Take a breath, relax and just spend some time just listening to the social media buzz about your brand or cause. Well that sounds simple enough but in practice it may take a little time and exploration but you just may be surprised how interesting listening can be. Not only can you learn what people are saying but what platforms they are using for discussion. You will begin to define the trends in your business and see a social media coming into focus.For a nonprofit, or any small company, I would recommend starting with a few basics such as: a simples web search; then test out a couple free sites such as Addict-o-matic and Socialmention which take a broad sweep over a vast number of social media platforms.The first question will be what to search. A good place to start is your organization’s name. Start with a simple web search, Google,Yahoo, Bing… your favorite engine is fine.You may find your company name is shared by many organizations but that you are the only one in a specific location or providing a specific service. Then branch out to your brands or projects. Finally check on your competitors or for other organizations serving a similar need or ones in a similar service area. Repeat your searches on Addictomatic and Socialmention. Discover where the activity is, on what sites, and what the buzz is or isn’t about your organization.
When you have built some confidence and some search criteria spend a day exploring. A great source for Listening channels is a wiki started by Ken Burbary with over 200 monitoring sites, some are free and some are paid services. If you are small and strapped for funding settle on a few free options. When you have picked your channels, schedule appointments on your calendar to listen in for maybe 15 minutes every day. Ok if daily does not work schedule in time at least once a week. With some services you can also set up e-mail or text alerts. As your customers or donors get active pick up the frequency, or if you get big enough you may need to branch into a monitoring service – but you still need to listen!
So what will we learned from listening? First you may find nothing or you only find your website on page 3 of a web search, then you know you have work to do – neither you or your customers or donors are talking about you. Another discovery may be page after page all about the organization, but all created by you – so you like to talk, the question – is anyone listening? So what is ideal – a balance of sites, a balance of information and people sharing excitement, feeling part of a bigger cause and providing suggestions. Excited people love to share, with friends, family and anyone who will listen at work, the gym or even an elevator. Engage these people, they are buying your product or supporting a project bigger than you both, share the credit! There will be people with suggestions for improvement, lets not be all protective and defensive, take a deep breath and listen, try to understand, make contact and improve. Most important get started there are hundreds of tools – so no more excuses – go forward and explore!