When Engineers and Social Media Intersect

April 1, 2010

Notes from the Intern's Desk:

By Elizabeth

Last month I attended an “EE Times Roundtable,” a presentation and discussion for PR and marketing professionals based on market trends, best practices and new techniques for engaging with engineers. EE Times is considered one of the go-to sources for engineers, so the presentation on how the publication is engaging and changing its approach to interacting via social media was helpful. EE Times is working on a redesign and relaunch for its Web site and will include many types of content and opportunities to connect online. (Also, they are currently looking for site moderators for their online forums, if you are interested.)

A sophomore in college interning here at Metis, I was easily the youngest person in a room full of seasoned reporters and specialists - a fact that, while primarily making me feel out of place, enhanced my ability to understand and relate to speaker Paul Miller's discussion of the current struggle with a generational gap and his prediction of where the future of engineering content lies, both in print and online.

The event served for Miller, CEO of EE Times, as an opportunity to present the publication's plan to re-energize its place in the market, re-think the way it does business, and re-engineer new and exciting products to meet the demands that 2010 will present. I have always associated engineering with innovation and fresh thinking, and although I know a person of any age is capable of coming up with a cutting-edge design, I assumed the engineering field to be made up of a younger crowd. So, I was surprised when Miller explained that the average age of an engineer in the United States is 48. He discussed a colleague's research regarding the kinds of sources engineers look to for information and the existence of a problematic generational gap: while older members of the field continue to rely on print media for information, the newer and soon-to-be engineers are focused on social media.

As my generation ascends into the workforce, the importance of Twitter feeds, forums, Facebook communities, and message boards is rapidly growing. Social media is one of the most important content sources available. Everyone from journalists to PR execs to the engineers themselves should start socializing. However, it's not necessary to dive in head first. Someone who loves to read the newspaper on his desk need not be forced into reading it online (until they all disappear – check out Newspaper Death Watch) - however, he should make himself familiar with the newspaper's Web site to involve himself in the online discussions that may be occurring.

The fact is that PR, marketing, journalism and the professionals who rely on these industries for exposure have moved into a new realm when it comes to content and networking – we're following our customers; those who refuse to jump on the social media bandwagon run the risk of being left behind – and losing out not only on great connections but on future customers, too.

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