Today we’re introducing “Social Marketing Stars,” our new series that profiles individuals, companies and other organizations that have found success using, you guessed it, social marketing. We’re going to start with one of the biggest “stars” in our industry – Imad Naffa.
Imad Naffa is a Civil Engineer licensed in three states and specializes in the Building Codes. He has over 25 years experience in the fields of Building, Fire and Accessibility Codes. Imad is founder and president of NAFFA International, Inc., a private Building Code Consulting firm located in Fresno, CA.
Thanks in part to his wife, Imad has capitalized on available social media tools to support the marketing of his expertise, which has helped him realize a significant positive impact on his business during a time when others are fighting to keep their companies afloat.
To what do you credit your social marketing success? How have you attracted so many followers on Twitter and connections on LinkedIn?
I think more than anything else, it’s my diversification. Beyond talking about what I do for a living, my expertise; the building, fire and accessibility codes—I started talking and sharing information about subject matter that was of interest to me. Once I did that, the following and interaction with global members exploded.
I have a passion for what I do every day, and have been doing that for the past 25 years. I enjoy talking about it, training, deciphering and engaging with others. Social media allows me to do this even more, in a big way!
I found out that there was a fairly large global audience that was interested in the design, architecture, construction, building regulations and the building codes. These subjects are what I know best. I had a passion for reaching out to explain and share, and it appears that there were plenty of individuals online, especially Twitter, that were willing to engage.
The technical engagements only went so far though. After six months of being on Twitter, I expanded my postings to deal with subjects that were of interest to me. They ranged from social media topics and news, world affairs and global happenings, LEED, green building, Eco topics and much more. These topics had global appeal. I discovered that my followers expanded exponentially within six months once I engaged in topics of interest to me and those that shared a common interest.
Today I find myself having great exchanges with exceptional people on six continents, located in hundreds of cities, dispersed throughout the globe. Not in my wildest dreams, did I think this would be possible!
Did you ever think you would have this many followers and provide as much content as you do?
No. I had no idea that people would be interested in technical topics that I talked about frequently (building codes, building regulations, green, LEED, etc). I always figured that these topics had a small segment of the vast social media audience. The fact is, it’s still relatively a small segment. Participation by architects, engineers, contractors and code officials remains a very small community on social media, but it’s growing!
I realized soon enough, that the large number of followers had to be due to my departure from talking about technical topics only, and diving into numerous topics that I was already interested in and wanted to engage with anyways. I think once I did that, there was no looking back.
How were you introduced to social marketing?
It’s funny. In the beginning (i.e. 18 months ago), I didn’t see a reason for the use of social media. I figured there was no place for business there. All I can remember was watching people talk about what they ate or where they are! At my wife’s insistence, I gave Twitter a shot. It was intimidating in the beginning. A vast ocean of postings and information being exchanged. I didn’t know where to start.
So I simply started following the postings and following people that were talking about subjects I was interested in, such as construction, architecture, engineering and the building codes. Before too long, I figured it out.
Over the past 15 years I developed web-based software and resources to make learning and applying the building codes easier to end users and more interesting by adding multimedia and simplifying the intimating building codes. In the past, people found out about my online offerings by word of mouth and through some advertising. Using social media, especially Twitter, is allowing me to avail my online offering, such as The Building Code Discussions Group (BCDG)- 22,000+ international members-and a number of other building code related resources, to a worldwide audience. The membership on the BCDG has increased by 25% in the last nine months, mainly due to Twitter followers participation.
How has Twitter helped you and your business? How can it help others in the industry?
It sure did. It did’t take long either. The first benefit came through building a bridge of friendship with many professionals in the USA and internationally by discussing building codes and related topics and by posting news and developments taking place related to the building, accessibility/ADA and fire codes. Once that bridge of friendship and level of comfort was established, it became efficient to transmit information and share with a wide audience.
I started getting inquires about my services (i.e. building code consultation). Soon after, I started linking some of the Q&A from the Building Code Discussions Group to my postings on Twitter. That introduced my followers to a myriad of building code related topics that they were interested in. From there many registered as new members on the BCDG. In the last nine months, I’ve seen a 25% increase in paid membership from new members coming directly to our site from Twitter.
In the mean time, I continue to post on code developments, technical links that architects, engineers, builders and code officials can use to stay current with the ever-changing codes and allow me to interact with the smartest people in the business.
What advice do you give to industry professionals who are hesitant to take the first step or don’t see the value in social marketing?
Most professionals are hesitant at first, and for a good reason. Social media may be intimidating and some are not able to see how it can help their business.
The fast is-social media is here to stay. It’s too big and too efficient for disseminating information quickly, and it’s going to get more prevalent in the days to come.
The newest technologies, code developments, engineering concepts and marketing ideas that professionals can use, trends taking place in our business and much more are talked about every passing minute online.
The smartest people in every discipline you can think about, such as architecture, engineering, construction, code enforcement, legal, green building and related fields are participating in social media today. Many more are joining every day! By following these smart professionals, you will leverage your knowledge and stay competitive.
If a business chooses not to participate, I believe in the long run they will be left behind. To stay relevant, competitive, efficient and knowledgeable, you must keep up with what is happening in the world around you and in your specific area of expertise. Social media provides such an outlet.
Blog (World of Building Codes)