From Myspace to Instagram – How Social Media Has Changed for the B2B Marketer

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By: Amber Cooleen, Senior Director, Marketing

This year marks a full decade since IEEE GlobalSpec published its first study on social media use in the industrial sector.  When we first began surveying engineers and technical professionals on their engagement with various social media platforms, adoption and usage specifically for work-related purposes was limited. With social media being an essential component of the B2B marketer’s toolkit today, it is interesting to see how social media has evolved over the past decade.

The Channels

As our research predicted in 2009, the use of social media in the industrial sector – and in general – has continued to grow at a rapid pace. But how has usage by channel changed over the years?

  • In 2009, only 32% of survey participants used LinkedIn, compared to 81% in 2019. This is good news for B2B marketers interested in connecting with their target audiences using social media in a professional capacity.
  • Use of Facebook by engineers and technical professionals has also doubled over the years, with 80% of respondents having an account in 2019, compared to 42% when we first began tracking data.
  • Twitter has also seen significant growth, jumping from 12% in 2009 to 35% in 2019.
  • In 2009, Instagram didn’t exist. Today, 34% of engineers and technical professionals who responded to this survey have an account.
Social Media and the Millennial

When IEEE GlobalSpec first began conducting research on social media in the B2B industrial space, our focus was on overall adoption of this evolving media channel and information resource. Since then, we have refined our focus to understand specific use patterns by various demographics, giving us the ability to pinpoint differences between millennials and our overall audience of engineers and technical professionals.

Unsurprisingly, across all platforms and for all work-related uses, millennials turn to social media more often than their older colleagues and are more likely to check social media for work-related purposes throughout the day.

Taking Advantage of Social Media

Despite the explosion of social media, the basic question we were asking ten years ago still applies: how can a B2B company best take advantage of social media to meet their overall marketing goals?

In the 2009 report, we recommended that businesses simply get started by creating social media accounts. Today, we offer a more in-depth discussion around how to most effectively utilize these platforms to support your business strategies:

  1. Use social media to support your branding and awareness goals. Social media can be a useful tool to meaningfully communicate with your customers. It provides tangible results, analytics and feedback that allow you to strengthen brand awareness, develop positioning and voice, and establish a clear mission and message.

 

  1. Maintain a consistent presence on the social media channels you choose to utilize and continually post fresh content for your audience. If you’re not regularly posting new content, followers will not take notice of your presence and your engagement will suffer. To combat this, be sure to post company news, customer reviews and demonstrate thought leadership online as frequently as possible.

 

  1. Pay attention to video as both a social media platform and content format. Video continues its rapid growth in popularity among technical professionals who like visuals for “how-to” and tutorial videos. Easy to distribute with simple methods for tracking metrics, video is a worthwhile investment that can be used to its full potential if you utilize it properly. Consider selecting a media partner or hiring someone in-house to assist if you do not have these capabilities within your organization already.

 

  1. Be selective. While social media marketing is important for manufacturers, keep in mind that it should be complementary to your existing digital marketing strategies and methods of communicating important company messages and news. Choose judiciously which platforms you decide to utilize based on whether they will resonate with your target audience.

 

The question around social media has shifted from “why?” to “how?”. The social media landscape has dramatically changed over the past decade, becoming an integral part of our day-to-day communications – both personal and professional – and a necessary component of any marketing strategy. As B2B marketers, it is crucial that we keep up with these changes and understand how to be effective in utilizing social media for the benefit of our customers.

About the Author

Amber Cooleen is Senior Director, Marketing for IEEE GlobalSpec. In this role, she oversees branding, editorial management, thought leadership, social media, and other corporate marketing initiatives. Amber has been with IEEE GlobalSpec since 2005. Prior to joining the company, she held communications leadership roles with Century 21 Real Estate Corporation.  Amber holds a BA and MA in Corporate & Organizational Communications degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

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