It’s true. Listening is the most important part of your social strategy. Social media listening is even more important than the content creation. So far, we’ve talked about the quality of followers being more important than the number of followers and provided a step-by-step process for identifying the right social media platforms for your brand. If you’re a B2B communications pro, you have your social media objectives laid out, have planned your launch and have your team in place.
But now what?
Now it’s time to listen. Simply put, listening should drive your B2B social media strategy. Here are few reasons; listening will tell you when your customers and partners are upset; listening will tell you when your audience has unanswered questions about your product; listening will let you know how customers feel about your brand; and listening will even tell you when there’s a sales opportunity. If you aren’t listening to your audiences, how do you know what they want?
Here are seven steps every B2B communicator should take when establishing a social media listening strategy:
- Know what to listen for, and develop a keyword list. This should not only include words specific to your brand, but also your competitors and industry.
- Decide which social media dashboard is right for you. Some social media dashboards, like HootSuite, TweetDeck and Sprinklr, let you listen, pull analytics and publish content. Not all are free, and not all can listen across multiple platforms. This piece from SocialMediaToday on monitoring gives a great breakdown of what your company should look for in a social media dashboard.
- If a social media dashboard isn’t enough, decide which monitoring tool works for your brand. Dashboards are great, but they have limitations. At some point, you may need to turn to more sophisticated tools like Radian6 or SimplyMeasured, which can deliver timed and sometimes even location-specific alerts with your listening keyword results.
- Listen. Monitor what is being said by your audiences. Are there recurring themes or even complaints you weren’t aware of? Do influencers compliment your products or your service? Is a competitor’s customer looking for suggestions on a new purchase? Take a few days and establish your rhythm, checking your social dashboard for real-time updates and reviewing your timed alerts for anything you may have missed.
- Analyze. Now that you are collecting data, it’s time to analyze the results – the mentions, criticisms and praise your brand is receiving online – and formulate a response strategy for managing them.
- Evaluate your resources. Before you start commenting and engaging with your audiences on your various platforms, decide whether you have the current in-house resources to manage the listening and response strategy you’ve put in place. If not, it might be time to grow your social media team, or to look to an experienced agency with a social media methodology and infrastructure to become an extension of your internal team to provide support.
- Engage. Once your team is in place to manage your social listening and engagement, make good use of the knowledge you attain through monitoring and analysis. If you notice a certain product or service is being complimented by several users, thank them and make that product a larger part of your social discussion through promotions and other appropriate vehicles. If monitoring shows that your blog content receives the most Retweets for your brand, focus on developing more of it. Prioritize the content you create and how you engage with your audience to maximize these discussions and attract new followers to your brand.
So let’s recap. Why is social media listening so important? Because listening is the foundation of your B2B social strategy. It’s the base upon which lead generation, analysis, engagement and reporting stand upon. If you start with a poor keyword list or sub-standard monitoring strategy, you will never catch the sales lead, or the comments being made by your brand’s champions and critics online. But you can bet your competitors will, and they’ll be ready to respond.
One final note. For an example of a B2B brand that has really bought into the value of social media listening, read this blog from Cisco Systems on their new Social Media Listening Center. The CMO has an interactive social display in front of her office, illustrating real-time social media comments and mentions of the brand. Disclaimer: Cisco is a client of StrategicAmpersand’s.