Social media has value among engineers and technical professionals, although not as a top resource for researching work-related purchases. This is one of the key takeaways from the IHS Engineering360 annual “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector Survey.” You can download the white paper here.

Over the past few years, the use of social media by technical professionals for work-related purposes has stabilized. Engineers have determined how to integrate social media into their work activities and have chosen their preferred platforms. However, engineers prefer general search engines, online catalogs, word of mouth, and supplier websites to social media for researching work-related purchases.

HOW TECHNICAL PROFESSIONALS USE SOCIAL MEDIA FOR WORK
Sixty-one percent of technical professionals spend less than one hour a week using social media for work-related purposes. The most commonly performed work-related activities on social media are reading content or product/industry news, watching a video, searching for contacts, and following a company or group.

Fifty-seven percent of engineers and technical professionals use social media to find product reviews. This is the most popular use of social media sites. One trend worth noting is that significantly more engineers used social media sites this year than last year to contact a supplier or service provider (42 percent vs. 29 percent), to find expertise (44 percent vs. 29 percent) and to find product reviews (57 percent vs. 49 percent).

One-third (33 percent) of technical professionals report sharing or posting news or information about their company to their social networks. The age group of 18-34 has a slightly higher rate (37 percent). This low percentage represents an opportunity for industrial companies to recruit their employees to be social media ambassadors and to help spread the word on their social media networks.

PREFERRED SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
LinkedIn is the most popular platform among engineers, with 66 percent having an account. Facebook and Google+ are the next two most widely used. In the age group 18-34, Facebook is slightly more popular than LinkedIn.

Forty-six percent of engineers follow 1-5 work-related company profiles on LinkedIn. The majority of engineers (56 percent) belong to 1-5 groups on LinkedIn. Ten percent belong to more than 10. Most technical professionals are passive members of LinkedIn groups. Sixty-eight percent read discussions, but only 27 percent participate in discussions. Technical professionals prefer to read and watch on social media as opposed to posting and commenting.

Fifty-one percent of technical professionals use YouTube or other video sharing websites for work-related purposes. When segmented by age demographics, use of video sharing websites among engineers under age 50 is greater than those 50 and older. The most common work-related content watched on video sharing websites are how-to videos/tutorials, product demos, and training videos. Customer testimonials lag, with only 14 percent of engineers watching them.

THE VALUE OF SOCIAL MEDIA FOR RESEARCHING WORK-RELATED PURCHASES
The most valuable resources for researching a work-related purchase are general search engines, online catalogs, word of mouth, and supplier websites. These findings are generally true across all age groups. Among social media platforms, Google+ and LinkedIn ranked highest for researching a work purchase. Facebook, SlideShare, and Twitter have the least value.

Why isn’t social media used more for work? Sixty-seven percent of engineers and technical professionals say the biggest challenge is that social media is inefficient when compared to other methods such as search engines, supplier websites, and online catalogs. Forty percent say they can’t find useful content on social media.

RECOMMENDATIONS
Many industrial marketers are not sure what role social media should have in their overall marketing efforts. However, social media is no different from other marketing initiatives, and as such, you should approach it with a clear purpose and defined goals that map to your other marketing and business objectives.

To help you optimize your use of social media and better understand the level of resources to devote to it, download a complimentary copy of “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector Survey.” The research report includes all survey results represented in chart form, along with analysis of the findings and recommendations on how industrial marketers can optimize their use of social media. Get your copy today.

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