Industrial Marketing: Can Social Media Play a Role? Can Social Media Work?

Industrial Marketing: Can Social Media Play a Role? Can Social Media Work?

These and many similar questions  are being asked and debated across the industrial marketing spectrum.  And, there is no clear consensus.

The following is a look at why the answer might be maybe.

1.  Fear is holding back adoption.

In general engineers don’t have a lot of spare time on their hands.  Part of the reason for the lack of time on their hands to engage in social networking can be attributed to their inability to get to social media. The SAE International’s Do mobility engineers use social media? study surveyed nearly 1200 members and found only 55% said they use social media for work and only 52% of companies permit social media use during business hours.

Additionally, MarketingProfs What Works in 2011: B2B Marketing report finds that the number of companies restricting social media use is growing. Facebook, while the most popular of the social networking channels, is also the most blocked by companies.

Security and over exposure of information are the Top 2 fears of companies according to McAfee Inc.’s Web 2.0: A Complex Balancing Act – The First Global Study on Web 2.0 Usage, Risks and Best Practices Report. The study found over 60% of the respondents stated their company suffered losses averaging of $2 million related to security issues.

Here are a few more facts from the McAfee Report.

  • 60% of companies reported that the most significant consequence from inappropriate Web 2.0 and social media usage is loss of reputation, brand, client or confidence.
  • 1/3 of respondents reported unplanned investments related to “work arounds” related to social media in the workplace.
  • 14% of organizations reported litigation or legal threats caused by employees disclosing confidential or sensitive information, with more than 60% of those threats caused by social media disclosures.
  • 13% of organizations block all Web 2.0 activity while 81% restrict the use of at least one Web 2.0 tool because they’re concerned about security.
  • 25% of organizations monitor how staff use social media
  • 66% have introduced social media policies
  • 71% of which use technology to enforce social media policies.

Panda Security’s 1st annual Social Media Risk Index reported 1/3 of SMBs experienced a malware or virus infection via social networks through July of 2010, and 23% actually lost sensitive data via these networks.

2.  Too few companies have a social media plan in place.

In Why Social Media Projects Fail?, the Brand Science Institute at the University of Hamburg found that:

  • 81% of all companies don‘t have a clear social media strategy in place.
  • Corporations take twice as long as start-ups to implement social media projects.
  • Only 7% of all companies understand the value of customer interactions.
  • Only 27% of all companies have a clear understanding of their customers.

KingFish Media’s 2010 Social Media Usage, Attitudes and Measurability study found that only 43% believe they need to show a positive ROI to obtain social media funding. This is supported by’s 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report that finds only 1 in 3 marketers indicated measuring results and identifying the best practices were top of mind questions. Harvard Business Review found 75% of companies they surveyed didn’t know where their most valuable customers were talking about them, 31% of companies don’t measure effectiveness of social media and only 23% are using social media analytic tools.

If you aren’t measuring ROI or return-on-engagement, how can you determine if social media is working — even if you have a plan?

3.  Companies and their target audience aren’t engaging.

Engagement and social networking success go hand-in-hand, but the numbers show that companies and their target audience aren’t engaging for various reasons.

WhiteHorse “B2B Goes Social” study finds that only 32% of B2B companies engage daily this could be due to the lack of a person or team dedicated to social media. The KingFish Media study found that only 9% of respondents said they have a dedicated person for social media.

In a December 2010 survey, RSW/US found only 36% of Facebook users are somewhat to very active, for LinkedIn it was 33% and for Twitter it was 15%.  This trend is supported by a recent WebTrends study that found 51% of Facebook users and 8% of Twitter users are engaged daily. GlobalSpec’s Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector Report shows that industrial professionals only participate in social media a few times per year.

SAS & Harvard Business Review’s The New Conversation: Taking Social Media Talk to Action study found that the manufacturing sector is less likely to use social media and are not really engaged. The study found that 45% of manufacturers are currently using social media, 19% plan to use, and 32% aren’t currently using and have no plans to use social media.

The study also found that 26% of organizations use 3 social media channels. They found the two most common combinations are blogs + social networking + multimedia sharing (36%) and blogs + social networking + microblogs (35%)

As of January 2011, manufacturing makes up 9.5% of LinkedIn’s 101 million worldwide membership, but is only 7.5% of the North American 47.9 million members. Engineers are 8.6% of the worldwide membership and 6.9% of North American membership.

4. Older workforce doesn’t social network.

Pew Global Attitude Project’s Global Publics Embrace Social Networking study found there is a large age gap in the usage of social networking in the United States: 77% of 18-29 year old, 55% of 30-49 year old and 23% of 50+ use social networking. So with the average age of a manufacturing sector employee being 50, it’s no wonder social networking engagement is limited within the industrial sector.

Yes it Can! Yes it Does!

We believe that social media does have a role in your marketing communications — as well as human resource, customer service, business development and product development among others — efforts  and can be successful in the industrial sector, however, just like any other form of marketing communications:

  • You must know your target audience, where they are going to get their information and where they are talking about you, and how to engage them;
  • You must have the resources  — financial and human — to devote to engaging your target audience regularly, if not daily;
  • Your messages must be timely and relevant; and
  • You must have a social media plan that fits your company’s core values and integrates with your other online and offline marketing communications initiatives.

Our blog post Before You Leap Into Social Media & Networking provides a 6-step process for developing a social media plan that will allow manufacturers to be successful using social media to connect with their stakeholders. If you need assistance in developing and implementing an engaging social media plan, contact us and ask for one of our marketing communications experts.


Jeff Klingberg
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