Social listening can boost supporter engagement

Nonprofits are beginning to tune into a relatively new marketing tactic known as social listening. Some of the best known commercial brands have used the tactic for years, but now its low cost and proven effectiveness are gaining the attention of not-for-profits that see the value of tapping into their supporters’ passions while they’re hot.

Understanding social listening

Social listening refers to more than just monitoring social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for mentions of your organization and related keywords. It also includes identifying and engaging online with topics that interest your supporters, as well as “influencers” who can extend your message by sharing it with their audiences. Social listening gives you valuable insights on the issues that resonate with your supporters and influencers, allowing you to tailor your communications with them.

When it comes to influencers, you needn’t grab the attention of a Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian or Ellen DeGeneres. Connecting with a group of influencers who each have several hundred followers can expand your reach exponentially. For example, a conservation organization might connect with a popular rock climber or other outdoor enthusiast to reach his or her followers. A tip: Get to know your influencers by following and interacting with them before making a request.

Getting started

To begin, develop a list of key terms related to your organization and its mission, programs and campaigns. You’ll want to treat this as a “living document,” updating it as you launch new initiatives.

These are the terms you’ll “listen” for on social media. A variety of free online tools are available to perform this monitoring, including Google Alerts, Technorati, Addictomatic, Twazzup and Social Mention. When your supporters or influencers use the terms, you can send them a targeted email with a call to action, such as a petition, a donation solicitation or an event announcement. Your call to action could be as simple as asking them to share your content.

For example, American Rivers — a nonprofit dedicated to river conservation — used social listening to mobilize their members when the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon was threatened by two development proposals. The organization found that many of its supporters were talking about the Grand Canyon on Facebook and Twitter and sent those supporters targeted automated emails within 24 hours of the mention, asking them to sign or, if they’d already signed, share a petition. The organization gained 2,500 new signatures as a result, with a 24% petition conversion rate.

You also can use trending hashtags (a keyword or phrase that is popular at the moment on social media, such as #GameofThrones) to keep your engagement relevant and leverage current events on a real-time basis. You might be able to find creative ways to join the conversation while promoting your organization or campaign.

For example, Habitat for Humanity jumped on the #Oscars hashtag during the 2014 Academy Awards and used the show’s tribute to the 75th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” to highlight a “There’s No Place Like Home” campaign. By including the hashtag in its posts, the organization had the potential to reach a massive worldwide audience.

Time to tune in

Social media is no fad, and savvy nonprofits know they need to embrace and make the most out of it. By pursuing social listening, you can cost-effectively improve your engagement efforts and propel your campaigns.

© 2016