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Published February 23rd 2024

How B2B Brands Can Benefit from Social Listening

While it’s clear how social listening benefits large consumer brands, what about B2B companies that sell their services to other businesses?

Many B2B organizations wrongly assume that monitoring conversations online is less valuable for them compared to consumer-facing brands. Those brands have hundreds of thousands of buyers and millions more potential ones. They generate high volumes of online discussions about them, have a dedicated social media team, and plenty of data to analyze for insights.

But what about those B2B companies that sell their services to other businesses?What about companies that, though hugely successful and often large, don’t get mentioned much online and perhaps have fewer customers?

Based on Forrester’s 2023 B2B Brand And Communications Survey, 90% of B2B buyers rely on peer recommendations, and 85% trust user reviews from vendors in their industry. And there are many third-party review websites, like TrustPilot, G2, Capterra, TripAdvisor, Glassdoor, and even Reddit, that collect user feedback independently of the businesses featured. 

Without monitoring those conversations, B2B brands miss key consumer intelligence that provides opportunities to build awareness, engagement, and trust throughout the (often) long buyer’s journey. 

An active listening and engagement strategy allows B2B companies to better influence customers and decision makers in their industry.

How can brands quantify the available information online and determine what really matters?

7 of the biggest use cases for social listening in B2B

Below, we’ve outlined the biggest use cases for social listening in the B2B space to show how companies can mine online networks for insights and to meet their higher-level business objectives.

1. Gaining market intelligence and deep consumer insights

Unless you’re in an industry that generates a lot of online chatter, like retail or entertainment, you can expect the volume of online conversation about your brand to be much lower. But fewer conversations don’t necessarily equal fewer valuable data points. It can be quite the opposite.

Online discussions with fewer mentions often tend to be more focused, and it takes less time to analyze all relevant posts. When gathering online mentions, do make sure you’ve checked all available data sources a social listening tool can track. 

To quote the Executive Managing Director at RF|Binder, Jeff Melton: “Focus groups are helpful, but I love social listening because there’s not as much bias. I love that saying that it’s the ‘largest untapped focus group.’ People are pretty damn honest.” 

2. Generating prospects and driving sales

Most analytics tools recommend that companies begin by monitoring branded conversations. However, many B2B companies lack a strong online brand presence, and they rarely initiate discussions related to their brand with their online audience.

In our recent report, The State of Social, we revealed a noteworthy statistic that may raise concerns for brands. Did you know that across all industries, brand-owned accounts contribute just 1.51% to the overall brand-related conversation?

As an alternative, brands can monitor all relevant online discussions, including those about competitors, and keep an eye on the audience that matters most to them. They can contact these people and companies and attempt to nurture them into sales.

Tracking and proactively responding to online conversations from potential prospects is more meaningful than trying to surpass your competitors in ad spending as part of your customer acquisition plan.

3. Handling your next issue (before it turns into a crisis)

With social listening, you can easily find when someone complains on social media.

Don’t shy away from criticism. By responding immediately and resolving the issue, your customers become even more loyal. If you don’t know how to address a customer complaint, you can split up mentions into categories and distribute them to different team members or experts in the field.

When a crisis is looming for your company, there is a good chance you will hear about it on the web first. That is, if you are listening for it.

When Slack experienced a widespread outage lasting five hours, it left many users unable to access the platform. 

With social listening, Slack was able to understand why they were trending on social and address consumer concerns quickly and authentically, generating positive sentiment in conversations along the way. 

4. Identifying brand advocates and influencers in your space

One of the biggest benefits of monitoring social media is fostering strong connections with brand champions and those who are most influential in the industry. B2B companies can find company or industry critics, listen to what they are saying, and respond suitably. 

When creative agency Supernatural used social listening to uncover data about consumer airplane behavior and air travel etiquette, they gained valuable insights from millions of travel enthusiasts. Armed with this information, the agency helped KAYAK launch a successful campaign aimed at decoding modern travel norms. 

Similarly, global nonprofit Potential Energy Coalition (PEC) used social listening to track online discussions related to climate change. Through their research, the PEC team found important topics and public opinions and uncovered a highly influential audience within their communities: moms. The nonprofit then launched its Science Moms campaign, aiming to engage influencers in the space to inspire change.

5. Keeping tabs on the competition

Although branded conversation for B2B companies is generally lower than for B2C brands, you might be surprised to see the amount of chatter surrounding your competitors, including discussions about what they’re not doing.

Doing an online competitive analysis can be highly beneficial for B2B brands. You can estimate your share of voice compared to your competitors and assess changes in online performance. Brands can also monitor channel growth and media coverage and gain insights into customer perception and competitive advantages. 

For instance, media and creative agency Helen & Gertrude regularly use social listening to help clients better understand their competitive landscape. When monitoring competitors for their clients, the agency can spot competitor announcements or launches that could’ve been overlooked otherwise, and see how competitor campaigns are running.

The agency team can then use this data to show their clients how competitors’ campaigns are doing, both in numbers and in the type of response they're getting online.

6. Discovering and leveraging product feedback

Social media gives companies the ability to get quick, unincentivized feedback they require to stay agile. This can be especially helpful for businesses that don’t have the budget for research and development.

Identifying what people like or dislike about your product will help you understand how to better satisfy customers’ and prospects’ needs.

We once explored what people were saying online about music streaming services. What we found is that many people complained about unwanted ads, getting wrong recommendations, and dealing with in-app bugs. 

In our State of Social report, we showed that consumers often compare different streaming services online and complain about problems with buffering and freezing. 

B2B brands that proactively monitor brand and industry-related conversations are more likely to discover valuable feedback they can use to improve their products and services and to enhance customer satisfaction

When Fetch Rewards used social listening to gather feedback on product features, they were able to make improvements based on real-time user insights. On one occasion, they monitored online user reactions around a new feature, which allowed people to connect with friends in the app. This helped Fetch Rewards analyze consumer perceptions in real time, identifying areas for product enhancement and leading to a more refined and user-friendly app experience.

7. Checking your brand health and establishing benchmarks

Social listening can help B2B brands establish benchmarks for themselves. Whether it’s comparing brands’ current and past performance or measuring against established industry metrics, benchmarks can help brands in their decision-making and strategic adjustments.

Here are just a few metrics brands should consider and benchmark against:

  • Share of voice
  • Reach
  • Engagement
  • Sentiment analysis
  • Emotion analysis
  • Brand associations
  • Price perception
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Good luck on your quest to social media intelligence

Navigating the B2B business landscape can be complex, but social listening unveils untapped potential for brands seeking to understand their audience, competitors, position in the market, and the industry at large. 

By using social listening to understand what consumers genuinely care about, brands can gain a competitive edge and improve their strategies, leading to better business outcomes.

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