Cover Story: The Power of Social Media
Part 1: How Facility Managers Can Effectively Use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
How Facility Managers Can Effectively Use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
By Naomi Millàn, Senior Editor - May 2012 - Facilities Management
At Grand Valley State University, the facilities department already had notification mechanisms in place for informing the university's departments of work around the Allendale, Mich., campus. But with significant construction projects about to commence in late 2010, how to alert the campus' 25,000 students of scheduled power outages or road closures? Create a Facebook page, of course.
Beyond construction activities, the GVSU Facilities Services Facebook page (http://on.fb.me/IdlgvA) has photos of damage from a June 2011 flood, says when and why flags will be at half staff, and warns of potentially warm facilities due to a chilled water piping project that ran into the unseasonably warm March weather this year.
The page, which functions so far as a bulletin board, has been useful, says Timothy Thimmesch, assistant vice president, facilities at Grand Valley State University.
"We're really just stepping into the process and how far we have to go with it is yet to be determined," says Thimmesch. Though it's early yet for facility management's foray into social media, the numbers present a compelling case for exploring this new way of connecting with key audiences and with other FMs.
The population of the United States clocks in at more than 313 million people. In December 2011, there were 483 million active daily users on Facebook, according to the latest official figures. If you widen it to monthly active users, it was more than 845 million. Twitter, a micro-blogging site, has more than 140 million active users and LinkedIn, a professional networking site, has more than 150 million members. And there's a fair chance you're among those millions.
According to a Building Operating Management survey, 49 percent of facility managers are on Facebook, 23 percent participate in discussions on LinkedIn and 13 percent have Twitter accounts. But, overwhelmingly, facility managers use platforms like Facebook and Twitter strictly for personal purposes. The majority is passing by opportunities to use these communications tools to help them network, keep up on industry developments, position themselves as thought leaders and advance the business of their organizations.
- Users set up personal or business pages to post messages (aka "status updates"), photos/video, and links
- Facebook page promotes the personality of the user and casual interactions among users
- Polling feature allows users to pose questions to their "likers" — their personal network
- Users post messages of 140 characters or less and subscribe to ("follow") other users' updates ("feeds")
- Twitter messages rely heavily on embedded links to direct traffic to outside websites
- Messages use a distinct lexicon due to space limitations. @ is used to direct a message at a particular user and # is used to tag a keyword, which makes it easier to search for messages about that keyword ("hashtag")
- Users set up profile pages that are in essence electronic resumes and invite colleagues to be connections
- Networking and professional development are promoted through group and subgroup pages
- Job search function is available