5668998017_b237aa7569_mWhen it comes to social media listening, how are B2B considerations different from B2C – and does social listening work equally well for both? The basics of using human language to gain audience insights are applicable to both models, but the differences are important. Let’s explore them.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Forbes contributor Chuck Cohn points out that it’s a long game – unlike B2C sales where consumer research is fairly brief, and impulse buys exist. “Whoever your prospects may be, persistence will be key to landing them.”

Before you can “land them” you have to identify those prospects though. This is where social listening allows the opportunity to expand your reach. Leads obtained in the traditional sense – via referrals, or even purchased leads – are fine, but social media is loaded with connections just waiting to be made.

But you don’t want to treat social messaging like cold calls, throwing out tweets randomly just because it’s easy. If you want to attract business, you need to be able to warm relationships first. And this is exactly what our newest tool, Audience 3D™, is all about.

Feeling your way

You probably have a sense of your audience, but don’t let assumptions limit you. Whether you’re a B2C or B2B brand, you want to look beyond assumptions and let the data tell the story. Who’s looking for what you offer? It may not be who you expect. How badly do they want it? Yes, that matters.

Factoring in sentiment – about your product, your industry, the B2B space, etc. –  and getting to what social users feel is important. A CEO who’s had a bad experience with SaaS vendors in the past will be much harder to sell your software platform to without building a significant relationship first.

B2C brands need to be particularly aware of negative sentiment, as consumers love to use social media to file complaints. Social media customer care is an area that brands must pay crucial attention to – stopping crises before they start with careful social monitoring.

B2B companies have an advantage here as disparaging a vendor on social media makes the person complaining look unprofessional. They’re more likely to be approached in a one-to-one setting, like direct messaging or email.

But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look out for negative sentiment just the same.

There are a number of insights to be gained by looking at positive and negative sentiment. But that’s just the start of reaching your audience.

Audience of individuals

No matter what you sell, your audience is a person – whether it’s the owner of a small business, the manager of a corporate business unit, or the CEO of a global enterprise.

Decisions about B2B services are made by individuals – and they want to be treated as such. You have to get to know them before you can engage in a conversation.

Doing so requires finding common interests to break your overall audience into multiple segments. These could be anything from CEOs who play golf and drink Sam Adams beer, to SMB owners who love dogs and listening to country music. That’s the information that allows you to make a meaningful connection – and put yourself on someone’s radar.

Just remember, B2C consumers can do whatever they want – but B2B contacts may report to a higher authority. It’s a longer process, so be patient. As for building a strong relationship? It’s that much more important, as the person who IS your contact will in turn sell your service to their boss.

And here’s another difference: B2C is ALL about personal observations – likes, dislikes, hobbies, causes, favorite foods, celebrities, etc.

To reach B2B prospects you’ve got to factor in professional observations too – like membership in industry organizations, attendance at conferences, and content preferences. This last is a particularly big one, because establishing thought leadership is a crucial element of breaking through in the B2B space. And to be effective, your content must be audience-centric.

But these just become additional segments – CEOs who love The Capital Grille and read Seth Godin, tech leaders who play Halo and attend SXSW, or contribute to Mashable.

Once you define these segments you know what to talk about to whom, and what kind of content to share (or write), etc.

Keep your enemies closer

And that’s still not all that deep social listening like this can tell B2B marketers. You can apply the same techniques to finding out what your competitors are doing – and how audiences are perceiving them.

Of course you also want to know who’s talking about you – and your product, service, or content – but you never want to stop your search there. There’s so much more to be learned when you look beyond your own mentions.

And there are entire audiences of leads you would never find any other way. That’s the power of audience marketing on social in the B2B AND B2C worlds. So start looking at your audience in a new way, and let the social data surprise you. It will.

If you’re ready to take your social marketing to the next level, reach out for a demo of Audience 3D!

Image from SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

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