How to Choose a Social Media Listening Platform for B2B Marketing

How to Choose a Social Media Listening Platform for B2B MarketingIn the last post we covered how to create a Social Media Lead Flow. And once you have identified the conversations where you think a sales opportunity may be occurring you need to feed that into your listening platform so you can flag those opportunities when they come in.

But what if you don’t have a listening platform?

There is a growing number of listening platforms devoted to Social Media – everything from highly customized services that are managed for you, to free tools you can manage yourself. Between the myriad of vendors and the accompanying hype it makes it difficult to figure out the best solution to meet your needs.

So here are some things to consider when choosing a listening platform:

What are the goals of the listening platform?

Because listening platforms have so many uses, you must match their objectives to a vendor’s strengths. For example, if your focus is on monitoring mentions or bird dogging leads as I described in the last post you should seek out vendors that specialize in this type of analysis. On the other hand, if you seek alternatives to traditional market research, then you need a vendor that specializes in sentiment capture and community analysis.

Which media sources are relevant to your goals?

All listening platforms collect data from numerous online sources — news sites, blogs, and other Web sites. But some specialize in social media sources and tools like Twitter, review sites, and even communities; others have the ability to cover offline media such as print, television, and radio. If you are focused on market research, or messaging effectiveness then you should work with a vendor that tracks social media and user-generated sources. But for true 360-degree brand tracking, you may require a vendor that also integrates offline sources such as the traditional press.

What technology will you need to support your listening goals?

If you are focused on crisis management you need a solution built on continuous data capture, but if you are seeking more episodic or campaign analysis, you can settle for a platform that collects data at more regularly scheduled intervals. For multi national brands you may also want to evaluate each technology based on support for multiple languages.

How much time and money can the team commit to the listening platform?

The amount of time you need to commit to listening depends largely on the output — dashboards, reports, and digests — from the listening platforms. For example, dashboards require a good deal of time to setup but provide customized data on command; reports save time but still necessitate that you (or your department) spend time interpreting the reports and defining a follow-up strategy.

How prepared are you to use a listening platform?

This one is the real kicker. You must realize that choosing a listening platform is only a first step — listening without implementing any of the results is wasted time, effort, and money. Give this last point some extra consideration and be sure to build a process to respond to all the opportunities your listening platform identifies!

13 comments to How to Choose a Social Media Listening Platform for B2B Marketing

  • There are a number of factors you’ve left out (having evaluated most of them)
    1 what percentage of the total mentions are you comfortable. Some vendors only get about 75%, others get closer to 90%.
    2. What level of accuracy are you comfortable with? Most sentiment analysis is only accurate about 65% of the time.
    3. Can you add in missing mentions? If your boss comes across a blog that your listening platform misses, can you add it in?
    4. Does your listening platform learn and improve over time? If so, how long does it take?
    5. How important are the processing tools, the sentiment analysis, blogger management and charting to you? You may not want to pay for all the extra doodads if you aren’t using them.

    Just a few thoughts..

  • @Katie – first off I am honored that you commented on my blog so thank you – I think you raise some excellent points will be sure to include them in my evaluations going forward!

  • Hi Paul,

    Great post. Along the lines of organizational preparedness, the company needs to know who which department will be using the insights, what they will be using the insights for. Just as important is knowing why you are monitoring, this will dictate how the information flows through the organization and what measures you use.

    Also, you need to know to what extent sentiment is important to you, and how it will drive your strategy – measuring yourself? measuring your competitors?

    As always, if you want to take Biz360 Community (monitoring and sentiment measurement) for a spin, ping me offline.

    Maria Ogneva
    @biz360 @themaria

  • Hi Paul,

    These are all good questions to get people thinking about. I especially like your last question, “are you prepared to use a listening platform?”. In my opinion, listening shouldn’t be a passive activity. Sure, passive listening has some value in terms of research (i.e. what do customers think of XYZ), but that does very little for the customer. The real opportunity is to engage, letting customer know you are listening, thanking your advocates, helping customers with their questions or problems, building community, etc. Just like any relationship, listening is more about caring/helping/acknowledging, not just passive analysis or information gathering.

