The Rise of the B2B Social IT Buyer

A look at the growing influence social media networks have on the IT purchasing process.
rubix cube with application logos in squares

Are CIOs using social media? This is a question we hear frequently – with any C-Suite audience actually. Most recently it came up while we were working with an IT consulting firm to develop an integrated marketing campaign aimed at building awareness and engagement with CIOs and influencers. A critical component of the campaign, as we recommended it, involved leveraging social media to connect with this target audience. As soon as social media was on the table, though, the firm got nervous. Were Twitter and LinkedIn really effective channels for reaching IT decision makers.

A number of reports have come out recently that seem to address this very question. They put hard data behind the trend we are increasingly seeing: social media networks have a growing and pervasive influence on the IT purchasing process. One study, conducted by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by LinkedIn, found that 85% of IT decision makers use at least one social network for business purposes, while 73% have engaged with an IT vendor via a social network.

So, yes, CIOs are using social media. But what does this mean for B2B tech marketers? ITSMA conducted a recent survey that drilled down into how B2B IT buyers consume information. The findings shed some light on which types of IT decision makers are using social media and how.

It turns out there’s a growing number of “B2B social buyers.” They consume information differently than traditional IT buyers and frequently turn to social media and online communities to find information during the research and purchasing process. Here’s what you need to know about them:

  • They are proactive and empowered – hands on and less likely to delegate research early on in the buying process
  • They are “young senior executives with clout” – decision makers generally under 40
  • They prefer receiving content through digital channels: social media, email, websites and blogs
  • They spend more time consuming content – an average of 6.5 hours a week (vs. 4.3 for the traditional buyer) staying up to date on industry and technology trends
  • They turn to social networks to simplify and validate the enormous volume of information they receive

Does the rise of the “B2B social buyer” mean social media should be the sole focus of a B2B technology firm’s marketing plan? No. But they are a growing segment that can no longer be ignored. The opportunity for B2B tech marketers is incorporating social platforms into a synchronized marketing strategy, re-balancing the marketing mix to address the needs of social buyers as well as more traditional buyers.

Interestingly, both studies found that all IT buyers are hungry for fact-based content and thought leadership. Research reports, case studies, webinars, whitepapers, and content featuring best practices were most sited, especially earlier on in the buying process. As we examined in a recent whitepaper, C-suite executives in particular are always looking for “fresh ideas from outside their companies.” But in an environment of information overload, the content that grabs their attention is that which they can’t find anywhere else. “Tell me something I don’t know” is the something we’ve heard frequently from C-suite executives. For B2B tech firms, this means you must find that content niche that is true to your brand, content that is most credible and unique coming from you. This is the content that CIOs will pay attention to – no matter what channel.

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