On a rainy day in the district of Arnavutköy in Istanbul, Turkey, I met with Alexis Şanal of Şanal Architecture to discuss her architecture firms' uses, successes, and failures in implementing and utilizing social media platforms. Through discovering their niche and their social media uses, you too can develop successful social media platforms, while charting analytics, effectiveness, and progress. ... See how Şanal Architecture is doing it.
Who is Şanal Architecture?
Şanal Architecture, established in Istanbul in August 2002, is a process-based professional practice where each project employs a collaborative design process to achieve design excellence. Şanal Architectures' open source process prioritizes the synergy generated by multi-disciplinary expert teams, and a current staff of 5, integrating their knowledge, experience, and strategy through all project phases. The firm explores how unique qualities of place, intertwined with technology, art and social life, generate distinctive and expressive environments. Intensifying space, celebrating the natural environment, and delighting the imagination are valued in each of the practice’s architectural endeavors.
The firm is client-centric, focusing on the clients' aspirations to achieve geometry, sequences and lighting to achieve formality, open, conservative, soft, strong, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other desired outcomes. They work primarily with institutions that are active in the cultures they represent, such as commercial buildings, public schools, galleries and exhibition spaces, as just a few examples.
Each platform provides a separate function for Şanal Architecture:
In addition to those social media platforms, Şanal Architecture intends to begin communicating with their clients and colleagues through an e-Newsletter. This new platform will be launched in time for the Spring Solstice, March 20, 2011, according to Alexis Şanal. Currently, none of the social media platforms have paid off as a means of promotion, respectively, at the time of this posting, there are 7 followers on twitter, 1 follower on tumblr, and 4 contacts on flickr (Let's hope publishing these numbers sets a fire to their promotion). Alexis hopes that the e-Newsletter will be a mechanism to increase the current value of the three social media platforms.
When asked, "What social media has been most successful for your firm and why?" Alexis asked if we could revisit the question in a year (Mark February 25, 2011 in your calendar should you wish to follow Şanal Architectures' progress). Alexis believes that the e-Newsletter will drive more awareness of the social media platforms, enabling the question to be answered with analytics to guide an objective response. She adds that in Turkey creating personal relationships, establishing trust, and acknowledging the ability to collaborate with an individual are essential to the culture and while social media is valuable, there are numerous aspects to personal connection that can not be fully explored through social media relationships. Today she still prefers a phone call, compared to an email.
Alexis has also dabbled in other social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook. She found that LinkedIn was below her expectations. Dubbed by Alexis as "the Facebook of professionals," LinkedIn was lower than her expectations and she found it difficult to navigate the interface. She was also frustrated by the messaging interface and the poor abilities of individuals to properly represent themselves online. Therefore, Alexis currently uses LinkedIn as a means to search for individuals, fetch their email address(ess), and message them directly. And as far as Facebook, she is keeping it strictly personal. No work contacts, friends, and family intermingling. She kindly explained my own Alexis Şanal friend request rejection.
Among many social media platforms they have not explored, one is blogging. As an architect Alexis finds writing rather than creating, or rather talking about rather than doing, is against her nature. She would much rather be behind the desk working on her latest project than just talking about it - or in the blogging case, writing about it.
Iphone Applications and YouTube.
Alexis is especially excited about Iphone applications and YouTube. She admits that she never used Facebook before purchasing her Iphone. Alexis Şanal's Favorite Iphone Applications are:
Alexis foresees many opportunities for the use of Iphone applications and YouTube in architecture. She hopes to develop an Iphone application and she sees enormous potential in using YouTube to promote her firm. She is currently learning how to create short films that would then be uploaded to YouTube. She sees both the Iphone applications and YouTube as great opportunities for other architecture firms to further display their work.
Of the lessons that she has learned while developing her online presence she provides two pieces of advice to environmental designers - and especially architects and architecture firms, regarding her own website design.
Alexis' Best Advice:
- Use HTML to develop your website,
- Create great content.
When Şanal Architecture developed their website in-house they utilized a combination of HTML and SWiSH. Unfortunately, they didn't realize how important search engine optimization would be for the future of their firm. The site is in its original form, created four years ago, however, the site receives monthly content updates. To move around the search engine optimization (SEO) dilemma they created another homepage at http://www.sanalarch.com/dr/. And now, as a visitor of other sites, she is begging for great content. As a visitor she urges you to "Make sure to change stories and minimize duplication."