Online listening

ROI (Results on Insights): Nonprofit Examples of How Listening Returns Value:
[Via Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media]

Click to see larger image

This is a really handy flowchart detailing the proper responses to many of the conversations happening on the Web. It reflects a lot of thought and understanding of just how many Web 2.0 approaches work.

I’m very tempted to start using Results On Insights for ROI thanks to Barb Chamberlain’s comment in yesterday’s post “What Are The Best I-Words For Nonprofits To Think About Social Media and ROI?

But what does that really mean?

A few days ago, I asked for some stories “What is the value of listening through social media channels for your organization?” I wanted to see examples from nonprofit organizations engaged in listening and conversation and the value it has to their missions, programs, or marketing efforts. And you shared them! Thanks.

Here’s what I learned.


  • Listening may happen at the personal, staff level as a best practice for doing their job whether or not it is embedded in the organization’s culture.
  • For listening to become an organization wide activity and more impact, it needs to be part of the organization’s culture. That happens when leaders model and encourage it.
  • Listening is typically used by nonprofits to provide better customer service, correct misconceptions, and other ways to support external audiences. Nonprofits are also using listening to support improved program implementation.
  • Organizations use both hard data points and qualitative data to listen and learn.
  • Having a structured way to collect and analyze qualitative insights can not only help with designing a social media engagement policy, but also harvest insights.
  • Effective listening through social media channels means that individuals and organizations need to identify why they are listening and how they will apply what they hear.
  • The value of listening is not in the act of listening in and of itself, but when an organization or individual uses the information to improve programs or marketing. This requires engaging in a conversation.

Web 2.0 involves a conversation. A large part of any conversation is listening something that there have been little metrics for. ROI is a poor choice at the moment since simply because no one has measured listening previously does not mean it is not important. ROI is fine for measuring all the ‘talking’ that happens but not so much for all the ‘listening.’

Correcting Misconceptions and Improving Customer/Stakeholder Relations

The AirForce Blog:

The image above is of the US Air Force Blog Assessment and Engagement process. It is an excellent example of working through how an organization might respond to comments on a blog, but even better it is map for insight harvesting.

As David Meerman Scott notes in his analysis of their social media strategy, the goal is “to use current and developing Web 2.0 applications as a way to actively engage conversations between Airmen and the general public.” If you were still thinking about ROI as Return on Investment you’d never be able to make a case! With such a clear policy for response, it is obvious that the blog generates valuable information to shape and improve a marketing strategy.

As Pudding Relations suggests “Take a look and see if you can use it to enhance your own thinking around social media with, ahem, military precision.”

Listening is very important. It will tell you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. It will allow the organization to gain wisdom much more rapidly. Beth gives some great examples but here is one I really liked.

Improving Program and Service Delivery

Green Media Toolshed;

Founder Marty Kearns says that listening is something that is done on an individual staff level, but for it to become an organizational process leaders need to build a culture of listening. He encourages staff to listen on many different channels and to blog what they learn in order to share with members. He notes that they have a 80% retention rate with members and “you can’t do that without listening.” Listening by using rss feeds helps refine their services and help stay sharp and connected to experts in the field. A lot of their listening is through filtering information from friends on social networks which saves them a lot of time and helps the organization “work smarter.”

The purpose of the organization is to help create conversations so it is not surprising that is listens very intently to what is being discussed. This is a group that lives what it preaches.

The tools we have today are creating connections that have not easily been measured before. But those connections are what help make everything work. Applying ROI arguments to only one side of the conversation will result in poorly managed connections.

Technorati Tags: ,

Small is better

The right (or wrong) size for a committee: less than 20 but not equal to 8:
[Via Effect Measure]

New Scientist reporter Mark Buchanan has a fascinating article this week on “the curse of work.” The title might be the least satisfactory thing about this examination of a new mathematical article that attempts to explain the inexplicable:

Read the rest of this post… | Read the comments on this post…

There has been a lot of empirical data indicating that the best group have less than 20 members. One not mentioned here are sports teams. Most competitive sports are made up of groups that are 9-15 members in size. This fits with the ability to reach agreement, to follow a single focus.

When the goal consists of winning, having small groups makes sense. Now we have some modeling data to suggest why this is.

