of the developed nations is very similar but certainly in the UK, something like 70 percent of adult users of smart phones are accessing social media platforms through their smart phones. So that is one of the driving factors at the moment is that you’ve got access to social media wherever you happen to be. You don’t have to be sitting at your desk to do it.
Cesar: Yes, that’s true. Here now in Canada, in the US as well, that even at the construction site you see people with their BlackBerrys and iPhones all the time.
Cesar: So it’s pretty much everywhere. Okay, that’s interesting. Now, does this mean that we should replace existing communication channels because this is so easy to do? Should we just replace email and face-to-face meetings and things like that?
Paul: No, no. As to repeat the point earlier, we just have more tools in the toolbox. We can now begin to be a little bit more clever about which tools were used for certain exchanges. There will always be a place for face-to-face communications. Much of the opportunity to build a relationship comes fro meeting a person face to face and then following up that communication through other media afterwards but certainly that process of building and acquaintance and a friendship is often best done through face to face.
There will be means of communication which are better done through other means other than email. I mean for a long time, a lot of people were using email for example for social chitchats and for sharing funny websites or things of that kind. That is the kind of content which could be shared in other ways now so that email becomes perhaps more dedicated to work-related exchanges and you take some of the social froth and put that in other places like Twitter or Facebook.
Cesar: Yes, yes. I think even tools – like Gmail came up with that threaded email conversations.
Cesar: I think that was an attempt to kind of tame that back and forth email messages that we used to do before Facebook and Twitter.
Cesar: So there has been a trend towards that in that direction for a long time though I think.
Cesar: Okay. Now, I mentioned just a few moments ago that I notice a lot of people at constructions sites using their BlackBerrys. Now if I’m concerned about my employees for example, using social media, what should I do? Is it a good thing to just block their access to networking sites and just perhaps ban smart phones on construction sites or in the office?
Paul: I think you would find it difficult to block your employee’s access to social websites completely. I have seen and heard people who when their employers have put a block in place, brought a firewall down to stop people accessing Facebook or other such sites, have simply picked up their smart phone and it’s their own personal smart phone and they’ve accessed those networks through their own device or they’ve waited until lunch time and they’ve gone to an internet café or they’ve gone out. If they’ve got a netbook and a 3G dongle, they can access the internet through their own device and completely bypass the company network anyway.
I think far better is for an organization to realize that whether they like it or not, some of their employees are going to be using social media platforms and make sure that those employees are aware that they do need to apply the same standards of behavior to their online activity as it’s covered through their contracts of employment governing their use of email and use of company IT systems, protecting client confidentiality, [0:10:00] ensuring that there are no breaches of copyright …
Paul: … and representing the company in a positive way and not getting into areas where you might be perhaps involved in defaming people, sort of slander and libel. As long as you’re conscious that those sorts of things are made aware to employees, then you can begin to create a policy which means that certainly employees know the risks of going online and know that you know and they know that you know that you’re keeping an eye on them.
Cesar: Okay. So you think it’s a good idea to create perhaps a new social media policy regarding …
Paul: Well, I think it’s about having standards of behavior that you expect so I wouldn’t say it would be a complete new policy. I think it will be an extension of existing codes of conduct …
Paul: … probably covered already implicitly …
Paul: … within disciplinary procedures and contracts and just to make it explicit that these also extend to people’s online activity on what we currently describe as social networks.
Cesar: Okay. Well, the way I see it too, it’s a lot of common sense. I think we have to remember too there’s no delete button on the internet so whatever you say out there, it’s going to be there and just keep that in mind, I guess.
Paul: Yes, yes. I mean your digital fingerprint will be around for a long, long time.
Paul: The unfortunate photographs you might have in your Facebook page from student days may be viewed by future employers so you do need to exercise a bit of caution about exactly what you share online. It might be fun at one point but at a later stage, it may bounce back to hurt you.
Cesar: That’s right. It’s becoming part of who you are, your online trail, I guess …
Paul: Yes. You have an online persona. What I have sought to do is mainly use my online activity in relation to my work, to business to business stuff but I’m a human being so there are times when I will talk about non-work related matters like cycling or football, which just show that I’m actually a human being. I’m not just an automat and only works all the time.
Cesar: That’s right. Well, I’ll get back to that in a few moments. With the Web 2.0, there is a personification of corporations because in the past we had just a static website. It was very corporate and cold and now if a company has a Twitter feed, we always associate that with a person behind the keyboard and I find that a lot of businesses are having a hard time finding a personality for itself.
Cesar: But we can come back to that. I would like to take a step back now and now it’s obviously a good thing and it’s here to stay. But how does one get started? Let’s say I would want to start using social media. What do I do?
