January 10, 2011

Guide to monitoring social media conversations

Image by √oхέƒx™ on Flickr


How & why your organization should be tuning in the social Web

JD LasicaMost brands and nonprofits have received the memo: To succeed in today’s interconnected world, you need to listen to what your supporters and customers are saying about you. With the new year still fresh, you may be finally ready to put into place a listening program to tap into the conversations taking place on the social Web about your organization or sector.

Social media has blown apart yesterday’s top-down communication funnel and replaced it with a peer-to-peer model of empowered citizens and producers. People are tiring of mass media and prefer to listen to their peers’ recommendations about products, services and causes. It’s no longer just about driving people to your website. Today the action revolves around a complex set of social conversations outside of your control — but not outside of your influence. Even the most technically unsophisticated users can now use social tools to spread their messages with unprecedented ease. So what are they saying about you?

In this weeklong series launching today, we’ll cover:

• Why and how to listen (see below)
20 free, awesome social media monitoring tools
10 paid social media monitoring services for nonprofits
How to build & manage a monitoring dashboard

Some people confuse monitoring with metrics. For our purposes, monitoring refers to tracking the conversations people are having about you; metrics refers to measuring the impact you’re having by tabulating such things as visits, tweets, registrations, donations and so on. Monitoring informs the metrics process.

If you’re just starting out, we recommend beginning with a few small ‘listening’ techniques to ‘hear’ what people are saying about you. Set up only a few alerts and track a few feeds – don’t turn on a firehose that you won’t be able to manage. Monitoring can be built into your existing work processes; get started by building a monitoring dashboard (coming Thursday) or by creating a social media dashboard for an integrated approach to manage your participation on the social Web.

Note that although our monitoring guide focuses on nonprofits, the lessons in this series can be applied to any brand. Have your own tips? Please share in the comments!

Why listen: A multitude of brand opportunities

monitoringBefore you dive into a river of conversations, you need to understand what people are saying about you. Learn. Understand. Only then, speak. Share stories. React, inform and engage.

Listening is only one step in the process of engaging with your supporters or customers. Other steps in  your social program might include the following: monitoring; setting business goals; creating and tracking metrics, and incorporating learnings from your listening and metrics efforts into your operation. You’ll want to share your learnings with marketing, sales and your organization’s version of product development or R&D.

There are a multitude of reasons why brands — nonprofits, companies, cause organizations — need to listen to conversations on the social Web. Here they are:

10 reasons to listen to social media conversations

1Assess overall sentiment. In the main, do people know what your organization is about? Do they like your goal but not how you’re going about it? Do they love your platform but don’t connect emotionally to your cause? Take the temperature of the room!

2Target new stakeholders. Can you do a better job getting one of your offerings across to a new audience that’s only loosely connected with your organization? What are their particular interests and motivations? Is there a potential to build a new vertical or niche community around your service or cause?

3Identify your champions. Do you know who your brand’s strongest advocates and evangelists are? How are you rewarding or engaging with them? Particularly with a new brand or campaign, you’ll want to reach out to these leading voices and influencers who can help spread an opinion about a brand faster than your own website can.

4Identify your critics & fend off crises. Your reputation could be jeopardized by criticism — warranted or not, true or not — taking place on the social Web. You need to swoop in and respond in a positive manner, correcting any errors of fact and demonstrating problem-solving abilities, before misperceptions harden into negative sentiment. This is also a critical step in warding off PR disasters. And your critics aren’t always wrong. Adds Liz Strauss: “Listen for the things that you don’t want to hear” and learn from them.

5Audit your efforts. At some point you’ll want to step back and do an assessment of your social media channels. What’s working? What’s not worth the staff’s time? Monitoring tied to metrics will tell you. Continue reading