The excuses for shunning B2B social listening are familiar by now, and they are understandable even if they’re ultimately misguided:

  • B2B brands don’t generate the same social chatter as B2C brands in popular niches
  • B2B decision-makers don’t use social to research other businesses
  • The investment required for social listening doesn’t match the payoff.
  • People aren’t talking about your brand enough for social listening to be viable

Now that we’ve named the most prevalent excuses, let’s take a look at why they’re all wrong, and how the right social listening strategy will benefit your B2B business.

B2B Social Listening is Crucial…

First things first, many of the common objections to B2B social listening are based on a kernel of truth, but take things way too far. Of course B2C businesses that focus on luxury, entertainment or status symbol products are going to generate more social conversation among consumers. But your target B2B audience is still talking in all of the same places. You could just as easily say, and make sure that you do, that with fewer conversations to follow, it’s easier to focus your B2B social listening on the people who matter most.

Just as importantly, B2B social conversations tend to contain significantly more substance than their B2C counterparts. These aren’t just people talking about the luxury products they dream of buying, or sharing a hashtag to enter a contest. They’re decision-makers, evaluating their options with every tool available, including the wisdom and experience of their social connections. In any other context, B2B marketers would jump at the chance to obtain unfiltered feedback from the most important segments of their audience. Why should social listening be any different? 

…But Without a Social Listening Strategy, You’re Lost

The old “if it were easy, everyone would be doing it” excuse doesn’t really apply here, because the tools for social listening are widely available and relatively inexpensive. Yes, there’s a learning curve, but learning the tools should pose little challenge to anyone familiar with online marketing. The trick is coming up with a strategy that defines your social listening goals, and the steps you’ll take to achieve them.

  • Set Goals – It starts with understanding what you aim to accomplish, and that usually means asking questions. Most importantly, what do you hope to learn? There will always be surprises with social listening, which is part of its appeal, but it helps to start with a specific purpose and work from there. You can always adjust your goals as you gather more knowledge through social listening.
  • Choosing Keywords – It’s not the most exciting part of social listening, but choosing the right keywords to track is critical to your success. An SEO expert can work wonders in this regard. They understand how people search for information online, and how to conduct keyword research to find the most relevant terms for your business. Choosing targeted keywords helps you lock in on the right conversations, and can even help you identify the biggest social influencers in your niche.
  • Keep an Open Mind – Social listening is effective in part because it’s unfiltered. You get the good, the bad, and the ugly. Be prepared to be surprised, and be grateful when it happens. You’ll often get the most insight – positive, negative, or in between – from moments of unexpected candor.
  • Commit – While the data starts flowing quickly, social listening is not an overnight thing. The value comes from listening over time, putting what you learn into action, and repeating the cycle as you constantly improve your business.

Caution: a DIY social listening with free tools like Google Alerts or Talkwalker alerts has a steep learning curve (and limited capabilities), and while that might be OK for someone who can carve out the time for it and doesn’t have the budget, most businesses will achieve far more value by subbing the job to an experienced team, either internally or externally. Even using paid social publishing platforms like Hootsuite or Sprout Social take a substantial time investment (although some of the reporting is great and IMHO worth the investment). Outsourcing your social listening costs more, but you still get to read all of the detailed reports and conversations without having to worry about the procedural details. Depending on your goals, it can be well worth the investment.

So B2B marketers—stop making excuses and start implementing focused social listening into your marketing strategy. There’s no need to wonder what people are saying about your business (or what they’re looking for) when you can find out first hand and engage accordingly from a Marketing and Sales standpoint. #RonR… #NoLetUp

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