I had the fantastic opportunity of facilitating a conversation (slides here) on this vital topic at the Communications Network conference recently. Here's the problem we were helping participants to solve:
- The daily volume of content and conversations created in social media channels – blogs, Facebook, Twitter and more – is huge, and growing exponentially. These conversations were always happening but you couldn't hear them. Now you can.
- You need to know how they cover your organization, leaders, programs, or issues.This is information critical to your decision making.
- Beyond listening, you need to respond appropriately, in addition to all your other communications responsibilities.
Making sense of all the content and conversation out there is challenging, but the right listening strategy and tools enables you to filter out the key conversations. That's the first step in any effective social media strategy.
Here are three guidelines for effective listening from panelists Larry Blumenthal, Director of Social Media Strategy at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Laura Braham, Web Officer at the Open Society Institute; and Holly Ross, Executive Director of NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network:
- How to use what you hear: 1) To better serve your networks by knowing what they're saying to others and to you — instant audience intelligence; 2) To respond to and/or engage critics; 3) To stay abreast of the latest developments in your area of work.
- How to overcome objections that listening is unnecessary: Compile and share online conversation on critical keywords and themes over a
week or a month. Provide some concrete examples of how not listening or
participating meant that others spoke for (and defined) your organization. Others speaking out is fine, but your organization's voice should be in the mix.
- What to listen for and best free listening tools: 1) Google Alerts and RSS feeds (searches blogs, websites) for keywords (org name and URL, issues, leadership names, competitive/colleague org names); 2) Twitter search. Here's more guidance on putting together a one-stop listening dashboard.
Very frankly, avoiding these conversations is just putting your head in the sand. If you do, you're missing hugely valuable insights into the world in which you work and the opportunity to respond to them proactively.I urge you to take these guidelines in hand and get listening today.
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