Social Media in Architecture // Tanner James
Social Media has become an integral part of our lives in the 21st century. In fact you are reading this on a social media platform, and you were more than likely directed here by another platform. Your daily news, your updates from family, your updates from friends, all come from one form of social media or another. And all of this is merely second nature. However, less than ten years ago this was not the case. Facebook was still in its infancy, only beginning to be discovered by those outside of college circles. Likewise many individuals within the design field were only beginning to discover the untapped potential of social media outlets. Instead these individuals made a point to go out in the community marketing their brand.
This past year as the communications director of Design+Make I have witnessed the hold that social media has taken in the 21st century. Like many groups Design+Make relies in part on social media to keep its followers up to date, this blog is a part of that. However, our studio also strives to maintain an in person dialog with clients and their communities. At the beginning of each project Design+Make meets as a team with every client and does so on a regular basis throughout its life. But for many in my generation the lure of the digital age and social media have taken over all interaction.
It only takes a day away from your phone to realize this. For me this eye opening experience occurred six months ago. With a crashed iphone and a schedule keeping my visit to the apple store a week in the future I had no choice but to disconnect. The shock of losing my constant connection to the greater world was rough at first but soon subsided. During this week I found that I accomplished more, I spent more time outdoors, and most importantly I paid attention more. Rather than scrolling through my facebook newsfeed seeing only random uneducated articles posted by my friends (it only takes one post from a news source lacking credibility to realize this) I instead made a point to go out nearly everyday and grab a copy of The New York Times, educating myself on current world events. In this way I spent more time absorbing information rather than looking only at what was presented to me in short posts through social media. I also found that I interacted more with those around me.
I am not arguing that we cast aside social media entirely as a communications platform. I for one love my smartphone, it connects me to instagram and keeps me focused on what I would like to do rather than what I should be doing. And in a way this isn’t a bad thing, some of my favorite designers were discovered when I was googling images rather than focusing on the more important task at hand. But rather than focusing on social media as an end all approach to marketing, those entering the design profession need to take a cue from the past branching out into the community rather than relying on social media. Because while social media at first appears simple and free, it is far from it. Even the most unplanned social media strategies take time and energy. A simple post on facebook for example can take me ten minutes to compose, editing and editing to find the “right” words. Playing with filters on instagram can take even longer. In this time a simple face-to-face meeting can get the job done more efficiently and build a stronger relationship with a client or community.
While my week without social media was a formative experience, in reflection there were times that I did not take this to heart as communications director for Design+Make. In a large part I focused on the digital aspect of marketing, communicating to interested parties through our facebook page and website. There were many times where a day spent marketing in a community such as Alma, Kansas would have been of great benefit to the studio, but my skillsets were required elsewhere to maintain a digital presence. However, collectively as a group Design+Make stepped in and interacted in a face-to-face basis with clients when social media was not enough. This combination of methods was, in my belief, one of the successful aspects of the studio. Through this combined effort Design+Make was able to foster strong relationships with those that we worked with. So while social media has numerous benefits, by disconnecting and interacting in person my generation of design professionals can enjoy the same relationships cultivated by those before us.
Written by Tanner James