Always on the hunt for hard numbers that illustrate the shifting influence of social vs. traditional media, I was struck by survey results published recently by IT Toolbox, an online community of IT professionals that claims 1.2 million members. Based upon responses from over 2,000 members, the major takeaways from the results are that IT spends more time consuming social media than traditional trade publications or vendor material, and also trust the material they find there more.
The full results can be found here. Here are the data and conclusions I found most interesting:
1. While IT spends more time reading content generated by peers (blogs, wikis, IT Toolbox, etc.), they still reference vendor web sites more for making purchasing decisions. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they trust vendor content more than user-generated content.
2. About two-thirds of respondents stated that the consumption of social media makes for a more informed purchasing decision.
3. Three-quarters say that the value of social media as part of the purchase decision-making process lies in giving IT buyers more objective feedback from multiple sources, which includes more conversations with peers.
4. Executive-level decision makers consume the most user-generated content, followed by IT analysts, developers and lower-level influencers.
5. More than half say that social media allows them to "probe more deeply into a solution than dealing with a vendor and their customer references."
Now, the results should be viewed relative to the sample size. It is compelling evidence, however, of the influence of social media on IT purchasing decisions. Looking at the results more holistically, it reinforces the need to integrate social media with traditional media and vendor content. I recently wrote about how the vendor’s own web site should evolve to allow for more community-driven content, with trust being an important justification. These results give more credence to this idea.