Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Nonprofits: Develop your social listening strategy, tools and tactics NOW

I recently left (for financial reasons) a wonderful organization I'd been employed at for nearly 23 years. My history there: I started out at the nonprofit as a writer and editor, founded the organization's web presence (and created most of the products that now help it to raise about half of its billion-dollars-per-year in revenue online), and launched its most integral social media channels (such as its corporate blog, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channels), which have also experienced unprecedented success.

My Introduction to Social Listening

During the last few years I served as a member of the organization's corporate social media team,  and one of my key goals (in addition to providing social content, channel management, analytics and online customer care) was to "figure out" social listening. What is it? Who's doing it and what are best practices? How can it help a nonprofit organization like the one I worked for?

I participated in numerous webinars and did a lot of research, then jumped in.

Creating Your Strategy

The first task, once you understand what social listening is, why you should be doing it and how it can help our causes and organizations, is to develop a clear strategy. As with any strategy, it must be well-informed, realistic and achievable, but also ambitious and visionary. And it must take into account the various realities and the interdependencies of the organization you serve.

I wrote a one-pager that outlined what I thought our strategy should be. My supervisor presented it to senior management and they loved it. The bottom line was: If we did social listening right, using some of the cool new tools out there to help us sort through and make sense of "big data," we could position our organization well for continued growth and success by: 1) informing senior management and key stakeholders of social trends and sentiment of our customers as it was occurring; 2) Become far more responsive to our customers (or, in our case, our donors') concerns and opinions; 3) alert us to vital "risk" concerns early in the game; and 3) Equip our own customer service specialists with the data they need, right at their fingertips, to interact effectively with our customers/donors.

Now It's Time To Talk Tactics

After numerous RFPs and interviews, we engaged a firm that one of our national offices had already been working with, Tracx, because we liked the simplicity of the interface they offered, how well they were connected with and seemed able to sift through "big data" sources, and the apparent simplicity/clarity of their customer interface and reporting system. They also worked the hardest of any of the firms we interviewed to get our business, and gave us a preliminary (first-year) price which truly was a good deal. They wanted the account, and seemed like they deserved it.

My management then tasked me with implementing the strategy I had outlined, tactically. I was to create a daily (informal) reporting system that made key stakeholders, specifically those who needed to be aware of risks in the social arena, aware quickly of either general negative sentiment or very specific negative attacks on our organization occurring out there in social space. These stakeholders included the "risk" group within our PR department, social media management, and key representatives from our donor service area. These would assess the relative risk of the information I presented (by email and phone, if urgency demanded) and escalate as appropriate, to our legal area, or senior management, or other stakeholders.

The next reporting tactic was a weekly social listening report, which I prepared in digital and paper form and presented to a group of content management specialists and key organizational stakeholders. This weekly report graphically summarized sentiment analysis for our organization's social interactions, and for those of some key competitors we had identified and were tracking. It also presented conversation trends (in "word cloud" fashion) for key words and phrases we were following, most importantly our own brand terms. And it tracked general trends related to social conversation on our channels and those of our competitors.

If social media followers were engaging with our competitors over specific issues, it was very helpful to understand this and jump in with ideas about how we could provide content to help us become a part of this conversation. Or if content we had provided was really spiking social interest, in contrast to other content we had "out there," it was extremely helpful to give this feedback to the appropriate department in hopes they could "do more of the same."

Because I was responsible for customer care in association with our key social channels, and in collaboration with those channel managers, I also had my finger on the pulse of how our customers were sharing their concerns with us on channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and how they were feeling about our products or core offerings and our content. I therefore included a section at the end of each weekly report to share highlights of key customer feedback and trends, and I made sure our more "traditional" customer service departments (such as our call center, mail center and email correspondents) were hearing me and paying attention.

Finally, I aggregated these weekly reports together into a monthly report which I "prettied up" a bit so my management could send it on up to senior management and give them an easy, visual way to keep in touch with social sentiment of our donors and of those interacting with our competitors. These highly visible monthly and quarterly reports were designed both to equip senior management ... and keep our own department's bread buttered, so to speak!

There are so many reasons social listening, which is being practiced well by today's most responsive business organizations, is an essential skill for nonprofits who want to be successful in the competitive environment they are operating in.

Taking It the "Next Step" — Integrating Social Listening Into Your CRM

One of the things I was hoping would happen while I was still with my organization, but which they have not yet gotten traction on (due to the complexity of the project), is integration of our social listening data with our back-end customer data, or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

A call center representative accessing the CRM account for a donor who calls in upset about something needs to be able to answer such questions as: Does the complainant have a significant social media following? Are they now airing (or are they likely to air) their concerns on their social media channels? If so, does more damage control need to be done? Beyond simply safeguarding the organization's reputation with this donor and keeping them happy, what would be the public engagement benefits of "going the extra mile" to make sure we hear and address their concerns? Etc.

I'm sure you can see the potential, right?

Integrating a social listening system with your CRM on the back-end is no simple task, but the world's best in class organizations are doing it now. So we should be thinking about it!

I'm Listening ... To YOU!

I'd love to hear how your organization is implementing social listening strategy and tactics. What are you learning? Is it worth it? What are the pitfalls and obstacles you are encountering?

And where do you think it's all going from here?

No comments: