How to use social listening to shape your B2B buyer personas

All articles | Marketing
Published Mar 13, 2018 | Written by Jeremy Knight

Social listening is the act of analysing conversations that take place on social platforms involving a specific brand or industry.

Not to be confused with social media monitoring, social listening allows brands to hone in on their target audience’s most common frustrations, challenges and values, extracting key insights that help design a more appealing content offering.

Perfectly described by Dan Neely, CEO of Networked Insights, “Monitoring sees trees; listening sees the forest.”

Social listening for Inbound

Analysis of this type is pertinent to any inbound strategy. A content strategy is driven by buyer persona definitions; knowing who you are writing for allows you to provide the best-placed content at the right times within the buyer journey, and ultimately generate more leads and sales.

Buyer personas are fictitious representations of your ideal customer, and while giving them a name, age, and job title makes them more relatable, they need to go beyond demographic information. Detailed buyer personas should have challenges and frustrations; they should have buying triggers and expectations; they need success factors and influences. All of these attributes and thoughts contribute to their final decision to invest in a solution like yours.

So you see, the more detailed, the better. And this is where social listening comes in. As a mechanism for building your B2B buyer personas, you can track conversations involving your brand, competitors, services or product.

There are many angles to take with this:

Social behaviour

Let’s start with the obvious. By tracking your ideal customer’s behaviour across social media, you can better inform your content promotion strategy. Behaviour on the web is often indicative of behaviour during the buyer’s journey. Who are your buyers influenced by? Where do they go to find answers? Which platforms are they most frequently visiting and when?

Also, you can track which type of content they are sharing. This type of insight will help align not only your content strategy but your content promotion. If your audience predominantly uses LinkedIn to share blog posts about a particular topic, this is where you can steer your content offering so that soon, it’s your content they are reading and sharing.

Language and terminology

Social media is excellent for capturing the authentic and unbiased prose that takes place between your audiences when you’re not in the room. By capturing their terminology and vocabulary and mirroring this in your content, buyers are more likely to resonate with you.

The added advantage is that if you know the type of language they use online, it is likely this is the type of language they use in search engines. You can then use this when conducting your keyword research.

Customers value authenticity, so showing that you speak their language is vital in nurturing prospective buyers.

Customer expectations

By analysing the sentiment of posts and comments surrounding brand mentions, you can ascertain your customers’ biggest frustrations. The sentiment of a post refers to the general tone. Over time, patterns are likely to occur. You might even conclude that these patterns correlate with certain times of the year. This time of insight is invaluable to ensure your content is not only well-crafted and relevant but well-timed.

If a pattern of negative sentiment is occurring, for example, you can seek to resolve these frustrations with your next piece of content. If the frustration revolves around a competitor mishap or fault, for example, you can try to fill that gap with your services. 

Competitor analysis

Social listening captures insight into your personas’ expectations of your business, and also, of your competitors. Analysing conversations on your competitors' platforms should be a part of your strategy too.

If you know what your competitors are doing wrong, you know what you need to do right. 

Conduct some research around your competitors to reveal challenges and complaints that your personas might have. This could help you uncover useful threads in forums and LinkedIn groups, or online reviews for example. Try searching around terms such as:

[competitor] can’t...

[competitor] won’t...

This research will help you gain insight into gaps within the market. Once you've established how you can do it better, you can outsmart your competitors.

Key influencers

Part of constructing B2B buyer personas involves the consideration of key influencers in the decision-making process. Who are your customers influenced by, and from whom do they seek advice?

A deeper analysis of where they look for solutions and who they are most likely to turn to when faced with a frustration is not to be underestimated. During this process, you might even uncover an 'anti-persona' that needs to be explored; someone who could deter your persona from choosing a solution such as yours, or someone who might be more likely to fight an opponent's corner. 

When used correctly, social listening is a business intelligence tool that takes the guessing out of your marketing, so that you can approach it confidently with insights and rationale. The execution of a successful inbound strategy relies on more than just intuition and educated guesses - it's deeply customer-centric.  

Uncovering pain points that are yet to be addressed by competitors puts you at an advantage, as you can be the first to explore a particular topic that might garner more interest in your solution.

A persona profile is constructed by understanding the answers to your target audience’s needs, values and challenges. Only then are you equipped with insight to build the most engaging, relevant content that is placed in front of your prospects at the right time.

If you haven't used buyer personas before, or would like to refresh your approach, read our free ebook for a more in-depth description on using and developing buyer personas. 

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Published by Jeremy Knight March 13, 2018
Jeremy Knight