    The real breakthrough is to become an engaged brand… since THAT is a brand that listens!

    I think Katie makes some great points above (she always does!), and I also would emphasize the importance of a tool having comprehensive coverage. You want a tool you can trust and not have to double check every other source causing you countless additional manual effort, etc.

    While you covered a great list, I thought I’d throw in a few more:

    1. Scale. How does the tool help you scale a listening & response engine (team) in your company cost effectively?

    Does it enable you to get more & more employees engaged & closer to the voice of the customer efficiently? Does it support engagement workflow, allowing employees to collaborate & not duplicate work effort? Does it support measurement & tracking of all your responses & conversation history? Does it integrate with other systems like case management or CRM so you can tie it into your regular customer support processes? Can you measure the team member’s efforts?

    2. Measurement. Web Analytics integration, etc.

    Does the system have rich social metrics enabling you to measure ROI? For instance, can you tell which social conversations are driving the most visitors to your site, resulting in conversions/sales, etc? The integration of your site’s web analytics and social media metrics into the tool can provide great insight. Are conversations about “topic X” causing more people to click through to your site than posts about “topic Y” and, when they land, do they stay longer, convert more, etc.? If so, you need to generate more content about “topic X” because it is working, etc.

    3. Influence. Does the tool identify influencers? In a B2B environment, it is important for marketing/PR/etc., to identify the thought leaders and influencers for your brand, competitors and your industry. It is important to be growing a relationship and having an ongoing dialogue with influencers.

    Lots more to chat about… but my comment is already too long. I love your previous post too on lead flow based on “expressed needs”… I talk about this all the time myself.

    CEO, Radian6

  • @Maria – Great point Maria – I am thinking of this mostly from a Customer Support perspective – we see many of our clients looking for help in handling the more negative sentiment by pushing these mentioned into the contact center. This is something I am very focused on right now.

  • @Marcel – Wow Katie Paine and Marcel Lebrun commenting on my blog ok I think I may pass out 😉

    As far as your statement on the “the real opportunity is to engage, letting customer know you are listening, thanking your advocates, helping customers with their questions or problems, building community”

    I can tell you that we have fully adopted this at Avaya over the last year (with the help of Radian6 BTW) and this has worked out really well for us – a year into the program I can safely say we have built a base of “advocates” for Avaya by listening, engaging, helping them with their questions. This is resulting in more loyal (read less likely to defect), more viral (read customer who spread good WOM) and hence higher profitability for the company overall.

    As I have said before on this blog – Customer Support is the best place to build your business case and realize ROI in social media.

  • late to the party — I read this back when you posted and thought I’d share what we have learned going through the process. To include all points would take thousands of word and several charts. You, Katie and Marcel have a comprehensive list but for us, an uncommon but very necessary measure is reach. A few platforms come “pre-wired” but most need a plug-in of Compete or other data capture.

    [Honda employee and enthusiast; opinions are my own and not those of American Honda.]

  • Market research is always essential for the succes of any kind of business.:**

  • What a great conversation. I’m going to make it required reading for everyone in my department.

    Another important factor for many companies is the level of nuance and granularity a listening platform can achieve in its analysis. This is especially true when the platform is being used as a tool for customer service, product development or risk management.

    For example, can the listening platform automatically understand that commenters are complaining about a product feature rather than a product in general? There is big difference between “I hate my phone” and “My phone takes fuzzy pictures.”

    Another example: Can the listening platform correctly parse and classify the sentiment of complex phrases? Most systems easily understand “Brand X coffee sucks” but they don’t do so well with “Brand X coffee tastes like they brew it with gym socks instead of coffee filters!”

    – Erik Cornelius
    International Marketing Manager

  • all businesses need market research to make sure that a product will succeed.`-‘

  • every business and investment needs some very good market research if you want it to succeed “”

  • […] How to Choose a Social Media Listening Platform for B2B Marketing, March 18, 2010 […]

  • Hi Paul,
    Thanks for your great posts.

    I have a question.
    What do you think about Listening Platform ‘market size’ in US.

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