Friday, November 5, 2010

When they were up, they were up…

The current situation and state of the UK construction industry seems to be quite difficult to accurately define at present.  For some time now, we have faced the worst economic conditions for a generation.  Further pressure to produce savings and fit into the latest austerity measures as defined by both government and private organisations have increased operational difficulties for the majority of operators.

The initial impact of the recent comprehensive spending review appeared as somewhat of a double-edged sword.  We were told that a number of (transport) projects would be protected and were to proceed as planned.  £10bn would still go to funding road networks and transport schemes… however, local level capital spending was to be cut by a further 30% over four years.
In social housing, the plans to improve and regenerate would be accelerated with the allocation of some £2bn towards the decent homes initiative.  At the same time, the funding for social housing build was to be slashed.

The prison service would benefit from £1.3bn of spending to maintain and refurbish existing prisons, but would see the new prison building plans shelved.

Schools would have £15.8bn spend to improve up to 600 existing schools.  Of course, the BSF programme was already scrapped to reduce overall capital spending by 60%.

Clear as mud?

The following week, we would have been pleased to learn that the construction industry has infact “had an extraordinary year” (BBC Business news, 26/10/10).  Due to the fact that the construction industry had been one of the biggest losers as a result of the recession, the only way was up, and this had apparently seen the industry experience strong growth of 11%, with 9.5% growth being achieved in Q3 alone!  So great was the strength of the industry, that it had the effect of boosting overall GDP figures… didn’t it?

If these numbers were correct, we could expect to have similar levels of construction activity as we experienced in around 2007, where firms could barely cover the amount of build required.  Clearly this is not the case today.

The latest predictions form economic experts, Hewes & Associates, suggest that construction could be set to see a significant fall in output over the next two years (  The value of output expected by 2012 could be around 22% lower than that of 2008, with private housing levels remaining roughly half of the levels achieved in 2007 at the sector’s peak.

So where are we now and where are we going?  Could it be anybody’s guess?  It seems that there is an expectation for the slack in construction investment to be taken up by private bodies, while the government focuses on maximising spending reductions and budget cuts.

Supermarket spending has been impressive with considerable investment in upgrading existing stock as well as financing new builds.  Private housing also seems set for growth, providing individuals can both secure financing and commit to the expenditure.  Which takes us nicely back to the banks…

Monday, November 1, 2010

Social Media... doing it wrong?

Moving into November gives the opportunity to report some initial findings resulting from an entirely non-scientific experiment here at McCafferty Consultancy Ltd.

Borne mostly from curiosity, last month saw the arrival of both a Twitter account and a blog (currently being read by at least one person).
@mccafferty_uk appeared on the scene on 30th September, and was followed by "McCafferty's Blog" on 21st October.

Both of these "social media outlets" have been kept fairly low-key, with minimal promotion.  This was to allow us to observe their "natural growth" patterns, to try and understand what benefit or value they might be able to add to the presence of our main website.  Links were added to the main site directing readers to each of the new areas, and the first posts to each were announced on a personal facebook and twitter account.

Over the month of October, @mccafferty_uk has attracted eleven followers.  Five of these are personally known to us, one is a random bot-type entity, with the remainder being industry-relevant and credible users.  We have posted nineteen tweets and have been re-tweeted eleven times.

Since the first blog post on 21st October, a further single article was posted.  In the week and-a-half to the end of last month, "McCafferty's Blog" saw 46 pageviews.

One of the main areas of curiosity with regard to these ventures, was how the addition of new "outlets" would affect traffic arriving at the main site.  This was not from the point of view of generating business or revenue (due to the nature of the business), but more out of genuine interest.

Overall, the number of unique visits to the site actually dropped by around 3% after launching the Twitter account and the blog in October.  The general trend, however, seems to remain largely unaffected.

Unique Visits - September

This graphic outlines the statistical analysis of unique visits over the month of September (i.e. pre-launch).  Notice how the trend is fairly stable, with the exception of an irregular peak on the 27th.

Unique Visits - October
Compare this to the graphical analysis for October (i.e. post-launch).  Immediately, this would appear to represent a larger volume of unique visits.  However, according to the legends, we can determine that the non-existence of the irregular peak from September's chart, has allowed the graph to re-scale.  Generally, the trend would appear to remain fairly similar to the previous month.

The initial findings from the early stages of this purely non-scientific experiment, would suggest that neither the Twitter account nor the blog have had a significant impact on the traffic to the main site.  What these statistics do not show, however, is where the unique visits have been referred from.

Further investigations have shown that while the overall statistics in terms of volume have been largely unaffected, the referrals from Twitter alone have almost doubled in terms of percentage.  Most visits still arrive via search engine requests, however these are now more geographically relevant, with the corresponding reduction in referrals being centred on the equivalent .com search engine rather than the version.

Perhaps this experiment will not result in any firm outcome, or will yield no insight into the benefit or otherwise of "social media" as a compliment to McCafferty Consultancy Ltd's general web activities.  Nevertheless, it is mildly interesting to us, and will continue with future analysis being carried out.

Apologies in advance!