Rob Cronin Seth Duncan
Rob Cronin (L) & Seth Duncan authored this piece.
More times than we can recall, we’ve counseled clients on earned media strategy (e.g., which reporter and outlet should be approached with “the story” and why).

As sound as we believe our counsel has been over the years, it was based largely on previous experience and relationships. And while these are valuable considerations to be sure, we both knew — let’s be honest, all of us have always known — that these are highly subjective filters, particularly for business. In response, we’ve been developing a capability designed to find more data-driven, quantified answers to these and other questions facing tech CMOs and CCOs every day.

O'Dwyer's Nov. '16 Technology PR MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '16 Technology PR Magazine

We started with a simple, relevant question: “What media do CIOs engage with the most?” What followed was three years of developing the necessary technology, talent and process to create the first in a series of technology “tribes” — nerd slang for databases that are focused on capturing and analyzing the online behaviors of specific audiences.

The more formal term for this is “audience-based analytics” and it’s a field that W2O Group has pioneered.

What started as a skunk works project is today a database of more than 20,000 IT Decision Makers, including thousands of CIOs. By capturing publicly available posts, shares and likes from ITDM handles across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other online sources we are able to amass statistically valid data sets across industry, title, geography.

We then use proprietary algorithms developed by our data scientists to understand not just media consumption, but trends related to topics, content, conferences, thought leaders, fellow ITDM behaviors and more. Our most recent analysis illustrates how this works.

ITDMs are very active in social media channels, but not always in ways a PR professional would expect. In our analysis of over 5.3 million social media posts from ITDMs over the past 12 months, over a third (35 percent) of the posts are actually about IT. This content covers many IT topics but is increasingly focused on IT security, especially new malware, hacker threats, and the various updates and patches required to keep these threats at bay.

Another 20 percent of their social media posts are about the “ITDM Lifestyle” that goes along with the considerable travel required of ITDMs at mid- to enterprise-sized companies. This content tends to be the most original and engaging to their peers and friends and is often written with the dry and sardonic wit stereotypical of IT professionals.

Popular themes here include the trials and tribulations of air travel, the food they eat while travelling for work and a range of nature and architecture photography taken while traveling. The latter two are of particular interest because they demonstrate something that seems obvious but is often overlooked when communicating with IT professionals: they are surrounded by technology all day every day. This is not how they want to spend their free time.

In many respects ITDMs engage with and produce social content typical of educated, professional, usually male audiences. They tend to discuss sports, politics, business news and, unsurprisingly, “Star Wars.” There are a few areas of interest that are especially unique to ITDMs, though, including the role of technology in higher education and space exploration. And — in case you were wondering — if ITDMs elected the next POTUS, her name would be Hillary.

Sometimes an audience’s dislikes are as informative as their likes. In the case of ITDMs, the big dislike is the types of inspirational quotes that are typical of LinkedIn newsfeeds (e.g., Steve Jobs’ mantra to “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”). We found that ITDMs are less than half as likely to post an inspirational quote in one of their social feeds than the general population.

So, if you’re a community manager that’s responsible for producing content that’s relevant to ITDMs, we recommend that you avoid sharing these bite-sized universal wisdoms.

A good portion of your ITDM audience will find it cliché. Unless, of course, you are posting them with a deep sense of irony.

For all the advances in digital marketing, conference-base d marketing remains a large share of most tech CMOs budgets. But budget beware: Not all tech conferences are created equal in the Seth Duncan eyes of the almighty IT buyer.

Although Gartner’s IT Symposium continues to reign supreme, some may be surprised to learn that Microsoft Ignite isn’t too far behind VMworld and is actually ahead of Dreamforce, Cisco Live Rob Cronin and Oracle OpenWorld.

And how do you like that: we buried the lead! When it comes to media consumption trends, we tend to look at two data sets. The first uses link sharing as a proxy for what ITDMs are reading. The second analyzes who ITDMs are following compared to a normative sample. For the purposes of our analysis we remained topic-neutral.

So what pearls of wisdom can we offer? First, for all of the tech PR folks out there deciding between the Wall Street Journal and New York Times for your next exclusive, we would offer the following advice: you will reach roughly the same number of ITDMs, but the network effect will be far greater with The Gray Lady.

Second, ITDMs have an outsized appetite for Slashdot, NPR programs and The Onion. And finally, some of the many questions inspired by our data include: Have you embraced Medium as a platform? What’s your HBR strategy? How often are you engaging with the Washington Post?


Rob Cronin leads the Technology practice at W2O Group. Seth Duncan is the Chief Analytics Officer at W2O Group.