Social Media: New Study Indicates Sluggish Growth in Industrial Segments

According to a new study released by GlobalSpec, the use of social media among engineering and technical professionals across manufacturing and industrial markets is showing some signs of growth, but overall, participation remains low.

The study, titled “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector,” reports that although social media usage among B2B marketers has increased from 15% in 2007 to 57% in 2010, industrial professionals themselves are not yet engaged and find far more value in traditional search engines, supplier sites, online catalogs and GlobalSpec (go figure!) than they do in online communities, blogs, RSS feeds, or Twitter.  Nearly one-third of the respondents indicated they have a LinkedIn account, and more than 80% of them belong to at least one LinkedIn group.  However, most appear to be passive members, not yet actively participating in discussions or other group forums.  Just 12% of respondents have a Twitter account, and there aren’t strong indications this number will increase significantly any time soon.  Facebook usage is higher at 42%, but not for work-related purposes.

So, with customer usage so low, should B2B “industrial” marketers abandon their social media programs at this point?  I wouldn’t recommend abandoning them, but I also wouldn’t recommend major budget shifts away from current web initiatives, search marketing and proven online directories, print and online advertising and lead gen programs, public relations or other content development efforts.  Social media should be monitored and integrated when it can effectively address specific marcom objectives.  For example, adding a technical blog to your web site not only brings a social component to your web presence, it will also improve your SEO efforts by continually adding current, relevant content and increasing the  number of inbound links to your site.  It will also help position your company as a thought leader within the markets you serve.  Similarly, a user forum can serve as a nice extension of your customer service department, providing a deeper engagement with customers with little or no cost.  Where a design engineer or other industrial professional may be reluctant to use “social media” as a means of researching a technical issue, they often utilize these forums without realizing they are engaging in social media behavior.  Imagine the shame they would feel if they knew!  ;-)

The keys to integrating social media successfully will be to monitor which platforms your targets are using, to define your goals and metrics before starting, and to allocate the appropriate budget and manpower needed to succeed.


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