The use of social networks, particularly LinkedIn, among engineering, technical, manufacturing and industrial professionals continues to rise: 55% of surveyed tech professionals now use LinkedIn, up 18 percentage points, or 48.6%, from the 37% who did so a year earlier, according to a report by GlobalSpec.
Despite such growth, however, when researching work-related purchases, industrial and tech professionals tend to perceive social networks as less valuable than other established online platforms—though that perception appears to be changing, the study found.
Below, additional findings from Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector by GlobalSpec, based on a poll of 600 industrial and tech professionals.
Among surveyed industrial and tech professionals, the use of social networking is still growing:
- 66% now use Facebook, up from 59% a year earlier.
- 29% have a Google+ account.
- 22% use Twitter, up from 15% in 2011.
Notably, 66% of those who don't use Twitter say they're not likely to do so in the future.
Across other digital media channels, 67% of industrial and tech pros use Google Reader, 20% use Flickr, 11% use Blogger, 8% use Plaxo, 6% use Digg, and 6% use Stumble Upon.
How Industrial, Tech Pros Use Social Networks
Keeping up to date with the latest business and product news and technologies is the most popular use of social networking: 61% of socially networked industrial and tech pros say they use various social channels for that purpose. In addition, such professionals use social networks to find information about products: 46% find peer reviews and recommendations, and 44% find vendors.
More than one third (38%) use social networks to find industry expertise.
LinkedIn Groups provide a forum for discussions, asking and answering questions, providing relevant content, and networking. Nearly nine in ten (86%) industrial and tech pros who use LinkedIn belong to at least one group, and 38% belonging to four or more groups.
Though 59% of LinkedIn Group members read discussions, only 28% participate in discussions, and even fewer (7%) start discussions.
Among industrial and tech pros who use Facebook:
- 60% have "liked" a business within their industry.
- 40% participate in work-related discussions and reading/researching content for their jobs.
- 19% of the content/friends on their Facebook page is work-related.
Frequency of Social Media Participation
Across various types of social media, tech pros were asked how often they participate in various social media activities by choosing from a scale of the following frequency levels: never, few times a year, few times a month, few times a week, or almost daily.
Overall, tech and industrial audiences tend to be passive, preferring to read and view content rather than commenting or creating it. Tech and industrial professional were most likely to use social media a "few times a year." For the third consecutive year, watching a video ranked the highest in terms of social media participation (2.9), whereas creating a video ranked the lowest (1.5).
Social Media Valued Less Than Established Online Platforms
When researching a potential work-related purchase, search engines are valued most highly (5.9), followed by online catalogs (5.3), supplier websites (5.2), word of mouth (5.1), and GlobalSpec (4.9).
Video (3.6) and networking sites such as LinkedIn are among the resources now viewed as more valuable than they were last year, according to GlobalSpec.
How Industrial Companies Participate in Social Media
The primary way industrial companies participate in social media today is via Facebook: 43% of tech pros say their company uses Facebook, up 10 percentage points from 33% one year earlier.
The next most popular ways to use social media are to provide an online discussion community for customers (32%), and for internal employees (29%). Only 22% of industrial companies use Twitter, reflecting its relatively low value among engineers as a resource.
About the data: Findings from the Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector is based on an online poll of 600 engineering, technical, manufacturing and industrial professionals, conducted by GlobalSpec in November 2011.