Social media has made an impact in B2B marketing. According to Advertising Age, 58 percent of B2B marketers are increasing their social media spending this year, ranking it fourth among tactics with spending increases. Marketers are not only investing money, they are investing time, with 62 percent using social media for six hours or more each week and 36 percent for 11 or more hours, according to the Social Media Examiner.
As spending grows and you commit valuable time to social media, this channel’s role becomes increasingly important in your marketing strategy. It’s essential to know how to do social media right. The recent webinar, Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector, shows how social media is being used by your target audience of technical professionals, presents the results from our fourth annual social media usage survey of technical professionals, and offers recommendations on how you can use this data in your social media planning.
Below are some of the highlights of the webinar.
How technical professionals use social media
- The majority of technical professionals—56 percent—spend less than one hour per week on social media for work-related purposes. That still leaves a sizeable portion of this audience that is on social media for more than an hour each week.
- For the most part, technical professionals are looking for content on social media: keeping up on company news, new technologies and products. But they’re also looking for you: 41 percent use social media to find new suppliers.
- Technical professionals of all ages use social media, with some differences. Those under age 35 are more apt to use social media to find a new job, network and seek expertise, while older workers use social media for more traditional purposes such as reading news and product reviews.
- Overall, technical professionals are passive users of social media. They tend to read and watch rather than post and participate. The most popular social media activity is watching video, with 27 percent watching a video a few times a month, whereas only 14 percent post a comment.
Preferred social media platforms
- LinkedIn continues to be the most popular social media platform among technical professionals, with 74 percent having an account. Sixty-one percent have a Facebook account and 41 percent have a Google Plus account.
- LinkedIn usage has shown growth every year for the past four years. Google Plus is also growing. Facebook and Twitter remain flat, but a large portion of technical professionals still use Facebook.
- LinkedIn: 69 percent use LinkedIn to search for contacts and 47 percent to read product and industry news. Seventy-nine percent belong to at least one group, primarily to read discussions (62 percent). Only 27 percent actually participate.
- Facebook: With the line between work and personal life continuing to blur, Facebook is not just for personal use. Top work-related activities on Facebook are following businesses and reading/researching content.
- Twitter: 73 percent follow businesses and 27 percent read/research content.
- Google Plus: 80 percent follow businesses and 25 percent participate in discussions.
- Video: Overall, 48 percent of technical professionals use YouTube or other video sharing sites for work, although among 18-34 year olds, the percentage is 58. The most popular types of videos among technical professionals are product demos, how-to videos and training videos.
The value of digital resources
- Your customers spend an increasing amount of time online using a variety of digital resources, but when researching work-related purchases, social media channels are not nearly as valued as other established digital channels. The top resources have remained consistent over the years: search engines, online catalogs, supplier websites and GlobalSpec.com.
- Technical professionals report that social media is not more valuable because it is not efficient, too noisy and not reliable. Technical professionals also say it’s hard to find useful content on social media. In addition, about a quarter of workers are blocked from using social media at work; using a mobile device offers a workaround for that problem.
- A key takeaway is that to be successful with social media you must deliver the content technical professionals want. This will help elevate you above the noise and become more valuable to your target audience.
Recommendations for suppliers
- It’s worth using social media as a marketing channel; however, don’t rely on it too heavily or divert resources from more effective and established digital channels.
- To get the most out of your efforts, integrate social media into your overall marketing strategy. Establish a vision, strategy and goals for your social media initiatives.
- Tie your social media efforts to marketing objectives. Research shows that social media is best used for brand awareness and thought leadership.
- Get more of your organization involved in spreading your message through social media. Seventy-eight percent of technical professionals say they have never posted news or information about their company on their social networks. Create guidelines and rules for using social media. Make it easy by providing content for your sales, customer service and other colleagues to post.
- Gain a more in-depth look at social media usage by your target audience and how you can most effectively incorporate social media into your overall marketing efforts.
For the recent Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report, technical professionals were about the platforms where they have accounts.
In 2013, 74 percent are on LinkedIn, 61 percent had an account on Facebook, 41 percent have signed up for Google + and 17 percent are on Twitter.
