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Giving Guru Beth Kanter is the author of Beth's Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits. She is a frequent contributor to many nonprofit technology web sites, blogs, magazines, books, and is a much in demand speaker and trainer. In 2009, she was named by Fast Company Magazine as one of the most influential women in technology and one of Business Week's "Voices of Innovation for Social Media." She is the 2009 Visting Scholar for Social Media and Nonprofits for the Packard Foundation. Beth will be available to answer your questions about social media for nonprofits on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 1PM EST. Submit your questions in the comments of this post, or check out the many ways to ask our Giving Gurus.

As many of you who read my blog know, I am an early adopter of social media and set up my listening post 5 years ago to scan for people, trends, and ideas related to social media and nonprofits. Listening and engaging with people has been critical to any success I’ve achieved as a social media practitioner.

For the past five years, I’ve been teaching social media workshops for nonprofits and lately doing deeper dives on the techniques of listening both for nonprofits and in my role as Visiting Scholar at the Packard Foundation. Last week, I had the pleasure of co-leading a deep dive on listening with practitioner, Wendy Harman, from the Red Cross for NTEN's WeAreMedia project.

The presentation below is a remix of a remix of a remix. My sources of inspiration came from my personal learning wiki,  WeAreMedia listening resources, and Marnie Webb's slide deck.  Our session covered:

  • Why listening offers value
  • A Living Case Study of Red Cross Listening Techniques
  • Six Ways To Make Listening A Practice

Last month, I wrote a guest post for Brian Solis titled "Listening Literacy for Nonprofits" which outlines some of the basic how-to's. But that was last month's thinking; the Webinar gave me a chance to reflect and incorporate new learnings, particularly with some of the professional tools.

Doing a living case study with Wendy Harman provided a chance to catch up her current practice.

My take aways from the session:

  • Upgrade to paid tools like Radian 6 when you have large volume and you find you are doing a lot of cut and paste manual tasks - but remember that you still need to hone your listening skills - keywords - and that paid tools aren't magic
  • Listening and engaging with the long tail - they may not be celebrities or influential bloggers - but when a crisis hits or need people to spread the world - they become activated like an army of volunteers
  • Start slowly and spider out, you may be doing all the heavy lifting at first in terms of drinking from the fire hose, summarizing, and analyzing - but it is a way to get others in your organization involved - even simple things like brainstorming keywords
  • At first, it may seem like trial and error - but after you get familiar with the lay of the land, you know which keywords give you bang for your buck
  • Important to keep listening - even if nothing much is happening because it serves as your earthquake early warning system - think of it as having a chronic illness go acute

How is your organization listening through social media channels? What have you learned?

Update 10/5/2009: Check out the video of Beth's Q&A session or read the transcript.

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