Social Media Listening

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Brief Description / When to use


Good conversations require us to listen actively

“Social Media is not about technology. It is about conversations enabled by technology.” I used this quote, which can be found in many presentations, in a social media presentation I gave at CIAT in March 2009.

So if Social Media is about conversations, we need to have at least two actors alternatively talking and listening. This is a critical point that is often questioned by social media sceptics. Just the other day, I was copied in on an email from an IT manager of a CGIAR Center who was wondering about the real level of interactivity of many blogs. Indeed, Nancy White states that only 10% of the social media content is truly interactive. The other 90% is dedicated to dissemination without any visible reaction through online comments.

Listening as a way to market our research

We can do better. Social Media Listening is a great opportunity for us to engage with stakeholders and possible users of research products, people we probably wouldn’t meet anywhere other than online. While we think about possible ways and alternatives to get our messages out more effectively, through different channels, and in different formats, we also need to keep an eye on what other organizations and people are writing about those issues that are related to our research. Reading, following and commenting on other people’s work and thoughts is essential if we are to engage with stakeholders of all kinds, and should be part of our Social Media strategies. If we want to make our media interactive, we also need to take the time to interact with others online. And all social media tools allow us to interact with authors through comments (i.e. blogs, photo and video sharing sites, wiki discussion pages etc).

In addition, social media listening is an excellent way of talking about our research processes, products and achievements.

What we can expect from practicing Social Media Listening

Social Media Listening is a new way of raising the profile of our organizations, projects and even ourselves as we gain visibility by adding value to online conversations related to topics that we care about. It should also help us find new partners, networks, research ideas and, perhaps, even new donors. By participating in online conversations, we leave footprints in the Internet sphere that raise the probability of us being found and contacted. Finally, we can hope that this practice leverages our impact paths by accelerating the effective dissemination of our work.

How to practice Social Media Listening

Start by following information on the Internet that is related to your work. As Chris Brogan states (http://technorati.com/videos/youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D4set_GLDb78) “Google is your front page whatever happens”, but there are other ways to find opportunities for valued added conversations:
  • Technocrati is a good site to start searching for related blogs.
  • Go to Twitter and search for tweets that might be of interest. You will be surprised how many interesting links you will discover.
  • Subscribe to the RSS feeds of the sites you find interesting.
  • Join listservs and communities that tackle your or related issues.
  • Ask your colleagues and peers about their favourite professional social networking sites for you to consider.
  • Start contributing with comments, questions, answers and links to your own sites.
  • Work hard on composing and refining keywords for your own sites and searches. Keywords allow you to find the hidden treasures.

Who should practice Social Media Listening?

While all of us, researchers and research supporters alike, can gain from keeping up to speed with the latest innovations and developments in our respective areas of expertise and interest, social media listening should be practiced by all communications professionals, especially those working in the field of public relations.

Tips and Lessons Learnt

In the early phases of using social media, you will typically try things out and begin “listening” for the response as indicated by page views, links, responses and actions of your target audience.
Check out Beth Kanter’s blog post about evaluating first projects, where she links to Geoff Livingston’s post called “Getting Social Media Approved By Your Boss,” in which he talks about organizational culture change and resistance, but with the emphasis on the importance of a proof of concept project. Here’s an excerpt:

"First off, we recommend using a pilot project to get through the door. Reticence is often conquered by a win, and the best way to provide a win is via a pilot project. Tips to ensuring you choose the right pilot project:
  • Begin with some form of listening or monitoring. You must be in tune with your social web community if you want this to work. Hopefully you are doing this before you begin, but just in case…
  • Simple and relatively low cost is good. When there is fear involved, an easy, relatively affordable project is an easy thing to sign off on.
  • Short timeframes help, too. You want to make this a quick test.
  • Make sure you have a measurable goal. Look at your strategy, it will tell you exactly what to measure. You must be able to attain ROI. That is why attaining something worthwhile is essential, whether it’s micro-donations, market intelligence, feedback on a new product, click-throughs to a store, registrants for a value added webinar, or some other measurable result. You must be able to declare victory."

Examples & Stories

(add your story)

Who can tell me more?

  • Simone Staiger (s.staiger [at] cgiar.org)

Related Methods / Tools / Practices


Resources

Beth Kanter and Chris Brogan are two geeks in the area. Have a look at those:


Tags

Social media listening, social media, rss, social learning, participation, outreach, dissemination, networking, blogs, dialogue, interactive, listen

Photo or image credits

Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/keela84/41713155/

Page Authors

Simone Staiger-Rivas (ICT-KM Program, CIAT, CGIAR) s.staiger@cgiar.org