Step 1. Link Listening To Social Media Strategy Decisions

Actionable listeningon social media channels means transforming a “river of noise” into insights that allow you to take action. That is, you gain insight, can make a decision, or do something. Listening can help your organization craft conversation starters, figure out how to best start engaging, identify social content that you can incorporate into your content strategy, identify influencers who you can transform into brand ambassadors, or address a potential crisis early in the game.

  • Identify your objective for your listening
  • Identify your audience

Some examples:

  • To gather a baseline understanding of what people are saying about our organization and brand on Facebook
  • To gather a baseline understanding of what is being published about our organization in online media
  • To identify hot conversations about an artist and art form that may help inform our marketing and outreach messaging
  • To understand who are the key bloggers who write about our art form that we should cultivate
  • To analyze the conversations that are taking place on social media channels with similar types of organizations
  • To get a better understanding of what social media channel we should invest in first - Twitter vs Facebook vs Yelp
  • To listen and respond to what people may be posting about us on Yelp

Step 2. Work Flow

Who will set up your dashboard?
Who will read the the feeds?
Who will summarize the findings and share with others on staff?
If you're working an intern, will they be empowered to respond to comments?

If you are going to do the work yourself, how will you integrate listening in your routine?

Some tips on creating the answers to these questions:

Beth Kanter, Examples of How Listening Returns Value for Nonprofit Organizations
Beth Kanter, Getting Your Nonprofit Ready To Listen
Dave Fleet, 25 Questions To Make Your Social Media Work Flow More Efficient
Beth Kanter Social Media Listening: You Don't Have To Be Joey Chestnut

Step 3. Select an RSS Reader for the Job

Using an RSS Reader will make your listening work efficiently and not clutter up your email.

Need a quick primer on RSS and RSS Readers?

Here are a few popular readers:
Google Reader

You'll be creating a listening "dashboard" in your reader. Here's how Carie Lewis of the Humane Society uses Igoogle as her dashboard
Here's some simple steps for setting this up.

Good RSS Habits
• Set up aside a small block of time to read your feeds everyday
• Clean house often, RSS subscriptions tend to pile up
• Don't feel like you have to read every post on every blog, use the "Mark Read" option

Sink or Swim, Managing RSS Feeds with Better Groups by 43 folders
NpTech 101: How I read 2,000 Articles in 30 Days by Chas Grundy
Wrangling your RSS Feeds by Amy Sample Ward
3 Great Ways To Read Your Google Reader Feeds by Angela Alcorn

If you have time:
You might also want to investigate Google Reader Play, which lets you personalize what you want to find on the Internet, and browse it in a fun, fast way. It makes it very simple to star things you want to read or use later, like and share things. It's also a sort of "Pandora" for reading in that it learns what you like to read, and will suggest information to you.

Step 4: Brainstorm Keywords

The basic keywords you'll want to monitor are:
Other nonprofit names in your space
Program, services, and event names
CEO or well-known personalities associated with your organization
Other nonprofits with similar program names
Your brand or tagline
URLs for your blog, web site, online community
Industry terms or other phrases that illustrate need

Get creative! Involve other people in your organization.

Here's a few tools to help:
Google Ads Keyword Tool
Most Frequently Mispelled Search Terms
Tips for Expanding Keyword Lists

Beth Kanter, Listening Literacy Skills
Ashkan, Keyword Research 101
Trackur Cheat Sheet

Step 5. Set Up Your Listening Dashboard

The time consuming part of this process is the set up. Once you've set it up, it will take you a few hours a week to listen and respond, depending on volume.
If you decide to NetVibes, check out the Social Media Dashboard Builder - it will save you some time.

• Do search at site for the first time
• Add a RSS feed to your reader
• Monitor in your reader, engage when needed

Google Alerts
Social Mention
Twitter Search

Top Ten Free Monitoring Tools by Dan Schawbel
How To Set Up A Listening Post on Twitter by Beth Kanter
Examples of Keyword Searches by Frank Barry

You'll want to identify and follow key bloggers in your nonprofit space, especially if you are planning to blog or doing any blogger relations program.

• Define Your Niche
• Find Bridge bloggers
• Add them to your RSS Reader

Finding Bridge Bloggers by Beth Kanter
A Poor Man's Guide To Finding the Influencers by Mike Nelson

You can monitor social networks and YouTube for mentions of your organization and issue. It is important to do this type of listening as a prelude to setting up your own profile or placing videos on YouTube - and as an ongoing part of your social media strategy.

• Social networks
• YouTube

How to Listen on Social Networks by KD Paine
How to Listen on YouTube by KD Paine
Social Media Listening Wiki by Beth Kanter

Step 6. Start Listening and Refine

Your initial listening might seem overwhelming, but you should be able to quickly hone in on these tasks after 2-3 weeks:

• Identify the dozen or so best keywords or phrases to monitor related to your marketing and communications objectives
• Summarize where conversations are occurring and the main topics that are resonating within targeted communities related to your marketing objectives
• Develop a list of 15-20 thought leaders discussing key issues/topics related to your marketing or communications objectives

Step 7. The Art of Responding

What if no one is talking about your organization? That means it is time to start engaging. Once you have a policy around who will respond, you will get down to commenting and engaging in conversation. Here are some tips.

The Five Stages of Listening from Dave Fleet
The Art of Commenting by Beth Kanter
How to Comment like a Queen by Vicky Davis
How To Handle Negative Comments on Your Blog by Jason Alba
How to Handle Negative Word of Mouth by Andy Sernowitz
Social Media Anger Management Tips: Interview with Carie Lewis by Beth Kanter

What if people are talking negatively or attacking your organization? You need to respond (or not) very carefully. Here are some tips.

HOW TO: Respond when Social Media Attacks Your Brand by Stephanie Marcus

What if you send out a mistake in your reply, a big one, maybe even a negative term? The American Red Cross got accounts mixed-up and sent out a rogue tweet. This could have been a disaster as it was for Chrysler's social media agency but instead, ARC handled it with grace. They asked allies and supporters to help, and they turned it into an opportunity for fundraising. Here is what they did:

The Red Cross' Rogue Tweet: #gettngslizzerd On Dogfish Head's Midas Touch

Step 8. Reporting, Pattern Analysis and Seeing Trends Over Time

Sharing Practices Around Listening by Beth Kanter
listening report template.pdf

You'll want to be look for patterns and trends. This requires stepping back. Your tools are social bookmarking and the excel spreadsheet.

Using Delicious to Bookmark mentions

WeAreMedia Tool Box: Social Bookmarking
Using Numbers To Harvest Insights by Beth Kanter
Visualizing Data to Trigger Insights by Beth Kanter
Share of Voice Report

With your system in place, you're may be ready for professional listening tools.

Complete list of listening and tracking tools on Beth's Social Media Listening Wiki
Making Listening More Efficient: SpredFast guest post on Beth's Blog by James Young
Listening in a Blizzard by Beth Kanter
Top 10 Reputation Tools Worth Paying by Dan Schwabel, Mashable

Scoop.It SM Monitoring Collection