Imad Naffa, a civil engineer and building code software developer who propelled his "passion for people" to become a global social media networking phenomenon, died suddenly on Sept. 6 in Fresno, Calif. He was 49 and suffered a fatal heart attack, according to a Twitter post by Loretta Naffa, his wife and office manager.
The death of Naffa, a self-proclaimed "Twitterologist," generated a buzz among his followers, who numbered more than 56,000, making him the second-most influential construction industry tweeter, according to Wefollow.com, a website that ranks registered Twitter users based on both number of followers and "influence."
There were close to 500 responses to news of his death on Twitter as of Sept. 8. According to Matt Handal, business development manager for Trauner Consulting Services Inc., a Philadelphia-based national construction schedule and claim analysis firm, Naffa had sent more than 119,000 tweets within the last three years. "His philosophy was to post as much as possible and follow and be followed as much as possible," says Handal.
The Jordanian-born Naffa was president and senior engineer of Naffa International, a Fresno building code and plan review consulting firm he founded in 2001. According to the firm's website, it provides services to 100 cities and counties across the U.S. and develops web-based technical resources and forums used by international architects, engineers, consultants and building regulation officials.
"We have lost a great contributor to this industry and he will be missed more than words can describe," the company said in a Sept. 8 statement.
The Naffa-created Building Code Discussion Group (BCDG), a free Web-based forum, has nearly 1,000 daily users, according to the firm. The site "is an invaluable source of information and has greatly improved the understanding of building codes and laws for countless professionals," says Paul N. Miller, founding principal of The Vernal Group, a Visalia, Calif., architect. "Imad also moderated the site and provided many answers to questions posted. I can only hope [it] will continue to be an excellent source of information without his incredible guidance. The loss of the BCDG would be huge."
Miller also cites Naffa's expertise in software development, beginning in his former role as a vice president and senior engineer at CMA, a Fresno consulting firm. "He created many tools used by architectural and engineering firms around the country, and possibly around the world," says Miller. "His Code Buddy software provided code-related information in an easy-to-access manner. It was very intuitive and easy to use." Naffa also had been deputy city engineer for Sanger, Calif.
Naffa said that his social media emphasis did generate bottom-line results for his firm. In a recent discussion with Trinity Consulting's Handal on Google+, Google's social networking site, Naffa noted increases in revenue "for my online technical offerings for engineers, architects and the code enforcement industry that were due to traffic and exposure from Twitter in the last 24 months."
Naffa became a strong global advocate of the value of social media as a business tool. In a May speech in Jordan sponsored by TEDx, a non-profit group that sponsors local conferences of those it touts as "the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers," he claimed links to people "in 12 different time zones." He had previously addressed the group in China.
Touting his ability to use social media to "build bridges all over the world," Naffa said he fostered "collaboration with business you couldn't do otherwise in a lifetime. For me, the relationships, friendships and connections established with professionals globally is priceless. You cultivate that and in time opportunities come around for collaboration and joint ventures."