New Research: How Technical Professionals Use Social Media

Results from IHS GlobalSpec’s annual survey of technical professionals and their use of social media are now available. 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.

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Download the research report, “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector,” to get survey findings, practical tips and recommendations to help you evaluate your social media efforts.

The major conclusion is that social media has an established presence in the industrial sector and the use of social media by technical professionals has stabilized and is holding steady. However, technical professionals use social media primarily in passive ways. They prefer to read or watch content on social media platforms as opposed to actively post, participate in discussions or create content of their own.

Preferred social media platforms
The majority of technical professionals (56 percent) spend less than one hour per week using social media for work-related purposes. The most popular social media platform among this group is the professional networking site LinkedIn, with 74 percent having an account. Sixty-one percent have a Facebook account, and 41 percent have a Google+ account, although Facebook usage has stagnated while Google+ continues to grow. Forty-eight percent make use of YouTube or other video sharing platforms. Twitter lags behind with just 17 percent adoption.

Reasons for using social media
The biggest reason technical professionals use social media is to stay up-to-date on the latest company, product and technology news (50 percent). Forty-nine percent use social media to find and read product reviews, and 41 percent to find new suppliers.

Facebook and Google+ technical professionals will follow other businesses and groups within their industry. On LinkedIn, in addition to searching for contacts, they will join groups and read discussions, read product/industry news and search for suppliers. On video sites, they will watch product demo, how-to videos and tutorials.

Most of these uses would be considered early stage buy cycle activities centered on research and education. Suppliers need to build high brand visibility in order to be found by their audience during these stages and on these platforms.

Social media usage varies with age
Older workers and younger workers use social media differently. Not surprisingly, younger technical professionals under age 35 use all social media platforms more than older technical professionals do. The lone exception is LinkedIn, which has higher usage among the over 35 crowd.

Those over age 34 tend to use social media for traditional tasks such as finding product reviews and reading news. Younger technical professionals are more active on social media; they post, share and participate more than older workers. Younger technical professionals are also more likely to use social media to look for new job opportunities.

Social media lags behind other digital resources in usefulness
When it comes to researching a work-related purpose, technical professionals prefer established digital channels to social media. General search engines, online catalogs and supplier websites are the top three resources used to research a work-related purchase. No social media platform cracked the top ten.

The fact that these resources are more valuable than social media to technical professionals is the main reason (reported by 62 percent) why social media is not used more for work-related purposes. Technical professionals state there is “too much noise and not enough substance” in social media (52%). Users also report they can’t find valuable content, which likely contributes to the “too much noise, not enough substance.” The takeaway for suppliers is that you will likely achieve greater success with social media if you can deliver useful information to your audience of technical professionals.

An opportunity for industrial marketers
The survey asked technical professionals about how the companies they work for participate in social media. It’s interesting to compare how technical professionals think their company is using social media with actual participation. For example, just 24 percent of technical professionals say their company uses LinkedIn. According to the “2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing” research report, 72 percent of industrial companies participate on LinkedIn.

Also, 78 percent of technical professionals have never posted news or information about their own companies to their social networks. There seems to be an opportunity for industrial marketers to educate their own technical professionals on how their company uses social media. In addition, recruiting your own internal team to help spread the word on social media can be a viable strategy.

Get your copy of the report
Download your complimentary copy of the research report, “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector.” Survey results are presented in chart and graph form, along with analysis and recommendations on how to best use social media to achieve your marketing goals. Don’t miss out on this valuable resource for industrial marketers.

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How do you use social media as part of your marketing mix? What tips or strategies would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Social Media: How to Use Your Resources More Efficiently

By now most industrial companies have some type of social media presence, and many of them are discovering what a resource drain it can be. Even companies with a dedicated social media person or team are finding it difficult to keep up with all the different platforms, posts, tracking, following, measuring and more. For small companies with a lone marketer, social media might be another to-do on a long list of responsibilities. That’s tough. No wonder social media can feel like a black hole where your time and resources disappear.

But with a few adjustments to your tactics and resource allocation, you can significantly increase your efficiency on the social media front.

Focus on the most important channels
There are many social media channels, with new ones popping up all the time. Don’t get sucked in. Focus on the channels that give you the best opportunity for connecting with your target audience. According to IHS GlobalSpec’s Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report, the three most popular social media channels for engineers are LinkedIn, Facebook, and video sharing sites (such as YouTube). The top performer is LinkedIn, where 63 percent of industrial professionals have an account. Forty percent of engineers who use LinkedIn read product and industry news, and 67 percent belong to at least two groups. LinkedIn may be a good place to post your news, link to blog articles, or moderate a discussion group.

A company page on Facebook might make sense as well. Fifty-four percent of engineers have Facebook accounts and 81 percent of them follow companies and groups within their industry. If your company produces videos, starting a YouTube channel is a good strategy, so you can post your videos and extend your reach. Google Plus is also growing in popularity among your audience. On the flipside, just five percent of engineers have an account on photo-pinning site Pinterest. Focus your resources on those channels—or the single channel—that gives you the greatest reach and best results in terms of followers, comments, and views.

Integrate content across social media channels
What a time drain it is posting content separately to each social media platform you use. Instead, look for ways to post once and share across channels. For example, Facebook and Twitter have a connection so that every Facebook post can be fed to Twitter and vice versa. LinkedIn’s polling feature allows you to share a poll from LinkedIn on Facebook or Twitter. Often times, you’ll want to customize the communication for the channel but there are occasions – a press release or new product rollout, for example – where the same message can be used across all platforms.

Another idea is to add social sharing capabilities to your web pages. This will allow visitors to share a link with their followers on their own social media accounts. It’s an easy way to get your customers and prospects participating in your company’s social media efforts.

Automate social media functions
There are a number of free or low cost tools on the market that let you schedule your social media posts ahead of time. This is ideal for your evergreen content or information that doesn’t get old or outdated. You prepare the content and schedule when it runs. This way you don’t have to spend time updating each channel. While automating your posts and tweets can be a time saver, you still can’t ignore what’s happening around you in social media. Major breaking news stories can dominate social channels and a pre-scheduled message delivered during this time may seem out of place or, at worst, insensitive. Have a plan in place to determine how and when to pause your scheduled posts. Two tools to consider are Hootsuite and Post Planner. Some tools offer additional productivity features, such as tracking conversations, measuring campaign results, and even suggesting content for posts.

Take a team approach
Possibly the best thing you can do to alleviate the burden on your resources is to recruit a team of colleagues to participate in your company’s social media efforts. Even if you work in a small company, you probably have a few people who are comfortable and knowledgeable using social media. You will need to educate your new recruits on your company’s social media goals, the voice and tone that are appropriate to your brand, and other social media policies and guidelines you have developed.

Look for team members who can help functionally in creating social media content, or participating in discussions/responding to comments, or planning and scheduling. You can have different people focused on different platforms, or divvy up the work according to days of the week, or any other way that works for you.

Social media is growing in importance and has established its presence in the industrial sector. If you use your resources wisely and efficiently, you will be able to have a successful and visible social media strategy, without disappearing into the black hole.

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How have you created efficiencies with your social media efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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