A very brief crash course for the Twitter-curious architect - covering key subjects including ’What is Twitter?’ ’Should I be using it?’ and ’Are there any pitfalls?’

What is Twitter?

Twitter describes itself as “a real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting”. If you’re unfamiliar with online networks, this will probably sounds a little bit vague.

Like Facebook, LinkedIn and various others, Twitter is a form of social network – an online forum for sharing ideas and communicating with a group. To put it simply Twitter is a communication tool.

The basic premise is simple: users create an account which allows them to send messages of up to 140 characters out into the ether (these are known as tweets). You can then find people who tweet about subjects that you’re interested in and “follow” them, which will mean that their tweets are added to your Twitter home page in your main “feed”.

Some of them may follow you back if they’re interested in what you have to say. Once they’re following you, you can also send them private or direct messages, PMs or DMs, which are hidden from the rest of the Twitter community and casual readers.

You can, of course, choose to leave it at that and just use Twitter as a way to gather information and find out what key individuals are talking about. 

However, if you want to engage with a debate, ask questions of your peers or use Twitter to interact with clients, having a static account or just sending out the odd message about a building you’ve just completed won’t get you far.

You can begin using your tweets to talk to other users by using the @ symbol – for example, to direct a tweet to BD’s editor you would begin it with @elliswoodman. 

You can also engage in a wider conversation by adding tags to your tweets by using the # symbol. Common ones include #architecture and #ff, which stands for Follow Friday, an ongoing twitter meme that see users recommend people they follow to their other followers every Friday.


Why should I use Twitter?

From a business point of view there’s no “must” about using Twitter. It’s by no means essential to your work as an architect, and if it’s not managed properly, can become quite distracting if you use it as a social tool during work hours.

However it can be a useful way of engaging with the architecture community, sharing ideas and collaborating, asking questions and also interacting with your clients. Twitter can let you offer customer service in real time and share information about your practice with a wide audience. It’s a very fast and easy way for people to contact you and feels more personal than an email. Followers of the @bdonline account have used the DM feature to send us leads for stories, offer us expert commentary and share project details. They’ve also used it to share BD articles about their practice with their clients.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that not being on Twitter doesn’t prevent other people from sharing your work or talking about your practice and you may want to monitor and manage those conversations. It’s worth thinking about Twitter as a brand-building exercise and a networking event bundled together.  

It can be used to foster word of mouth recommendations, attract new customers and develop a reputation as an opinion leader. You can also use Twitter to create relationships with the media – it’s awash with architecture journalists and critics who are using Twitter every day.

However, if you run your own practice, you need to be aware of any potential pitfalls of using Twitter to promote it. You will need to think about creating a social media strategy and decide how you want your practice to be represented.

If you do decide to use Twitter you will need to decide what you want to achieve out of it and how you want to manage it.

Are there pitfalls to using Twitter?

If you’re using Twitter as a way to promote your business you will need to be aware that, as with any public forum, you are opening yourself up to criticism.

It can also open you up to potential PR disasters if your account is used to say something controversial or something that a client isn’t happy with. It’s worth brushing up on your understanding of libel law – contrary to popular assumption tweets are still subject to legal rules in the UK and you can potentially be sued for damaging someone’s reputation.

Twitter can also become a huge time vacuum, so be careful not to get sucked in. There are numerous Twitter management applications you can download to your phone or desktop that can help you stay abreast without having to keep logging in to the main Twitter site.

You will also want your presence on Twitter to remain consistent. There’s no point in going in all guns blazing if you can’t maintain the same level of commitment as time goes on. Be realistic about how often you want to use Twitter and what you want to use it for.

Find out more about managing Twitter in “How to manage it – building a social media strategy for architects”.

Finding out more…

There are hundreds of resources on the internet to help guide you in developing your Twitter strategy.

Here are a few of our favourites:

Seven First Steps to Take on Twitter – by Su Butcher, founder of the Architects Twitter League and author of the Just Practising blog which includes articles on everything you need to know about Twitter

10 Tips for Using Twitter to Support Your Practice – by Jason Wagner, The American Institute of Architects website

In Social Media, Your Return Represents Your Investment – by Brian Solis on the CIPR website