Industrial Marketing Blog

Social Media Usage by Engineers and Industrial Professionals

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Last week I downloaded and read the new research report, “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector” published by IHS GlobalSpec. Some of the findings are consistent with their reports from previous years and others are good wake up calls for industrial marketers.

It is still true that most engineers and industrial professionals are passive users of social media – they prefer to “read, watch and research as opposed to publish, post and comment.”

Two statements from the report caught my attention. They are:

  1. In terms of researching work-related purchases, engineers prefer other online resources, such as search engines, online catalogs, supplier websites, and vertical search engines (VSEs) such as
  2. 54% of industrial professionals say there is “too much noise and not enough substance” around using social media for work-related purposes.

Those two findings should be a big wake up call for industrial marketers. First, industrial companies shouldn’t expect social media to pick up the slack if they stop doing things like optimizing their websites (SEO) and adding content assets such as CAD viewers and Parametric Part Number Finders to help their buyers take interim steps that will lead to the final buy decision.

Second, creating relevant content is critical for engagement with this technical audience. Twitting “Buy Now” stuff and focusing on building up your “Likes” and “Followers” won’t move the needle for lead generation and conversion.

LinkedIn is by far the most popular social media channel used by engineers and other industrial professionals. Sixty-three percent of users now have a LinkedIn account, compared to only 43% in 2010. Sixty-seven percent of industrial professionals belong to two or more Groups on LinkedIn; 62% read their Group’s discussions and keeping in line with their passive participation, only 23 percent actually participate in those discussions. The chart below shows how this audience uses LinkedIn in their work-related activities.

LinkedIn usage by engineers and industrial professionals

Google+ has shown a healthy growth in usage. Thirty-six percent of industrial professionals now have a Google Plus account, up from 23% in 2011.

YouTube is another very popular social media channel for engineers and industrial professionals. Forty-seven percent use YouTube or other video sharing websites for work-related purposes, and watching a video is the top use of social media among this audience. The next chart shows how they use video-sharing websites.

Usage of videos in industrial marketing

This chart shows that social media is still perceived as a less valuable resource by this audience when it comes to making work-related purchases.

Value of social media in making industrial purchases

IMO, the key takeaway for industrial companies is that you can’t ignore social media when it comes to marketing to engineers and industrial buyers but don’t count on it being the silver bullet for lead generation.

You can download the entire report from here.

Achinta Mitra

Achinta Mitra calls himself a “marketing engineer” because he combines his engineering education and an MBA with 35+ years of practical manufacturing and industrial marketing experience. You want an expert with an insider’s knowledge and an outsider’s objectivity who can point you in the right direction immediately. That's Achinta. He is the Founder of Tiecas, Inc., a manufacturing marketing agency in Houston, Texas. Read Achinta's story here.
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  1. Great insights…and I agree with your forward looking statements. I am currently doing a survey for a manufacturing customer of ours and I will be interviewing many of my customer’s industrial suppliers’ web habits, resourcs used, etc. I will let you know the findings when I finish in a few weeks.

    • @Tom,

      Looking forward to the findings from your survey.

  2. I think the 54% number is a little skewed, since a lot of people don’t realize their using social media. Reading a blog, watching a youtube video, or interacting with a website where you exchange some sort of information is social related. Just because it isn’t facebook or twitter doesn’t mean it’s not social media. People just need a broader definition.

    • @Jacob,

      Thanks for sharing your insights. I don’t like lumping blogging with the rest of social media either. It does tend to skew perceptions and statistics as you have pointed out in your comments.

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