Many digital marketers wonder how they should be using social media to reach engineers.
In 2019 there were roughly 3.48 billion active users across all social media platforms worldwide – that’s just over 45% of the global population. While this number is impressive, how different demographics utilize social media varies widely. Thus for marketers, we need to dive deeper into usage habits for the groups we’re interested in reaching.
This post will examine the latest trends in how engineers consume content on social media, using data from our 2019 Research Report on how engineers find information. It will provide insight into which platforms technology marketers should be investing in. We expected the trending from the report would stay consistent during 2020, but obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has a profound impact.
Not surprisingly, social media traffic is surging with a massive amount of personal and pandemic-related information, but also a continued mix of commercial content. With the large percentage of people now working from home, we are online more than ever, have a bit more “thinking time” available, and still need to solve business problems. As companies scramble to keep their marketing machines running, this may be a perfect time to re-examine and recalibrate your social media strategy.
Here are just a few key takeaways from our survey:
- More than 50% of engineers check social media at least once a day, and nearly 80% of engineers aged 18-34 do the same.
- 36% of respondents indicated that they use social media to acquire engineering-related information, which is up from 31% in previous years.
- LinkedIn and Facebook are the most widely used social media platforms among engineers, with roughly 80% of engineers maintaining accounts on both.
Are engineers on social media?
Short answer? Yes.
Nearly 1,500 engineers surveyed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) found only 20% of engineers didn’t use social media at all. In other words, a whopping 80% of engineers are users of social media to some extent – 25% of respondents indicated they checked social media regularly throughout the day.
Engineers also tend to use particular social media platforms more than they do others. LinkedIn and Facebook are the two most popular social media channels for engineers and have been for as long as survey data has been collected. In 2019, 81% of respondents indicated they had an active LinkedIn account, and 80% had an active Facebook account. After these two, there’s a steep drop off in active engineering users for Twitter (35%) and Instagram (34%).
Do engineers use social media for work?
Our own 2019 survey of 1,500 engineers asked respondents which channels they relied on for gathering engineering-related information. 36% of respondents noted that they used social media to acquire knowledge for their jobs, which was an increase from 31% of respondents who said the same in our earlier survey.
This is significant because it demonstrates that engineers are not only using social media for personal reasons, but they’re seeking out information related to their professional fields. Content on engineering-related topics, or at the very least content that is geared towards engineers, can and does reach them through social media channels.
In that same survey, 74% of respondents indicated that they read engineering-related digital publications on a regular basis. Much of the initial traffic to these publications can be attributed to social media sharing from colleagues and others in the industry. From our experience at engineering.com, a significant portion of the traffic to our site is generated through engineers sharing content with each other on social media.
Are there more specific indications of which engineers use social media?
A clear picture of which engineers are using social media the most emerges when we break our group of engineers down by age group. Among engineers ages 35 and under, social media and vendor websites compete for second-place dominance. The graph below illustrates the differences in monthly consumption for four of the more popular channels of content distribution.
The data from our survey is in line with the IEEE’s data, which shows that roughly 49% of engineers under the age of 35 use social media regularly throughout the day. In total, just under 80% of engineers in this age group utilize social media at least once per day. In contrast, only 21% of engineers 35 and up use social media regularly during the day, and 50% use it at least once per day.
These findings give a more accurate picture of which engineers you’re able to reach with social media marketing. Younger engineers, in earlier stages of their careers, are on social media more and are sharing content more frequently with their peers.
It will be interesting to note if this same trend continues as new generations enter the workforce in the coming years; in 2040, will the chart above look the same? Or will the line representing social media usage be shifted up entirely as the younger engineers of today continue to use social media to the same degree they do now?
How should marketers make use of social media
to reach engineers?
Despite social media’s increasing importance among engineers – and particularly younger engineers – there are still some reservations marketers might have about social media marketing.
For one, many marketers find that social media is not as effective at lead generation as it is for awareness building. We have found this to be true in our own experience. Social media is, by its very nature, quick and digestible content shared among friends or peers. Having someone scroll past and register a post from your brand is fairly easy to accomplish, but having someone navigate to an external website to then fill out a form for a white paper is much harder. This is particularly true for channels like Twitter and Instagram; where Instagram is a purely visual channel and not designed for things like white papers or blogs, Twitter is the epitome of a bite-sized channel where visitors want their content to be kept short and to-the-point.
However, you don’t always have to take such a broad approach to social media marketing. For example, one method we have used – with great success, I might add – is to advertise upcoming webinars and events through engineering groups on Facebook and, particularly, LinkedIn. These groups are made up of professionals who want to discuss and advance their professions through networking with peers online. As a result, these groups are perfect for distributing information about in-person networking events or online webinars, which will allow them to expand their skill-sets.
Paid or sponsored campaigns are always an option on social media platforms as well, although these services can be very pricey on a cost-per-lead basis.
Social media is and will continue to be an excellent way for marketers to reach an audience of engineers. However, like anything else in life, diversification is critical. Social media is a valuable tool for marketers, but it isn’t sufficient and should instead be used as one of many channels of communication.
At engineering.com we promote content through social media channels, email newsletters, a strong web presence, mobile apps, and others. Engineers, like any audience, have varied and fragmented content consumption habits, and it’s our job as marketers to be everywhere they are.
Here's one last piece of advice to consider. Given the current COVID-19 environment, we would suggest your brand leads with empathy in communicating with engineers. You don't want to come across as being too opportunistic. While everyone is now struggling with building the pipeline in the short term - smart, creative, and sensitive messaging will set you up for longer-term wins.
For more information on how engineers find information, click here to download our study.