Access and Feeds

Social Media: Engineers Not Yet Comfortable with Social Media

By Dick Weisinger

Social Media and collaboration tools like LinkedIn, FaceBook and Twitter.  Facebook has more than 500 million users with more than half of all Internet-using Americans having accounts.  While Social Media has originated in consumer space, organizations are increasingly adopting Social Media tools like Facebook and Twitter, or similar collaboration tools having a business slant,  for use in business.

Discussion groups on LinkedIn and Facebook that are specific to business and professional topics are becoming very popular.  But despite this, one professional group that has shied away from the use of Social Media has been engineers.

A survey by Design News found that about half of all engineers have accounts with Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter and even check in frequently, but their usage of Social Media is restricted primarily for personal use.  Only 24.5 percent say that they use these services to discuss or to gain information about their own profession.  And when engineers do use these services for work-related purposes, it only happens on a daily basis 15.7 percent of the time.  Nearly half (47 percent) say that they’ve never used social networks for anything that is work related.

The reason for engineers’ reluctance to use these social tools is:

  • 58.5 percent — afraid that they may inadvertantly expose company intellectual property
  • 40.1 percent — loss of productivity
  • 29.3 percent — company policy did not allow the use of social media

While 64.5 percent of engineers say that they have a strong interest in being able to communicate with like-minded individuals on common topics of interest, some cite a major problem with social networking sites as being populated by “talking heads” — self-proclaimed experts.

When asked about what strengths that Social Networking can bring to an engineering environment, the engineers cited the following:

  • 62.7 percent say that it is good for gathering customer requirements
  • 63.3 percent say that it is a good tool for networking
  • 34.3 percent said that it is a good tool for collaborative engineering

Robin Saitz, senior vice president of marketing and communications at PTC, said “No one is going to develop the next airplane on Facebook – it’s too risky and out there.  But product development is inherently a social experience and it’s become more so given the global nature of business and the advent of the Internet. There’s an opportunity to take the great technology that has come to fruition from Web 2.0 and social media tools and apply it to a real-world product development environment.”

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