Technorati Tags: ,

Charts to use

Visualizing Your Social Media Analytics Data Can Trigger Insights:
[Via Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media]

See Larger Version here from Labnol’s Flickr Account

I’ve been thinking about reflections that you need to ask as you harvest your hard data and metrics for insights about your social media. When you get to your grand synthesis, you need to create visuals to convey the key points.

Charting and graphing your data helps you see patterns and trends more easily and articulate them to decision-makers. Digital Inspiration found this terrific visual field guide to selecting the right chart or graph or graph format. After you select your desired chart format, use the Chart Chooser to generate a PowerPoint or Excel template.


Presenting information requires a useful style to accurately display the data. This is a useful little chart to accomplish this. As you notice, bullet points are not included.

Broken filters?

filter by mrpattersonsir

Information overload is NOT filture failure:

This has been bothering me for a while now, dating back to last year, when I first heard Clay Shirky’s very pithy statement that information overload isn’t a real problem, the real problem is a failure to build effective filters. It’s a catchy little phrase, and like most theories from Web 2.0 gurus, it seems reasonable on the surface, but when applied to the world of scientists, it’s less than useful.

Shirky has a habit of making pithy statements. I often disagree but I have to say they lead to some interesting conversations, so I listen to what he says. He forces one to concentrate.

David is someone else I listen to. His perspective is often different than mine but it is one well worth examining. How do we deal with more information than we can individually examine? How do we figure out a way to separate the wheat from the chaff when we have no way to examine it all?

The Web is not going to replace methods of information dispersal that have stood in good stead for many years. Publication in highly regarded journals will always be an important avenue. It will most likely always be the place for the interesting stuff.

The key is not that there is more interesting stuff out there than we can read in a lifetime. The problem is that the interesting stuff is overrun with extraneous, uninteresting stuff. Important papers also get published in obscure journals. How do we find them?

In Shirky’s example, if the entire contents of a Barnes and Noble is dumped in front of us, the good stuff (i.e. Auden and Plato) will be overwhelmed with the irrelevant.

The library system has come up with some ways to help. But even characterizing books by topic does not really produce a solution. In many ways, finding the good stuff is dependent on social mechanisms. We read a review in a magazine. A friend tells us about a great new read. A speaker quotes from someone. A teacher points the way. Another book discusses the thoughts of a prior author.

Human beings act as filters to help us deal with information overload. Our social network helps us find the information relevant to us.

Similarly, in my research, I have been led to more of the important papers for my work by someone I trust saying “Hey, I read this article you might like” than I have by scouring PubMed. I see a presentation at a conference and ask the speaker a question. His answer leads me to another paper. I have a beer with a colleague who mentions an interesting paper. I read a review article and use the references to find the paper with the protocols I need.

All parts of my social network.

Published papers are not going to go away. The vetting possible by peer review is a requirement for a certain type of scientific work. Random strangers will have little impact on this.

But leveraging online social tools so that a community of scientists can more rapidly find the important papers it needs could possible create a filtering mechanism that can help deal with some of the information overload.

Personally I feel that these online communities will be more informal in nature than Shirky does. That is, they will more likely arise from a group of colleagues working together than from an organized committee. Time will tell.

Technorati Tags: ,

An online discussion

Extending The Discussion:
[Via A Journey In Social Media]

I love blogging. Your sweat and you write and you post — and every so often you get the chance to have a detailed conversation with someone you’d never ordinarily engage with.

Such is the case today — I came to work and found myself scrolling through a multi-page thoughtful comment from John Tropea.

Rather than responding with another multi-page comment, I decided to put the discussion in a post, and respond (hopefully) conversationally.


This is a really nice discussion about top-down Communities of Practice, barriers to entry, how much ‘time’ to devote to oversight, duplicate commuities, etc. All things that any group investigating these technologies shoudl think about.

The key seems to be to find ways for the groups to grow organically with a lot of top-down overhead. But there does need to be some sort of light touch at the wheel, so to speak, for effective growth.

Technorati Tags: ,


mac by Marcin Wichary
A Brief Guide for Mac Switchers/Try-ers (No Laments, Please!):
[Via Web 2.0 Expo]

Wow, CNET’s Rafe Needleman sure raised a ruckus with his Mac switcher’s lament article. If you are thinking about moving from a Windows PC to a Mac and want to avoid the feeling of lament, read on, I have some advice that might help you make the change.

