At dinner the other night with a group of B2B marketers (sounds fun, I know) the conversation moved between discussing food delivery startups and ride sharing services, to all SaaS pricing, marketing automation and demand generation, all the time.

Now imagine you sell to B2B marketers and happened to be sitting nearby and listening in. Wouldn’t you have loved to pull up a chair and join our conversation? Sure you would. And maybe you’d have also wondered how to influence me or someone else at the dinner to recommend your company.

These days you don’t need to hang out at San Francisco restaurants to listen in. You can tap into your favorite social media news feed to discover what’s being talked about and shared at that very moment. The problem? You’ll get overwhelmed pretty quickly, because you need to know which conversations to join, who to engage with and how to influence them.

Social Listening Isn’t Enough - You Need Social Insights

Social listening without context isn’t helpful. You need to tune out all the noise to make social media more relevant and actionable for you. Or said another way, you need to turn social listening into social insights.

Let’s say you're a B2B marketer and want to know what other B2B marketers are up to on social media. Or maybe you work for a company that sells to these highly coveted marketers. In either case, you’re looking for social media insights about B2B marketers.

How B2B Marketers Engage on Twitter

My company Leadtail recently put out a report in collaboration with DNN Software: How B2B Marketers Engage on Twitter. This report summarized how 500 North American B2B marketers participated, engaged and were influenced on Twitter, during the period June 2013 -- August 2013. During that time, these marketers generated 113,039 tweets, 70,245 shared links and had a total of 1,156,532 followers.

Why look at Twitter activity? Because it's a good proxy for social media, and has a leg up on other data sources such as surveys, polls and focus groups since it shows what people really do, versus what they say they do.

For example, here are the people most retweeted by the B2B marketers we analyzed:

b2b marketers retweet.png

The report also looked into other social insights including: most popular hashtags, most shared content sources and the top 50 vendors most mentioned by B2B marketers.

Best Practices of Top Influencers

We did an even deeper dive for this post into the Twitter activity of five of the top influencers in the report. They are:

  • @valaafshar (Vala Afshar, CMO, Extreme Networks)
  • @brennermichael (Michael Brenner, VP Global Marketing, SAP)
  • @jonmiller (Jon Miller, VP Marketing and Co-Founder, Marketo)
  • @jchernov (Joe Chernov, VP Marketing, Kinvey)
  • @jill_rowley (Jill Rowley, Modern Marketing Expert, Oracle)

What did we find out?

  • Influencers tweet a LOT. Four out of five of these top influencers tweet seven or more times a day. (@ValaAfshar tweets an average of 36 times a day!)
  • Influencers develop a “brand” of their own. Each influencer has a style and focus that’s consistent across their tweets. For instance, @Jill_Rowley is an excellent curator of social business wisdom, while @jchernov is more likely to be tweeting it up with other B2B marketers.
  • Influencers don’t rely too much on retweets. All five of the top influencers go light on the RT, keeping them to less than 25 percent of overall tweet volume. Instead, they share lots of links and often mention other folks.

While these “best practices” come from observing the Twitter activity of these five top influencers, they also provide insights into how you may want to consider approaching Twitter and social media.

Start Generating Your Own Social Insights

How can you move from social listening to social insights? (And in the process maybe become an influencer for the audience you want to reach and engage.)

Here are five ways to start:

  1. Listen to your target audience. Who cares what anyone and everyone is saying? Instead, listen to what customers, prospects and key influencers are talking about.
  2. Be where the right conversations are happening. So many social networks, so little time: Invest your efforts in the social platforms where your target audience participates.
  3. Talk about what’s being talked about. What topics, news and events have captured the attention of the folks you’re looking to engage? Shouldn’t you be talking about those, too?
  4. Discover who’s doing the influencing. Which publications and people are your buyers reading and sharing? This is a great starting point for understanding who is popular and influential.
  5. Become an influencer. Just participating in social media is not enough. You need to build an audience, a channel, a following that you can influence to take the actions you care about (like the influencers do).

Imagine we’re now back in that San Francisco restaurant with you listening in. And you decide to introduce yourself. Wouldn’t it be great if I said, “Thanks for coming over, I actually follow you on Twitter and love your comments and the content you share.” That means you did a great job influencing me … before our conversation even begins!

Now It’s Your Turn

How are you generating social insights today? What strategies have you found successful in becoming more influential on social media?

Let us know so we can share!

Editor's Note: Read more by Carter in his The 3 Stages of Content Marketing to Make Your Results Take Off