Over the years, however, LinkedIn has surged in popularity and Google + is on the rise while Facebook and Twitter have remained flat.
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.
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.
Social media use among technical professionals is holding steady, and social media should have a place in your marketing strategy. Recent research shows that the majority of industrial companies now use social media, yet many still do not have a clear purpose, goals, or means of defining or measuring success. Wherever your organization is on the social media scale—ignoring, listening, or regularly contributing—you’re at the right place to step back for a moment to assess your strategy and to plan a logical, effective path forward.
Set realistic goals and objectives
Social media is oriented towards interaction, dialog, education and networking, and therefore may not be a direct driver of sales. But before you shut down your social media efforts, you should realize that technical professionals regularly participate in social media and in particular find it useful at the early stages of their buying cycle.
Recent research shows that the top three uses of social media among technical professionals are to keep up with the latest company news/products/technologies, to find product reviews, and to find new suppliers. These are all activities related to the early buy cycle when customers are engaged in gathering information and surveying the supplier landscape.
So if you are investing in social media in order to generate fast leads and sales, you may be disappointed. However, if your social media goals are to build thought leadership, foster a community, and generate brand awareness that will lead to engagement opportunities, then you may experience a high level of success.
Hang out with your customers
Doesn’t it seem like there’s always the next latest and greatest social media platform getting all the attention? It’s hard to keep up. And it’s almost impossible to spread your social media efforts across every platform available. That’s why it’s important to know which social media channels technical professionals like to use and to concentrate your efforts on one or a few of those channels.
According to IHS GlobalSpec’s Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report, LinkedIn is the most popular social media channel among technical professionals. Facebook and Google+ are next in usage, although in the past few years Facebook usage has stagnated and Google+ usage has increased among technical professionals. Twitter has yet to see widespread adoption with this audience.
Use this information to help direct your social media efforts. Establish company pages on these channels if you haven’t already. Post news and content to it. Invite customers and prospects to follow you. You’ll learn pretty quickly the types of content that resonate and you can start customizing each channel’s content to its audience.
Deliver Useful Content on Social Media
One of the biggest challenges technical professionals report about using social media for work-related purposes is that there is “too much noise and not enough substance.” The company that can rise to the top in social media is the company that provides “substance” in the form of useful information about new technologies, how to solve problems, relevant news and more. Use social media to deliver this type of content. You can post and link to white papers, articles, webinar invitations, interviews, news alerts and more.
Video is also a popular medium for social media users. Technical professionals use YouTube and other video sharing sites for work-related purposes. They’re looking for product demos, tutorials, how-to’s, and training videos. Establish an account on a video-sharing site and link to all your videos from your social media platforms.
Use Metrics that Matter to Measure Success
Technical professionals are passive users of social media. That means they prefer watching a video to creating and posting one. They prefer reading discussions more than contributing to them. Their most common activity on LinkedIn is to search for contacts. On Facebook and Google+, it’s to find and follow other groups or businesses within their industry.
By understanding what your audience is doing on social media, you will be able to define the metrics that are important to track. In this regard, the number of relevant people following your company on social media is what counts. If this number is increasing, you’re probably doing it right, and are increasing your brand visibility and gaining a reputation as a thought leader.
Integrate with other Marketing Efforts
Social media is one component of your marketing strategy, and like all components, needs to be integrated into your overall plan. Technical professionals still consider other online resources more valuable than social media for researching a work-related purpose: online catalogs, general search engines, supplier websites and GlobalSpec.com all rank high. Therefore, make sure that your social media presence is integrated with these other marketing channels. For example, links to your social platforms should be highly visible on your website. Or you can take advantage of integrating your social posts and videos on your GlobalSpec.com page.
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How do you use social media for industrial marketing? How do you measure your efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
As 2014 gets into full swing, content marketing remains a hot and highly effective marketing strategy in the industrial sector. Your audience of technical professionals has an insatiable appetite for relevant, engaging and useful content, which means you have to keep the content marketing machine producing and distributing at a high level.
Resolve to upgrade your content marketing strategy so that it operates at peak efficiency. Here are five ways to get you started:
1. Re-purpose whenever possible
Re-purposing existing content into new formats helps you achieve three valuable benefits:
- You don’t have to keep coming up with new content all the time.
