The 2016 B2BNN Top Influencers in Social Intelligence

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Social listening has undergone enormous evolution since Radian6 first burst on the scene out of NewBrunswick. Once primarily used by PR teams to see whether expressed sentiment was positive or negative, today’s social intelligence — as it is now widely known — is involved with multiple parts of marcom and used in everything from early warning systems on public issues (see Nexalogy’s case studies) to identifying customer trends and topics.

Is social intelligence useful in and of itself? After ten years we can conclude:

-For consumer insights it is most powerful in combination with other datasets. Top applications are very useful for customer targeting and pattern identification, like Foursquare location analytics or digital action data from companies like SqueezeCMM (disc; related company), or a newly emerging growth area that two of the companies on our list are doing, using social intelligence to refine native ad delivery.

– Social intelligence is very important in B2B and still widely underused by companies who went through exercises searching for their brands on social, found none, and abandoned the effort. Social intelligence for B2B when done effectively offers powerful, actionable  insights into the state of a market, industry or audience, and the opportunity for live engagement with prospects.

It’s still an emerging space and a relatively small percentage of B2B firms informally surveyed have integrated it into their workflows. Social intelligence is definitely a growth area as B2B use of social continues to expand, almost unnoticed by platforms like Twitter, and demonstrating great utility for B2B  advertisers.

These are the key influencers in the space as nominated by readers and the B2Bnn team.

Marshall Kirkpatrick_Little Bird (1)

Influencer: Marshall Kirkpatrick

Who he is: The co-founder of Little Bird, Marshall Kirkpatrick “created the social listening platform that’s a critical tool in influencer relations,” said nominator Maureen Blandford of Maureenblandford.com.

For Kirkpatrick, becoming a prolific social listener didn’t happen overnight.

“The method I’ve developed over the years is: one, oversubscribe; two, create a filtered feed of just the highest-priority sources; three, create a system that makes it easy to see almost everything from the high priority list (mobile push notifications, browser bookmarks); and four, dip into the general non-priority feed from time to time to see what serendipity delivers. Then repeat and engage,” he said.

Little Bird uses social intelligence to look for opportunities, Kirkpatrick said. “By systematically watching the social web for a combination of source-based, validated, popular, and keyword-laden conversations, we discover all kinds of opportunities.” He’s used social media to find new customers, learn about important new trends, and to engage with existing customers.

B2B professionals can become better social listeners by branching out, said Kirkpatrick.

“Find credible experts on social media and listening to what they talk about,” he said. “Don’t just listen for the mention of your brand’s own name.”

He also suggests reading more than you talk. “Make a habit of reading three or give messages in your stream for every one you post,” he said. Another tip he has is to turn on mobile push notifications for selected influencers on Twitter. “You’ll really get to know them and the cutting edge of your market that way,” he said.

While his social listening tips will work for both B2B and consumer brands – Kirkpatrick said there’s a lot of overlap – he pointed out that B2B will benefit from slightly different strategies.

“In B2B – a single conversation can include insight that informs a company’s whole strategy or opens up a big line of business,” he said. “A mention is less likely to drive a lot of direct sales but is more likely to help inform would-be-buyers when they see favorable mentions showing up in search.” He suggests that B2B professionals use social media to listen and engage in a two-way dialogue.

Twitter: @Marshallk and @getlittlebird

Robert Hyams_McMillan Agency

Influencer: Robert Hyams

Who he is: The president of McMillan Agency, Robert Hyams – a marketing strategist with strong background in B2B and social marketing planning and execution – is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the 75-person creative agency.  His expertise includes B2B marketing, social marketing, cause/advocacy campaigning, messaging and brand strategy, which he brings to McMillan.

Social media channels are inundated with new content, yet Hyams manages to stay on top of it – without sacrificing his life to do it.

“A big part of social listening is time management,” said Hyams. “I find that it’s a good idea to block off a small amount of time in my calendar to scan my social channels and see if there is anything I want to earmark to view later,” he said.

Part of that is being selective and knowing what matters to you and your business – and ruthlessly sticking to it. “It’s a good idea to be disciplined about who you follow so that you don’t end up taking extra time scanning through content that isn’t relevant to you,” he said. “On Twitter, for example, it’s tempting to follow back everyone who follows you just to build up a large following, but I am laser-focused on specific interest areas so I only follow people or businesses that align with my interests,” he said.

The majority of his social listening efforts are on B2B, simply because that is the focus of the agency. “I believe that B2B marketers are more cautious and therefore not on the vanguard of trends in social like you see in B2C,” said Hyams. “They want to see something work – they go with what’s proven.”

Hyams recommends choosing just a few social channels to follow for business, so it doesn’t get overwhelming. He focuses on LinkedIn and Twitter, where he gets a lot of good B2B-related content, as well as Slack for specific topic areas.

