Why Social Listening Sophistication is Critical for B2B

Sergio Oliveri |
 07/17/23 |
5 min read

Why Social Listening Sophistication is Critical for B2B

B2C companies have been using social intelligence for a while now, and as business interactions become more personalized, B2B marketing teams have been wisely adopting B2C tactics. It’s all about being data-driven, agile, and empathetic in the B2B world—and it’s incredibly effective.

Brands are composed of individuals, and incorporating B2C techniques presents opportunities for enhanced marketing refinement. In particular, social intelligence plays a significant role

In this fourth installment of our five-part interview series with Nicholas Love, Agency Principal of the Kulur Group, we will explore these advantages and run through some of the ways his agency leverages social listening to inform business strategies for his clients. And if you haven’t already, check out his previous interviews with us after reading this one

All industries are now adopting social listening, and you’ve used it in B2B yourself—can you share how that looks?

Yes, throughout my career, social intelligence has been an emphasis of mine in several industries. Whether in higher education, tech, financial services, or agriculture, we’ve consistently brought rigor and discipline to our approach.

While previously working deep in the agricultural space for a few years, I once received feedback from an executive with a major financial institution that suggested that the way we were using social listening to influence content creation surpassed their efforts.

While that was great to hear on the premise of debunking perceptions, the comment also revealed that most people didn’t associate social media listening with agriculture, and much of that didn’t make a lot of sense. We’ve grown too comfortable not recognizing that whether you’re in the B2B or B2C space, you’re still dealing with people. I mean, we aren’t marketing to robots just yet, but that day is coming.

Ultimately, why wouldn’t those in agriculture have communities forming across social media networks? Why wouldn’t individuals or brands in the agricultural space exist on social media to inform, educate, entertain, or build relationships when these are the core reasons these networks fundamentally exists? Social intelligence can be applied across several industries and provide valuable insights to inform companies and enable them to examine matters from diverse perspectives.

Expanding on Nick’s thoughts, an often disregarded but now vital aspect in traditional B2B marketing is acknowledging that real individuals drive business-to-business brands. And connecting authentically with these people matters in our digitally distributed age.

B2B marketers must embrace B2C marketing strategies to adapt to these ‘business leaders as consumers.’ We know that consumers increasingly demand personalized experiences. It’s a standard most people have come to expect, in fact. So, it’s time to recognize that this shift also applies to business leaders and adapt accordingly.

Has this happened? Has there been a noticeable shift among B2B companies toward adopting social listening capabilities?

From my perspective, the B2B environment, in general, is still evolving regarding its emphasis on social media, social listening, content for social, and so much more. However, progress is happening. We’ve constantly seen the B2C vertical operate at an accelerator pace, and for a good reason, in social media listening.

Today’s marketing acknowledges the importance of community and how it impacts relationships to improve reputation and drive revenue. In the omnichannel world that we live in, particularly in the B2B vertical, social media can be an incredibly effective channel for establishing community. There’s a ton of low-hanging fruit to go after.

Leveraging Netbase Quid® social themes to identify key opinion leaders or emerging themes to position your brand thought leaders as authoritative voices or even identify ambassadors for content partnership opportunities could be a quick one. If you’re going to exist on social media as a brand in the B2B space, you can’t afford to be boring or unwilling to engage.

One of the ways that B2B brands can stand out from the crowd using social listening is by engaging in online industry conversations. Actively participating in industry-related discussions allows B2B to demonstrate expertise and build relationships with potential customers. They can provide insights, answer questions, and offer helpful resources to establish themselves as trusted industry thought leader.

But progress on this front is slower than it should be. Below, we can see the top terms within the B2B marketing conversation and that B2C is only around 6% of the total in the snapshot taken in early July 2023:

b2c conversation in b2b realm

And when we filter the conversation to isolate for the attributes supporting this B2C subset, we see so much potential and excitement being discussed. Why then, are these tactics not widely adopted by all?

b2c conversation attributes mostly positive

The challenges could be easy to miss, but we can quickly assess each (in red) above with a click and uncover some answers. This gives B2B marketers a starting point, as they’ll have misperceptions they can then counter to help reframe the conversation:

  • Diverse, not dynamic: “B2B marketing content needs to be more diverse and dynamic [than B2C].”
  • Not deserve: “Unfortunately, most of B2B marketing simply doesn’t deserve to be described as marketing.”
  • Lack of time: “The biggest problem in case of B2B marketing is lack of time for creating content.  4. Can a company do both B2B and B2C marketing at the same time?”
  • Run risk of pull, Business-to-business industry: “Business-to-business (B2B) industries on the periphery of the vortex are less affected by disruption [than B2C] but run the risk of being unexpectedly pulled into the center.”

So, if you had to paraphrase it, what is the opportunity for B2B brands to use social listening?

I believe there is an opportunity for increased sophistication and maturity in leveraging social media. There are numerous layers to explore, allowing businesses to thoroughly examine and analyze their strategies at every level. This comprehensive approach offers a more well-rounded view of the business and allows for a deep dive into various aspects.

Brands can explore numerous, nuanced layers to inform their B2B marketing efforts. Beyond understanding the themes and topics being discussed, companies can use social listening to identify key influencers. And if you think influencers and KOLs are just for B2C collaborations, think again:

And even if you don’t partner with one, businesses can gain valuable insights into industry trends, customer preferences, and emerging trends by monitoring influencers’ content, interactions, and discussions. Again, B2B can borrow the B2C tactic of personalization to tailor their content and messaging to those influencers’ specific target audiences.

By understanding their customers’ interests, pain points, and preferences through social listening, they can create more relevant and engaging content that resonates with their audience.

For example, creating a dashboard extracting intel about influencers with 50k+ followers in the Smart Home conversation, we can see what kind of content is resonating and where.

smart home influencers by various categories

There’s lots to work with here, but if we wanted to identify communities to infiltrate on Reddit, we can dig in and view relevant subreddits:

smart home subreddits

And B2B businesses can use social listening to gather feedback and ideas from their target audience in these specific conversations. By actively listening to their customers’ suggestions and incorporating them into their product/service development process, they can significantly improve customer satisfaction and attract new business.

All things are possible with a bit of social insight! By leveraging B2C social listening tactics, B2B businesses can better understand the people behind the businesses they’re pitching on a more personal level, as even B2B folks exist and are active online. They may be that anonymous Reddit poster telling you exactly what you need to create to stand out from other vendors!

That’s all scratching the surface of what’s possible, but it’s enough to create a conversation in your company and potentially reprioritize that data analytics spend! Reach out for a demo if you’d like to learn more about solutions specific to your B2B’s needs, and be sure to connect with and follow Nicholas Love on LinkedIn if you aren’t already. He’s an incredible resource for any B2B or B2C company seeking insight and guidance in our digitally transforming world.

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