The recent Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector Webinar presented findings and recommendations from IHS GlobalSpec’s annual social media survey of industrial and technical professionals. While many larger studies have been conducted on social media and B2B marketing, this is the only research specifically focused on the manufacturing and engineering communities. You can use this research to support your social media efforts and gain practical tips and recommendations as you evaluate your social media plan.
The full Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report will be available shortly. To be notified, sign up for the Marketing Maven e-newsletter using the “subscribe” button on the right-hand side of this page. Or join us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook using the “Follow Us” icons.
The social channels your audience prefers
Among industrial and technical professionals, LinkedIn is the most popular social platform and Google Plus is the fastest growing.
Sixty-three percent of industrial professionals have a LinkedIn account, where the two activities they perform most are searching for contacts and reading product and industry news. Sixty-seven percent belong to at least two groups, which are comprised of members who share common interests, and offer a forum for discussions, asking and answering questions, providing relevant content, networking and more.
Fifty-four percent have Facebook accounts, down from 65 percent last year. This may be due to an overall slight decline in Facebook usage in North America and the survey focused on that region. There also may be some “Facebook fatigue” setting in, although respondents do still use Facebook for work-related tasks. For example, 71 percent like or follow companies within their industry and 32 percent like or comment in work-related discussions. Perhaps more importantly, 34 percent say they research and read work-related content while on Facebook.
So while overall Facebook use declined over the last year, it still is a good channel for your content marketing and presents an opportunity for increasing brand awareness.
Only 18 percent of respondents have Twitter accounts, a figure which has held steady for the past few years. On the other hand, 36 percent now have a Google Plus account, up from 23 percent in 2011. Suppliers should pay attention to Google Plus and discover how it fits into their social media strategy.
Forty-seven percent use YouTube and other video sharing sites, which makes video valuable content to create and promote. Not surprisingly, given the nature of their work, engineers and other technical professionals mostly watch product demos and how-to videos. If you produce videos, you should consider publishing them on video sharing sites.
Accounts are one thing, engagement is another
A common theme among industrial professionals is that they are passive users of social media. This is really no different from how the typical Internet user interacts with social media. We are usually passive users of social media rather than actively engaged. Industrial professionals prefer to read and watch content rather than starting or commenting on discussions. However, that doesn’t mean social media lacks value as a component of your marketing mix. But it does mean you’ll need to match your social media strategy to what your audience seeks from these channels.
Fifty-two percent of respondents indicate they use social media to keep abreast of the latest company, product, and technology news. Slightly fewer than half of respondents use social media to find peer reviews, new suppliers, and industry expertise. The conclusion to draw is that for industrial professionals, social media is valuable as a way to search for and discover content. And for suppliers, social media can be another channel for your content marketing efforts. White papers, research reports, product announcements, and press releases can be shared on social media to reach your target audience, be useful to them, and build your brand visibility and reputation.
Valuable resources for researching purchases
While industrial professionals find social media useful for searching and discovering content, when researching a potential work-related purchase, other online resources are more valuable to them, including general search engines, online catalogs, supplier websites and GlobalSpec.com. The social media channels Facebook and Twitter are the least valuable.
The top reasons industrial professionals don’t value social media for researching work-related purchases is that social media is not as efficient (67 percent) and there’s too much noise (54 percent). The takeaway for suppliers is that, like with any other marketing channel, you must be relevant and make information easy to find for your audience.
Engaging your audience on social media
The survey revealed that online communities and discussion sites, as well as Facebook and blogging, are the most popular ways industrial companies implement social media. However, video and LinkedIn are in the lower half of social media platforms that suppliers use. Given the popularity of these two areas among their audience, suppliers should invest time and resources into LinkedIn and video. They should also promote their social media properties through their supplier profile pages on GlobalSpec.com, which offers an easy way to integrate social media with your other marketing initiatives.
To engage your audience through social media, you must provide valuable content. Your followers may not comment on your Facebook posts or videos, but they do consume the content. If you continually distribute useful content, you can build trust with this audience as well as stay top-of-mind. And although industrial buyers may not be ready to make a purchasing decision, if you educate them through social media and other channels you have a shot at being on their short list when it does come time to buy.
Most importantly, you should treat social media as you do any other tactic in your marketing plan. It needs to align with your corporate goals and integrate with (not replace) other marketing efforts. This will also help get buy-in from company executives.
View the webinar and let us know how you are implementing social media as part of your overall marketing strategy in the comments section below. Also, if you enjoyed this blog post, please spread the word using the share buttons.