Is Social Media a Waste of Time for Professionals?

social mediaEE TIMES REPORTED “Engineers aren’t using social networking for work.” Is it because Engineers are so stereo-typically introverted and non-social? EE Times’s survey found that Engineers guard their privacy (probably wisely) when they do use social media. About 30 percent of the respondents surveyed were not using social networks at all, citing that it was a “waste of time” or irrelevant to their work. A January 2013 Infographic by Shea Bennett concluded that learning is the main reason that engineers use social media and that 60% of engineers used social media to find products or solutions.

Kate Worlock at was the Lead Analyst on a 2010 study conducted by Knovel around the current use of online social networks by engineers.

The study indicates that Engineers are likely to use social media for:

  • Increasing collaboration
  • Getting up-to-speed on new projects
  • Enhancing productivity
  • Sharing expertise

However, there remain concerns around sharing sensitive information on through social media.  The ability to share information securely is a particular interest for Engineers.

Sharing and Collaborating While Maintaining Security

I will assume that my readers are versed in the best ways to protect themselves when using social media. If you would like more information, the National Cyber Security Alliance is available to help. We all could take the lead from Engineering professionals when we think about how we collaborate on line.  Keeping files with Google, or sharing material on Facebook or through LinkedIn may not be wise.  Yet using social media platforms to find expertise is a good idea.  And maintaining a vibrant network of social media contacts, a presence of LinkedIn and Facebook, can position you as an expert. Still you don’t have to give away trade secrets or sensitive project information to have a good technical conversation.

The people I recruit are Process Engineers, Engineering Managers, Project Manager and others who could benefit from current “state of the art” information, that is available on the internet.  This is the kind of information that is useful to trade in a social networking platform.  Asking someone how they handled the challenge of managing change through the implementation of TPM is not asking for a trade secret and yet getting insights from a number of people could be very valuable. I certainly learn a lot when I interview candidates, none of it trade secret.

Use LinkedIn to pose questions and provide information that is not confidential.With over 25,000 engineering-related groups on LinkedIn, it is easy to find the right platform for posing your questions.  In LinkedIn, use the use the drop-down next to the search box to select Groups, then enter a few key words in the search box to find relevant Groups, A few that I recommend are:

  1. TPS +1 Engineering which is a sub-group of TPS Principals and Practice
  2. Process Engineer – very active 119 discussion this month
  3. Electrical Engineer World is also active with 65 discussions this month
  4. ASME (Ameican Society of Mechanical Engineers) was very active with 104 discussions this month
  5. Entry Level Chemical Engineers in US was very active with 285 discussions this month
  6. AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) was active with 82 discussions this month
  7. Industrial Engineering Network was very active with 80 discussions this month

Select active discussions because groups that have more activity will be more responsive when you initiate a discussion you might initiate.  Subscribe to a few groups, then maintain activity by responding to the questions others pose. This will help establish rapport with group members. Then you have a question, members are likely to be very responsive.  Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself in an active discussion when you initially join a group.

Machine Design recently posted an article on January 7,2014 that reviews 19 LinkedIn sites: “Best of the Web: Best Engineering LinkedIn Groups”  Though many of these sites may have be less active in terms of discussions, there is always the option to contact members directly with your questions. My recent article, “Making the Most of LinkedIn – Part I, Tagging Contacts” talks about setting up tagging contacts so that you can send them individual messages.  By reaching out to group members, you could easily create your own list of advisers.

Remember, to be consider the information you are sharing.  If you do not want information broadcast to the universe, don’t share it.  If you have information you would like to share in a more secure environment, post that you will send a private message (people see that you are helpful but reserved).  Then use LinkedIn to send a message to that member, while you are in the group.  You can choose to provide detail or to set a time to chat over the phone, or by email.

Select active discussions because groups that have more activity will be more responsive when you initiate a discussion you might initiate.

Secure File Sharing Options

As a fiction writer, deep in the process of writing a lengthy historic novel, I use secure file sharing to manage and protect my work.  Having it in the cloud means that I don’t have to worry about losing my material if my computer crashes.  File sharing also allows me to share files across all the computers that I use, and if I want to share my work with an editor, allows me to provide secure access to my document without sharing all my files. I know that some of my colleagues at work use secure file sharing to collaborate on projects. One of my favorite sources of technology information is Mashable. A few days ago, Grace Smith wrote an article for Mashable that reviews 22 File-Sharing Tools, with the cost for each.  Among those the following were noted as being secure

  1. Drop Box – Fies are stored using 256-bit AES encryption, and SSL creates a secure tunnel for data transfers.Dropbox’s storage is SSAE16/SOC1, SOC2, ISAE 3402 and ISO 27001 certified on Amazon S3 and may provide data mirroring across other secure data centers. (free to $15.00/month)
  2. Hightail – Offers password protection, identity verification and file tracking, along with 128-bit SSL encryption in transit and 256-bit AES encryption at rest. (free to $24.99/month)
  3. Box – Claims to offer a new level of content management security, with role-based access controls, 99.9% uptime guarantee, and high-grade SSL encryption on transit and 256-bit AES encryption at rest. Box has also been issued an SSAE 16 Type II report.(free to $35.00/month)
  4. OneHub – Integrates with Google Drive, which allows you to create documents in Google Drive and then store and share with the security that Google Drive does not offer. Onehub uses the same 256-bit encryption and physical security policies as banks. We employ multiple methods of keeping your data secure both in transit and at rest. Using SSL, every communication is sent over a secure, encrypted connection. Data is always stored encrypted when at rest. Our service is monitored 24/7, and our practices are verified by VeriSign. ($9.95 to $99.95/month)

A number of the file sharing options that Mashable reviewed do not include file storage, but provide for sharing of documents much too large to email.  I did not look further into these resources and am not prepared to comment on how secure they might be.  The four file-sharing tools I list offer file storage and sharing and explicitly make claims regarding security.  The file-sharing tools that offered storage but made vague statements about privacy have not been included.  I am not providing any warranty for the security of the documents you share, but provide a guiding light to head you in the right direction. If security is an issue, read the fine print and understand the protection offered.

While, using social media may seem a “waste of time” or irrelevant to the work you do, maintaining a network on LinkedIn will allow you access to experts who can help you address problems that may be new to you, but are common in your profession. It is not necessary to avoid social media to preserve your privacy – simply share only what you would comfortably broadcast to the universe.  If there are things you would like to share but fear a security issue, make use of secure file sharing resources.

The basic economic resource – the means of production – is no longer capital, nor natural resources, nor labor. It is and will be knowledge.  — Peter Drucker

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Jeanne Ritterson, ECIR, is a full cycle recruiter employed by a Fortune 500 company. She specializes in technical recruiting and likes to understand what drives candidates so that she can assist them in a launching careers that match their career goals.



Categories: Articles, Career Networking

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