These techniques have worked for McMillan. Social intelligence helps the creative agency stay informed on its clients and their competitors, particularly useful when its team members are preparing for a pitch, developing a strategy or creative work, and looking for ideas to pitch to a client. “For instance, we might learn about something a client’s competitor is doing and bring it to the client and pitch a countermeasure,” Hyams said.

McMillan also uses social listening to stay abreast of trends in the industry. “Our clients are always looking to us to come up with new ideas to promote their businesses,” Hyams said. “We also want to know what other agencies are doing and always enjoy seeing what cool ideas different companies come up with.”

Twitter handle: @robert_hyams

Kelly Hungerford

Influencer: Kelly Hungerford

Who she is: Freelance digital strategist Kelly Hungerford is the owner of CommunityWorks (http://communityworks.io/), a social media agency located in Switzerland’s Silicon Alps. She works with high-tech startups and small-to-mid-sized companies to implement community-centric business strategies to reach goals, optimize operations and develop new products. As a former marketing, communications and community director for Paper.li, Hungerford kept a close watch on online conversations, which allowed her to proactively address customer questions and issues. The #bizheroes Twitter chat that she launched for Paper.li also had more than one million impressions within a year. Nominator Cendrine Marrouat called her “one of the best community builders in the world.”

One day, Hungerford was working out of her favourite café. When she went to order a dish, she found it no longer on the menu and asked why.

“The owner told me that the menu changes with the likes and dislikes of the customers,” Hungerford said. “That’s so smart.”

To Hungerford, it’s as simple as that.

“The same philosophy that worked for me as a brand manager, works for me as a consultant: you don’t need to look any further than community to shape products, develop new services and grow your business,” she said. “Offline and online, if you want to thrive you need to have your finger on the pulse. Without a social ear to the ground, a business struggles.”

Before she got into social intelligence, she found herself stuck in rut. “Now, I develop all of my services based on what I hear people, professionals and communities are looking for.”

Making time to listen, understand and absorb what is happening in an industry, around a keyword or within a community unlocks mass potential, said Hungerford. “As a consultant, I experimented a lot with tools to help me gain industry insights but also narrowcast to hone in on topical conversations. I have Tweetdeck or Hootsuite open and running whenever I’m online. I spend far more time listening than I do engaging. This time invested allows me to bring insights to meetings, planning and brainstorming sessions, and just like in person, often less said (tweeted or posted) is more.”

“When setting up listening and working with business to business brands, I’m looking for industry trends, influencer feedback and how partners and competition is playing out in the industry. Understanding the landscape, key influencers, trends and tendencies keeps a brand ahead of the curve. Listening paves the way.

“It’s all out there. You just need the patience to tap into it.”

Twitter handle: @kdhungerford

Claude Theoret_Nexology

Influencer: Claude Théoret

Who he is: As the CEO of Nexalogy Environics, Claude Théoret is responsible for the development of the company’s advanced analysis tools. Théoret, who holds a doctorate in astrophysics, is one of the founding members of McGill University’s astronomy department and was ranked first in the astronomy and astrophysics postdoctoral fellowship competition in Québec.

As an astrophysicist by training, Théoret created algorithms to map the relationships of stars, and used gamma rays to view and understand the universe in new ways.

With an expertise in the management of innovation, Théoret applied those algorithms and methods to social data and founded Nexalogy, an enterprise social data intelligence platform, in 2006. The company, which analyzes the connections between content on blogs and social media to find undiscovered risks, opportunities, and hidden intelligence, enables its clients to make smarter decisions.

“B2B professionals can become better at social listening by leveraging social listening software to ingest and analyse social data,” said Théoret.

Staffed by PhDs, programmers, librarians, astrophysicists, academics, marketers, MBAs, journalists, analysts, and project managers, Nexology has offices in Montreal and New York City to provide unique insights to clients all over North America and Europe.

According to Théoret, the difference between listening for brands vs b2b is as follows: while B2C listening is most about brand and customer relations, B2B listening should be linked to sales opportunities and risk, he said.

Twitter handle: @cgtheoret @nexalogy

Karan Walia_Cluep

Influencer: Karan Walia

Who he is: Karan Walia is the founder and CEO of Cluep (https://cluep.com/), adtech that integrates sentiment with ads.

Founded in 2012 by Walia, Cluep sums up what it’s all about in four words: Detect feelings. Deliver ads.

A mobile ad platform that uses a text analysis engine to capture and filter people across social media networks based on their social media conversations , topics, demographics and location, Cluep then uses the information to deliver highly relevant advertising messaging to people on their mobile devices. The results are unprecedented, the company stated.

“Marketers can now truly deliver the right message, to the right target audience, at the right time,” the site stated.

Cluep supports standard IAB sizes including Interactive, Non-Interactive, Video and Rich Media mobile ad formats.

Every morning Cluep delivers a custom summary to client’s inboxes with all of their company’s key metrics.