This is a really helpful article for those making the switch. It covers all sorts of useful viewpoints that can be applied to anything creating a large-scale change.

Don’t make the shift cold turkey if you can. Talk with people who are experts. Talk with others in the same situation. Use communities to help. Take classes and read books.

These approaches work with almost any change. They are not really Mac-specific in their underlying usefulness. The use of human social networks is critical for the rapid implementation of any novel process.

These approaches use social tools to help make a personal change. It can be as simple as getting a new camera or buying a new car. Implementing an innovation works best when the social aspects of change are used.

These are use of subject matter experts, local mavens and community leaders. Moving the information of change around a group rapidly is the best way to guarantee rapid uptake of new technologies.

Technorati Tags: ,

Tips for any web site

bee by Noël Zia Lee
Using Social Media Efficiently: 52 Tips from Beth Kanter:
[Via TechSoup Blog blogs]

Wow. Beth Kanter has impressed the heck out of me again. She’s participating in Convio’s Now is the Time campaign of New Year’s resolutions for nonprofits and technology (along with our very own Robert Weiner who’s own resolution post is here.)

Beth’s New Year’s resolution is to use social media efficiently and she offers up 52 great tips on how to do so. And if you try one each week for the next year, maybe we can all be better communicators, have more effective and engaging campaigns, and mobilize our supporters for greater change. New Year’s resolutions always make me dreamy.

Some of my favorites from her list include:

Do an annual ROI for your blog (and other social media activities) using benchmarking and metrics.
Don’t set up a presence on every social network in the world all at once.
If you are not reading blogs and Web sites in an RSS Reader, make that your New Year’s resolution.

read more

These rules are not only for non-profits but are important for anyone who is using social media to connect people or move information around. Many of these can be adapted to either non-profit or for-profit situations.

The key is capturing the right metrics. Web 2.0 approaches create a treasure trove of data that can be effectively mined to learn just what is working and what is failing, leading to effective solutions. So do not only have a plan for getting Web 2.0 tools up and going but also have a plan for mining the data they produce.

Technorati Tags:

Analyze your followers

If you were stuck on a desert island, and could only follow 150 people on Twitter, who would you follow and why?:
[Via Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media]

If you’re thinking about how to streamline using Twitter, Vladis Krebs offers excellent advice in “So Many People, So Little Time.” He recommends using social network theory to design your Twitter following strategy. (Following = people whose Tweets you read.) It boils down to following the few to find the many!

OrgNet, Vladis Krebs

It isn’t about following thousands and thousands of friends on Twitter. We don’t have the time or brain cells for that. Don’t just pick an arbitrary number and start pruning. It isn’t about finding a small number of people who have large networks either. It’s about finding people who are connected to different social circles and

following them. (Of course you have to be interested in what information or conversations they are sharing Twitter, too). Identifying these people or what Krebs calls “nodes” is core of social network analysis.

And you need to build some redundancy in your network so you have a few multiple paths to people and ideas of interest to you.

He explains why this approach is efficient:

And this is why I follow so few people on Twitter! For the time invested, I want maximum return. I use the redundancy of connections, between the many social circles I am interested in, to my advantage. I follow a select group of people that give me the same access as following someone in every group. Follow the few to reach the many!

Because I have chosen them carefully, I want to actually read the tweets of the people I follow. A small part of my “following network” is always in churn, but the number of people I follow on Twitter never exceeds 100 [currently I follow about 70]. Those who follow thousands of people readily admit that they can not read the fire hose of tweets they get every day.

Strategically I am building a small, yet efficient, group that reaches out into the many diverse information pools I am interested in. I know I am finding good people to follow on Twitter by the number of great exchanges that emerge on many topics. Think before you follow, use your time and ties wisely!

This is a shift from earlier debates about the optimal number of people to follow on Twitter and social conventions. There was considerable discussion about the following to friends ratio (the number of people whose tweets you read compared to the number of people who read your tweets) and whether you should follow everyone who follows you. This can create a lot of noise as Louis Gray points out.


Twitter, more than any other social networking application, lends itself to network analysis. Krebs has had some very important things to say about this before. Using these tools to connect to a few major connectors in each group more efficiently moves information around in less time.

The key is actually determining who those people are but current tools go a long way towards helping accomplish this. Social network analysis can help Twitter become even more of a useful, daily tool than it is.

Technorati Tags: ,