Listen To What Your Customers Say On Social Media!

By John Hogg


Blog Enlighten IC

Listening to your audience on social media can bring true B2B customer insight!

Following last week’s blog on the 8 Steps For Social Media Success, in today’s blog we will take a virtual deep dive into the world of social media listening.

At first glance, using social media for listening may sound a bit on the obvious side. "Why of course we will be monitoring our social media networks for any sign of engagement", I hear you say. However, this is only listening and monitoring your own view of the world. What about all the people you want to do business with and who might have a different point of view?

We’re all human and that’s the beauty of listening. Everyone everywhere has a different view on the world. We all see things differently... and isn’t that great! Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if we all thought the same way. After all, variety is the spice of life and social media is about human interactions. So Let’s Explore!

First things first, let’s identify the types of people we want to listen to:

1. Our Customers

This is probably an obvious choice, however, thinking a bit deeper about things, social media can provide a great insight into how our customers think. Not only will it let us know what people think about our products, it will also let us know what they think about other things. In other words, this will let us know who our business customers are as people. This information will be great feedback into our overall marketing plan and help us to get inside the mind of our customer.

If we can achieve this and actually build a much better understanding of our customers and the types of customers we have (see our earlier post on Segment, Target & Position), we will be much better at finding and targeting future customers, we will also speak their language and we will be able to show empathy due to our understanding of the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.

Whether we are selling, building relationships, creating a marketing campaign or communicating via social media we will now be informed on what makes them tick.

In Business to Business Marketing we can all be guilty of falling into the trap of only seeing the faceless corporate machine - but, what about all the human beings who run these companies? These are our true customers! How great would it be if we could take our normal approach to segmentation and overlay this with the different personas (not too many!) that we regularly encounter within our industry and need to influence?

2. The Customers of our Customer

As well as listening to the voice of our customers we should also take the time to understand the customers of our customers. If we are in the B2B market and we take the time to listen to the customers of our customers we will be delving even deeper into our customer psyche and the issues and challenges they face.

As above, by having this in-depth knowledge of both our customers and our customers’ customers we will be much better informed when we try to communicate with our market.

3. Our Competitors

Another aspect of your listening programme could be to look at your competitors’ voice. They may well be doing something really well in terms of their overall digital marketing or they may even have an excellent tone of voice that appears to work for their clients. Similarly, you may learn that they are doing some things not so well and present you with an excellent opportunity to steal a march on them.

It is worth pointing out that if you do see something your competitor is doing well - please don’t just copy them. A me-too strategy can be spotted a mile off and won’t make your company look too hot. Would you like to give your business to a company that simply apes their competitors? I think I would just go straight to the competitor with my business! If you do see something you like, look back at your own company and its approach to the market. What would fit your customers and your ethos? Look at how you can incorporate some of the elements within your own plans and in your own tone of voice. Don’t just copy them!

4. The Customers of our Competitors

Just as we have suggested you look at the customers of your customers, why not try and look at the customers of your competitors as well - what are they saying on social media? You can glean a lot of useful information and insight by doing this. You may be able to identify the issues facing the competition and what makes their customers (ultimately part your target market) tick. You may also see how your competition deals with their customers online providing you with take-aways on what key things you need to focus on. Alternatively, you may see things you should make sure you don’t do!

Looking at things in the round you will have an excellent picture of your target market. You might even see a customer unhappy with the service they are getting from your competitor. This could be a great opportunity for a lead...

However, if this is the case and you see an unhappy customer of a competitor, treat them with kid gloves! If you handle it badly you could very easily get a reputation in the market as a bit of an ‘ambulance chaser’.

What goes around tends to come around and the negative PR of handling something badly e.g. approaching a company via (remember very public) social media networks when you spot they are having problems could be seen as a bit crass. Even your own customers might see it and think badly of you. Perhaps in this instance by taking things offline, even waiting a day or so until the dust has settled and maybe not referring to the issue it might allow you to soften the hard sales edge. If you communicate with the human being first by introducing yourself and your company and without referring to the problems they are having it may go a lot further than simply ringing up and saying, “I see you’re having a lot of problems with ACME Ltd. We would never do that. Would you like to move your business to us?” Don’t do it!

How do we Listen?

Unfortunately, like anything in life that’s worthwhile it takes time and effort. There are numerous tools out there that can help but no matter what you decide to do you need to systemise it to make it work in the long run.

First off, we would recommend an initialbut thorough investigation of the market at a point in time. By doing this analysis up front and by listening to everything within a specific time frame you can start to spot trends and see how the market is broken down.

This will allow you to quantify the degree of activity within your market and help you to set a baseline for future analyses.

You may also start to spot the types of conversation and the personas that exist within your market. This will help you to categorise your listening programme and help to give it structure - you could also use it to prepare a series of responses in advance...

Having conducted your initial analysis and drawn up your view of what is being said in your market and the different types of people who are commenting, you can move on to building your ongoing listening programme that links in with the findings from your initial analysis.

This will bring huge benefits to your social media marketing as you will now be proactively listening to your market and in particular to those people you feel are influencers, in a regular, structured and systematic way. You will be plugged in!

We could have broken out another category for your listening entitled, "Influencers", and feel free to do so if you wish, however, we felt that you would glean this information as you go and therefore didn’t want to burden you with what might seem even more work... Your call!

To Summarise

Listening on a day-to-day basis will bring opportunities or it may identify issues that need to be addressed but either way at a higher level the vast knowledge you will be amassing about the real people in your market and the insight this can bring to your own strategy will be fantastic.

We thoroughly recommend you communicate the outputs of this listening programme within your organisation. Starting with the boardroom, this insight will be a superb opportunity for your future corporate strategy to be built with the influences of actual stakeholders and influencers baked in. In addition to this the positive buy-in your social media marketing programme will get from the board will help to ring fence your investment in digital marketing for the future.

We hope you have found this blog to be useful, if not thought provoking. As ever, feel free to get in touch with your views and feedback.

If you liked what you’ve just read make sure you tune in next week for the next installment in our 8 Steps to Social Media Success when we look at the 'research' opportunities available from social media.

We look forward to seeing you!

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John Hogg Enlighten IC

John Hogg

John is managing director of Enlighten IC and has been involved in legal marketing and technology marketing for over 25 years. He is passionate about how an inbound approach to marketing can help firms to drive leads and grow their business.

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