- You can reinforce your core messages across multiple mediums
- You can give your customers flexible options to access content in their preferred formats.
Some people like to read reports, others want to watch videos, still others prefer to scan web pages or attend webinars. Re-purposing your content can serve all these needs as well as strengthen your brand and message.
2. Produce content for the entire buy cycle
The industrial buy cycle consists of distinct stages your customers pass through: from awareness and research, to consideration and comparison, to buying decision and procurement. You need content to support potential customers through all stages, especially the early stages, because studies show that many buyers do not contact suppliers until they are ready to make a purchasing decision. That means they’ve already done their research and narrowed down their choices of products and vendors to a short list.
Entice customers in the early stages of their buy cycle with educational content that establishes your company as a leader and an expert with a unique and advantageous way of solving the problems and challenges that your customers face. Use content that introduces new technologies, new ideas, analysis of trends, etc. Compare and contrast your approach to that of competitors’. Later stage buy cycle needs include specification sheets, case studies, ROI calculators, and warranties.
3. Expand the types of content you offer
White papers, blog articles, videos, webinars, research reports, case studies, data sheets—these are standard types of content that most marketers include in their portfolio and that your audience finds valuable.
There are other types of content you might consider as well. Infographics combining text and visuals have become increasingly popular as a way to explain complex ideas or processes. You can also create online polls and share results, or quick surveys. Stage a contest. Create a game. What about contracting with a partner to produce a mobile app? There are apps that calculate pressure drop, estimate pipe size, calculate volumetric flow, connect with other engineers, and many more. While not traditional content, an app is something that can go viral, showcase your brand, and help you promote other content.
4. Consider paid distribution of content
If you’re having trouble getting content into the hands of hard-to-reach prospects using typical channels such as your website, email or social media, you might want to consider paid distribution strategies. You can also use paid distribution to reach new markets.
For example, LinkedIn offers sponsorships that allow you to target a specific audience with your content, and the majority of technical professionals have LinkedIn accounts. You can also invest in promoted posts on Twitter and Facebook. Digital media platforms like IHS GlobalSpec offer a number of effective ways to distribute content to your target audience, including e-newsletter ads, online banners, co-branded webinars and more—all of which can significantly increase the number of prospects exposed to your content.
Focus on content performance
For all of your content, you should establish goals and metrics to measure performance. Downloads, views, shares, comments and more could all be metrics you decide to track. By tracking performance you will know what types of content are most popular with your audience and what channels work best for distribution. You will have better information to make decisions about enhancing your content offerings and distributing through those channels that are most effective in helping you achieve your goals.
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How will you improve your content marketing in 2014? What strategies for upgrading your content marketing efforts would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Like many people, I follow a number of companies and people on Twitter . One that I always appreciate catching is the Harvard Business Review. They have statistics, quick tips, and links to relevant articles that I enjoy. One such stat was “To Make a Task Seem Easier, Lean Back a Little.”
The tip itself is simple, People who leaned back so that their eyes were an average of 38.8 inches from a computer screen found the task of pronouncing meaningless strings of letters easier than people who leaned forward to 12.5 inches…”
Straightforward? Yes. Logical? Yes. Something we think to do? Perhaps not. I know I can use a reminder. When I’m concentrating, I lean into my work – literally. So to be told to step back, while seemingly a common sense suggestion, is one I can use on a regular basis. As I thought about it, I realized it went beyond my physical posture.
When deep in the middle of a project I often find myself buried in the details. Are all the tasks being completed? Are we on track? Are people prioritizing appropriately? All items that need to be addressed. However, at the risk of mixing my metaphors, at times we can’t see the forest for the trees. I get so mired in the day to day that the big picture becomes a little fuzzy. When I do take the step back, the project while not any smaller seems a bit more manageable. That step can take many forms; talking it over with a co-worker who isn’t involved directly, reviewing the Gantt Chart (which I find more difficult than the original creation), or just revisiting the project plan. Once I’ve taken the step back, the project seems more manageable, and I may have new insights to overcoming obstacles that appeared insurmountable.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference.
Do you find yourself mired in the details? How do you step back?