Efficiency & Relevance: Why Social Media Is A Growing Force In IT Purchasing [INFOGRAPHIC]

November 13, 2012

Let’s face it, information overload is an unrelenting reality for professionals, and making purchasing decisions has never been more complicated than it is today. LinkedIn wanted to understand how IT decision makers (ITDM) are dealing with these challenges, and commissioned Forrester Consulting to conduct a study that examines the decision making process among this group. We specifically focused on social media’s effect and, in a separate follow-up study with Research Now, zeroed in on how these professionals are engaging with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as they navigate the decision making process. In both studies, we surveyed 400 ITDMs across a diverse range of industries throughout North America.

Titled IT Purchasing Goes Social, our study aims to understand the growing and pervasive influence social platforms have on ITDMs so that we can give greater insight to B2B marketers on how to cut through the noise.

It’s no surprise that ITDMs are heavy users of social networks. In fact, 85% have used at least one social network for business purposes. What is surprising is that 73% have engaged with an IT vendor on a social network – underscoring the value of the channel for IT marketers. Even more revealing is the fact that social media is now a critical source of influence across the entire decision making process, not just during the initial research phase. Fifty-nine percent of respondents say they are influenced by at least one social network when considering business purchases. During each of the five phases of decision making – awareness, scope, plan, select, implement – social networks influence nearly 50% of all ITDMs involved in each phase. This is close to a 60% increase since 2010.

More and more, ITDMs turn to their individual social networks to streamline and validate the enormous volume of information they receive. They find their professional social networks, in particular, to be a place of trust, efficiency, relevance, and access. Ninety five percent use LinkedIn, for business purposes. Trusted opinions and information from peers are the number one drivers of use, as 58% leverage social networks to learn from peers. Meanwhile, access is nearly as important with 49% saying social networks give them broader reach to a network of peers. We also found that close to 40% used social networks to connect with vendors in a relevant context and to learn from industry experts.

Additionally, ITDMs are more influenced by social networks than other channels with 59% relying on social platforms for purchasing decisions versus 46% that turn to online media publications. Additionally, professional networks are more influential than other resources, such as topic-specific sites and personal social networks. With this shift, social media is proving to be a more efficient and productive resource in the buying process.

We will reveal the full research at LinkedIn’s TechConnect:12 event on November 29 taking place in Silicon Valley. Linkedin executives and marketing leaders and analysts from IBM, Dell, Forrester Research, Inc. and NYU will share their experience and point-of-view about the evolution of the industry. Clay Shirky will deliver a keynote address. The IT purchasing process is no doubt shifting to social. Through this study, we will provide marketers the effective tools they will need to adapt in this evolving environment, and offer best practices tips which will give them a better shot at increasing engagement and proving ROI. Get the full story here.