January 13, 2011

How to build & manage a monitoring dashboard

Download this one-page flyer to get set up in Google Reader or Netvibes.


Settle on a favorite tool and then let info & updates come to you!

Target audience: Small to mid-size nonprofits, cause organizations, agencies, brands, NGOs, Web publishers, individuals. This is part of our series on social media monitoring:
Guide to monitoring social media conversations
20 free, awesome social media monitoring tools
10 paid social media monitoring services for nonprofits

JD LasicaLast year a study of the 200 largest U.S. nonprofits and found that they’re using social media at a faster clip than the business community or academia for the third year in a row. Some 8 percent more charities are monitoring social media over the previous year’s figures. (See the 10-page findings from UMass Dartmouth — PDF.)

But how deep-seated are their efforts? Setting up a Google Alert does not mean you have a monitoring program. And 79 percent in another survey said they hadn’t found ways to incorporate social media tools effectively into their operation, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

In your monitoring dashboard, you’ll see headlines from dozens of important blogs in your sector, alerts, search results, new photos and more

During the series of social media bootcamps and presentations that the Socialbrite team has been conducting around the country, one of the most popular how-to’s has been our instructional on how to set up a free monitoring dashboard — or listening station, if you prefer that term.

There are a few things to consider before starting. First, how does a monitoring dashboard fit into your overall communications strategy? Let’s review:

• You should have an overall Social Media Plan that outlines your organization’s end goals and who’s responsible for what deliverables. (Never start with the tools.)
• You should have a Social Media Policy in place.
• You should settle on one of these social media dashboard tools to manage most of your social media activities.
• Supplement that with a select few free monitoring tools, plus perhaps a paid service or vendor if you have the budget.
• Finally, don’t forget a monitoring dashboard to keep on top of everything else. Some paid services incorporate this component, but today we’ll discuss the free variety.

Why do you need a monitoring dashboard in addition to your social media dashboard? Because the free monitoring tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck will plug you into conversations taking place on Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Facebook, but won’t connect you with blog posts, comments, forums or search results. (The paid social media dashboard services are beginning to pull all this into one place.) A monitoring dashboard is the place where you’ll be able to gather and organize all your favorite RSS feeds in one place. For instance, you’ll be able to see headlines from dozens of the most important blogs in your sector at a glance. And you’ll be able to see alerts, search results, new photos and even tweets in your dashboard.

In this tutorial we’ll look at two things: How to build your dashboard, and then how to manage it.

How to set up your monitoring dashboard

First, select a favorite news reader. We like Google Reader, but Bloglines, Feedly, iGoogle or other news readers will also do. Some folks prefer Netvibes, which pre-populates your dashboard with top feeds from the sector, like this High-tech news dashboard. (Click on the image at top to download a one-page handout that takes you through the steps for either Google Reader or Netvibes.)

Here’s all it takes to set up a dashboard in Google Reader to monitor your brand:

Step 1: Go to Gmail.com and register for a Google Mail account, if you don’t have one.

Step 2: Go to google.com/reader and log in with your Gmail address. Continue reading