It’s easy to justify the case for social listening when considering large consumer brands high volumes of online conversations about them, but what about specialist B2B firms with specialist audiences?

This didn’t put GE Lifesciences off in targeting an audience of lab workers and scientists.

Audiences are increasingly conducting their own research

GE Lifesciences customers cover the entire life-science spectrum from initial drug discovery to large-scale manufacturing and up until recently, digital teams had focused on creating collateral serving the latter stages of the scientific customer decision journey principally at the evaluation and purchase stages.

However, internal study revealed that nearly 60% of customers were choosing to delay commercial conversations until they had conducted their own research, so creating trusted content to engage prospective customers at these earlier stages became crucial.

Changing tack with a new social listening strategy

This led GE Lifesciences to change tack, using social listening to get a better understanding of customer conversations – in this case, with a specific focus on ‘Protein Purification’, a chemical process used to harvest raw proteins used in a wide range of pharmaceutical and medicinal research and drugs.

Challenges convincing internal stakeholders

The search term was challenging on a number of points. Internally stakeholders were sceptical that meaningful data on so complex a subject area could be found, especially on the likes of Twitter which limit posts to as little as 140 characters. 

This led to an initial period of discovery to account for the complexity of language used in scientific discourse.

Listening teams worked with GE scientists, sales teams and marketers to understand the language prospects were using to ensure the correct keyword dictionary and terminology was being developed.

GE also conducted desk research to highlight popular platforms used by target audiences, identifying everything from Twitter to specialist niche networks.

Getting a 360 degree view of the customer

The company used a premium social media listening tool to scour previously identified forums and a broader array of blogs using previously identified key word search terms. In total nearly 40,000 cleaned conversations about Protein Purification were identified.

In the process of cleaning the data, GE were then able to map out a 360 degree view of the customer, getting insights on conversations in and outside of the laboratory, in addition to filtering conversation by [Protein Purification] process and treatment related themes.

Unexpected benefits of the strategy

This data driven approach has now enabled GE to target and create more relevant content, but it went beyond the initial brief. Informing keyword search repositories for SEO as well as enabling the company to rewrite its website taxonomy, which it is currently in the process of completing.

What this has taught GE Lifesciences

What this taught GE in the process was that it is possible to take large amounts of unstructured text corpus (commentary) and make it actionable, but in complex B2B environments, you couldn’t necessarily do it with off the shelf listening products because it required a much more nuanced, customised approach.  

Masood Akhtar, Managing Partner at Bottom Line Analytics, who oversaw the project with GE Lifesciences agrees that B2B listening requires more involvement with specialist internal stakeholders to ensure we produce insights that guide content that resonates with audiences.

According to Dimithri Wignarajah, Head of Social & Content, GE Healthcare Life Sciences "for a complex and niche market like ours, having the data and confidence to make connections and validate our assumptions was great. The insights and things we learned shaped our content and website approach. Our vernacular, communications and content are more relevant and insightful”.

Jim Clark

Published 14 August, 2015 by Jim Clark

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