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11/15/2012
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4 Social Factors That Drive IT Buying Decisions

LinkedIn study finds that social networks are increasingly influential throughout the tech purchasing process.

Social media is assuming an increasingly important role in the IT buying process, according to a new study, "IT Purchasing Goes Social." The study, performed by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by LinkedIn, found that social networks have emerged as a source of growing influence across the purchasing process.

Four hundred IT professionals across a diverse range of industries throughout North America were surveyed. LinkedIn commissioned a follow-up study with ResearchNow to provide additional information on how IT professionals are engaging with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

"We wanted to understand how IT decision makers are sifting through the enormous amounts of information available to them when they're making their purchasing decisions," said Mike Weir, LinkedIn's head of category development for the technology industry, in an interview with The BrainYard.

The study found that 85% of IT decision makers have used at least one social network for business purposes, and that 73% have engaged with an IT vendor on a social network. In addition, 59% of respondents said they rely on social platforms for purchasing decisions, while 46% turn to online media publications.

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"The channels of influence continue to be very diverse -- live events, websites, tech media websites," said Weir, who has written a blog on the topic. "However, social media is starting to rise up the ranks."

There is also a more diverse mix of stakeholders involved in the technology decision-making process, said Weir. "Whether it's the CFO who's now working with the CIO to do a CRM implementation so that they can have full line of sight of all market programs, or the head of sales or head of operations similarly grabbing onto tech as a way to empower their teams to do their jobs better, tech is providing true business differentiation," he said.

So what is driving the increase in the use of social platforms, especially when most IT professionals have to operate from a very guarded position to avoid revealing sensitive information about their organizations and/or information that could be used to gain competitive advantage?

Weir said there are a variety of ways in which IT professionals are engaging on social: "More and more folks are joining groups," he said. "The ability to take any conversation -- whether you're receiving an email promotion from a technology company or whether you went to a live or virtual event -- we are seeing social become a validation point. We've seen continued expansion on our platform and more and more specialized groups that allow IT decision makers to be able to talk with their peers and also to be able to engage with experts, whether those people are consultants, representatives from technology companies themselves or they could be value-added resellers representing lots of different kinds of technologies. The ability to join a group and challenge ideas that were presented, to bring up new ideas that they have discovered -- groups is one of those major points of engagement that social media is providing "

Weir said there are four specific factors that are driving the use of social during the decision-making process:

  • Trust: IT professionals want to learn from both their peers and subject-matter experts. Professional social networks allow users to see the background and credentials of the person they are communicating with.
  • Efficiency: Social networks make it easier to reach a wide network of individuals.
  • Relevancy: Users can quickly find access to the information and people they need.
  • Access: Social networks enable users to reach out to people they never would have dreamed of communicating with directly.

LinkedIn will present the full research at the TechConnect:12 event on Nov. 29.

Is social part of your decision-making process? How so? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

Download the new issue of Must Reads, a compendium of our best recent coverage on IT-as-a-service. It includes articles on cloud computing myths, how to build an IT service catalog, security problems, and more. (Free registration required.)

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