Canadian SMBs lead in use of video, social in B2B space

Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are much more likely to use social media and video to research their IT purchases than large enterprises, according to a research study on digital media consumption habits conducted by Softchoice Corp.

Softchoice, which provides IT products and services to companies of all sizes across North America, surveyed more than 1,400 people in both Canada and the United States about the media they use to help inform their B2B buying decisions earlier this year. The results, which were previewed exclusively to, are available in a top 10 list for marketers via the company’s Web site.

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According to Softchoice design and delivery manager Joel Marans, the project began when the company realized it needed more intelligence to help prioritize its own marketing activities.

“We couldn’t find this kind of research anywhere out there,” he said, “but we knew the whole landscape of digital media is changing so much.”

Among the key findings, 14 per cent of SMBs said they frequently watch work-related video, and 47 per cent said they offer unlimited access to social media. SMBs also scored the highest in using mobile phones for research purchases, at 54 per cent overall. This could be because smaller organizations are more nimble in adopting new forms of media, Marans said.

For Softchoice, the message was clear. “Never assume access is ubiquitous. Access and use of digital media varies significantly by organization size and role type. Think about your audience,” a summary of the report findings says. “If you’re looking to appeal to people in the SMB space, or senior level decision makers, you have a number of avenues to promote your message. But this might not necessarily be the case for large enterprise organizations.”

While traditional IT media such as remain the most popular method of learning about technology at 17 per cent, the Softchoice study noted the rising influence of blogs and community forums, which were most popular within SMBs and mid-market organizations.

“People still rely on credibility,” Marans said. “It talks about the authenticity of the message they’re receiving. People are really more interested in hearing from the people who are doing (technology projects) rather than people who are just trying to market products.”

The lesson here, Marans added, is for all kinds of marketers to become more “community minded,” and figure out where their audiences are gathering and developing the appropriate blog or forum presence.

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There has been some other research in this area, and it supports the Softchoice findings. Public relations firm Hill & Knowlton has published a series of Tech Decision Maker studies over the last several years. Although H&K didn’t update its research last year, the report from 2009 showed strong loyalty to blogs and online media as well as business and trade magazines.

“The last time we did this study was when we first added a series of questions about sources of information where we added blogs and chat rooms. We found consumer-generated media was being used by a third of respondents,” said Mary Keating, who leads H&K’s technology practice in Canada. This was before social media and video were as prevalent as they are today, she added.

H&K, which conducted the Tech Decision Makers studies to help its clients develop their marketing programs, is will consider doing new research next year, said Keating.

Marans said Softchoice is paying particular attention to the 60 per cent of its survey’s respondents who said they have used their mobile phone to research an IT purchase. This largest portion of this group (54) per cent comes from the SMB space and RIM’s BlackBerry device continues to lead the pack at 42 per cent of those surveyed.

“It really gives us an opportunity to think strategically about what we’re going to do in the mobile space,” he said, “making sure that we’re ready in our business to allow our customers to view all of our content across all of our digital properties on their smartphones and even tablet PCs.”

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