I attended the first meeting of the new Constructing Excellence Social Media Task Group today in London, at CE's offices on Buckingham Palace Road. The group was co-ordinated by Paul Wilkinson, a veritable guru on all things social media, and had a good representation from construction professionals at different levels in all types of different organisations.
Paul ran through a presentation of his (I think I've found the right one on the net - you can view it here) giving us all a good session on social media, running through examples of good usage of the new technology, and new ideas.
What if instead of using email we used Twitter or instant messaging to get information out? I use Twitter, but I never considered it as a replacement for email, merely as an alternate communication channel. What if instead of having meetings we had video conferences, which can be set up easily and for free with software such as Google Hangout, and we could even record the conference for future reference. No more problems six months after a meeting trying to work out if a certain point was mentioned from the minutes taken, simply play back the recorded conference.
For G4C in the Yorkshire & Humber region I'm very interested in social media because of the distributed nature of the population. I'm well aware that I need to run events in Leeds to attract the majority of the Yorkshire population. I'm also aware that this automatically reduces the chance of people attending from Sheffield, York and Hull (not to mention the many other towns and settlements in the county).
Paul also recommended that organisations set up Google Alerts so that they can be informed of when new content about their organisation is put up on the Internet. This can be done here. And again, it's free to do.
There was a lot of concern in the room about control of social media, which is a fair point. Social media for work has to be focussed, and some control available. It's all too easy for social media use to become people going on Facebook and playing games all morning. But provided that it is controlled, there are some huge benefits. And people should be able to take responsibility for what they post with social media - if people are trusted to send letters, telephone clients, and email out information, is social media that much different?
One point that was made was about how social media can allow a persons personality to come through, helping relationships to be built. If every tweet from a person is purely another sales pitch or press release, I tend to switch off. But if I see something of that person, what they are like, it allows them to become a real person in my view. And then I'm more likely to read their press release when they do send it.
New technology has massive benefits that over the next few years people will think of ways to use. We're currently able to use GPS to position people and items on the world. What if some kind of positioning system was made so that it could be installed on utilities pipes and cables? Rather than relying on statutory undertakers drawings, we could have some kind of RFID tag that when you dig close to it the tag is activated, and the excavator can tell that there is a pipe there and that they have to swap to hand digging. Rather than using GPR kit and cable detectors, we could do it by walking over the site with a mobile phone or tablet.
Another example of the use of technology was one organisation who was able to take a BIM model of a building out on site on their mobile phone, hold the phone up to where the building was due to be built, and the software showed the built structure on the screen, allowing the viewer to see how it would interact with the adjacent buildings, how sunlight would shine once the building was constructed. An excellent way to show clients a representation of the completed building prior to construction.
I'm very much looking forward to the next social media task group (despite it being in London!). If anyone else is interested in getting involved, let me know and I can pass your details on.
Paul's site, including his blog, is at http://pwcom.co.uk/ and he also has a huge amount of presentations viewable at http://www.slideshare.net/EEPaul