Three Levels of Listening: What To Listen For

This post can also be found at the Lunar Logic blog. Lunar Logic is a web development firm in Eugene, Oregon. I’m working on a series of posts for my friends there and this it the first.


If you’ve been pondering a social media strategy, it’s likely you’ve heard the advice to “listen first.”

Lots of super smart people have talked about how to listen and monitor with blog post upon post that provides reviews of tools and links to resources.

In fact, I’ll share some of my favorites with you.

What you don’t find written about much is what you should be listening for. Maybe it’s intuitive to some, but in my experience, once you set up Google Alerts for your name and your business name, the “what else?” question looms large.

It’s not complicated, but you need to step outside your “insider” role and think about your organization from your customer/donor/volunteer/key audience’s perspective.

As part of my Social Media Boot Camp curriculum, I developed this graphic for listening & monitoring.

I’ll take an aside here to say that listening and monitoring are not the same thing – or at least they don’t have the same purpose. Listening helps you understand your audience, your community, your market better… almost like eavesdropping. Is a passive activity and you is vital to understanding how your audience/community/market behaves and your organization’s role in it.

Monitoring is more directed. You’re monitoring for the purpose of participating and responding. It’s active and action-oriented. They can be done simultaneously, so you’ll often see them together.

Back to the “what else?” question. I break it down like this:

Level One

  • Business name
  • Product names
  • Key leadership & executives
  • Key competitors

Level Two

  • Key industry terms & phrases (news, information, trends)
  • “Point of need” questions (what do people ask that your business/product/service can “answer”)
  • Influencers

Level Three

  • Related topics, terms, trends to your organization’s core products services. Think about the lifestyle of your audiences. (ex: what else are yoga enthusiasts interested in? how about small business owners?)

The specifics will depend on your organization and your goals, but in general, you need to be listening and monitoring in all three levels. This schema is also useful for expanding your listening and monitoring as you learn more about your community (“That’s a level 3.”).

If you’re creating content (blogging, tweeting or managing a Facebook page for example), you’ll find listening and monitoring across all three levels gives you lots of great input to produce great output. Bonus!

What would you add? Anything that you’ve found works really well for listening & monitoring?

Seven Ways Student Journalists Can Use Social Media

digital media

I had the opportunity to chat with the staff of the Oregon Daily Emerald about how they can use social media for themselves and the publication.I borrowed liberally from a recent Mashable article, adjusted, modified and expanded it to provide a handful of tips for student journalists.

I would preface all of these with the recommendation to sit down and spend a little time setting some personal and professional goals for yourself. Think about what you want to be known for and what you want people to remember about you. Knowing your goals will help you make intentional decisions about where to spend your time and energy when it comes to social media activities. Consider it a personal mission statement.

  1. Promote your content
    Use your social media network to promote your content. Post your articles/blogs on twitter, your links to YouTube videos on your Facebook page. As long as you’re using social media for more than just promoting your work, then sharing what you’re doing will be welcome by your network.
  2. Newsgathering and research
    This is probably the most obvious. Using  social media to learn more about the issue of the day, your sources, etc. can all be done with social media. I use social media for this purpose everyday and I even have a client who “facebook stalks” her clients to learn more about them (in a good way, I promise).
  3. Crowdsourcing and building source list
    You’ll meet lots of interesting people hanging out on social media, but even cooler? All those people know more people. Use your network to ask questions, find sources and generally do your job better.
  4. Publish more content
    If you’re a student journalist and you don’t have your own blog, your own YouTube channel and your own Flickr profile, you’re missing out on an opportunity to share more of your work than will ever fit in the print edition of your publication.
  5. Integrate blogs & other social content
    Look for ways to integrate your blogs and other social content on your organization’s home page. Different people connect in different ways, let them know where you hang out.
  6. Build a community & share rich content
    Join online groups and networks that make sense for your personal goals and while you’re there, ensure you’re providing rich content. For example, “I’m eating a sandwich” via Twitter is lame. But “Wow! This BLT from Marche Cafe has the most amazing locally-gown heirloom tomatoes” is interesting. This tweet shows you understand your local community and local business (which may be important for your network). But really, the specifics aren’t the point, the point is to think about providing content that says something, not total fluff. Although some fluff is ok sometimes, too.
  7. Personal branding
    Social media can really help you develop a personal brand. Find your niche and show what you know and who you are. Just remember your personal mission statement and goals. What do you want to be known for. And really a solid personal brand comes from having the work to back it up, not just a shiny image. There’s lots to say about this, and I won’t go into too much depth, but you can check out some posts I’ve tagged on the subject or just google it. It’s a hot topic these days.

