Top executives and IT managers increasingly look to their peers and industry experts when making business-to-business technology purchases, and social media are playing a growing role in driving revenue and reputation for technology companies, according to the Technology Purchase Decision Study, a new report from Hill+Knowlton Strategies,

While traditional media continues to be important in tech sector communications, commentary from peers and experts is now the top driver of B2B technology sales, and can even impact how executives view their own business priorities.

In a recent survey conducted by the Research+Data Insights division of H+K Strategies, 813 IT purchase decision-makers in the US and UK were asked about which communications channels most impact their decision to purchase technology solutions. The study also asked a series of questions to measure the frequency of their own participation in social media.

Top findings include:
• Word of mouth from peers and industry analyst commentary were the top two drivers of technology purchase decisions, followed closely by financial analyst reports, corporate web sites and traditional media sources (both online and offline)
• 48 percent of respondents said that word of mouth from peers frequently changed their decisions about their business priorities, not just their purchase decisions
• 76 percent of respondents said they actively post opinions and comment on what they read online at least a few times per month, with 49 percent saying they actively comment at least weekly.
• The most effective means of generating online commentary from B2B decision-makers is to pose a thought-provoking question related to current events
• Traditional news sources are consulted more frequently than social media or industry analysts, while analyst commentary and consultations have more impact on final purchase decisions

According to Joshua Reynolds, executive vice president and co-lead of the global technology practice at H+K Strategies, these trends mark a shift in how technology companies approach communications, increasing the need to share, not dictate, their reputation with the technology-buying public.

"We're seeing a change in how technology purchases are being influenced," says Reynolds. "Word of mouth from peers and industry analysts has grown in influence significantly since the 2009 study, and social media is the carrier signal for that influence. These findings lead us to strongly recommend communications programs for B2B tech companies that integrate reputational research, social media, analyst relations and traditional media.”