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

Les Causeuses de Camille Claudel

Les Causeuses de Camille Claudel

“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

Comment field on a blog

Comment field on a blog

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?

As the workshop moves into its second week of on-line discussions, and learnings (week one we talked about Why KS, now we explore the Who via a network mapping exercise), I wanted to share with you the amazing role that our two workshop mentors are playing. Not only do we have two former participants (Pete Shelton from IFPRI and Gauri Salokhe from FAO) as facilitators. We have also two mentors who volunteered to redo the workshop and bring in additional perspectives: Michael Riggs from FAO/Asia and Alexandra Jorge from ILRI/Bioversity are doing an amazing job in bridging the two workshops, supporting participants with tips, and linking many ideas. Congratulations Alexandra and Michael.

The second edition of the KS Workshop is currently kicking off with a “Week Zero” which is dedicated to introductions, and orientation around the online space of the workshop: Moodle.

Week 0 has been added by the facilitators to the workshop agenda. We hope that it helps to give the group more time to get ready for the workshop – a need expressed by the participants of the first edition of this event, held between April and May 2008.
Since Monday, many participants have been starting to introduce themselves and we can already see the richness of professional backgrounds and organizational settings, mentioned also in Gaurí Salokhe’s previous post. Nice to see that introductory messages already led a participant to suggest an informal gathering of the Rome-based group, which is quite big, due to the fact that the face-to-face part of the workshop  will be held in there (early October).  Others discover their similarities in challenges and areas of interest: Web-site development, Marketing, Librarian issues, Networks, incentives for KS …

Tomorrow a first conference call will provide an opportunity for a workshop orientation: expectations, overview of the agenda and a “Moodle tour”.

Discover, understand and apply innovative knowledge sharing approaches to deliver outcomes that have impact!

FAO logo

FAO logo

We are very pleased to announce that FAO and the ICT-KM Program are joining forces for the second edition of this workshop, which will offer FAO and CGIAR staff as well as their research partners an opportunity to explore and experiment with knowledge sharing (KS) principles and methods. Through an innovative three phase approach participants will get an understanding and appreciation of the value of KS in research and institutional settings.

Dates: Phase 1 (online) starts on September, 8. The face-to-face meeting takes place in Rome, Italy from October 7-9. Phase 3 is online and goes on up to March 2009.

Costs: 500 USD. You can choose to participate in phases 1, 1+2, or 1+2+3 of the course. You mustparticipate in phase 1 to participate in phase 2, and both 1 and 2 to participate in phase 3.

Download the workshop flyer at:

Have a look at the Toolkit to get an overview of KS approaches:

This blog has a workshop category with extensive information:

This week I have been attending the Face-to-Face part of the Knowledge Sharing Workshop at ILRI in Addis. The F2F part builds upon a month of online discussion on KS tools and methods. Today I had the opportunity to benefit from the collective knowledge of colleagues working at various CG institutions, FAO and FARA and at the same time, learn about an extremely useful KS Method called  Peer Assist.

We started off the session by watching and getting introduced to the Peer Assist Method. As we were more than 10, we were divided into two different groups. As a Peer Assistee, the person or team facing a challenge or problem, I had the opportunity to discuss the issue of getting buy-in from the Staff members of the Rome-based agencies (Bioversity International, IFAD, FAO, WFP) to participate in the upcoming Knowledge Fair. The discussion was facilitated by Vanessa.


During the first group discussion, I had the opportunity to detail out my issues and gather feedback from the colleagues. Once we finished the first session and moved to the second, the task of explaining the problem seemed much lighter. I detailed out the problem, refining it slightly based on the feedback I received in the first group. Vanessa then read out the points we had gathered from the first discussion. Because we already had covered some of the ideas, the participants felt that in the second round, they had the opportunity to build-on the ideas and give additional suggestions.

Here are just few of the ideas that surfaced during the two rounds of discussions we had:

  • Prepare a strong marketing strategy to raise awareness and build interest
  • Ensure that the event is perceived as a collaborative effort rather than led by just one organization
  • Show examples of cross organizational, multi-disciplinary and multi-lingual knowledge sharing
  • Involve staff from different departments from participating organizations who are currently doing activities that demonstrate knowledge sharing.

I thought the role of the facilitator was crucial in ensuring that the discussion stayed on track and that important points were well captured.

More information on the Peer Assist Method is available from the KS Toolkit Wiki.