B2B Social Media “Slow to Take-off in Industrial Sector”

In 2011, engineers and industry professionals choosing to use Social Media at work remains well below 30%.

We are often asked by our Industrial B2B clients, “How can we use Social Media for marketing purposes? Which Social Media channels should we use and why?”

In a recent search we have found various reports on the use of Social Media by the industrial and engineering market.  Interestingly, there is significant growth of those able to access the internet from work without restrictions however the number of engineers and industry professionals choosing to use Social Media for work related purposes remains well below 30%.

This can be attributed to a variety of causes although the overall causes appear to be an overall older workforce (reportedly 51% of all engineers are over the age of 50), coupled with a reluctance to share questions or concerns with competitors via social networks. Several studies are noted in the reference section below.

A recent GlobalSpec Webinar, “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector” and accompanying White Paper Case Study delivers quantifiable data and in-depth answers to these challenging questions as well as timely year-over-year comparisons (2010 vs. 2011).  Capstone Media finds some surprising and not-so-surprising nuggets of data that we our using to help our industrial clients navigate the maze of Social Media and communications options.

Industrial professionals tend to observe social media conversations rather than contribute.

The overall consensus is that the use of Social Media by the industrial sector is experiencing a very slow adoption rate.  Industrial professionals identified as engineers, technical managers, purchasing agents and research/development personnel, tend to sit on the sidelines and observe the conversations rather  than act as content generators.  An interesting side note – observing conversations may also be attributed to time-pressure factors.  Generating content can be done efficiently, but to the engineer with 20 projects going on at the same time along with several “hot” production deadlines, posting Twitter comments just doesn’t fit into an average day.

Facebook use among engineers is growing however less than 20% of content is work related. Word-of-mouth and product reviews receive the highest rankings.

It seems reasonable then that 85% of respondents do not have a Twitter account, down 3% from 2010, so, slight decrease here.  LinkedIn fared slightly better with 37% participation, up 5% from 2010.  In addition, the number of LinkedIn groups per user jumped nearly 10% in just one year. So, those who have joined LinkedIn are finding more groups to participate in than years before.

Those starting a Facebook account grew from 59% in 2011, almost a forty percent Year over Year increase.  Statistically this appears to be the hottest Social Media trend, however more than two-thirds of these professionals indicate that less than 20% of this content is work related.  Long term indicators are that the increased use of Facebook has the potential of becoming a viable marketing tool. Just not yet.

In regards to video behavior, GlobalSpec respondents are more likely to watch a video than to create and share a video.  Watching videos was ranked by respondents as highest in terms of Social Media participation; creating a video was ranked lowest.  This was exactly the same finding in 2010.

As a marketer, we glean the most valuable information from the following survey question, “When researching a potential work-related purchase, how valuable do you find each of the following resources?” We’ve broken this question into two charts:  “Social Media & Networking Values” and “Top 10 Communication Resources by Value”.

General Search, Online Catalogs & Supplier Websites continue to be the most important manufacturer communication tools.

Capstone Media Observations

Referencing these charts continues to verify that General Search, Online Catalogs & Supplier Websites continue to be considered the most important tools for the engineering & industrial sectors.  Word of Mouth messaging which can include Social Media portals continues to hold an important value with this audience. Therefore, engagement & conversation messages must be strategically interjected into the overall marketing/advertising program based on the Social Media nuances of each target audience.

Social Media does not carry the same level of importance that the B2C market is finding.  However, these venues cannot be ignored as tools to influence Industrial audiences. Capstone Media recommends that a continual process should be employed involving exploration of Social Media possibilities through listening to what the industry is saying and joining the conversation. These methods will lead to more effective and realistic goal setting.  Continual metric measurements against those goals should then be utilized to determine which Social Media resources are yielding successful results.

Reference: GlobalSpec is an online resource portal, dedicated to providing engineering, research, product development, manufacturing and industrial professionals with product and technical information from leading manufacturers, distributors and service providers serving a myriad of industrial applications.

Reports for Engineers and Social Media Use/Access Research/Resources

GlobalSpec Webinar and White Paper, “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector”, March 16, 2011, www.globalspec.com.

“Engineers Use Social Media For Business”, July 16, 2010, Information Week. Survey was based on 1,153 mobility engineers who work in aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries.

  • 55% of respondents said they use social media sites for work-related reasons, and that over half are allowed access at work
  • In North America, 70% of respondents use Facebook versus 59% globally
  • 67% of North American respondents used LinkedIn as opposed to 46% globally

“Study: 54% of companies ban Facebook, Twitter at Work”, October 6, 2009. ComputerWorld report on findings from Nucleus Research, an IT research company. Survey based on 1,400 CIOs and commissioned by Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm.

  • 54% of U.S. companies say they have banned workers from using social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace while on the job.
  • 19% of companies allow social networking use only for business purposes
  • 16% allow limited personal use

“Study:  Facebook use cuts productivity at work”, July 22, 2009, ComputerWorld. Companies that allow users to access Facebook in the workplace lose an average of 1.5% in total employee productivity.

“Social Networks: Cautious Engineers and Collaboration-Focused Suppliers”, 2/7/11, Design News.

  • Results on the use of social media in collaborative engineering found that while nearly half of the respondents (48.5%) logged into Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter on a regular basis for personal use, only a quarter (24.5%) said they used those same social media networks in their work capacity as engineers.
  • Of those engineers who used social media for work purposes, LinkedIn was used most often (64%), followed by Facebook at 17% and Twitter at 16%.
  • Survey results found engineers’ chief concern over use of social media sites for work to be fear of exposing critical company intellectual property, with 58.5% citing security as their primary hesitation with social media and 29.3% said company policy precluded them from frequenting social networking sites on the job.

“Social Media for Engineers: good or garbage?, EE Times Flash Survey, May 2010.  Key Points: Engineers are precise and cautious while social media is perhaps too loose, fast and fickle? Engineers hate Twitter!