Lessons from the NWF: How to Create a Free Listening Dashboard

11 Comments 22 April 2010

Danielle Brigida (NWF) and Wendy Harman (ARC)

This is the second of two blog posts from the We Are Media Listening session at the 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference. In Part One, I wrote about how the American Red Cross thinks about listening. In Part Two, I’ll pass along insights and tips from Danielle Brigida (National Wildlife Federation) on how to build a listening dashboard out of free tools.

With a limited budget, and one full-time social outreach staffer, NWF is on top of its mentions, shares them internally, and actively uses keywords to continually monitor conversation trends and find new fans. The are successful at converting listening to fans, engagement, and metrics. And to say the least, it’s quite impressive. Here are some takeaways from the session:

Build your listening dashboard into one central listening space, such as iGoogle or an RSS reader

Danielle suggests monitoring online mentions through an iGoogle account, or an RSS reader. Try to grab an RSS feed from each listening channel so that all new mentions are automatically updated and fed into your RSS reader or iGoogle page. Try to automate as much of the listening process as follows. (Many of these channels also offer automatic email alerts.) Example: Search for a keyword on BlogPulse, add the search query to a RSS feed reader. All new keyword mentions will feed into your RSS reader or iGoogle.

The really important thing is to know your keywords

Find the important keywords to monitor, and use basic query language to narrow your searches. Example: search [“national wildlife” – refuge] returns all mentions of national wildlife but nothing that refers to a refuge. Keyword searches can inform the questions people have about your organization – and will provide value to the organization. (Keyword research is also great SEO information to create blog post titles, content, etc.) Refine listening tools to get exactly what you want, and constantly search for new keywords, noting keyword trends. Some tools:

Google Keyword Tool: If you type in a term, it will show you the other terms that people are using when they are also searching for your term. I typed in the term “NWF”  and it returned a list of common phrases that people use to search for NWF. Here’s a screen shot:

Google Insights Search: It allows you to compare keywords. Great use for SEO in blog post titles, etc. Great for searching what people are talking about by geographical area, by trends, and more.

Wordtracker: Looks at how people are talking about a certain keyword. Shows how often people are searching for keywords over the past year. Keyword searches can also inform the questions people have about your organization – and will provide value to the organization.

What the NWF primarily uses to search for mentions

The NWF uses BoardReader, Socialmentions, IceRocket, Technorati, BlogPulse and a few others to catch all of the NWF online mentions. Danielle also thinks about where the conversations and traffic might be within social channels, and specifically search those sites internally periodically (such as internal YouTube search).

Other places they search

Backtype: It will keep your comments in one place. Can search for comments by keyword.

BackTweets: When searching twitter, it will pull up the redirected links/shortened links mentioned on twitter. Twitter’s internal search doesn’t bring this up.

Buzzzy: This is the search engine for Google Buzz. Can search by keyword to see if people are using your keywords.

IceRocket: A broad search engine to search the social platforms. Click on the “Big Buzz” tab of it to get all the recent mentions. Can create an RSS feed of any search query except for within the Big Buzz tab.

FollowerWonk: It searches all of the Twitter bios. Can search for keywords in a title. Example: the NWF might search for anyone who mentions “garden” in his/her bio.

Internal organizational sharing

Danielle pulls important and relevant mentions into the social bookmarking site Delicious. She’ll take any exact quote/mention within an article, and copy it into the “notes” section of Delicious. She tags it with a predetermined private tag for other NWF staff to read. Delicious will keep track of the top tags and the #of mentions of that tag/year. This helps anyone, including NWF, track what is being talked about most. Wendy Harman of the American Red Cross tracks every place that she has commented with the tag “comment” to keep track of where she has started relationships.

Google Bundles: Using keywords, you can create Google bundles for groups of people. Within Google Reader, expand the “all items” and open the “browse for stuff” section. Click “create a bundle” at the very bottom. Title it, describe it, drag RSS feeds that you want to include into the box. Click “save.” Click “add to my shared items” and then someone can subscribe to my bundle. So, if there is a large number of people and you want them to know what you’re reading, they can click the blue subscribe button and subscribe to your bundles! Can help staff and coworkers to become experts in a certain area.

Tracking stats through social sharing

AddThis: Track # shares and where they share, sends a weekly email summary.

PostRank: First create an account, then add your blog into PostRank (mostly used for blogs). It creates an engagement metric based on number of social shares. If you click on the engagement metric, a drop down menu reveals how people are sharing it.  It is a very small cost/month to get the advanced analytics. It shows you a graph that maps out when your highest engagement was with a certain post.

How do you compile your dashboard?



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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