What’s important in social media today? GlobalSpec recently conducted its third annual Social Media Usage Survey of engineering, technical, manufacturing, and industrial professionals. The results show social media adoption is steadily increasing, although the use of social media for work-related purposes among the industrial audience is focused on a few select platforms.

You can download the research report providing survey results, analysis and recommendations here: “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector.” Plus, we’ve distilled the key findings into five trends that every industrial marketer should know.

1. Users are passive
Industrial professionals are largely passive users of social media. They prefer to read and watch content, versus creating and sharing content or adding their comments to a discussion. For example, when asked which forms of social media they used, the most popular response was “watched a video,” whereas the lowest scoring response was “created a video to share.”

The takeaway for marketers is that because your audience prefers to read and watch content on social media platforms, you have a good opportunity for marketing your content or establishing a thought leadership program using social media to reach your audience. Some ideas: create videos, write an executive blog, or promote white papers and Webinars using social media tools.

2. Your audience uses social media to stay up to date
The top reason industrial professionals use social media is to stay up-to-date. Sixty-one percent of respondents indicated that they use social media to keep abreast of the latest company, product, and technology news, which surpassed reaching additional contacts and networking (50 percent) as the primary social media activity. Social media is also used to find peer reviews, new suppliers, and industry expertise.

As a marketer, you can match up your audience’s primary reason for using social media with your own efforts. Use social media as an outlet for your latest press releases, product announcements, and other news, which will help you reach your audience in a timely fashion with information they seek.

3. LinkedIn is the fastest growing social media platform
Among your audience, participation in LinkedIn grew from 37 percent in 2010 to 55 percent in 2011, an increase of 18 percentage points, or a 49 percent growth rate over one year. Eighty-six percent of industrial professionals on LinkedIn belong to at least one group, with 38 percent belonging to four or more groups. Groups are comprised of members who share common interests, such as industrial design or automation control and engineering.

However, as with other social media, many professionals belonging to LinkedIn groups are passive members. While 59 percent read discussions, only 28 percent participate in discussions, and just 7 percent start new discussions. Yet, because of the penetration of LinkedIn among your audience, and its quick growth rate compared to other social media platforms, you should have a company presence on this site. If you haven’t already, start by creating a LinkedIn account and setting up a LinkedIn page for your company. Search for and join groups in your market space. Follow the discussions and begin participating when you have something useful to add to the conversation.

4. Users can get around corporate Internet restrictions
While nearly all survey respondents have Internet access at work, 41 percent also are restricted from visiting certain sites and accessing different types of content, including social media sites.

One way users can get around corporate Internet restrictions is by using smartphones. Smartphone use is growing, with 54 percent of industrial professionals now using one. Sixty percent of this group access work e-mail on their mobile phones, up from 30 percent a year ago.

With more and more industrial professionals using Internet-enabled smartphones, you have an opportunity to reach a percentage of your audience that faces Internet restrictions at work. Make sure your marketing campaigns — whether online, social, or e-mail — are easily accessed and displayed on mobile devices.

5. Established online marketing programs still dominate
When researching work-related purchases, industrial professionals still find established online resources much more valuable than social media sites. General search engines (Google, Yahoo!, etc.), online catalogs, supplier Web sites, and GlobalSpec all rank higher than any social media platform for researching work-related purchases.

The conclusion for marketers is that with the growth of social media, you must start paying attention and developing a strategy for this new era. Our research report can help you with that. But you also must understand that social media is not “instead of” other marketing; it’s always “in addition to” other marketing efforts — and tightly integrated with your overall marketing strategy.

Continue to invest in the online media channels your audience relies on most for work-related information. And consider promoting your social media presence within your established marketing programs. For example, GlobalSpec offers suppliers the ability to include their social media links, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, within their company profile pages, helping to build awareness and relevancy for your social media efforts.

For in-depth analysis and complete survey results, download your complimentary copy of “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector.”

As you look to reach industrial professionals through social media, what are your observations? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


  1. Thanks for a well-written and informative article.
    Many of our unscientific findings concur with what’s written here. It’s nice to have that validation.
    Social media is quite important in reaching our audience, and we’re finding it’s a full-time job to properly participate.

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