Social media’s significant impact on IT buying

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IDG recently conducted research into how IT buyers used social media in buying decisions. The survey, which defined social platforms as blogs, social networks, wikis, mashups, peer-to-peer networks and discussion forums or boards. Conducted online in March, the survey collected responses from 150 IT buyers who’d been involved in a major IT investment decision within the past 18 months. “ITM” spoke to Bob Johnson, VP-principal analyst with the Content Optimization Practice at IDG Connect.

ITM: Have you done this kind of research before?

Johnson: This is the first time we have done research specifically on social media and its use in the IT decision-making process. We’ve done extensive [audits] of the use of marketing content in the past.

ITM: What jumped out?

Johnson: It was surprising to see how powerful social media is already in the minds of IT buyers. In fact, social media in terms of importance weight, has a greater weight than either editorial or vendor content alternatives.

[Specifically, to the question, “Compared to vendor content or editorial content from independent authorities how much weight do you give to social content, from peers, in making IT investment decisions? How much weight will each get two years from now?” Participants ranked social content at the top (37%), followed by vendor content (32%) and editorial content (27%).]

ITM: Does the survey provide any guidance on private versus public platforms?

Johnson: Our belief is, vendors and agencies have to first ensure that their internally managed and controlled social platform is aligned to the needs of their target audiences.

ITM: Social media sites are popular, clearly. But are commercial interests given a fair hearing when they participate?

Johnson: The answer we found through the research, is they can participate and they should participate. That’s backed up by the research, which shows if a vendor offers a link from social content to their own educational or transactional content, does it negatively impact your perception of the legitimacy and usefulness of the peer-generated content? 37% said “Yes” but 47% said “No.”

The issue for marketers, they need to break free from the past practice of trying to combine transactional or promotional angles in their conversations with educational; they need to keep it education and let the individual want to hear their story.

The impact of social is very significant from the buyer perspective. If a vendor is mentioned positively, it can increase the likelihood of moving that vendor to the short list by about 8%. But the reverse is also true: A negative commentary takes place, it can reduce by 13% the likelihood of them moving forward.

In research I’ve done in the past, shows that if someone has a positive experience, they’ll tell an average of two other people; if they have a make your socks roll up and down, they’ll on average tell ten. But they have a negative experience they’ll tell an average of 20.

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