Paul: The most common way in which people start tends to be well, we want to maybe personalize the business a bit and it may be that the business has a static website or conventional Web 1 websites which is perhaps a little bit more than an electronic brochure and they say, “Well, how do we express a little bit more about the personality but also bring out the particular skills and expertise and the knowledge of the employees that we have?” So the first step for many organizations is perhaps the creation of a blog. A blog can be created very, very cheaply. There are free platforms out there for those that want to make some initial steps along that road.
There are also more sophisticated ways in which blogs can be embedded within websites as an integral part of that. Once you created a blog, then in some cases you want to help people talk about it, when blog posts have been published. So Twitter is the next perhaps logical follow-on [0:15:00] from having a blog. Indeed Twitter was originally called micro blogging. It was just a short form of blogging that help people express ideas and start conversations in a much shorter form than through the traditional blog post.
So they would be two ways in which one might start particularly from a corporate point of view.
Cesar: Okay. Now I dabble in Twitter and Facebook and it seems like people still don’t quite know how to use it for business applications. You see a lot of different things being written all the time and at least in my case, every time I see a new article on how to use Twitter for business, I just read everything I can see because it’s still like a new thing.
Now, in the business to business world of construction specifically, how can one use social media to reach new customers for example?
Paul: To repeat the point I just made a moment ago about blogging being an opportunity to share knowledge, the technical skills and insight, passion, enthusiasm of the people that you have, that can be a very powerful way of adding a new dimension to the websites but the beauty of this is that if you start writing interesting and useful content, other people start to take an interest in it and they can start recommending it to people that you wouldn’t normally reach.
So what we’ve got here is word of mouth or in some cases, it’s termed word of mouse because people are clicking on the link and they’re sharing it then with their friends, their contacts and saying this is an interesting article or this business has got something useful to say. You’re then reaching out using your first tier of contact to reach out to people who are in that second tier of contacts.
So you’re already extending your reach out to new people and the process of being interesting and useful online can quickly mean that you attract followers to your Twitter account or you’ll get subscribers to your blog feed and that then begins to get people to say, “Well I’ll put that blog on my blog roll” or “I’ll start recommending that people follow this particular Twitter feed.” Those kinds of recommendations again help you reach out to new people because people value the recommendations of friends they already have. You’re much more likely to follow the recommendation of somebody you know than just follow a recommendation of somebody you don’t know.
Cesar: That’s true and I think that’s the whole idea behind the like button on …
Cesar: … Facebook. It’s a way for people who you trust to recommend services or products to their network.
Paul: Yes. Yes. I mean it’s very powerful in the consumer market obviously. Facebook is widely used now in the consumer world. Business to business Facebook isn’t used quite as much but the power of recommendation is certainly there in platforms like LinkedIn where you can get individuals being commended and recommended by customers, by their colleagues, by people they collaborated with on previous projects. Again, this helps promote the strength of the individuals that you have within your company. These are people that are valued by the people with whom they’ve worked on projects.
Cesar: So you think as companies, we should encourage our employees to be on LinkedIn and get recommended and be on Twitter and Facebook and talking about the business?
Paul: Encourage is probably the wrong word …
Paul: … because some people may not have the attitude or even the willingness to do so.
Paul: Trying to force somebody to talk about themselves won’t always work because some people maybe are simply just uncomfortable in doing so. But there may be individuals who are more comfortable with that approach, who see it as part of their role to talk about what they do, to talk about the [0:20:00] company and they’re comfortable in doing so but you can lead a horse to water but you can’t force them to drink.
Cesar: That’s right.
Paul: It’s the same sort of thing here. You could tell people this is Twitter but you can’t force them to tweet. Certainly not tweet usefully anyway, not tweet in a way that it will actually be beneficial to the firm.
Cesar: Okay. Good. Now, one thing that happens because Twitter is – the way I see it, it’s almost like a worldwide chat room and people are just talking about different things and one thing that I’ve been seeing a lot is – at least I do that like if I have a problem – like I had a problem with my internet provider the other day and I couldn’t get customer support and I was getting frustrated. I just went on Twitter and did a search on them and I see all sorts of people complaining about the same thing and not getting a response and getting frustrated and I feel like there’s a lot of negativity going on on Twitter for example.
Now, how should we respond to negative online comments about our own business? Like how do we engage the public that way?
Paul: Well, I think if there has been a problem, the best way is not to ignore it, for a start. Admit there has been an issue and apologize and to explain what you’re doing to make sure the problem is resolved and also to explain how you’re trying to make sure that it won’t occur again. This is the sort of classic crisis management here in many respects. Some people might say, well, the best thing to do is just delete him and ignore him, pretend it will go away but in some cases, ignoring it or not responding to online criticism simply makes the matter worse because people simply say, “Well, I’ve reported this problem. They know it’s happening and yet, nobody is talking. Nobody is telling us what they’re doing.”
