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How to build a better business with B2B social listening

If you’re a B2B brand, chances are you already have plenty on your plate.

However, that’s no excuse to sleep on social listening.

Think about it. Customers and competitors are sounding off like never before on social media, especially in the ever-so-opinionated B2B space.

And so the rules of succeeding with B2B social media are changing. Digging into the data behind your mentions can lead to a treasure trove of insight to help you make actionable business decisions.

That is, if you’re listening.

Want to uncover what exactly what products and features customers want? Looking to get a leg up on your competition? With the help of B2B social listening, those answers are just a few clicks away.

In this guide, we’ll highlight how B2B brands can use social listening to build a better business and how to get started ASAP.

What are the big-picture benefits of B2B social listening?

Some B2B brands might see social media as a black hole when it comes to ROI.

Harsh, but we get it.

Let’s consider how B2B social listening can be a game-changer in terms of what you get out of your social presence, though.

Every interaction and engagement with your customers via social media is a valuable data point. Meanwhile, there’s arguably no better place to conduct competitive analysis and track industry trends.

Rather than treat social media like a time-sink, treat it as a place to gather business intelligence. Below are some key ways that B2B social listening does exactly that.

Make better sense of your shout-outs

People don’t take the time to tag you for no reason.

Maybe they have something to say about your customer service. Perhaps they have feedback on a particular product or feature.

Either way, B2B social listening helps put those mentions into context.

For example, this shout-out from a satisfied Sprout customer reinforces the fact that our customer support team is crushing it.

If you want to know whether or not a new feature or roll-out will be well received, social media is a great place to gather unfiltered feedback. For example, Skype recently reintroduced its “Away” status feature which resulted in a flurry of different responses from followers.

The takeaway? Behind every @mention notification is some sort of sentiment or feedback your business can learn from and act on.

Keep up with call-out culture

Like it or not, we live in a call-out culture online.

Customers and critics are anything but shy on social media. For B2B brands, call-outs for poor customer service, bad product experiences and pricing concerns can be particularly painful for your reputation.

Ignoring these sorts of mistakes is obviously a bad look. Likewise, you’ll oftentimes see competing products recommended in social call-out threads where your name is being dragged. Heck, sometimes competing brands might even swoop in to sound off, too.

Brands are expected to own their mistakes even when they aren’t even necessarily making, well, mistakes. Take for example Slack’s recent logo change which received a somewhat mixed reaction from customers.

Although many customers absolutely adored the new design, there was some pushback as well. Slack managed to respond diplomatically to each call-out and, at times, even took the comments in jest.

And on the flip side, Slack also managed to show love to customers who were supportive of the change.

Reality check: you need to be prepared to deal with the good and the bad when it comes to your mentions. Call-out culture isn’t going anywhere, which is why B2B social listening is so important for maintaining a positive relationship with your customers and industry at large.

Give customers exactly what they want

Want to know what products, features and services that your customers want?

Look no further than the social space.

Whether it’s current customers or prospects, people are constantly asking for recommendations via social to figure out which brands deserve their business.

And if someone is thinking about bouncing to a competitor, you need to take the time to understand why.

Social listening can help highlight the unique selling propositions of your own business in addition to your competitors. Having a pulse on both is crucial to your marketing and positioning moving forward.

Conduct more comprehensive competitive analysis

Speaking of competitors, B2B social listening makes it so much easier to keep an eye on your competition.

For example, monitoring industry-specific hashtags can help you understand what terms and types of content are resonating with your audience. Here’s a snapshot of a hashtag and keyword report from Sprout Social, highlighting branded and industry tags alike.

Consider also that not all conversations surrounding your business are happening on the likes of Twitter or LinkedIn.

Through comprehensive online social listening, you can assess what brands are being talked about on networks like YouTube which are hotbeds for B2B discussion that you may have been overlooking. This again highlights why brands need to not only track keywords for their business, but also take a holistic approach to B2B social listening that spans a variety of sources.

Target your prospecting efforts

As noted, social listening isn’t solely about your current customers: it’s about finding new ones as well.

You already know that your customers are on social media, right? Contacting them directly about your product is totally fair game, especially in the era of social selling and account-based marketing.

How to come up with a B2B social listening strategy

Just like anything else in the marketing world, you can’t just “wing” social listening.

There’s so much information to sift through and plenty of networks to cover.

If it all seems daunting, don’t panic quite yet.

Below is a breakdown of how you can come up with a B2B social listening strategy that makes sense for your brand.

Pick your priority networks

There’s no denying that there’s a lot of noise in the social space.

That’s why you need to focus on your social listening on places the most important conversations about your business are happening.

In terms of B2B social listening, Twitter and LinkedIn are typically considered the “big two.”

