In 2008, as the economy began to tank, Jane Frederick of Frederick + Frederick Architects, a Beaufort, S.C. firm that she runs with her husband, decided to hire a nearby Charleston-based marketing company to help find new ways to promote their business. Their firm, focused on residential work, already had a website but no social-media presence. Frederick, 52, got busy establishing a Google profile with the firm’s contact information so that potential clients searching for them online could easily find them. She established a Facebook page, a blog, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, and began posting the firm’s work on Houzz (, a giant database of projects uploaded by architects and designers.

The benefits weren’t immediate: Frederick had almost no following on her blog at first. But she stuck with it, and now her firm can point to two signed clients, and two more potential clients, who discovered the firm on social-media sites. Two of those projects, a few states over in Texas, illustrate how social-media sites can help expand the geographic reach of a small firm that previously may only have worked with clients in close proximity to its home office. What’s more, Frederick says, one of her firm's projects was featured on the cover of This Old House magazine, which found the firm using social media.

Frederick’s strategy: Highlight her firm’s expertise by writing blog posts about such subjects asdesigning houses that can withstand the humid and hurricane-prone climate of places such as Beaufort. Potential clients coming from the North who are looking to build a new house or vacation home in the South will likely search for an architect with such a background. In fact, using Google analytics, Frederick has confirmed that individuals searching for terms such as "vernacular architecture" and "humid climate" have visited her website and blog.

Frederick says that she spends about three or four hours on each blog post—she posts about twice a month, significantly less than more devoted bloggers—and spend two hours a week working on the firm’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. The blog and website get about 2,000 visitors per month. "I really do think it’s an important marketing tool, especially as we move forward," she says. "As you think about the people who are younger than us, so many of them are tied into social media. It’s a way to get younger clients and clients we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get before."