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The B2B Social Series #3 – Social Media Listening – Why it’s important

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By Pete Wood

July 18, 2012 | 4 min read

Social media is exciting. It's like a Christmas toy. You just want to rip it out of its packaging and jump right in. Screw the instructions, 'I've seen one of these Facebook things before, I just want to get cracking...’ So many social media stories start like this. So many end in tears, with a broken social media campaign.

You should have read the instructions...

Social listening is the instruction manual for a social media strategy. If you don't do it, you're greatly reducing your chances of a successful foray into the social space. So what is social listening and how can it help?

Social listening is the phase you undertake before starting you social media campaign. The findings from the listening phase feed into your strategy document. The statistics and insights you garner from the wider social media landscape underpin everything you do going forward. Here's a good structure to undertake for your listening phase:

1. Tools

Social media listening should compromise of two elements. The first is that you should invest in a social monitoring tool to scan the space for keyword and brand mentions. You can pick up tools like Radian 6 and Brandwatch for relatively low prices and there are no long-term contracts. These tools will give you the raw numbers. The second element is the manual analysis. Numbers on their own mean very little without context. You need to dig into the tweets and status updates to find out what they mean... no system will do that for you sadly!

2. Brand Mentions

First up, find out what people are saying about your brand online. Are there conversations taking place that you're not aware of? What are people saying about your product? Which services are most popular? What are the main criticisms around the business? What types of post are most common?

3. Competitor Mentions

You need to know what your competitors are doing in the social space. If there is a competitor who is doing stunningly well in your vertical, what are they doing well? Where are they doing well? And why are they doing well? These should be the questions you're asking. If there is a competitor making a real hash of things... why? What learnings can you take from the mistakes?

4. Competitor strategies

Hard numbers won't tell you everything. You need to root around and work out exactly what your competitors’ strategies are. Do they post blogs three times a week and seed them out across three channels? Are they tweeting the same blog post three times a day. Why is that? Is it to hit different times zones? Do they run a competition every Friday? Why? You can create an amazing strategy by watching what your competitors do and how their social media eco-systems operate.

5. Channel Analysis

When you're starting out in social media, it's important to work in the channels that are best suited to your brand. Sure setting up a Pinterest account is more fun than working on LinkedIn... but where are you most likely to reach your target market? Working two channels well is better than trying to operate in six and doing a bad job. I know that sounds an obvious thing to point out but you'd be surprised how many ignore the advice.

Social media listening is a learning process that will give your social strategy the best chance of succeeding. If you can learn ten companies mistakes and mix in ten ideas that you've seen work successfully , you're saving yourself the pain of experimentation and you're getting your business exactly where it needs to be from the word go.

Never underestimate the power of listening.

Any questions on the B2B series, speak to us @STEAKLondon

By Pete Wood, UK Social Media Director, STEAK

Social Media B2B Marketing LinkedIn

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