Study: Social media influences b-to-b tech purchases

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Social media is playing an important role in IT purchases throughout the decision-making process, according to a report by Starcom MediaVest Group and Mashwork. The study, "B2B Technology Decision Journey," was based on an analysis of social conversations among 500 business and IT decision-makers throughout 2012. According to the report, 80% of IT decision-makers said word-of-mouth is the most important source when making buying decisions, and 58% said they use social media to learn from trustworthy peers. The study broke down the various stages of the technology-purchase cycle, from awareness and consideration to purchase and post-purchase, and looked at how IT decision-makers use social media at each stage.

Overall, 13% of social media conversations about IT purchases took place during the awareness phase, the study found. "A majority of this conversation takes the form of sharing and discussing news about new products, often coming from tech blogs and Twitter users," Starcom MediaVest said in the report. Nine percent of social media conversations by IT buyers took place during the consideration phase, when technology decision-makers had narrowed their choice to a few options. "At this stage of the decision journey, b-to-b technology decision-makers reach out to their networks to ask questions," the report said. "B-to-b technology decision-makers ask for guidance and inquire about other people's experiences with the products they are considering."

Other areas of the IT decision-making and post-purchase process in which social media plays a significant role are: customer advocacy (17%); experiencing success with products purchased (14%); "sabotage," in which decision-makers disparage tech brands (12%); product implementation (9%); and other issues around tech products (4%). Other types of social conversations that play a role in technology decision-making come from external sources, including guidance from those familiar with the products being purchased (15% of conversations) and those detracting from tech brands (8% of conversations). "Because this decision journey is a modular, continuous cycle, b-to-b decision-makers are perpetually surrounded by individuals providing opinions and information about technology products," the report said.

"B-to-b decision-makers are therefore extremely aware of the perception of brands and technology products on social media when they are making a purchase."

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