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Zweig Group recently released its inaugural Social Media Spotlight Survey of A/E/P & Environmental Firms. The full-color, 140 page, digital (PDF) document offers insights on social media use across the A/E/P and environmental industry related to topics such as promotion, recruiting and retention, and marketing, among others.

Additionally, the survey provides information regarding the following questions:

  • How do firms identify the key influencers in their business or social networks and design strategies to engage them to amplify their messages?
  • How do firms measure success on social media?
  • What kind of content do firms put on social media to continually engage with their followers?
  • How do firms schedule social media content and who is responsible for it?

Survey data show that A/E/P and environmental firms see some social networking platforms — specifically Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, with 47 percent, 47 percent, and 31 percent of respondents, respectively, reporting a presence there — as more valuable for reaching their target demographics than others such as YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Flickr, Foursquare, and Behance. Firms see these platforms as a means to generate awareness of their services and areas of expertise and they are strategic about including additional media or interactive elements to generate more involvement with the posts.

The 2016 Social Media Spotlight Survey data show that firms are most likely to use their social media accounts to promote their services (66 percent); network with clients, potential clients, suppliers, etc. (52 percent); post job openings (38 percent); share blog posts, videos, white papers, etc., by employees (36 percent); and promote new hires and/or the achievements of current employees (36 percent). To make these posts more engaging, 63 percent of respondents report including photos, videos, and podcasts.

In terms of recruiting, only 23 percent of firms overall report “sometimes” using social media for recruiting purposes. However, among fast-growth firms — those that have experienced an average annual growth in revenue and staff of at least 20 percent during the last three years — that number jumps to 40 percent (see Figure 1). Interestingly, only 20 percent of fast-growth firms report using social media for recruiting “frequently/thoroughly.” Closer to one-third of high/very high profit firms (29 percent) — those with annual pre-tax, pre-bonus profits of more than 10 percent over the last three years — and firms overall (30 percent) report doing so.

The outlook for social media marketing as a budget line looks bleak, possibly because participation on most of these networks is free. Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of firms devote less than 5 percent of their marketing budget to social media activities and about one-quarter of respondents cite social media marketing as “very unimportant.”

Based on the 2016 Social Media Spotlight Survey for A/E/P & Environmental Firms, it appears that the industry is still working to decide the best uses of these vast and ever-changing platforms. Though most firms seem to recognize the importance of at least having a presence on certain social media outlets, and there is definitely an interest in networks such as LinkedIn as tools for recruitment, there also seems to be some hesitancy to devote marketing or other monies to social media endeavors. Perhaps this is because, as the Spotlight Survey shows, there seems to be no agreed-upon means for determining success or return on investment when using these channels.

The 2016 Social Media Spotlight Survey of A/E/P & Environmental Firms is a digital-only publication available for purchase and download at http://zweiggroup.com/surveys.

Andrea Bennett is research & publications manager for Zweig Group. She can be contacted at research@zweiggroup.com.

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