Social Media: Are industrial engineers and technicians buying in?

While social media has become an acceptable B2B inbound marketing channel, its use in the purchasing process by industrial engineers and technical audiences has been questioned. A new study by IHS GlobalSpec sheds new light on the issue.Of the 1,200 survey respondents, 80% spend less than 2 hours per week on social media for work-related reasons (see figure 1). Clearly the adoption of social media in the industrial and technical sector has been slower than in other sectors.

Figure 1

Not surprisingly, LinkedIn is the most popular social media channel among this audience (75%), followed by Facebook (61%) and Google+ (41%), which is growing rapidly. Only 17% of the respondents reported having a Twitter account.

IHS Global Spec asked LinkedIn users about the work activities performed on the site. More than two-thirds search for business contacts and about half read product or industry news. About two-thirds belong to two or more LinkedIn groups. As for group participation, 63% read group discussions, but only 27% participate in them. The results for Twitter and Facebook were similar with most respondents following businesses and groups within their industries and researching work-related content.

When you dig deeper into the results, it’s evident that young technical professionals (18- to 34-years old) are using these channels more, particularly Facebook and Twitter. They post, share, and participate more often and use social media to find jobs. Older technical professionals mostly use LinkedIn for “top of sales funnel” activities such as accessing news, product reviews, and suppliers, which are early-stage, buy-cycle functions.

Our takeaway is that social media is an effective channel for content distribution and brand building in the industrial/technical sector, but only as a complement to other inbound and outbound marketing programs. Use LinkedIn to reach older audiences, while posting on Facebook and Google+ to target the 20-somethings. Social media adoption will continue to grow in this sector, but not as fast as in other B2B markets.

Send me an e-mail at for a copy of the study.