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Saturday19 April 2014

Interview: The most influential surveyor on Twitter

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Ben Muir of chartered building surveyor Avalon topped the first tCnRICS100 list of most influential users of Twitter

How long have you been using Twitter/social media?

We have used Facebook for publishing photos and updates from our charity ‘BuildAid’ for a few years now, and we have been tweeting from @AvalonBE since October 2010, so just over a year in total.

What made you take the plunge?

Advice and recommendations from current high profile users seemed sound and it was considered important to keep up with modern advances in technology and information services in the same way that we are looking at implementing BIM into some of the design work we do. What twitter does do is allows a user to follow a highly specific group of people who are limited in what they say, so creates a more focussed search and return information facility than the ‘scattergun’ nature of most web advertising and blogging, and when filtered correctly can provide a near instant information release facility, saving valuable time and ensuring the correct recipients are being used to either answer queries or for research.

In what ways do you use social media?

We tweet, staff and organisations have ‘LinkedIn’ profiles, and we also have regular updates from our charity ‘BuildAid’ on Facebook and twitter.

What successes have you had?

The variation of requirements in surveying gives a wide scope for using twitter in terms of business or service marketing, information publishing or research, or user or product recommendations to others.

Instant answers to questions such as ‘who can recommend a suitable structural engineer for beam calculations and design proving in the buckhurst hill area’ are valuable and usuallycome with recommendations from trusted professionals in a fraction of the time that an internet search would take, and would still result in an unknown results in terms of performance.

What challenges have you faced?

Twitter has an extremely steep learning curve and mainly due to its deep and rich data content as with most online content, needs to be subject to considerable filtering activity to maximise its value (while following many people is a good way to ensure that you are well followed and heard, filtering this many people’s tweets can be an onerous task, one made much easier by the creation of lists and being ruthlessly organised), and though this takes time to learn and adjust practices, the return on the time spent in time saved is highly beneficial.

What do you think of the #tCnRICS100 initiative?

The tCn/RICS collaboration and its aims are a step in the right direction for construction professionals, often a widening gap between those who are willing to try and use new technologies and tools and those who aren’t is a feature of any industry, but is apparent in a sector where some still hand draw, some use CAD and some use advanced CAD like BIM, all are striving towards the same goal eventually, but with wildly varying levels of complexity and modernity.

The tCn/RICS initiative should give the most innovative of surveyors a good chance to network, share ideas and/or contacts, and progress the development of the relevant disciplines as a whole by bringing users together into a recognised list in addition to the existing users own lists, which is accessible from outside the twitter membership also; demonstrated by the publication of this article!

What do you think is the future for social media use within your company and the industry in general?

The first point of contact for general research is the internet, and with the integration of networking facilities like twitter, linkedin and others, a user’s online profile and presence and theirperceived ‘value’ is going to become more driven by the amount of advice and material that is attributed to that individual. as mentioned above, marketing and advertising play a large part, but what you are making available for potential Clients to see is actually who you are and what you do in reality, rather than a well sculpted advert which may say all the right things, but is not an accurate description of the performance of the entity or individual.

The term ‘conversation’ used on twitter is very apt, as at any time there are millions of users who can answer a question, make a recommendation, or who may be asking for advice. The logging, publishing and rating online of all activities/successes/failures/questions/concerns (while observing data protection laws and Client confidentiality of course) will eventually give a very accurate picture of who you are dealing with, and what they are all about in an instant, with the trust and reputation that this transparency would bring following close behind. The progression of online communities, and use of social media and similar networking and communication mediums in most industries and companies will continue to become much larger in the future.

What advice would you give other RICS members thinking about using Twitter?

Do it! - but firstly try to see if you can get a simple query answered on twitter as it will bring value to the process, rather than simply ‘broadcasting’ on it and seeing what may happen in terms of advertising or because ‘others are on it’.

For the list of the latest list of top Tweeters and find out how to add your name to the list visit the tCnRICS Top 100 league table.

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