Social Listening Spotlight: Little Bird co-founder Marshall Kirkpatrick

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Social listening has undergone enormous evolution. 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 to identifying customer trends and topics.

The co-founder of Little Bird, Marshall Kirkpatrick, “created the social listening platform that’s a critical tool in influencer relations,” said Maureen Blandford of

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

“The method I’ve developed over the years is:

  1. oversubscribe
  2. create a filtered feed of just the highest-priority sources
  3. create a system that makes it easy to see almost everything from the high priority list (mobile push notifications, browser bookmarks)
  4. dip into the general non-priority feed from time to time to see what serendipity delivers.

Then repeat and engage,” Kirkpatrick 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.

Image credit Jon Evans

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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
Tracey Tong

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