Start By Listening

When I talk about social media strategy, I always start by asking organizations to begin listening first.

Listen Up

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 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.


About @hust0058

Nonprofit/Association Professional. Social Media Presenter/Writer/Educator. University of Minnesota Alum. Joiner and Volunteer!
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3 Responses to Start By Listening

  1. Trish Forant says:

    Excellent advice. Listening IS a great way to begin and once you’ve got that down you can proceed to the next step in the plan – engaging.

    I like to use twitter lists to help categorize people (one I’ve identified them) and since they can be public or private they’re a great addition to the platform.

    Thanks for the mention. We appreciate it.

    Trish Forant (@Dayngr)
    Community Manager | Radian6

  2. hust0058 says:

    Listening in action as demonstrated by Radian6! Thanks for your additional feedback. Twitter lists is on my list for upcoming posts!

    Readers take note — this is a great example of how listening leads to meaningful ENGAGEMENT with people that are talking about you.

  3. Useful information. Lucky me I discovered your web site accidentally, and I’m stunned why this twist of fate did not came about earlier! I bookmarked it.

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