Twitter handle: @karanwaIia

Saif Ajani_Keyhole

Influencer: Saif Ajani

Who he is: Saif Ajani is the co-founder of Keyhole.co, a social media analytics and listening platform which tracks how many people posted with your hashtag and the number of retweets, likes and impressions your campaign is generating in real time. The application also tracks the most influential people engaging with pre-selected keywords and allows the user to reach out to them to promote content.

When Ajani talks about becoming a better social listener, B2B professionals should take note. After all, social intelligence is his business.

Professionals can become better social listeners by re-thinking their definitions of social listening and social media monitoring, said the founder of listening platform Keyhole.co. “There are many people who solely see it as using a tool to regularly check up on major social platforms.”

But people should think of social listening as equal parts monitoring and outreach, he said.

Ajani recommends using a tool to track a range of key phrases and hashtags, from industry buzzwords to common misspellings of your business name.

The important part is acting on the leads and information that social listening uncovers. “If you spot someone looking for a service that you offer, don’t hesitate to give a brief pitch,” he said. “If someone else is dissatisfied with a competitor, it may be worthwhile to reach out and ask if you can do anything for them.”

With this knowledge, Ajani’s been able to develop Keyhole to meet his clients’ continuously evolving needs and wants.

“Being socially intelligent helps professionals to stay at the forefront of their industry,” said Ajani. “Social intelligence helps content marketers understand what audience members want to talk and learn about. Let’s say the bulk of your followers are posting about a news piece related to your industry. You’d spot an opportunity to develop content that adds context to the story. That’s the kind of material that can deliver a boost in clicks and return visits.”

Twitter handles: @saif_ajani and @keyholeco

Jenny Cheng_Inside View

Influencer: Jenny Cheng

Who she is: Jenny Cheng is chief product officer of Inside View, a market intelligence platform that creates market intelligence and delivers it through a variety of products, services, and APIs to address a range of sales, marketing, and other business needs.

A technology platform for sales, marketing and business leaders and their operations teams, InsideView gives demand generation and revenue teams one source of consistent, authoritative data, optimizing performance across sales and marketing applications, removing friction between handoffs, and fostering sales and marketing alignment.

Cheng, who has been developing innovative B2B and cloud-based technology for 20 years, was a cofounder and technology leader for gnana and vice-president technology and products program management at salesforce.com.

With social intelligence built right into its own platform, InsideView leverages social insights for competitive intelligence, for marketing and for sales.

“Social intelligence can give you a pulse on what’s most engaging for your target market,” said Cheng. “You can follow trends on what’s hot or not before spending time and resources on creating content.”

According to Cheng, social listening has both personal and professional components. “Most professionals think of social media as a 1:1 relationship and follow individuals, but ignore the professional aspect,” she said. “If you want to be knowledgeable about a sales target or even if you’re simply networking, understanding a person’s business and the industry news is crucial.”

Cheng recommends following companies on social media for two important reasons: it’s a great way to learn about a company or contact prior to a customer meeting, and it helps professionals stay current on news and industry and geographic trends.

“This is a key reason why we built company and people insights into our own product at InsideView,” Cheng said. InsideView, she said, scours online news and social media for business changes and brings them directly to clients’ inboxes, allowing for more relevant and timely conversations with customers and prospects.

“When you’re marketing or selling to businesses, what’s going on with that business or its industry is just as important as what customers are saying about your brand. It’s important to look outside your own brand and listen for theirs.”

Twitter handle: @thejennycheng

David Alston_Introhive

Influencer: David Alston

Who he is: As chief innovation officer at Introhive, David Alston focuses on strategy and creative approaches to help enterprises unlock their relationship capital. A repeat tech and marketing startup entrepreneur, Alston is also former chief marketing officer of Radian 6 – a social media monitoring platform with thousands of clients from around the world – co-founder of Brilliant Labs and was named Forbes’ Top 50 CMOs in Social Media and the Startup Canada 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year.

Introhive integrates all information a user has on an account, including the contact, lead, and opportunity information to provide a more complete picture of key accounts. By automatically syncing activities and contacts, the platform eliminates the need for data entry and keeps everything accurate and up-to-date. The platform also analyzes all the relationships inside an organization and maps them together, giving the user greater insight into the relationships that matter with key accounts and contacts. Custom fields can also be used to create tailored reports, dashboard and lists.

Alston recommends that B2B marketers make a list of people who are active and passionate in their space, and to follow them on Twitter, retweet them and generally create a relationship with them. Once that relationship has been established, marketers can help these people succeed, which in turn builds their loyalty towards the marketer. It appears to work – Alston follows 27,800 accounts on Twitter, and in return, has received nearly 28,000 follows.

Image credit: Devlin Ralph

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Tracey Tong

Tracey Tong

Tracey Tong is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years in newspapers and communications. She is a former managing editor at Metro News and has contributed stories on business, politics, technology, science, healthcare and the arts to dozens of publications all over North America. The Burlington native currently makes her home in Ottawa. Find her on Twitter @TraceyTong