Why, though? For starters, Twitter represents a massive customer service channel. If there’s anywhere that customers are going to shout you out or raise a concern, chances are it’s Twitter. Also, many B2B brands and influencers use Twitter threads as an opportunity to sound off on industry happenings.

That said, LinkedIn is crucial to your B2B listening strategy. Given that a staggering 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn, you quite literally can’t afford to ignore the undisputed professional social network.

Beyond acquiring leads, LinkedIn offers a place for B2B brands to flex their influence. For example, let’s say you’re part of a “best of” listicle or you have customers highlighting your awesome new product on LinkedIn. These are the sort of valuable interactions that cement you as an industry player yourself.

Don’t neglect “secondary” social conversations

Some of the most important conversations surrounding your business are happening where you might not even be looking

Once you’ve locked down your mentions and tags on your priority network, take the time to dig through additional social sites to see what folks are saying about your brand.

For example, Quora is a popular place for consumers to pit brands against each other. It’s totally fair game to respond to such queries yourself, although many B2B brands don’t capitalize on these conversations.

The same rings true on Reddit. Although responding directly as a marketer might be discouraged, Reddit is a fantastic place to gather real-world industry insights beyond your marketing bubble.

Also, think about the conversations happening on B2B-specific sites such as Growth Hackers. If you’re invested in content marketing or fellow B2B brands see you as an industry leader, you need to be able to leverage those mentions.

Listen beyond your brand name

If you’re just listening to your brand name, you’re inevitably hindering your B2B social listening efforts.

For example, you need to monitor product or industry-specific keywords related to your business. These sorts of queries are what’s going to lead you to prospects and conversations where you can make your brand known.

The same logic rings true for hashtags. Signaling your own content as part of a larger conversation, hashtags can also clue you in on what content your competition is creating.

Take advantage of a social listening tool

Obviously, there are a ton of networks and conversations for your business to sift through.

Rather than do it “by hand,” let a B2B social listening tool do the legwork for you.

Specifically, Sprout’s social listening features allow you to monitor the critical conversations about your business and deliver in-depth analytics that put them into context. With the help of our query builder, you can search specific brand mentions, keywords and hashtags that pop up throughout the social space. Oh, and this also includes those “secondary” networks like Reddit.

With analytics including search volume, engagement and sentiment analysis, you can take a data-driven approach to tune up your marketing campaigns. This ensures that your social presence grows while also improving your sentiment among customers and prospects. Sounds like a win-win, right?

And with that, we wrap up our guide!

Are you on board with B2B social listening?

Listen: the B2B space is crowded. Anything you can do to cut through the noise to determine what your customers want is a huge plus.

With the help of B2B social listening, you can do exactly that.

From emerging trends to improving relationships with your customers and beyond, social listening can clue you in on what your next marketing moves should be. Any B2B brand should make social listening a priority, especially when there are social listening tools out there such as Sprout that can do most of the work for you.

We want to hear from you, though. What are you doing to listen to your customers and competitors? Where do you think the most important conversations in your industry are happening? Let us know in the comments below!

This post How to build a better business with B2B social listening originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

Check Also

The Community Imperative: Engaging in Conversations Rather Than Disseminating Information

Building Online Communities in B2B

Building Online Communities in B2B

What does effective marketing engagement look like?

In the common model we see today, it’s something like this: Brands push out relevant messaging, hoping to compel a response or interaction that leads to a conversation (and maybe ultimately a conversion). This can be anything from a comment on a social media post to a chat window initiation.

Nothing wrong with that. These back-and-forths between brands and individuals are important ingredients toward building trust and loyalty. The problem is that, as a sole method for driving engagement, the cast-and-wait approach is too dependent on explicit triggers to spark these interactions.  

Devising and creating content that drives targeted engagement is hard work. It’s worthwhile, but hard, and sometimes even well conceived plans miss the mark. What if you were able to develop a self-driven engagement engine, which fostered strategic conversations built awareness among your most valuable customers and prospects?

Enter: Communities.

Why Communities Matter to Digital Marketers

In his seminal book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin writes about turning scattered groups of followers into a unified “tribe,” which he defines as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”

Human beings have long gravitated toward these communal experiences, elevating the collective power of their interests, beliefs, or passions. According to Godin, a group needs two things to become a tribe:

  1. A shared idea
  2. A way to communicate

The internet has taken care of No. 2, making it easy for strangers around the globe to come together via message boards, social media, subreddits, etc. So really it’s about identifying that mutual idea, or focal point, and taking the lead in rallying people around it.

Coordinating Communities for B2B Marketing

It’s not uncommon for tribes to form around a B2C product or service. For example, my fiancée follows several social media groups dedicated to Oreo cookies. People in these communities share updates about new flavors, and where they can be found. Other examples of strong brand communities include Sephora, LEGO, and Starbucks.

