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.

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