In the not-so-distant past, it was a valid question: Should B2B marketers invest time and money in social media? While many were still debating, customers provided the answer. It turns out B2B customers don't turn off social between the hours of 9-5-and they expect B2B brands to deliver experiences similar to those with a B2C focus.

Of course, that doesn't mean B2B and B2C social marketing are identical. B2B marketers are likely to experience lesser volumes of social activity, and longer sales cycles and multiple decision makers are a fact of life. Nonetheless, social serves an increasingly critical role throughout every phase of the B2B customer journey.

So how can B2B marketers get the most from social? Check out these three quick tips.

1. Better Insights, Better Content

Don't post and pray. Listen and then convey (relevant content). Chances are great that customers are already talking about your brand. Every social post can provide insights into the content B2B customers care about, their opinions about your products and services, the questions they have, and yes…things they don't like about your company. The key to tapping into the conversation is to set up listening profiles. They help you to track online industry conversations, and most importantly, join the conversation.

2. Publish, Engage, Repeat

Your social media content plan should also include plenty of custom content to differentiate your organization and services. Much can be planned in advance-but don't get locked into your schedule. Use the insights you've gathered through listening to identify emerging topics and deliver content to continue the conversation.

Once you've published, it's imperative to stay involved. Be responsive to comments and never miss an opportunity to answer questions. Remember: An audience can be difficult to build-but very easy to alienate.

3. Protect your Reputation

Your customers are your biggest advocates-and potentially detractors. The most valuable social connections bring together prospective customers with existing customers. The biggest killer of reputations? Failure to respond to customer complaints.

Once again, social listening is the key. Don't just listen for mentions of your brand, also monitor for terms that may indicate dissatisfaction.

Most marketing and customer service teams operate separately creating a silo that can be detrimental to the customer or brand health. Breaking done this silo is important to create clear communication between customers and internal groups. Social media management tools make it easier for social teams to monitor for potential issues in earned and owned conversations. Social teams with clear rules for engagement can often resolve issues, while others can be automatically routed to customer service when deeper engagement is required.

Get More from B2B Social Marketing

Interested in learning more? Download The Business Leader's Guide to Becoming a Social Business. It's packed with tips and tactics for how businesses of all shapes and sizes can get the most from social media.