The main thing a nonprofit organization should do online is learn how to listen.
Did you ever say to yourself, “I wish I knew what my donors were thinking”? Or “It would be great if clients just told us what they need. I can’t read minds”?
Online, people tell you what they think, feel, want, and desire. Online, you can read minds. But only if you talk less and listen more.
First, Find Your People
People are talking about what they care about online all the time. The key is to find your people, talking about the issues that matter to your organization.
Start with the people you already know: the people on your mailing list. Take a sample of them and search for them online. What social media do they use?
If they’re on Facebook, set up a Facebook interest list and add them to it. That way, any time you go on Facebook, you can see what those specific people are talking about.
If they mostly use Twitter, you can also create a list. You might find that you spend most of the time you’re on Twitter looking just at that list (which will help you cure the feeling that you’re drinking from a fire hose!) And you can do the same for other social media.
Spend a little time each day getting to know your supporters. What do they post about most often? Are they sports fans, foodies, readers? Are some of them heatedly discussing a local or national issue?
Going online is like walking into a party where people have already begun to mingle. Once you have figured out what their conversation is about, you can find ways to contribute. That will raise your visibility and gain you good will. In the long run, it will lead to more volunteers and donors.
But don’t go in and start trying to change the subject to what your organization is doing. You’ll find people excusing themselves and heading to another corner of the room! When in doubt, listen longer.
Do Some Research
The next time you open Facebook, try searching for pages liked by people who like [your organization]. You can do it in two steps:
- Find your organization’s numerical Facebook ID. (You can go to http://www.findmyfbid.com/ and type in the name of your Facebook page, and it will tell you the number.)
- Then, go to Facebook and search on https://www.facebook.com/search/your ID/likers/pages-liked. (Where it says “your ID,” put in the numerical ID before you search.)
Run that search and Facebook will tell you:
- All the pages that your followers have liked, and who liked which page.
- How many people, total, like that page.
- Other pages that people who like a specific page also like.
- Which of your own friends liked that page (if you are using Facebook as an individual)
You can read about seven different ways to use this information in my blog post “Find and Attract the Audience You Want.”
Listening to a Broader Community
It makes sense to start listening to the people who know you best already. What if you want to hear what a broader range of people think about you and your work? Then you should set up a Google Alert and use hashtags on Twitter to search for:
- The name of your organization. (Be sure to look for misspellings and abbreviations, too.)
- The names of your partner organizations and your competitors.
- The field you work in as the public thinks of it.
- Key words associated with your work.
- The phrase “I wish” and any of the first four items on this list. That’s a good way to understand what people want and are not getting already.
How Valuable is Social Listening?
Take a tip from someone who does social media for a living, Candie Harris. (What you’ve been reading is partly her ideas “translated” from business to nonprofit.)
As a former brand marketer, if someone had told me I could have access to the hearts and minds of my most loyal consumers (as well as my competitor’s), my first question would be: “How?” My second question would be: “How much will it cost?”
Social listening can give nonprofits “access to the hearts and minds” of clients, donors, prospects, volunteers, even policymakers who affect our work–and all it will cost is time.
Is your organization using social listening now? Please share your experience!
Would you like to listen to what your supporters have to say online but feel you don’t have the time? Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s see if we can find an affordable solution for you.