IT decision makers are using social media for business purposes in wildly increasing numbers. That statement is supported anecdotally by any number of sales people, forward-thinking marketing departments and the media; and, in a proper scientific manner, in a recent study conducted by Forrester and ResearchNow .

But why? What are IT buyers finding on social networks that they aren’t getting elsewhere? And, more importantly, how can you – as an IT/Software CEO or marketer — play a key role in the decision-making?

4 reasons IT decision-makers use social networks to help form their buying decision.

  • Validation. IT buyers are surrounded, and sometimes assaulted, by waaay too much information to process on their own. Websites, email, phone calls, trade shows, webinars, you name it. There’s a fire hose of information coming their way regarding just about any business problem or buying decision they face. Social networks help them validate the good information and filter out the crap.
  • Reach. On social networks, IT decision makers can get help from an expanded pool of trusted peers and experts. With millions and millions of users, social networks allow IT buyers to tap into the experience and expertise of what sometimes seems like every relevant source on the planet.
  • Speed. They can find relevant information fast. IT buyers can ask a question of their networks and groups or they can run a search similar to what they would do on Google or another search engine. Either way, they find what they’re looking for quickly and are more likely to avoid irrelevant, inaccurate information.
  • Trust. IT buyers told Forrester / Research Now that social networks, especially LinkedIn, make it easy for them to identify the credentials of information sources and people with whom they choose to connect. For IT buyers, social networks provide a trusted channel to connect with vendors.

How can you use this information?

Knowing that IT buyers are turning to social networks for those four reasons – validation, reach, speed and trust – how does a smart IT marketer respond?

  • Position yourself or your company as an expert. Use profiles, company pages, updates, tweets and discussions to showcase your knowledge and abilities – especially as it relates to helping IT buyers solve business problems. Develop and post content that proves your claims.
  • Expand your network to include as many relevant connections as possible. This means connecting with potential customers, of course; but also with other subject matter experts, suppliers of related or complementary products and services, and anyone else who influences your buyers.
  • Make yourself and your company easy to find. Expanding your network is one way to do this. Using keywords (and hashtags) strategically in profiles, posts and product descriptions is another. Join groups where your buyers are members and participate. Start your own group.
  • Keep it relevant. IT buyers are in social networks to get help solving problems, so focus on doing just that. Don’t waste their time blasting your press releases or irrelevant blog articles at them. Instead, listen to what they are asking. Provide answers if you can; suggest other sources if you can’t.
  • Don’t sell. Save your selling for offline. Do I need to say anything more?

How to learn more about this topic

By far, LinkedIn is the social network more IT buyers trust to help them make their buying decisions. Listen in on my phone interview with Mike Weir, LinkedIn’s Global Head of Technology Market Development. He’ll share a number of moves you can make to ensure IT buyers connect with your team. Click here to access the recording.

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