Three of the UK’s most high-profile construction influencers speak to CIOB People about their social media journeys – and how it can boost your career
Social media is proving to be a useful tool for those in construction who want to advance their careers and expand their networks. It is also being used by many influencers to make a positive impact in the industry.
From LGBT+ and disability advocacy to time off during periods and allyship, these influencers are keen to make the industry a safe space where everyone can thrive and be themselves.
CIOB People spoke to three of these construction social media influencers. Here they tell us how they got into social media and share some tips for maximising your online presence.
Christina Leia Riley
Christina Leia Riley
- Senior planner at Quinn London and global speaker on EDI in construction
- Managing director at EDI Construct
- Winner at British LGBT Awards
- Director of Bicester Pride Community Interest Company
- Founder of Building Equality and Construct-Ability
- Committee member and EDI consultant at CIOB
Christina Leia Riley began using social media eight years ago when equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in construction became “a real hot topic” for her since the sector “never felt really inclusive”.
“Social media helps people understand why inclusion matters within the construction industry and how much work we have to do,” says Riley, emphasising that this is particularly true when it comes to LGBT+, women, disabled or minoritised workers.
Over time, Riley became an ‘ultra networker’ across different platforms, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Clubhouse.
This allowed her to spark a culture change within her networks and showcase the multiple benefits of inclusion to her audience. “It became a really powerful tool to get the message out,” she says.
In Riley’s experience, LinkedIn and Twitter are particularly useful for both sharing and remaining informed about best practice and industry-wide issues.
Being active in social media has also resulted in Riley receiving public speaking opportunities and getting recognition in the UK and abroad. In 2021, she was named Role Model of the Year at UK Construction Week.
Networking with senior leaders in construction ensures that her message translates from words into action. For example, as an adviser to the CIOB Diversity and Inclusion Special Interest Group, Riley reports to CIOB’s president.
“Reaching senior leaders within the industry is great when you’re trying to influence change around culture and inclusion,” she adds.
Riley’s practical advice for colleagues in the industry who want to start using or improve their social media presence is to stick to regular posting, have consistent messaging and understand the audience you are trying to reach.
Although the algorithm that rules social media might be difficult to fully grasp, using hashtags that are relevant to a post can help reach your target audience. Riley also raises the importance of privacy, safeguarding and data protection.
Finally, she adds: “Try to be different and creative. Raise your voice on particular topics around gender inclusion, disability, neurodiversity, LGBTQ+ and women in construction: that can make a real difference.”
Social media has become a valuable professional tool for Danny Clarke. Indeed, his current role as commercial director at the National Federation of Builders came through LinkedIn.
“A couple of my jobs have come from people who were following and engaging with me. They came and asked: ‘Would you like to work for us?’” he explains.
Clarke prefers LinkedIn for relationship-building, to understand audiences and trends, and to keep up to date with new developments in construction.
“With LinkedIn, you can focus on specific industries through the search fields. You don’t get that in other social media platforms,” he says.
However, Clarke warns about the risks of staying in a bubble within construction. “It’s really important to have a balanced viewpoint and step back to look at what’s happening in other areas – for example, the EDI space in other industries – to take those good practices and use inspiration,” he adds.
Clarke’s advice for people interested in using LinkedIn is “to post for yourself rather than others”.
‘Vanity metrics’ might be tempting for users who want to create successful posts that attract hundreds of likes, but they usually fail to reach intended networks. In his experience, it is more fruitful to be as authentic as possible.
“Yes, having a popular post gives you a sense of dopamine release, but it doesn’t necessarily get into your audience or get people talking about what they are genuinely passionate about. And when you meet them in real life, you can generally tell,” Clarke says.
One of his most popular posts came around a year ago, when he wrote in support of women getting time off during their periods and asked others about their opinions. He was immediately lambasted by people who questioned his views about the issue due to his lack of lived experience.
“I’ve never experienced it, I get that. But as an ally, we shouldn’t stop talking about it,” he insists. “Just because I’ve never experienced a broken leg, it doesn’t mean that I cannot empathise with someone with a broken leg.
“We should be creating a safe space where it’s OK to talk about things that make people uncomfortable.”
Lastly, Clarke recommends not being discouraged by negative comments and keeping it civil.
“If you’re truly passionate about something, you will get people that will rally against you and challenge what you’re saying,” he says.
“As long as your opinions are based on facts and you are not racist, homophobic, ableist, ageist… It’s OK to have a view of something. Disagree with an opinion, but don’t make it personal.”
Anne Okafor MCIOB MACQP
Anne Okafor MCIOB MACQP
A few years ago, while pursuing her BSc in construction management at the Glasgow Caledonian University, Anne Okafor started attending CPD events organised by her local CIOB branch. One of these CPDs was on using LinkedIn for career progression.
“It was about how you could tidy up your profile and things like that,” explains Okafor. “I took on some tips and started using it for my own career. Since then, I’ve learned much more, including how to develop your own personal brand.”
Okafor describes her LinkedIn profile as “quite colourful”. And it certainly is: her feed is full of posts that intertwine the personal and the professional – from equal pay and how she got into construction and the challenges she faced as a woman, to fun photos of rubber ducks travelling across the country.
“I put my personality out there so that people can see what’s behind those of us who work in construction,” Okafor says.
“As role models, it is important that we show all of us when we’re talking about our careers. And social media is great for that.”
Okafor’s position was made redundant during the pandemic. However, thanks to her vast LinkedIn network, she soon secured three job offers, including her present role as a planner at Cruden Group, one of Scotland’s largest construction companies.
“It was a better position than I had before and allowed me more opportunities and a stretch for the future.”
Her top tips for construction people that want to make the best of LinkedIn is to be personable and apply the same principles as in-person networking.
“Share a bit of your personality – sometimes we think that it’s just business, especially on LinkedIn, but people actually want to buy from people,” Okafor says.
“Also, treat interactions in social media as you would do in person with someone: don’t be rude to people or go into their inbox straightaway to try and sell them something.”
Other must-follow construction influencers
- Carol Massay, head of construction at The Access Group
With a career spanning more than three decades, Carol Massay has first-hand experience working within some of the UK’s largest contractors, from housebuilding to civil engineering. Her mission is to promote the construction sector as a great place to develop a long-term career.
- Katie Kelleher, technical and development officer at Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA), and owner of KatieCranes.com
Katie Kelleher recently swapped life on site as a crane operator for her new role at the CPA. She is a vocal champion for gender diversity in construction.
- Conor Kelly, digger driver and owner of @conor_the_digger_driver
Conor Kelly has built a major presence on Instagram and YouTube with videos of what he gets up to in the digger. The popular clips give followers an insight into his day-to-day activities on site.
- Ben Wade, machine operator and owner of @bentheoperator
Teenage machine operator Ben Wade regularly posts videos and images of his life on site. He is passionate about inspiring the next generation of construction talent.
- Amy Underwood, plant operator and owner of @the_digger_girl
Based in Scotland, Amy Underwood has attracted a significant social media following, posting about her job and love of plant machinery and equipment. Earlier this year, she launched a YouTube channel which has already amassed more than 10,000 subscribers.