The use of social media as an integral part of marketing continues to be a popular discussion topic amongst our partners – and the general population of B2B marketers, I think. Recent conversations with Cisco partners range from those that are actively utilizing social media in their marketing mix and just want to know how to do it better to some that have yet to give it a try. Regardless of where you are on this spectrum, information about how IT decision makers are leveraging social media is critical.
A few years ago, Toolbox.com and PJA embarked on a multi-year study of social media use among global IT decision makers and influencers. The latest iteration of this study, completed in January 2010, is now available.
Here are some key findings of the study along with some potential implications for you and your social media marketing strategy:
1) Social media consumption among IT executives and professionals has leveled off, but continues to outpace vendor and editorial content consumption
Things to think about: Although, not necessarily the death knell for online editorial media or vendor-produced white papers, webcasts and such, this does indicate the growing reliance of IT professionals on social media and user-generated content. Knowing that IT professionals spend nearly 30% more time each week reviewing social media content versus vendor content can be a decent data point when trying to convince your management team that participating in social media is important to your marketing efficacy. For those of you already utilizing social media for marketing to IT decision makers, this gives some justification to keep doing what you’re doing and possibly to expand. It also should make you want to find those social media outposts where IT decision makers are spending their time.
2) Social media consumption continues to show impressive growth across all job titles with business decision makers showing the most dramatic increase.
Things to think about: Business decision makers can sometimes be a bit of a red-headed-step- child to technology marketers (no offense to red heads, especially since I am one). We are seeing increased importance of marketing to BDMs as their influence in technology decisions grows. Using social media in conjunction with content oriented to how technology can help solve business problems increases in importance for marketing as BDM usage of social media continues to rise.
3) Staying current is the most popular use of social media for IT Professionals
Things to think about: While staying current can be accomplished online through other resources, social media content, at least in part, is created by the IT professionals’ peer group. In this way they gain a unique perspective on current trends, one based on direct experience and opinions from like-minded professionals. Additionally, quality of content and frequency of posting are seen as the most important attributes in social media to IT professionals. Think about what this means if you are contributing content to social networks. Your content needs to be fresh, relevant, and timely.
4) More than half of IT decision makers have replied to a question posted on a social media site in the last six months. 50% have posted a question themselves.
Things to think about: IT professionals are not lurkers in social media, consuming information but seldom contributing. Instead, IT professionals are very active participants utilizing social media as a support structure to increase confidence in decision making. Think about how your content can be a valuable asset to this audience as they progress through their technology consideration process.
In my opinion, we, as technology marketers, have an important role to play in social media. Our primary target audience, the IT professional is hungry for information and welcomes our contributions to the conversation. It’s up to us to provide valuable, insightful, relevant content to this audience in places where it is easy for them to access. Not an easy task, but one that I hope is made a little more clear with this information.
The full study along with the previous four iterations, dating back to 2007, is available here.