Social media for engineers? Only half right

I sat in the audience recently as a social media consultant expounded on the benefits of reaching engineers through social media. But I had to smile when he got to the part about online networks such as LinkedIn. The reason: I had gotten curious about what kind of engineering audience takes part in these things. So I decided to go through the membership list of a LinkedIn group for engineers to see exactly who was there.

Machine Design has its own group on LinkedIn which has somewhere north of 3,300 members. So it was impractical to check each one of them to see who they were. Instead I picked a smaller group called Automation Engineers Motion Controls and Drives which had 355 members when I looked at it. My theory is that, at least in terms of its make up, this group is probably representative of others that cater to engineers.

So here is how the members of the AEMC&D LinkedIn group break out: Only about 56% of the group members seem to be working engineers, judging by their job titles. Another 25% have titles that are only peripheral to engineering. They include students, librarians, database administrators, supply chain people, government bureaucrats, and numerous others. (Some of these titles are so far out in left field from engineering that one wonders whether they somehow got confused and signed up for the wrong group.)

Another 10% of the members had marketing or sales titles. One might surmise that these people became members as a means of getting business -- a practice preached by the consultant to whom I had been listening. And about 7% of the members were either job recruiters or HR people -- looking for new hires, one might suppose.

That would tend to confirm what engineering recruiters have told us in recent years when we asked them where they find talent. They seem to put less emphasis on job boards these days and more emphasis on social media. One recruiter told me he gave up on job boards entirely when he posted an opening for a chemical engineer with very specific qualifications and was swamped with resumes from everyone from truck drivers to store clerks.

One last statistic is also interesting: I found 46% of the total members were located outside the U.S. Applying that figure to the working engineers who belong, that means that about 26% of the membership of any social media network catering to engineers is likely to consist of working engineers who reside in the U.S.

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