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The complete guide to online social listening

If you haven’t noticed by now, social listening is kind of a big deal for brands today.

Why? Because we’re capable of learning more than ever by tracking our customers’ social behavior.

What products are people digging? What’s got your industry buzzing? Through social listening, you can answer these questions and so much more in an instant.

But while the importance of monitoring your mentions and conversations is a no-brainer, many brands are actually missing out on some crucial interactions because they’re stuck in a bubble.

Reality check: there’s more to listening than just the “usual suspects” such as Facebook and Twitter. To guarantee a complete picture of your business’ online presence, stepping up your online social listening is a must-do.

What is online social listening?

When we talk about online social listening, we’re referring to social sites beyond “the big five” (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest).

Consider the sheer popularity of sites such as YouTube, Reddit and Quora. Each is a hotbed of discussion about brands and likewise places to capitalize on mentions from customers.

And while you may not think of these platforms as social sites, bear in mind that they do represent active communities with profiles, comment sections and opportunities to engage with businesses.

Sounds pretty “social” to us!

Why online social listening matters

At a glance, these sites may not seem totally relevant to your brand.

However, we’d argue otherwise based on the benefits highlighted below.

Uncover hidden conversations about your business

There’s a universal expectation for businesses to reply in a timely manner to customers on social media, right?

Now think about when happens when you fail to reply at all. Not a good look.

If you have negative comments simply sitting around on a social site, you’re neglecting your online reputation. On the flip side, failing to respond to questions or even positive feedback from customers would mean a missed opportunity for another sale.

And unlike social media where customers might tag you when talking about you, these conversations tend to fly under the radar unless you’re explicitly seeking them out. Through online social listening, you ensure that no potential touchpoints with prospects or customers go unnoticed.

Keep a closer eye on your industry (and competition)

Discussions about your brand and industry at large are happening far beyond the realms of the Twitterverse.

Reddit and Quora, in particular, are prime places to learn about industry trends and businesses related to your business’ niche. These sorts of threads are insightful as they’re organic and unfiltered. When people are talking about your space, ask yourself: are you part of the conversation?

Take a more holistic approach to your online presence

At the end of the day, online social listening gives you a more comprehensive understanding of your brand sentiment.

The conversations people are having on your Instagram or Facebook might be night-and-day versus other online forums. There’s no logic in listening to feedback from particular segments of your audience instead of everybody.

Brands should be able to monitor their presence across all social platforms. This is especially true given that consumers on sites like YouTube or Reddit can represent high-intent buyers who can teach you a ton about what your new customers are looking for.

What social sites should businesses pay attention to beyond “the big five?”

Good question! Although we’ve already covered some the staples of online social listening, let’s dive into the specific platforms and what sort of keywords and terms you should integrate into your listening strategy.


As video content continues to take over the web, YouTube represents one of the fastest-growing communities online.

And while it’s no secret that people love to watch videos, but the degree to which consumers use videos for product research is staggering. Recent video marketing statistics note that 80% of people note that videos are helpful in making purchasing decisions.

People are sounding off on products like never before and are using YouTube videos as a creative medium to do so. If you want to know where your business stands on YouTube or what your customers are thinking, you need to know what terms to track.

Online social listening on YouTube starts with your brand name. Here’s a good example of curated reviews for Blue Apron. It’s beneficial to not only know what customers are saying about you but also the fact that folks are creating content on your behalf at all.

Beyond your brand name, “how to” queries are great to track as well. Educational, tutorial-style content absolutely kills it on YouTube. If you want to know if people are listing your products or you want to be featured in such tutorials, you need to know what your customers are learning.

For example, if I were a company like Alienware or iBUYPOWER, I’d want to know what the top product recommendations are for queries such as “How to build a gaming PC.”

“Best” queries are also worth tracking on YouTube, such as “best WordPress plugins” or “best Orlando restaurants.” The popularity of listicles and best-of’s, even in video format, speaks for itself.

Oh, and don’t forget the actual actions you can take on YouTube as a result of your online social listening.

Just as we always recommend brands to reply as swiftly as possible to customers, the same rings true to YouTube content. Showing your viewers some love for them giving you their undivided attention is the least you can do. Monitoring your comment section and notifications can actually help you breed brand loyalty.

For example, companies like Beardbrand actively monitor and reply to comments on each and every one of their videos. Frequent discussions, debates and fun back-and-forth in the comment section between the company and its followers have created a sort of cult-like following that Beardbrand obviously appreciates.


Reddit is somewhat of an enigma for businesses.

