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.

Using Your Existing B2B Marketing Budget To Increase Engagement & Double Your Online Leads

Generating more qualified leads, increasing their engagement, and getting more customers doesn’t always require a bigger B2B marketing budget.  Instead you should look at optimizing how your budget is spent.  Here is a case study of a client project that delivered double the leads without increasing their budget.

Objective: Better B2B lead generation results from AdWords

While AdWords can efficiently drive traffic it is often a very blunt demand generation tool.  AdWords performance is generally measured by cost per click but for most B2B marketers higher traffic volumes rarely translate into better lead generation.  The real objective should be optimizing all of your marketing, including your AdWords spend, to capture and convert more qualified leads. (more…)

How To Blog For B2B Marketing

Blogging can be a powerful B2B Marketing tool. If you aren’t already blogging, it might be time to start. If you are, there are plenty of good reasons to keep it up: they are great for SEO because Google love blog content, posting is quick and easy, they are ideal for sharing in other channels, and they are a proven way to connect with and convert more customers.

Here are a few quick blogging how to ideas to get you started:

Focus on what your customer wants to knowToo many businesses use their Blog to talk about how great they are but the old dictum “remember your audience” is especially true when blogging. You only have a few short paragraphs to get a reader’s attention and make your point, so be relevant. Focus your post on one or two specific ideas that are relevant to the reader and offer practical recommendations. Link to other relevant resources on your site but don’t be afraid to link to 3rd sources as well. What you know about can be just as powerful as what you know.
 
Stick to your brandWhether your blog posts come from the CEO, a handful of subject matter experts, your marketing team or even a guest post, define your brand’s voice and then stick to it. Your bloggers may come and go, but so long as your posts stay true to your brand then you’re unlikely to run into any trouble.
 
Include a call to actionOne of the quickest ways to get customers to opt-in is your blog. So when you have your readers’ attention, make sure you invite them to subscribe. You can use a tool like Feedburner for a simple solution but contact us for best practices on how to integrate your blog into your marketing automation tool. Remember, the ultimate purpose of a marketing blog isn’t just to share your expertise; it’s to generate leads.
 
Schedule your postsYou need fewer posts to get started than you think. Start with 2-3 posts a month. Use a tool like WordPress to bulk schedule your posts in advance. Don’t send them all at once but trickle them out and cross promote them on your home page, twitter feed and emails. You can blog in real time too, but scheduling ensures a steady stream and let’s you post more efficiently and strategically.
 
Use your analyticsHere’s where you get the insights that makes Blogging so useful. Configure a tool like Google Analytics to track what categories, tags or posts are connecting with your audience . And then focus on those subjects in your content plan

More B2B Marketing Resources

Visit the BrainRider Knowledge Center for lots of free tools and best practices.

Twitter for B2B Marketing: 5 tips

While 140 characters of text hardly seems enough to say much about anything, Twitter is a useful B2B marketing tool – especially when it comes to gaining insights about content and customers. With its simple publishing, connectivity with social media platforms, and capacity to track and measure engagement, Twitter is a great tool for curating, sharing & testing content.

Here are 5 tips to get the most out of Twitter:

Its not all about youToo many businesses use their Twitter stream like a one-way pipe, pumping out dreck best left for an in-house corporate newsletter. (“Our new product launch is just 16 months away!”). Don’t link to your own stuff all the time. The web is a big place full of things that are of interest to your potential customers. Link to those things from your Twitter stream and folks will be more likely to follow you. And less likely to unfollow you.
 
Don’t be vanillaDon’t use the plain vanilla Twitter page background that came with your sign-up. It’s a sure sign that you don’t care. Upload your own background to make your page inviting, engaging, professional. Even the free ones are nice. Add your company logo, or your own photo, in your profile area in the top right corner of your page. Then link to your website or blog. Okay, there’s room for only one live link, not much space for text—and none for pictures—in your profile area. But that shouldn’t stop you.
 
Follow people to get followersA quick way to get followers list is to follow people. Search for analysts, publications and influencers in your market and follow them. Then follow their followers. Search related keywords and #hashtags (like #B2B) to find other tweets in your category and follow their authors. Now watch your tweet stream, who’s joining in the conversation and follow the accounts with something useful to add. Not everyone you follow will follow you back, but a lot will.
 
Schedule your tweetsStart with 2-3 tweets a day. Use a tool like Hootsuite to bulk schedule your tweets in advance. Don’t send them all at once but trickle them out and test different times of day. You might have a morning, afternoon or evening audience or even followers in a different time-zone. You can tweet in real time too, but scheduling ensures a steady stream and let’s you post tweets more efficiently and strategically.
 
Use your analyticsHere’s where you get the insights that makes Twitter so useful. Use a tool like Hootsuite to track how many people mentioned or clicked on your link. While retweets and mentions might suggest if you’re on the right track, clicks are a better measure of content engagement.

More B2B Marketing Resources

Visit the BrainRider Knowledge Center for lots of free tools and best practices.

How to use LinkedIn Company Pages for B2B Marketing

In the past year LinkedIn has expanded their company pages with several great B2B Marketing features.  If you have not actively managed your profile to help connect with and convert more customers 2011 might be the time to start!

Getting found and quickly telling your story when customers search for you has become a key part of  B2B marketing plans.  Because LinkedIn profiles have great SEO they often deliver first page results.  And since three quarters of B2B purchasers are now using social media as part of the buying process (source: ITSMA) you should expect that they will look at your profile as part of the process.

Make sure that your employee profiles and company profiles are telling your story and supporting your value proposition.

