My colleagues Meena and Antonella started a great blog series on Social media tools that complement the KS Toolkit and will serve as input for the upcoming social media workshop. Antonella wondered at the beginning of this week how we know if social media is working, and mentioned social media listening as an important practice. Here is a little bit more about it:
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 recent social media presentation I gave at CIAT.
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 “Google is your front page whatever happens”, but there are other ways to find opportunities for valued added conversations:
- Technorati 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.
Beth Kanter and Chris Brogan are two geeks covering this area. Have a look at these:
Practice Social Media Listening and start a conversation now:
- What are your first reactions to the practice of social media listening?
- What would it take to make this a permanent and strategic activity?