Where is Construction in the Social Space?

I live in a New England downtown area with a lot of constant construction, street closures, detours, and more during any month where there isn’t snow on the ground. Those that know me know that the person I’m currently seeing is also a contractor (and one who eschews all technology). He isn’t the only contractor I know who sees technology as if it were infused with the plague, either. This is a huge mistake in my opinion.

There is currently a major project going on behind my office. Points go to the contractor, a big outfit, for having an email chain for immediate abutters to keep up with the scheduled construction impacts. However, they are doing a couple of things wrong – number one of which is assuming that the 10 or so houses and offices that abut the property directly are the only ones affected by their chaos.

Imagine how much nicer it would be for the surrounding neighbors, for people visiting a business in the area, and for tourists expecting the streets to be open and finding them closed to be able to see the construction schedule for a multi-year project on Facebook. Imagine if the street closures, water shut offs, electricity shut offs, and accidental damage that occurs to internet lines and more were covered on Twitter in advance, with up to the hour updates on fixes?

Another way to use the technology: How many times have you driven down a city street in a new city, headed for a meeting, only to get hopelessly lost in construction detours – what would happen if every city had a collective Twitter that contractors, police and more updated with road closures daily – and have that be it’s only purpose, clearly stated? A strictly information Twitter, Miio, JitterJam text, or similar stream would go a long way to helping people plan trips, plan getting home and into their driveways, and generally increase good will.

What about contractors building something controversial, or building it in a controversial place? How many planning board meetings would go more smoothly and have less angry residents or others impacted by the decision on where to build and what to build if you created a social presence for your project and managed your future offline community online from the start?

Where are the contractors’ in progress pictures on Facebook? Some are scared to post them, for fear OSHA and others will see something amiss in how they are doing their jobs (a new lead paint law in Massachusetts comes to mind here, specifically, but I’m sure there are others). Some just have no idea that they could be making social media video  of their process and educating their future and current customer on what goes on in the complex world of construction.

What if they got into FourSquare and other location services? If a job was especially cool or interesting, why not a pop up tip telling where to find photos or what their web site is, and offering a free estimate? Or a pop up offering a detour route linking to Google Maps?

As a consumer and traveler, how could the construction industry incorporate social to reach you better? What kinds of things would you like to see them do? As a contractor, how can you use these tools to make your jobs and companies more efficient and more interactive, bridging communication gaps?

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  • Ladybug1949

    Fantastic suggestions… if the contractors, etc. are reading this – listen to this expert, she knows HOW to get you connected! I suggest a consult immediately… can only improve your business and make your customers happy!

  • Hi Leslie

    Sounds great. I would love to hear communication from construction crews regarding the outages / traffic issues they are on the front lines of, but I have to wonder – what would motivate them to do this? Common courtesy would be nice, but not a likely scenario. To turn the question around, what could neighbours do to help them do their jobs quicker and safer? One hand washes the other.

    Don F Perkins

  • Opening a two way street of communication would have many benefits to the contractor.

    On a small scale, I’ll use a local example. We have a major project going on in our neighborhood, and someone was stealing copper wires from the old building. With no direct and short form conduit to the contractor or the police, the doors stood open for three entire days on the site. The neighbors were all leaving messages on the contractor’s phone and at the non urgent police number, but it would have been much easier to tweet, for example, and ask them to do a drive by for suspicious activity.

    Another benefit is sales. I’d love to have WR and AR enabled sites. That way if I walk by a gorgeous remodel or hear a rave review of a contractor I can flash my phone at their sign, get a site walk through and contact info and perhaps a link to a contact form. I could Yelp review your work by site location. I could use social recommendations to tell my friends about you. I fI know you are a responsible contractor I can use online petitioning to help get difficult jobs through planning board approvals.

    The list is endless – that’s just the easy stuff.

  • Keep in mind we haven’t even touched on how incorporating fluid social tools and structures in the office could make builders more efficient behind the scenes also.