The old-boy mentality of sticking with traditional networking methods still tends to reign supreme in most engineering firms. However, that hasn’t stopped a growing number of more savvy adopters from experimenting with the use of social networking in promoting their business and sharing their expertise.
While not all networking sites are necessarily the right channel for engineers to engage with, there are still ways that you can - and should - make social networking a powerful part of your marketing strategy.
Here’s why it might be time for you to come join the party, and where you can get started.
Social networking is not a fad
And you can no longer use that as your excuse! Nor is it simply something for the Gen Ys to champion in your firm. The fastest growing uptake of social media usage is in fact among users aged 45-54.
I’ll let some more numbers do the talking
Because I know you left-brained folk like to see solid facts and figures, here are a few for you to crunch before we even start talking about what sites are best for you:
- 72% of adult internet users in the US are active on at least one social network (MediaPost)
- 81% of the Inc. 500 (the fastest growing companies in the US) are using LinkedIn (Relevanza)
- 7 out of 10 consumers are more likely to use a local business if it has information available on a social media site (comScore Networks)
- LinkedIn generates more leads for B2B companies than Facebook, Twitter or blogs individually
- 40% of B2B buyers say LinkedIn is important when researching technologies and services to purchase (Social Media Today)
Don’t fear the ‘social’ side of social networking
When it comes to social networking, plenty of scepticism still persists among many older engineers who view social media sites simply as a distraction best suited to self-obsessed celebs and time-wasting teens.
Surprisingly, it’s not all selfies and stream-of-consciousness dribble. Instead, social networking sites present opportunities to grow your customer reach, widen professional connections, broaden your knowledge base, and keep up with industry news and trends - all from the comfort of your swivel chair.
In fact, social networking is changing the way engineers can work. You can use a network of experts to help you solve challenges, improve efficiencies or share advice. Major CAD developers, such as PTC, are even starting to integrate social capabilities into their software.
You may fear irrelevant-information-overload, but this flow of information is actually controllable. You can choose where, when and with whom you want to participate.
Where do you start?
I’m not going to suggest that every social media platform will work for engineers. It’s my opinion that you should pick one or two, and use them well, rather than trying to participate in too many places. The best way to get started is to sit back and watch the kind of information that is being shared for a little while once you’ve signed up. But, you can only remain a passive user for so long!
Here are three suggestions for networking sites that I think are a good place for engineers to get started:
LinkedIn appears to be the most popular social media channel used by engineers and technical professionals. Being a networking site for professionals, it is the least ‘social’ of the social networking sites. It’s a place to connect with colleagues, business associates, clients and industry thought leaders.
Some may argue that LinkedIn is just for people who are on the hunt for employment opportunities, but I disagree. In LinkedIn you have the opportunity to join subject specific and location specific groups to connect with industry professionals. It puts you right under the noses of decision-makers and potential new leads. It’s offers a great opportunity to initiate discussions, provide opinions, and get yourself noticed as an expert in your field.
There are so many industry specific groups that you can find using the search function in LinkedIn. Here is just a very small selection of useful groups for engineers:
Twitter is a micro-blogging platform. That means short (as in, only 140-character) updates. Again, you can select only users that interest you, and search for topics using a hashtag (#). Twitter is a great place to pick up the latest engineering headlines or news, follow your engineering idols or ‘influencers’ or keep up with product design trends or industry updates. And if somehow Cameron Diaz also ends up on your newsfeed, I’m not going to judge you.
It’s also a good place to share your own links and articles - either those you’ve written on your own blog, or relevant topics you think others in your field will also be interested in.
There are plenty of engineers who are proving you lot are already just as hip as the rest of us. Here are four Twitter profiles that regularly post interesting engineering content:
Don’t forget to follow us on @workflowmax too for updates!
You can also search for curated lists (and create your own) which separate and organise topics or people that you’re interested in, such as this one for mechanical engineering. Simply use the hashtag to search and filter topics.
Quora is an online community where users can post or answer questions. It’s easy to end up down rabbit holes on Quora, but you can filter and search information relevant to your interests and you’ll likely discover a whole lot of information you never thought you would.
Some engineering-focused Quora boards include:
How to get the most out of networking through social media:
- Find influencers - that is people with a bit of clout in the industry, and follow their posts. Get in touch with them and make them a part of your online network.
- Join groups and discussion boards and actively participate.
- Share - or retweet - posts from others. Link back to them and they’ll see you are sharing their posts.
- Approach your target customers - go straight to the top! Connect with decision makers, project managers and marketing folk.
- Research popular #hashtags in your in industry and incorporate them into your posts to help you get your content found.
- Encourage your employees or colleagues to share your posts with their own networks, and vice-versa.
- Provide useful, shareable information in your posts (not what you had for lunch)
We have some more tips on getting the best ROI on your social media here.
Think you’re too busy to tweet?
I recently attended an induction day at Xero HQ in Wellington. Prolific Tweeter and Xero CEO, Rod Drury - a man who heads a company of 800+ employees based across four countries, was posed a question from a Xero newbie: “How do you find the time to use social media?”.
He shrugged. It’s not something he ‘finds time for’, it’s just something that is a part of his day, the same way that checking emails, reading the news or eating breakfast is. Access to social media platforms on mobile makes it effortless to check in with what’s going on, whether you’re waiting for a bus, having your morning coffee or need an excuse for a mid-afternoon micropause. (Or waiting in airport lounges while jetting between offices, as the case may be for Rod.)
Rod understands the importance of being an active participant in today’s world of online communication. It keeps him connected to his customers, his staff, and the wider business community. It creates transparency and accessibility; a nothing-to-hide approach to business.
Are you ready to give it a go?
The goal of social networking for engineers should be collaboration. Social media should allow you to connect with and learn from industry experts - for free. It’s an opportunity for innovation and growth - are you willing to take the plunge?
Do you use social media to market your firm or your own services? Have you had success using other social media platforms?