How to Create Your Nonprofit Organization’s Listening and Engagement System with Social Media

    by Ellie Mirman

    Date

    December 21, 2009 at 2:15 PM

    This guest post is written by Beth Kanter , a popular blogger, author, and speaker on the topic of how nonprofits can use social media. Her blog, Beth's Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media , is one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits.

    Listening and Responding

    If your nonprofit wants to be successful using social media , you'll need to set up a system for listening and engaging. Your approach to listening and engaging should be integrated with overall communications objectives. Your system also needs to make it easy for many people in your organization to participate in the conversation.

    Don't Scan. Sift Out Important Conversations.

    Listening is knowing what is being said online about your organization, field or issue area. Simply scanning a river of information is not enough. Listening involves sifting through online many conversations being held in many places including blogs and social media. The value of listening comes from making sense of the data then using it to start conversations with your supporters.

    Listening is priceless because you can hear what people are saying in their natural environment. Listening helps nonprofits improve programs and identify misconceptions . As one nonprofit social media strategist pointed out, "Listening helps you be less of a spammer and more of a service provider."

    Refine Keywords and Perform Analysis

    The heart of listening literacy is composing and refining keywords , pattern analysis, and synthesis of findings. Nonprofit organizations that want to do effective listening should set up searches on the basics .

    Carie Lewis , Social Networking Manager for the Humane Society of United States, suggests keyword searches on current issues that people are talking about as well as the issues your organization is working on. She adds, "Don't forget to search the names of individuals who oppose your issues."

    Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation believes you should research which keyword phrases relate to your cause. She explains, " It is important to listen to people based on their interests. For example, I create twitter searches for the phrase ‘kids outside' which is related to our program Green Hour and is about encouraging parents to have their children spend more time outside enjoying nature. I compliment parents."

    It's also important to update and refine your keywords over time. As Wendy Harman, Social Media Strategist for the Red Cross advises, "You may not know what is not worth searching until you try searching on it and revise it based on what you see. Don't assume that you'll get it right on the first try, either. It takes fine-tuning of those key words before you get it right."

    Social Messenger

    Be Thoughtful & Engage Your Audience Regularly

    Remember, social media is not a spectator sport; it's a contact sport. You are not listening for listening sake, you are listening as a prelude to ongoing engagement .

    Perhaps the most important step in being successful with social media is to engage your audience . Sometimes this is simply having a conversation related to your organization's communications goals. Sometimes it can be as simple as wishing someone happy birthday. The important thing is that you are connecting people to your cause effectively and earnestly. 

    How is your nonprofit practicing listening and engagement to your stakeholders?

    Images by Beth Kanter aka cambodia4kidsorg on Flickr

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