Mark L. Johnson / March 2020
I’m hearing a lot about prefabrication through industry reports from McKinsey & Co., Dodge Data & Analytics and the Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry. Prefab is spreading quickly, the surveys say.
I’m also seeing prefab spreading quickly in online social media postings. Firms are touting their prefab shops and giving project progress reports on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Some firms are running videos on prefabrication on YouTube.
What’s going on?
Wall Panels Are Popular
In January, Dodge Data & Analytics released its findings on the current state of and future expectations for off-site construction in a paper entitled, “Prefabrication and Modular Construction 2020 SmartMarket Report.” The report featured these insights:
In the next three years, the percentage of firms that plan to use prefabricated single-trade assemblies will rise from 62 percent to 75 percent. Panelized wall and floor assemblies will be produced by 59 percent of firms versus 48 percent today.
Prefabricated multitrade assemblies—i.e., a corridor rack in a hospital—will grow from 33 percent of construction firms doing this kind of work to 58 percent of firms. Nearly double!
You can see why construction firms with prefab operations are using social media to broadcast their stories. They’re saying, “Yeah! We got that!”
What should you do about it? Engage in social listening, which allows you to glean insights about the marketplace.
It pays to know what customers are saying about you and about your competitors. So, track, analyze and respond to conversations about your brand.
Social listening involves two steps:
1. Monitoring. Monitor social media channels for mentions of your company’s products, projects and competitors. “Listen” for the key words people use to describe prefabrication, employees, jobsite safety, etc.
2. Acting. Respond to someone who likes a post. Thank others for being your partners in your posts. Learn the online lingo of the industry. Consider how you dialogue about your brand. Maybe, change your brand positioning based upon your social listening program.
You will need a social media management platform, such as Hootsuite (although Hootsuite does not provide much functionality to monitor LinkedIn feeds, so you’ll have to “listen” on LinkedIn “manually”). You’ll also need a game-plan for how to go about this and a strategy to make use of gleaned insights.
Study the Hashtags
I did a quick audit of the social activity of AWCI member contractors and found dozens using LinkedIn and YouTube to promote their brands. There’s a lot of posting going on. Here are a few examples.
F.L. Crane & Sons in Mississippi has 1,732 followers on LinkedIn, at press time. (Though, I noticed that the F.L. Crane’s LinkedIn follower tally increased by 79 followers, or 4.8 percent, in just one day while writing this column!) A recent F.L. Crane post shows a photo of prefab’d panels on the shop floor, a trailer loaded with panels and this caption: “Update from our team in Ocean Springs — Massive load of exterior panels leaving the shop for Oak Grove Casino in Kentucky. #FLCrane #oakgrovecasino.”
Southern Wall Systems, Inc. in Georgia, with 681 followers on its company LinkedIn page, recently posted a photo of its prefab shop with the comment: “Our Atlanta plant is currently in production for a 30 story tower in #atlanta for #JEDunnAtlanta! #prefabrication #prefabricated #speedtomarket.”
Baker Triangle in Texas (2,602 LinkedIn followers) recently re-posted the YouTube video, “Redefining Prefab Panelization – Parkland Outpatient Center,” on LinkedIn. The post says: “Panelization … save time, save money! #btprefab #buildsmarter #collaboration.”
The video had garnered 692 views and 15 “thumbs up” on LinkedIn. Baker Triangle has 179 YouTube subscribers. I added them to my YouTube subscriptions, so their follower base now tallies 180 (again, at press time).
Most AWCI member contractors don’t post on social sites solely about prefabrication. BakerTriangle, for example, uses LinkedIn to recognize employees and others who have earned special achievements. Such posts typically include a photo of an employee receiving a congratulatory handshake from a company executive and the hashtag, #structuredforquality.
Are you posting on social media regularly? Good deal. Just be sure to put a social listening strategy in place. Take my little audit above to the next level. Learn the industry’s key words. Use hashtags. Dial into conversations. And please let me know what results you get.
Mark L. Johnson writes for the wall and ceiling industry. He can be reached via linkedin.com/in/markjohnsoncommunications.