In the B2B space, this is more challenging. People aren’t generally drawn to, say, cybersecurity software in the same way they are to their favorite coffee or cosmetics brand. But that’s not to say there isn’t a deep level of passion for cybersecurity — it’s a prevalent issue throughout our society, and one that many professionals spend their entire days thinking about. The key lies in hitting the right resonant note and facilitating connections.

In the case of cybersecurity specialists, we have to ask: What questions burn in their minds? Which elements of the subject excite or agitate them? Where do discussions among hardcore followers tend to center? This type of empathetic mindset should be at the core of our DNA as modern marketers.

Building B2B communities doesn’t always mean trying to create a “brand community” where your company and its offerings are the primary focus; this can be tough to accomplish, and even when you do, you’re unlikely to pull in many members outside of your existing customer base. The more effective approach, from my view, is building communities around interests and commonalities that align directly with what you do.

Pinpointing the ideal focal point for your community requires an acute understanding of the people you serve, derived through copious research. We can apply many of the same tactics for identifying best answer opportunities to arrive at data-driven conclusions about the most avid areas of curiosity for our audiences. If your customers are repeatedly asking the same questions to Google, they probably want to discuss them amongst one another as well.

Where Can You Build Online Communities?

Let’s say you’re interested in starting a community around a certain topic relevant to your brand. Where might go about doing so? Here are some popular options:

  • Facebook Groups: It’s the world’s most popular social media platform and a prevalent hub for connecting around common interests. We wrote recently about the value of Facebook groups for B2B brands. And Facebook’s recently announced redesign will put groups at the center of the experience.
  • LinkedIn Groups: Often a better contextual fit than Facebook for B2B social media groups, as LinkedIn is (of course) structured around professional topics. Last year LinkedIn made its Groups feature more accessible by integrating it into the mobile app.
  • Forum/Message Board: The online message board traces its origins back nearly to the dawn of the internet, when it was called a bulletin board system (BBS). Today, these platforms for organized digital discourse remain prevalent and — when well populated — highly active and engaging. This post from HubSpot offers some step-by-step guidance for launching your community in such a fashion.
  • Microsite: A special section of your website dedicated entirely to allowing your customers and audience members to interact with one another. It might be a message board built within your site, or a more customized setup. Whatever the case, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy to navigate and follow conversation threads.

Benefits of B2B Community-Building

“Community is important because it brings people together. Community keeps people loyal, makes them feel like they matter. It also lets the company show how much they appreciate their customers,” according to Mary Green, a community-building specialist who shared her insights with B2B News Network.

Beyond the overarching loyalty imperative, here are a few other practical advantages to creating an online community:

  • Firsthand audience research. Marketers are always endeavoring to understand what matters most to their audiences. In many cases, this requires considerable guesswork. But by monitoring a community, you can watch conversations play out organically, seeing what impassioned followers talk about and how they talk about it. This can serve as a crucial springboard for your content planning. It might even help inspire new product features or service offerings.
  • User-generated content. “Brands and influencers can make great content, but the phenomenal stuff comes from the discussion. User-generated content is gold,” says Green. I’ve written here in the past about the power of UGC for authenticity, and online communities can be an excellent resource for uncovering it.
  • Finding and cultivating influencers. Within these communities, you’ll frequently see particular experts emerging with strong voices or magnetic insights. These might be candidates to incorporate more deeply into your influencer marketing strategy.

B2B Brands Running Strong Communities

Looking for inspiration? Here are a few companies that set the right example with B2B community-building:

Bank of America

They major national bank created a small business online community, which they describe as “a forum for small business ideas, insider tips, and the industry knowledge you need to help your small business grow.”

As you scroll through the links and discussions within, you’ll find that much of it is unrelated to banking or even financial matters, and that’s just fine. The point is that numerous customers and prospects are coming to BoA’s website to talk shop.

Bank of America Online Community

Intuit

The QuickBooks Community is basically a public knowledge bank where users can help each other solve problems and learn new things. There are product-centric areas for QB troubleshooting, as well as general business discussions. Intuit company reps are also active participants in the community.

QuickBooks Online Community

Jamf

Jamf Nation describes itself as “the largest Apple IT management community in the world.” It’s a perfect example of owning a niche, and mobilizing a community while keeping product promotion on the backburner. Members are welcomed to “Dialog with your fellow IT professionals, gain insight about Apple device deployments, share best practices and bounce ideas off each other.”

Jamf Nation Online Community

Find Your Tribe

As marketing emphasis shifts more and more toward delivering holistic experiences, community-building should be a key consideration for practitioners everywhere, especially in B2B where the opportunity is especially ripe. Herein lies the next frontier of digital engagement.

Want to learn more about B2B brands that are finding more authentic ways to engage? Check out our post: Flipping the B2B Marketing Script: 7 Brands That Talk to Consumers, Not Companies

The post The Community Imperative: Engaging in Conversations Rather Than Disseminating Information appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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