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If you manage social media engagement for your company or group, you have probably received questions about the role of social in IT purchasing decisions and/or have been asked to prove that IT managers do engage in social media. You’ve probably also been asked to tie social activities directly to new leads and revenues. While it is possible to trace new leads and revenues back to social media, not every social activity you do may have a direct impact on revenues. And it may not always be your goal either. But social media does have a place in your relationship toolbox and in the IT buying cycle which can directly or indirectly impact your bottom line.

According to a global survey by Toolbox.com (an online IT community) on IT Purchasing, social media has a growing impact on how IT professionals make decisions. Did you know that the #1 reason IT professionals contribute in online communities is to help their peers get answers? Over 81% are motivated to participate in online communities to do that. (Don’t underestimate the power of peer influence!) IT professionals spend more and more time helping, exploring and conversing in social media. Social media consumption in the workplace increased 15% to 6.77 hours per week among IT pros and it’s influencing the purchasing decision process:

The same Toolbox.com study reveals that over 62% of them turn to best practices communities to support purchasing decisions, 49% use professional networks such as LinkedIn or Ryze, and 26% read blogs as they go through the decision-making process. Social networking sites such as Facebook closely follow at 23%.  

Here is another interesting finding from this study: “More than 76% of executives and [IT] professionals state that it is important for vendors to have a presence in online communities, listen to audiences, and engage in conversations.” Repeat: listen and engage.

Listening allows a brand to receive real-time unfiltered feedback from customers and partners, uncover issues and pain points, and even identify potential business opportunities – it could be a new lead, product innovation or business model. The key is that it gives companies a chance to see themselves through its customers’ eyes. Listening can be very powerful if brands act upon the information they receive. Among many things, acting on feedback from listening can help prevent a crisis, influence the (potential) buyer’s sentiment, clarify misconceptions and aid in the buyer’s decision-making process.

Engaging with customers, partners and prospects, when done regularly and effectively, can help establish a brand (or brand representative) as a thought leader or expert – an unofficial title so many aspire to. This status is earned. How does it happen? By continuously providing value to and helping others. When the company engages with IT managers, it can help them uncover new product information, gain faster access to information and resolve issues or questions, to name just a few benefits. 

If you continue to remain unsure about whether or not social media has any value for IT professionals after reading about the Toolbox.com study, fast forward a few years.

The Next Generation of Decision Makers

The tail end of Gen Xers. The Millennials. Everyone else that comes after them. Research found that:

Why is this important? It’s just a matter of time before they become IT managers in decision-making/influencing roles. And when they do, they will start transforming the corporate culture to become a social media-inclusive work environment if it is not happening already. This is how they communicate in their personal lives and they will want to have the same methods of communication available to them in their professional lives. So even if you don’t think it is a big deal today, it’s not something that can (or should) be overlooked tomorrow.

Do you have any interesting factoids on IT managers and social media usage? If so, please drop me a comment. I’d love to get more stats on this topic. Thanks in advance!

For more information on this and other Toolbox.com surveys, click here.  

Additional Information Sources:
(1) http://mashable.com/2010/07/01/social-media-infographics/
(2) http://www.rosettathurman.com/2010/07/36-facts-about-generation-y-in-the-workplace-and-beyond/

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