That said, it’s a crucial spot to conduct online social listening.

What makes Reddit so complicated? Simply put, its user base is not exactly friendly to businesses or marketers. Most posts or comments that are deemed to be advertising or something self-promotional are usually downvoted into oblivion.

Even so, Reddit is a massive forum of discussion when it comes to brands, products and services. Many consumers flock to Reddit solely because it’s free of promotion and marketing spam.

Just look at any Google query for a general product, business or service. The term “Reddit” will pop up alongside such terms as people want authentic opinions rather than SEO results.

So, what should you look for on Reddit?

If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, we recommend following subreddits related to your business and industry. For example, a restaurant based in Chicago would be wise to monitor brand searches in /r/ChicagoFood. The same can be applied to other subreddits such as /r/ChicagoSuburbs or /r/Chicago. These are the places where you’re going to see your business’ name come up.

Also, monitor industry and product-specific subreddit. For example, a local cafe should not only follow geo-specific subreddits, but also niche ones such as /r/barista. These types of subreddits are prime spots to curate content ideas and even post your own social content if it’s relevant.

Unlike other social networks where responding to comments is the norm, brands should tread lightly on Reddit. This is perhaps the best example where your online social listening may quite literally just mean listening. If you do decide to respond to someone, be sincere and transparent about your intentions.

Review Sites (Yelp, TripAdvisor)

For local businesses, online social listening on review sites is non-negotiable.

Assuming that you’ve already claimed your profiles on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, you can prioritize your notifications accordingly.

Review sites are beneficial for beefing up your online reputation while also keeping tabs on others.  For example, tracking business categories and key terms (think: “vegan” or “vegan Orlando”) can clue you in on new competitors in your space.

Yelp! offers a “community answers” section which serves as an opportunity to reply to customer concerns. As noted in our guide to customer relationships, responding to these types of comments can reduce churn. Doing so also proves that you’re an active, attentive business owner who cares for their customers.

The same can be applied to listening to and responding to reviews, too.

The keyword here is “listening.” Yes, review sites and star-ratings have made the service industry absolutely cutthroat online. Regardless, you need to be tactful in how you listen to and respond to complaints and praise alike. Take the time to craft thoughtful responses.

Adopting a “kill them with kindness” mentality can help keep your business in a positive light even in the face of less-than-stellar customer experiences. On the flip side, responding to good reviews gives you satisfied customers all the more reason to come back.

Don’t forget that tracking data is a key component of online social listening. Yelp actually allows you to track trends in your reviews to ensure that your reputation stays on the up-and-up. Although reviews on such sites can be brutal, it’s important to look at the big-picture versus one-off reviews.


Quora has become increasingly popular for B2B professionals within the past few years.

Serving as a Q&A platform, Quora is sort of like Reddit in the sense that pure self-promotion is discouraged. Those answering questions are expected to offer meaningful, authentic insight rather than just dumping links.

Quora allows you to search specific brands and products within questions and answers alike. This allows you to track to track both people talking about you as well as those who might site your business as a solution.

Businesses should follow as many topics and queries relevant to their industry as possible. You then have a wider breadth of potential questions to answer in addition to places to pick up on conversations about your business.


Tumblr is yet another head-scratcher for many brands. In fact, Tumblr themselves admit that their platform follows the ideology of “anything goes.”

Regardless, it’s an incredibly popular platform for creative types and bloggers in certain B2C spaces.

Tumblr allows you to search and follow keywords in addition to specific blogs. Following topics will populate your feed with popular images and blogs from that tag. This can serve as yet another avenue for inspiration depending on what you’re looking for.


How to wrangle your online social listening

Between all of these platforms in addition to the more “standard” social sites, you need a concrete strategy for social listening.

Because going site-by-site is not only incredibly daunting: it’s downright inefficient.

Remember what we said earlier about taking a holistic approach to listening? Through tools like Sprout Social, you can monitor all of your online social listening queries and data in one place.

Rather than jump from individual social mentions and RSS feeds, Sprout aggregates your defined terms such as your social accounts, hashtags, industry keywords and more.

And with that, we wrap up our guide!

Are you listening?

There’s no denying that there’s a lot of ground for businesses to cover when it comes to social listening.

But that doesn’t change the fact that customers have plenty to say and expect brands to respond.

Hopefully now you have a better idea of how you can uncover those conversations yourself. Through effective social listening, your business can win over more followers and customers alike by capitalizing on the moments that matter most online.


This post The complete guide to online 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.

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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


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 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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