When I talk about social media strategy, I always start by asking organizations to begin listening first.
Listening is a great way to understand the conversations that you are entering. You wouldn’t walk into an event and start rambling. That would just be a w k w a r d.
The same applies to social media. So, listen first. What should you be listening for? Your organization’s name and a few targeted keywords. Pay attention to what people are saying about you or your area of impact. Secondly, pay attention to who is talking about you. These might be members, volunteers, or detractors. By identifying “who” you’ll be able to engage them.
How can you listen online? Here are some tools:
1. Google Alerts
You can set these up for FREE by going to google.com/alerts. The results are delivered to you by email: a) as they occur b) daily c) weekly.
This is a great (free) tool that listens to websites, blogs, social bookmarking sites, Facebook and Twitter. Yes, you’d be surprised how many people keep their Facebook statuses open and publicly searchable. In addition, SocialMention explores the sentiment associated with those posts so you can get a perspective of the ratio of positive:neutral:negative posts that out there. Results can be sent to you by email, viewed online, or set up to be received by RSS.
Twitter has been breaking news before, well, even the news. In some Twitter clients like TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or CoTweet it is easy to set a search that will also pull keywords.
4. Alterian / Radian6 / Sysomos
If you are really liking the above other tools and want to take it to the next level, I recommend you check these out. This are high-powered solutions that can help you provide you with more specific details.
Just because I say to start by listening doesn’t mean you can do it for a week and then quit. Listening is at the heart of social media. It must become habit. Conversations are, by definition, an exchange. As your strategy moves forward, your ability to listen will be critical in helping you successfully engage your audience.