Study finds social media equally influential to conventional outlets

NEW YORK: Tech decision makers give user-generated sites equal importance to traditional media sources when considering tech purchases, according to a new study by Hill & Knowlton. But when it comes to a establishing a company's reputation, analyst and traditional media relations are still most influential.

NEW YORK: Tech decision makers give user-generated sites equal importance to traditional media sources when considering tech purchases, according to a new study by Hill & Knowlton. But when it comes to establishing a company's reputation, analyst and traditional media relations are still most influential.

The “Tech Decision Maker” study found that decision makers consider their personal experience (58%) first when short-listing tech vendors, followed by word-of-mouth and industry analyst reports, tied at 51%.

But a nearly equal number of respondents cited user-generated media (28%) and traditional media (27%) as most influential in purchasing decisions. Advertising (17%) and direct marketing (21%) were listed as the least important information sources when short-listing vendors.

"Because some of the percentages are so close together, it's hard to categorically say that one channel is more important than other,” said Joshua Reynolds, global technology practice director for Hill & Knowlton.

When asked what information sources have the most impact on the "perception or image of the product or service or company," 69% said trade magazines, 68% business publications, and 67% said industry analyst reports. Only 16% responded with industry blogs.

“[Traditional] media and analysts still control reputation,” said Reynolds. “But product information and pure tech PR is now very much the areas of word-of-mouth and digital.”

Consumers also consider publications with an online presence more credible than RSS feeds or private blogs.

“InformationWeek.com or the online version of eWeek has more credibility and reach than Tech Crunch, Gizmodo, or other private blogs when it comes to driving purchases,” Reynolds noted.

The study also found that 27% of respondents said industry analysts could influence them to spend money on tech. “It's the budget crunch, yet one in four people are saying analysts can convince them to loosen those purse strings,” Reynolds noted. The study, now in its fourth year, sampled around 400 C-suite executives and IT managers who influence purchasing decisions in the US, UK, and Canada.

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