You meet new people all the time. At work, at your kid’s school, at Starbucks while waiting for your morning latte… and maybe it’s someone you’ve seen before, but once you’ve had a conversation you’ll always look at that person differently. Why? Because you’ve chatted, looked them in the eyes, traded pleasantries. It doesn’t take much for you to form an impression.

As a matter of fact, you probably have a better sense of how to market to someone you’ve actually met than anyone who’s name and email address happens to be in your database. Now imagine if you could meet with everyone in that database. Well, clearly that’s not possible unless it has less than 100 people in it, and even then, that’s a lot of morning lattes!

The good news is there’s another way.

Why not leverage social media to gain insights into what your target buyer is talking about, what content they’re sharing, and who most influences them? It’s not the same as connecting one on one, instead it’s more akin to walking through a party listening to conversations and seeing whom different folks gravitate to. But what a great way to get a sense of who to approach and how to engage them, right?

Tap into social insights about your target audience

To get started, you first need to do these three things:

  1. Build social channels filled with prospects and customers.  My experience is that most B2B marketers aren’t focused enough on building high quality social channels. If you’re one of them, then repeat after me: “It’s about quality NOT quantity”. Given that, how do your social channels stack up? Look through your followers and fans and see how many you (or your sales team) would be excited to talk to. Yes, you have a lot of work to do.
  2. Find your target audience on social media.  Don’t think your prospects are using social media? You’re wrong. They’re on LinkedIn, they read industry blogs, and they ask questions on Twitter. So find out where they’re participating and be there too. Start with LinkedIn. Join groups that your best customers and top prospects are already participating in. Next look at industry publications and see who’s commenting on blog posts and following these publications on Twitter. You get the idea!
  3. Start listening to social conversations.  Now track what your customers and prospects are talking about on social media. Each day list the relevant discussions happening in the LinkedIn groups you care about. Note which industry blog posts seem to generate the most comments and what those comments are about. See what sources and topics your “quality followers” are tweeting. Over time (and it won’t take long) social insights will begin to emerge…

Lots of ways to put social insights to work

Armed with these social insights, you can begin to incorporate them into your marketing efforts.

Here are five different ways to consider:

  • Inform buyer personas.  You’ve found out where your target buyers are active on social media, shouldn’t that information be part of your buyer personas? Absolutely. How about the topics you see them sharing or questions they’re asking? Yes, again. And which publications, brands, and people they read, share, and mention? Ditto.
  • Identify key influencers to engageNot sure who else to have as a guest speaker for your next webinar or user conference? Take a look at who in your industry has the strongest influence with your target audience. Hint: they have lots of followers, retweets, and mentions. Start engaging these key influencers before you need to ask for their help.
  • Get content marketing ideas.  So what are your prospects talking about on social media? What questions are they asking? Which posts are getting shared the most? All helpful information if you’re trying to figure out the topic of your next blog post, white paper, or webinar. And knowing which keywords they’re using will help with title creation, too!
  • Find out where to promote your brand.  Which online publications are doing the best job generating content that your target audience actively shares, likes, mentions, and comments on? Chances are this is where you want to consider paid advertising, public relations outreach, and submitting “by-line” articles.
  • Competitive insights. Don’t forget your buyers are also following, sharing, and engaging with your competitors. Plus your competitors are participating on LinkedIn, tweeting out their latest white papers, and building their own social channels. Why not get insights into what they’re up to?

Now it’s your turn. Are you using social media insights to inform your marketing efforts?

If so, how? If not… well, why not?

Want to see great examples of social insights? Check out our latest report: Marketing Executives on Twitter