Social networks overall have a growing and pervasive influence on the information technology (IT) purchasing process, despite the multiplicity of digital channels available to IT decision makers (ITDMs), according to studies from Forrester Consulting and Research Now, both commissioned by LinkedIn.

Moreover, LinkedIn has become an influential resource across the entire IT decision-making process, the research found.

To better understand how ITDMs are making purchasing decisions in an environment of information overload, LinkedIn commissioned a Forrester Consulting study titled "IT Purchasing Goes Social" and a ResearchNow study titled "IT Decision Makers Turn to LinkedIn." Both studies polled ITDMs across a diverse range of industries in North America.

Below, selected findings from those studies, as issued by LinkedIn.

ITDMs are heavy users of social networks:

  • 85% use at least one social network for business purposes.
  • 73% have engaged with an IT vendor via a social network.

However, LinkedIn is the preferred choice for ITDMs: 95% have used the professional networking site for business in the previous year, compared with 45% who have used personal social networks (e.g., Facebook) and 44% who have used microblogs (e.g., Twitter).

Influence of Social Networks

Nearly 6 in 10 ITDMs (59%) say they are influenced by at least one social network when considering purchasing decisions.

Among ITDMs, social networks have varying degrees of influence during each of the five phases of decision making—awareness, scope, planning, selection, and implementation:

  • Awareness: 54%
  • Scope: 45%
  • Plan: 46%
  • Select: 47%
  • Implement and rollout: 44%

On average, such social influence levels are 60% higher than those reported in 2010, and social's influence level on the "scope" phase is 96% higher than the level reported two years earlier, according to LinkedIn.

Reasons Tech Professionals Use Social Networks

ITDMs turn to their social networks to streamline and validate the enormous volume of information they receive, and they consider four factors when doing so—trust, efficiency, relevance, and access—the study found. 

Among ITDMs, factors such as trust and access are most important: 58% use social networks to learn from trusted peers, and 49% tap into social sites to reach a broader network of peers.

In addition, 40% used social networks to quickly find relevant information, and 37% do so to connect with vendors in a relevant context.

LinkedIn a Trusted Source of Information

With 95% penetration among ITDMs, LinkedIn is a critical platform for tech-related content. Some 56% of ITDMs say they follow a vendor via LinkedIn or belong to a vendor-sponsored LinkedIn group.

Moreover, among ITDMs, LinkedIn is a trusted source for validating information and connecting with vendors:

  • 71% say LinkedIn allows users to identify the credentials of information sources; only 35% say the same about Twitter and 29% say so about Facebook.
  • 58% say LinkedIn provides a trusted resource to help validate information from other sources (vs. 37% for Twitter and 29% for Facebook).
  • 55% say LinkedIn provides a trusted channel for vendor information (vs. 43% for Twitter and 32% for Facebook).

LinkedIn also offers ITDMs efficient and relevant information, as well as the ability to access a broader network of peers:

  • 54% of ITDMs say LinkedIn enables users to quickly find information; 42% say the same about Twitter and 34% say so about Facebook.
  • 71% say LinkedIn surfaces insights that are relevant to users' needs; 49% say the same about Twitter and 41% say so about Facebook.
  • 86% say LinkedIn provides access to a broader network of peers; 54% say the same about Twitter and 54% say so about Facebook.

Note: Additional findings will be released at LinkedIn's Techconnect12 event on November 29, 2012, in Menlo Park, California.

About the data: The ResearchNow study of ITDMs polled 400 IT decision makers in North America in the third quarter of 2012. The Forrester Consulting study was also conducted among 400 IT decision makers in the third quarter of 2012. A plurality of respondents in both studies were from high-tech companies (17%), followed by manufacturing (15%) and finance (14%).

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image of Lenna Garibian
Lenna Garibian is a MarketingProfs research writer and a marketing consultant in the tech industry, where she develops engaging content that builds thought leadership and revenue opportunities for clients. She's held marketing and research positions at eRPortal Software, GAP Inc., Stanford University, and the IMF. Reach Lenna via Twitter @LennaAnahid and LinkedIn.