Cutting Through the Noise with Social Listening: The B2B Story

May 24, 2018 Ioana Popescu

It's no stretch to say that there’s a lot of chatter on the internet creating a ton of digital noise. Today, on Twitter alone there are 350,000 new tweets sent per minute and currently 2.2 billion active monthly users on Facebook—that’s more people than the entire population of China. Within that chatter there’s a mass of vital, useful information and actionable insights from the people who are actually discussing your brand, your product or your industry online; and digital channels now influence 92% of B2B buying decisions.

That's a lot of noise. And as Nick LaBran, Social Media Intelligence at Harte Hanks explains in this video, you need to speak to your audiences relevantly about what matters to them in order to cut through that noise.  

Cue social listening. If you’re not doing it, you’re missing out on a host of opportunities for your business. 

What makes it so powerful is that it goes far beyond simply looking at what people are talking about; it identifies the why, translating data into valuable information that you can understand, act on and most importantly benefit from. Social listening insights can inform a range of actions, from how you engage directly with an individual customer to shifting your overall brand strategy. Unlike simply monitoring the digital noise, successfully listening requires analysis and reflection—and will ultimately allow you to better serve your audience as you:

  1. Discover positive and negative feelings about your brand. In addition to gauging overall sentiment towards your brand, you’ll be able to understand the why behind this sentiment (whether due to a new product, issues with your website, or a news story, for example). Having this more robust information allows you to more easily act upon both positive and negative social sentiment.
  2. Identify the trending topics and conversations to which you can contribute. You can use social listening to create meaningful content and conversations around what your audience is already talking about. If you realize, for example, that your industry is talking a lot about the SXSW event, you can find a way to take part in that conversation. Some social media monitoring tools also showcase which content is viewed and retweeted the most from across the entire web; you can learn from this successful content how to develop your own social buzz.
  3. Use real-time information about competitors to inform marketing tactics. If you are Apple and you see that Samsung customers are posting about their phones exploding, you could use this timely information to create ads promoting the fact your phones do NOT explode. If you are IBM and your social audit shows that HP is seeing success with how-to videos and case studies on their YouTube channel, you could work to improve your own video library. 
  4. Inform product and service offerings. Beyond messaging and channels, social listening can be used to inform product and service offerings. If you're in marketing at Shell, for example, and everyone is talking about telematics and artificial intelligence in the car, you may want to consider a partnership to provide those services. 
  5. Improve customer experience. Social listening will keep you informed of any changes your company needs to make. You’ll be able to identify complaints and issues from customers and act upon them in a specific and thoughtful manner. 

How to begin social listening

Don’t let the name fool you; social listening is much more than paying attention to @mentions, comments and notifications. If you’re only monitoring these items, you’re missing the full picture. You can utilize a variety of specifically designed engines, such as Crimson Hexagon, Sprinkler or Watson, to monitor all online conversations from social sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as news, blog posts, articles, forums—essentially the entire internet. You'll need one of these tools, or access to one from an agency partner, for successful social listening, but you can get started on a smaller scale with a combination of free tools like Hootsuite, TweetDeck and Google Alerts (see more free social listening tools here).

Once you’ve selected the tool you want to use, you’ll need to decide what you should be listening for. The specific keywords, topics and conversations you monitor will constantly evolve, but you can start from the following base:

  • Brand name
  • Product names
  • Industry buzzwords
  • Your slogan
  • Names of key people in your company
  • Campaign names or keywords
  • Branded hashtags
  • Unbranded hashtags related to your industry

And you’ll also want to listen for all of the above as they relate to your competitors.

You can make the most of the insights gleaned, including key industry trends and conversations, to build relationships with buyers and provide well-developed leads to your sales team. Check back for my next post when I discuss how to use the information gathered from social listening and translate it into successful lead generation.

You might also find value in this case study: Technology Giant Increases Buyers by 289% with Social Intelligence.

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