Social media-savvy construction professionals are likely to have come across real-time updates posted by UAE developer, Arada, from the launch event of its 2.2km2 Aljada master-development last week. If you remember seeing even one post from the event on your Facebook or Twitter streams, then the brand-recall benefits to construction organisations of using social media should be evident to you by now.
Despite some resistance, technologies such as building information modelling (BIM) and 3D printing are rewriting construction practices both regionally and worldwide. I am certain that the uptake of these tools will continue its upward trajectory in the Middle East, but would consider the move incomplete unless construction companies were to similarly absorb technologies to improve their soft-skills based operations.
Construction outfits have traditionally operated along business-to-business (B2B) models. However, the sustained prominence of social themes such as sustainability and affordable housing has thrust construction stakeholders into the spotlight, where they must learn to communicate directly with their end-users.
The default ‘comment’ and ‘reply’ buttons under social media posts have opened up a new communication stream for end-users to whom traditional advertising models have often reached out – but have in fact rarely reached. A maintenance or rent cheque complaint now makes it to Facebook groups and online news platforms even before the facilities management (FM) company or building owner have inspected the problem.
Similarly, road accidents and building fires are often reported on social media only minutes after they occur. Some may worry about potentially negative publicity, but ethically sound establishments are unlikely to view the organisational transparency fostered by two-way communication channels as a threat.
Instead, thanks to social media, construction organisations find themselves in an excellent position to tap into the millennial audience that they view as potential employees. This user base – one that likely grew up owning personal computers – is expected to drive home the benefits of technologies such as BIM and 3D printing. Why spend thousands of dollars on cookie-cutter human resources software and traditional job postings if a proactive social strategy can achieve the same goals?
The rapid growth of digital advertising tools means social media activity can be more than just a public relations exercise. While even BIM – which should ideally be the foundation of all construction work by now – continues to face resistance across the globe, it is hardly surprising that social media acceptance still has a long way to go in our industry. However, be they sector-specific or administration-oriented, tech tools are driving greater innovation and transparency in all industries and markets. For the Middle East’s construction sector, this can only be a good thing.