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How to Use Social Listening to Improve your Next Advocacy Campaign

How to Use Social Listening to Improve your Next Advocacy Campaign

Three Secrets to Event Marketing Success

Ever wondered what your audience is saying about your issue online? Itching to track the thousands of tweets and posts online that mention your cause or initiative but are unsure where to start?

Last week, [Social Driver] strategists held a webinar to help answer this exact question and get you started on a path of effective social listening for your advocacy initiatives. We had such a great time hearing from the folks who joined us that we thought we’d continue the fun and share three questions that we answered as part of this webinar.

What do the “Whip/Nae Nae” and Social Listening have in common?

One thing that most folks don’t realize, is that Silento’s song “Watch Me” (otherwise known as the most recent dance sensation the “Whip/Nae Nae”) is not just #3 on the Billboard 100, but also a piece of social media brilliance.

The 17-year-old artist topping the charts next to Taylor Swift and Justin Beiber credits sharing the videos his fans created for him as the key to his success. Without a multi-million dollar marketing plan, he was able to listen, monitor and engage with his fans online. This led to wide-spread recognition and a community-based approach to fame. As advocacy professionals we can learn from this. We can learn to put our audience at the center of our message. To listen to what they are saying, track how they are engaging with our issues (or dance, in this case) and share content that both is created by them and also relevant to what they care about. If we hone this approach, we are on the right track to having a ‘hit’.

Thank you for a great time! @TheRealSilentoNow watch me whip Now watch me nae nae?????? pic.twitter.com/IxJEIgzISI

— Adrianna (@adriannatrevin0) September 19, 2015

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What do Donuts and Advocacy have in common?

Donut or doughnut? This is one of many cases where the dictionary doesn’t agree with the language of everyday Americans. It may seem like this doesn’t matter – unless your organization is working on the Medicare prescription drug plan coverage gap or “Medicare Donut Hole.”

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For the record, the tastier option is “donut”. The colloquial spelling (the one that most policy wonks may say is incorrect and would strike through with red ink) delivers more reach and engagement when used on websites, press releases, and social media posts.

The best listeners use the right language. They go from invisible to the life of the party online.

Today, it’s not just donuts, it’s almost every term and subject. For example, the so-called “Cadillac tax” on expensive private health plans will be a big topic on the Hill this week. In addition to #CadillacTax, advocates are also using #healthcare, #ACA, #DontTaxMyBenefits, and several other hashtags; to be in every conversation, you have to use every hashtag.

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Why does social media listening relate to yawning?

Have you ever had the urge to yawn just by seeing someone else yawn? That impulse is all thanks to tiny particles in your brain called “mirror neurons”. They allow you to both monitor and react at the same time to a situation – i.e. if I see you are yawning (observation) and I am going to also yawn in response (action). This idea of observation and reaction is what makes for successful social media listening. To be successful, you need to monitor the most relevant conversations (observation) and simultaneously act on of-the-moment topics of conversation (action). What this means for advocacy folks today is we need to first establish an understanding with our audience before we can influence them. For example, when joining the conversation around the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (or ESEA), it’s important to understand as much as we can about who we are trying to influence before we start influencing them. Another way to look at this is if my goal was to reach advocates in New Jersey to tweet at their Senators, I can’t just tweet at them with the term ESEA. I would have to make sure they understood what the issue is first. Key groups discussing ESEA on Twitter have used the term “#AllKidsMatter”. It also probably makes sense to focus on some statistics from individual states so I can make the greatest impact. The more relevant and timely you can be, the better off you are when it comes to engagement.

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In short, I like to ask myself:

  • What does my audience care about?
  • What are they saying online?
  • How are they talking about this issue?
  • Who are they listening?

When we understand their behavior and also act on it, we can be effective at changing behavior or empowering our advocates to share their stories and perspectives.

This post brought to you in partnership with Social Driver,  a digital agency launching websites, apps, and social media campaigns. Author of this blog post, Justin Beland, leads Social Driver’s government government affairs and advocacy efforts, assisting multiple clients ranging from small nonprofits to large Fortune 500 companies. He has more than 15 years of experience in government relations and grassroots advocacy.

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