Start by Listening and Participate in Online Conversations

Marketing October 27, 2011

Tatiana Morand

By Tatiana Morand
Your mother always told you to listen before you speak right? Well most social media experts suggest that you “listen” before you begin to blog or tweet or otherwise interact in online communities.

This means that you identify some social media sites and blogs to monitor; you identify some influencers in your sector to “follow” and you monitor what’s being said about your sector, mission and/or your organization. By spending time listening and observing, you can get a handle on what conversations are taking place; who’s participating and patterns of online behavior in your sector.

Here are some strategies to consider as you begin to listen, monitor and follow online:


  • Start by checking out some blogs relating to your specific sector or the non-profit or membership world in general – you can start by visiting and having a look at the blogs included under the “nonprofit” or “association management” topics
  • Have a look at the topics directory or do a keyword search in Technorati (a search engine for blogs) – which provides an “authority rating” on blogs.
  • Check out sites where people congregate online, such as:


Find and follow people/organizations:

  • Conduct a Twitter search for your keywords or nonprofit in general and see who you might want to follow
  • Follow people who tweet about you or your cause
  • Use an RSS reader – such as Google Reader or Bloglines to follow the folks you’ve identified.  This way you can subscribe to the blogs you want to follow through an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed and the reader tool collects or aggregates the blog posts so you only have to go to one place to view all of the latest posts.


  • Set up Google Alerts for your organization’s name and any acronym or related keywords. This way, you’ll be notified when any of these search terms appear in blogs or news feeds. This will enable you to track the number of mentions, etc. which will offer a benchmark now and in future this can help you track the effectiveness of your social media efforts
  • Run a search on Facebook to see:
    • Which other nonprofits like you have a presence?
    • What kind of support are they seeing? (e.g., fans, wall posts, etc.)
    • What is being discussed?
  • Browse, a service that aggregates the social media activity of its users across many sites and includes a social networking aspect. See where your most active supporters are connecting online, and who else they are connecting with.
  • Once you’re following other nonprofits or influencers in your field, read their blogs, check out their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds – check out what they’re doing and saying
  • Find your supporters/constituents online:
    • You can ask your supporters and volunteers:
      • Their preferred social media tools
      • How they would like to connect with you online
    • Check out non-profit Twitter Chats, etc. to see if your constituents are active on these forums

STEP 2: Participate in Online Conversations

Once you spend some time listening, following and monitoring – but before you create a blog or a Facebook page – you can begin to engage in some online conversations. This is an opportunity to build relationships, share, listen and develop your online presence and make a good first impression. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Comment on the blogs you are following. To get attention, try to offer feedback or information that adds value to the post. If you can, offer your website URL or a link to something relevant to the post on your site. Remember, your comment will allow people to learn about you and your organization, so think before you type and keep it positive.
  • Join LinkedIn groups and offer information or answer questions to network in your field.
  • As you start monitoring your organization’s online presence, be sure to respond to any mentions and “jump in” on conversations to say thanks or respond.

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