Sometimes the lack of feedback can simply make the problem worse. We had a classic situation in the UK. Eurostar who run the railway service underneath the English Channel to France, there was a problem with the train service and lots of people ended up stranded on the English side at the Folkestone terminal. So nobody is telling us what’s going on and they were using Twitter to ask the question. Nobody from Eurostar responded on Twitter at all and so the volume of complaints on Twitter gradually grew and grew and it reached a point where national newspapers and radio stations were reporting the problems because they were reading all the tweets coming from Folkestone and it had an impact on the Eurostar share price …
Paul: … simply because the company and its PR agency weren’t geared up to respond quickly and promptly to the criticisms that were happening and giving people timely responses about the problems that they were facing due to the weather and technical issues. A quick response would have avoided the front page coverage they got on one of the national broadsheet newspapers.
Cesar: Yes. That’s amazing, isn’t it? How this is changing the way that we engage customers and the public in general.
Paul: Absolutely, yes. It could be a very simple thing in terms of an issue with a company. I have recently had a new laptop and there was a problem with it. I found out the problem when I was on a train coming back to London last week, tweeted about it and within an hour, somebody from the manufacturer, Dell in this case, tweeted back to me saying could I give them my service tag number and they would get somebody to contact me straight away so that I could resolve the problem quickly. The following morning, online chat. All started through that quick response.
So, customer service here is a big opportunity for people to respond quickly and promptly to customer complaints or customer observations about service or product that they’ve had issues with.
Cesar: Very good. Now, what are some of the pitfalls to be avoided when using let’s say Twitter?
Paul: I mean the common one I think for Twitter, [0:25:00] particularly for companies, is to lapse into broadcast mode. You will often find some companies simply see Twitter as a way of shouting their latest news or telling people about their latest products or their latest services or their latest projects and ignoring people, trying to contact them.
In some cases, I’ve seen businesses who simply automated their Twitter feed so that it simply pushes their latest news releases out and sometimes repeats them time after time. I think that the big pitfall there is those companies have forgotten that it’s people that tweet.
Paul: Not companies and it’s about people having conversations online. If I want to get into a conversation, I can’t have a conversation with an automated RSS feed. I need to have a conversation with somebody who’s looking after that Twitter account. If I’ve got a query about that project or the product that they’ve just tweeted about, I expect a human being to respond and if I don’t get that response back, well, I get the impression that that company doesn’t want to talk to me. It’s not interested in following through.
Cesar: Yes. I find that too like if I see that it’s just an automated Twitter feed, I don’t even read it. It’s almost like if you’re at a party and there’s this person just talking about themselves and …
Cesar: … how great they are. Like who wants to talk to them, right?
Paul: Yes. I think that there are – yes, there are other things that people occasionally do. Your decision to follow somebody might well be based on what people say in their profile. If they don’t come across in their profile explaining how they might be useful to you, telling you a little bit about their company and what they might tweet about for example, you can quickly inform a viewer [0:27:22] [Phonetic] that actually I don’t want to follow that business. It doesn’t sound interesting.
Paul: So making sure that your profile says something useful is good as is making sure that there’s perhaps a name associated with the account so that …
Paul: … you know that you’re dealing with an individual. Then you could begin to understand their authority, their credibility and build a rapport with them because if you want to meet up with somebody, you meet up with an individual. You don’t meet a company. So if you go to a social event or a business conference or something like that, you will be hoping to meet that individual and not somebody who’s a friend of the tweeter …
Paul: … necessarily because you haven’t formed a rapport with that other person. You formed a rapport with the person who runs the Twitter account.
Cesar: Okay. So besides the profile information and the things we talked about, how do I ensure that my business stands out from the crowd?
Paul: Well, I think the combination of things is about actually being useful, is sharing knowledge, sharing insights. Sometimes just being passionate about something can be something that makes you stand out.
You got an enthusiasm for steel windows, for example. There was a company in the UK, Crittall Windows. They export steel windows right around the world and there is a man at Crittall Windows who’s passionate about steel windows and he writes a blog about steel windows and I think what comes across is his enthusiasm for that product and the various projects upon which those products are used include lots of heritage buildings so that they’re involved in refurbishment type work.
So his passion, his knowledge about that business as well means that Crittall Windows stands out from the crowd in his marketplace simply because he’s prepared to talk about practical issues about how those particular windows are used by customers, how they’re being used for replacement windows in refurbishment works, how they are responding to new demands for better insulation [0:30:00] and all of those kinds of things.
So all his knowledge and enthusiasm comes across both on his blog but also through his Twitter account as well. He tweets about those things too and although he’s not a salesperson …
Paul: … he’s actually doing a very good sales job on behalf of this company.
Cesar: And I guess if I ever want to know information, like if I’m Googling steel windows, he would be all over the place because he’s talking so much about it.
Paul: Yes. I mean one of the beauties of social media blogs and Twitter and various other platforms that you might have is that that content is easily indexed by Google, features high up on the search engine results pages and you can begin to use that as part of your search engine optimization strategy as a business and things like video for example also improve the search engine rankings. So if you have a video as this company does. It has some videos about projects where the steel windows have been used so that again means that when people do a search, that they will find the name of that company but also photographs and video and other content about that business. So it’s not just finding webpage results. They’re able actually to find images and video so quite rich content. They give a much more engaging feel about the company through its use of multimedia really.
Cesar: Yes. It sounds like there’s a lot to be gained by engaging the public that way. Yes.
Cesar: Any way you look at it, it’s beneficial. Okay. My last question is talking about the construction industry. Okay? Are there construction-specific tools that can help us find more projects or which will help me manage my projects more efficiently?
Paul: There are. I mean in the UK, construction comprises about eight percent of GDP. You know, it is a multihundred billion-pound plus industry and people have seen social media tools’ online approaches as a way of broadening the reach of their products and services.
So, they’re able to take data feeds for example from public sector organizations and use email but also Twitter as a way for example of getting email alerts, of planning applications. So when people are proposing to do work on their house or on their office building or build a new project, they’re lodging planning applications with the local authority and the local authorities then – there are applications, PlanningAlerts.com in the UK. Enables people to sign up to get notification of all planning applications within say two kilometers of their office.
So if I was a small builder, that would be a fantastic opportunity for me to understand what projects were coming through in my area. There are other businesses who are using social media for example to help with recycling and reuse of building materials, avoiding material going to landfill, which is increasingly expensive, but also being much more sustainable and green in their approach to projects by helping people recycle or reuse materials arising from one site and transport it perhaps to a nearby site where they might need that material.
So there are a couple of examples. On the design side which is where a lot of my work in the early 90s – sorry, late 90s, early 2000s was involved. We got organizations creating social platforms that enable architects to consult with local residents about urban regeneration projects for example. There is a platform called YouCanPlan which simply enables for example a local authority to share the ideas they’ve got for regeneration of a district with everybody in that locality and they use [0:35:00] online commenting and feedback tools over a rich interface where a model and plans and – you can take bird’s eye views. You can do walkthroughs and flythroughs of what the urban regeneration project is likely to look like and get the feedback from local residents about their views on that project. It creates some gaming elements in this so that you can literally drive a bus through the project or have a bus journey, a guided tour around the project and the feedback from one project were such that they got much more engagement from teams in 20 and 30 something to a public consultation process than they ever did from the traditional approach of running town hall meetings and having people give their responses to people with clipboards.
It was a much more engaging approach simply by putting it online and that kind of approach is being applied right down to individual buildings where we have architects using simple online sharing tools to share their design with not just their client but with perhaps the end users of the building so they can begin to walk around. They can view the building, perhaps a 3D model of it, walk around it and say, “Like this bit,” or “Don’t like the wall finishes there,” or “Can we move that cupboard from that wall to that wall?” All of that kind of thing enabled through simple online tools.
Cesar: Now that you’re saying those things, one thing that we do for our clients, we do remote monitoring for construction projects. We generate videos of the projects and for one of our clients, it was a municipality here in Canada. There’s this one type of roadwork they do all the time and they always have to educate the citizens who live in the street how that job is going to impact their access to their property and what they did is they asked us to create a video, a time-lapse video of the project so they can put on the city’s website and when they come to that, talk to those citizens, they can just send them the links. Say, “Look at this. This is what’s going to happen to your street. See, you are going to have access to your house everyday,” and people engage more that way than just having a person come to their door and talk about how awful and miserable their life is going to be for the next few weeks.
Paul: Yes, yes. I mean the local authority where I live in South East London, they have a Twitter account which I follow and it will tell me when the foot tunnel under the river is – when the lifts aren’t working so that I know that if I walked down there, that I might have to carry my bike down the stairs as opposed to putting it on the lift, the elevator. Simple things like that just mean that without me having to lift a finger, I know that there’s an issue down at the foot tunnel and that you can get the same with lots of other services, some of which are construction-related as I say. Some of which are just municipal or civil approaches to help people understand what’s going on in their local area.
Cesar: That’s great. Okay, Paul. Now, to wrap up, if we want to learn more about you and your business, besides checking out the show notes on our website, where can we go?
Paul: I run a consultancy business called PWCom.co.uk so that has a website at www.PWCom.co.uk. On Twitter, I am EEPaul which is easy to find and all of that content, all of my other presences in various different social platforms are linked from those websites.
Cesar: Great. Okay, Paul. Thank you so much for your time. This is great and great information and hope to talk to you soon about some other topics in the future.
Paul: Great. Nice to talk to you too.