Key features you should be using on LinkedIn company pages

LinkedIn Company Page Best Practices (more…)

B2B Marketing Resources: a list of useful B2B marketing links

I often get asked, both in person and online, for recommendations of good B2B marketing resources. There are some sales propaganda efforts out there, but there are also quite a few good objective sources that have cropped up in the past few years. We try to curate content from a lot of different sources in the BrainRider Connect + Convert blog, B2B Marketing Knowledge Center, and @BrainRider Twitter feed.

Some of our most fruitful feeds these days include:

What other B2B marketing resources do you find useful?  Add them in the Comments below, and we’ll update the main post with them to build a consolidated list. (no sales propaganda please!) (more…)

SEO for B2B Marketing: tips to reach more customers

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an important part of any Business to Business (B2B) marketing and lead generation program designed to reach more customers.  With most purchase decisions involving web research at all stages of the decision process, getting found by search engines is key.  While many companies need help, the good news is that SEO is quickly moving from a hard to understand technical discipline to a marketing discipline focused on strategy, planning, prioritization, and execution.

Understanding search engine optimization (SEO) and key SEO priorities for B2B Marketers.

Unlike B2C SEO marketing which often concentrates on technical optimization and “black-hat” specialists who try to “cheat” the system, improving SEO results for B2B comes from a combination of technical optimization and content value.

Technical optimization is similar to hygiene.  Without good hygiene it is hard to get a date (ask any 14  year old boy!) but hygiene alone will not get you many dates.  To become successful in the dating game you need more than good hygiene, you need to be interesting, and even more importantly interested in your date’s interests.  You need charm to be truly attractive.  SEO for B2B marketers works in a similar way. (more…)

B2B Marketing: How To Get More Customers Using Social Media

Research from ITSMA and others has been highlighting how the B2B buying process is changing.  For example over 75% of tech buyers are using Social Media like LinkedIn and blogs as part of the buying process and buyers are making use of search tools like Google which often deliver Social Media results.

A recent example from Booze & Company’s B2B Marketing Survey 2010 highlights how B2B marketers are changing their marketing mix to follow this trend.

Growth of B2B Marketing Spend Shifting to Social Media and Digital

The benefits of using social media in your B2B marketing mix

While there is lots of buzz about Social Media and B2B the practical benefits of a marketing mix that includes Social Media are:

  • Search Engine Optimization
  • More targeted market reach using your network
  • More qualified inbound traffic

And when combined with a best practice mix of content, programs and pipeline marketing tools like Pardot’s Prospect Insight, Social Media can capture more prospects and deliver more visibility into your pipeline.

Along with these practical benefits, softer benefits like anecdotal market insight, corporate openness, customer engagement, and hearing what your customers are saying can also be valuable but BrainRider starts by focusing on how to use Social Media to attract and convert more customers.

The challenges in using Social Media for B2B

But social media also has some significant challenges.  We often work with mid-market companies who compete based on specialized knowledge or expertise–not price. That implies a longer buying cycle, a very targeted market and a need to focus their marketing resources.  For these client’s Social Media can be a challenge because of:

  • The large number of options and platforms
  • The demand for marketing content
  • The investment needed to manage a real-time environment
  • A lack of integration with their pipeline and sales process

However with the right approach these challenges can be managed and you can access the benefits of using Social Media as part of your marketing mix.

A best practice approach: Outposts and Anchors

Our recommendation is a low-hanging fruit approach designed to expand your reach and presence while managing your investment and channelling all your leads into your pipeline.  This B2B specific approach is based on Chris Brogan’s thinking about Social Media outposts and anchors but it has been tailored to fit the needs of our clients.

First, think of your Social Media presence as a series of marketing “outposts” setup in channels where your potential buyers are active and where search engines index for results.  This is a version of the age old recommendation to go where your customers are.

B2B Social Media strategy, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogging, RSS

Use these outposts to share content designed to connect with prospects at each stage of their decision-making process.  This content can be re-used in multiple formats, types and outposts but it should be focused on what your customers want to know and your value proposition.  And because many Social Media channels can syndicate their content through feeds you can often efficiently post and cross-reference your content across multiple outposts automatically.   This is a smart way to efficiently reduce the time it takes to expand your Social Media presence.

We often recommend starting with a combination of Twitter, LinkedIn, SlideShare, and blogging.  These four social media channels are low hanging opportunities for most companies and they work well together.  But ask your customers what they are using and experiment with new channels as they get on your radar.  But don’t forget in each of these cases, the purpose of these outposts is to quickly connect with your prospects using light content and direct them into your pipeline by using an anchor offering more valuable content.

(To get you started here is a quick post on how to setup your LinkedIn profile to act as an outpost.)

Next create an “anchor” on your own website (BrainRider’s anchor is our https://brainrider.com/knowledge-center) .  Your anchor should be designed to help your prospects quickly find more interesting thinking, knowledge, and expertise as well as to encourage them to easily opt-into for access to even more content.   And because they are now on your website, you can use digital analytics and marketing automation tools to track a specific prospect’s interest in a subject area and nurture them through the decision process with additional relevant content.  Click here for some thoughts on nurturing best practice.

As more and more research is showing, Social Media can be an important part of your marketing mix, I hope this post and the outpost and anchor approach is helpful in getting you get started.  For more information or to discuss your specific needs please feel free to contact us.


For more insight on Social Media, B2B Marketing, and the Booz & Company research Courtney Wiley, Director of Digital Marketing over at INgage Networks has a terrific blog post looking at this trend and she leverages her own practical knowledge to share 7 great tips on what you can do for your own marketing efforts.

Or check out our resource center.