B2B Social Listening: How to Tune In

Good listening skills are paramount to any relationship and the same is true when it comes to B2B social listening. When done correctly, social listening skills can not only improve your social media interactions but also provide current, up-to-the-minute insights into the needs and pains of your audience, which will add depth and dimension to your marketing strategy.

Social listening B2B

What is B2B social listening? 

B2B social listening, also known as social media monitoring, is the process of listening and evaluating online discussions, to find out what customers, industry leaders, and competitors are saying about a company, brand, product, or concept. A study conducted by JD Power and Associates reported that 42% of companies listed social listening in their top three priorities for 2013. Compared to more traditional research tools like focus groups, interviews, and surveys, social listening often yields fresher, more current data, usually with less effort involved.

Social listening can be used to track relevant conversations that businesses can use to:

  • Connect with new prospects
  • Identify conversations and topics that will connect to your customers’ needs and pains
  • Identify and connect with potential partners / resellers
  • Monitor competitive activity
  • Support and engage with current clients and / or people who have participated in their programs

It’s a good idea to prioritize and rank these objectives according to what you are trying to achieve with your social listening strategy. This will help to determine which keywords to track.

What tools should I use for B2B social listening?

There are many tools available for identifying and aggregating data from public platforms. Examples include:

These tools deliver data, though—they do not interpret it.

While some tools are capable of organizing data by category and sentiment, technology cannot accurately translate the subtlety of sarcasm, clichés, and colloquial expressions. Human analysis is still necessary to interpret significance from the aggregated content. Technology is useful to expose the conversation, however it won’t do the interactive footwork for you.

How should marketers use B2B social listening to track relevant conversations?

 1.    Choose a platform (Brainrider recommends Argyle social, but there are many great tools available).

2.    Choose the keywords you want to track. These should be based on searches that are relevant to both your target audience’s problem, and your value proposition. You should also include competitor’s brand names, product names, solution names, or specific technical concepts unique to the industry.

3.    Set up keyword tracking.

4.    Set up campaign classification for your business’ content. Brainrider does this by defining the needs and pains of your customer, classifying those pains into 4-5 content categories, and then filtering those categories back through your value proposition, to ensure your keywords are connected to your business. You can tag assets within a campaign, and then track which campaigns are the most engaging.

5.    Set aside 30 mins – 1 hr/week to review and read conversations. Set aside 10-15 minutes every day to engage with 2-3 conversations each week. For example, you can engage is by offering resources to demonstrate subject matter expertise.

6.    Review your keyword in chosen platform, looking for relevant conversations.

7. Identify relevant conversations. Here’s some criteria Brainrider uses:

  • The message comes from one of your target audiences, prospects, potential partners / resellers, competitors, or current clients
  • The message is relevant to your business’s value proposition (someone is looking for a tool similar to what you provide, or trying to solve a problem that your business could solve).
  • The message shares something of value.

8.    If you spot valuable, relevant content being shared by a third party, share it with your followers.

9.    Continually cull your keyword list down to focus on those with a higher yield.

 What should you do next?

Download this content marketing strategy template to align your content development with your business objectives.

PIPEDA and Privacy Considerations for B2B Marketing

We’re a Canadian-based company with Canadian and U.S.-based clients.  We use marketing tools from Canadian and American vendors. Moreover, we use a lot of Software-as-a-Service tools that securely store some of our business data and information “in the cloud”.

So, like our clients and many Canadian companies in general, we collect data from our prospects and customers that could be stored and/or processed in a foreign country.  We’re not legal or privacy experts, so you need to seek appropriate counsel when dealing with these issues in your business.

Because of our expertise in B2B marketing and automation tools, we are often asked about the significance of PIPEDA as it relates to business-to-business marketing (here’s a link to some great privacy resources for organizations on the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s website).

We’re also asked about common and best practices with respect to the collection, processing, and storage of marketing data in the course of marketing and selling to other businesses (as opposed to consumers).

For the sake of context, one of the big concerns for Canadian companies storing or processing data in the United States is the U.S. Patriot Act. The executive summary version is that the Act permits U.S. law enforcement officials to access any personal information about any individual without that person’s knowledge or consent.  The Act would enable access to personal information of Canadian individuals if that information was physically or electronically located within the USA.

If you want deeper background reading on the subject, I recommend taking a look at the well-written FAQ page and more detailed Report on Assessment of Privacy Concerns Related to the USA Patriot Act published on the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s website.

From the perspective of Canadian privacy compliance, any business collecting personal information needs to be aware of the implications of storing and/or processing that information in the USA.  Some Canadian companies seek out data management solutions that keep all personal information within Canadian borders, while others employ other risk management strategies.

Here are the key considerations for Canadian B2B marketers

Personal information, as defined in PIPEDA, does not include things like the name, title, business address or telephone number of an employee of an organization.  This is spelled out very clearly in a fact sheet about PIPEDA compliance on the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s website.

Our advice to B2B marketing clients is typically two-fold:

  1. Seek expert guidance and counsel from your corporate lawyer and privacy experts
  2. Write a privacy policy for your website that includes explanations in clear, plain terms that:
    • your company is not collecting personal information which would be covered by PIPEDA
    • your company will only collect business information about an individual
    • as a matter of best practice and full disclosure (but NOT PIPEDA compliance), data collected through your website may be stored and or processed in a foreign country. (see the Privacy Commissioner’s website for more advice on disclosure)

Are you losing potential B2B sales every day?

Many B2B companies are under-utilizing technology and the Internet. They’re relying instead on tried and true methods of generating leads, including directories, vertical media, telemarketing and direct marketing.

Of course, B2B marketing managers can never forget the power and influence wielded by their own sales group, which favors solutions that work now to identify prospects and drive same-quarter sales. Risk is indeed a four letter word.

However, the B2B marketing environment is currently undergoing a radical shift, largely because of the impact of technology on purchasing behavior. Customers today expect more value, information, and responsiveness than traditional channels can deliver.

As a result, basic product data sheets and brochures are sales table-stakes that no longer create incremental demand. Lead generation is saturated with too many companies chasing prospects in those traditional channels. Buying cycles are starting earlier because there is more up-front pre-sales contact research by purchasers.

In fact, more than 85% of B2B purchases now start with research on the web, and 80% of B2B purchasers state they have directly sourced their purchase options. The increase in blogs, discussion groups, analyst reports and online media is forcing B2B brands to compete in brand new ways when providing relevant and valuable information to purchasers.

B2B companies that are not fully leveraging technology and the Internet to acquire customers are losing potential sales every day. Many of their prospects are lost because most B2B websites are brochureware (we call them ‘b-nodes’).

In fact, fewer than 3% of B2B web visitors convert to prospects, because b-nodes are not SEO-aligned with what customers are searching for during the pre-purchase phase of the buying cycle. Not only that, many B2B marketers make a sporadic and inconsistent effort to refresh or improve their websites.

The gap between what would-be customers want to know, and what B2B marketers are telling them, presents a tremendous opportunity.

Smart marketers are working with marketing firms built to service the digital marketspace. They’re technically-adroit and Internet-savvy. They provide a roster of services designed to drive sales by enhancing the alignment between B2B marketers and their customers.