Some bonus tips:

  • Always be mindful that you represent more than yourself. As a journalist, the stakes are higher.
  • Always be aware of what you put online – it will go further than you think.
  • Experiment!! Try stuff out!

image by the tartanpodcast

What a Dilemma! Ethics in the Modern Age

50s style, modern tools

I’d argue that we all face ethical dilemmas every day, particularly in and with social media channels. They may be small (should I say this or that on Facebook) or they might be bigger (no, I can’t pepper the web with positive reviews of that client’s product or service).

As you probably know, I’m working on a book with my friend and colleague, Michelle Honald. We’re focusing on the ethics of social media in one of the chapters. I’d love to hear your stories and examples of ethical dilemmas that you’ve faced working in public relations (or any type of communications).

You can leave actual or hypothetical examples in the comments or email me.

I’m not (necessarily) looking for case studies, I just want to make sure I cover the reality of ethical decision making for those of you working in social media.

photo by yewenyi

My Top 5 Shortcuts: #2 Create a Process

mind map drawing

The cost of social media isn’t in the hard costs, it’s in the time costs. Creating a process for yourself will help save time and also make social media activities a part of your routine. If you missed Tip #1, check out my advice on setting up an RSS Feedreader here.

I find it challenging to share my personal process because I’ve developed it over more than four years. So take what you think will work and modify the rest to work for you. The point is to have a process, not replicate my process.

My process basically breaks down into three categories – making time to track, time to write and time to play.

Time to Track

You’re doing all this great monitoring with your feedreader, but you  have to give yourself time to track – time to read and browse your feeds, your Twitter stream, your Facebook news feed. Input is crucial for good output (see the next section).

Your process may mean scanning as you have time during the day or in the evenings or maybe between tasks. Or it may mean setting aside a specific block of time during the day. I do recommend finding time every day so you can create a habit of using social media to track news and trends. I tend to scan a little here and a little there, using Twitter as my most common “input.” Through Twitter lists and columns on Tweetdeck, I can filter out some of the noise.

Time to Write

Creating content means spending at least some time being thoughtful and some degree of focus. I find the best times to blog for me are either a) on Sundays or b) when the spirit moves me. Sundays have just turned into my “surf the Internet, mentally prepare for the week but don’t work too hard” days. Blog writing me fits into that bucket. I enjoy writing. I enjoy blogging.

But your time to write may be different. Figure it out for yourself – and it may take some stops and starts. You may have to try a few different things. That’s ok!

Even if you’re not blogging, you’re still updating, tweeting (or whatever) and that means you’re creating content. Give yourself time to do it well.

Time to Play

If you’re not doing some fun stuff with social media, it’ll quickly become a chore. Fashion, gossip, design, sports… whatever you enjoy for fun, find a way to incorporate that into your social media “process.”

What’s worked for you? Do you have a process? Share it with us here.

mindmap photo by sirwiseowl

Not Covered? Find Other Ways to Be Part of the Discussion

The day comes in every PRo’s life when you open the paper to an article, read the magazine story, or catch a talk show episode that would’ve been the perfect fit for your company or client. They should’ve been part of that story! You know it… and they know it.

So if you’ve missed a big opportunity, what do you do?

Clients/managers will often ask you to pitch a follow-up. Not super effective. In a recent Bad Pitch Blog post, Kevin explains why pitching the journalist to extend the article in and of itself is not terribly useful – chances are they aren’t going to write about the same topic. But you can use it as an opportunity to contact the journalist.

Clay, a commentor on the BPB post offers some additional suggestions that I’d like to expand on.

It’s still possible to participate in the discussion and use social media channels to your advantage.

  • If the story is available online, chances are you can comment on it. Be respectful, keep out the sales pitch and add value to the conversation. Go back to your key talking points. In most cases, the comment should come from company executives. After all, the PRo wouldn’t have been the source for the story in the first place. Let the CEO or Executive Director make the comment under his or her name. Transparency, people.
  • Use your own social media channels to discuss. Blog about it. And not, “we totally should’ve been part of this piece! wah!” Add value, bring a new perspective to the story. Tweet, Facebook or post on forums (wherever your community is talking) and link back to your blog. If the your traffic points to the story through your blog, you can share your perspective with
  • Tap into your champions and fans. By sharing your organization’s perspective, you can ensure your champions have the “ammunition” that they need to help tell your story, too. Do not, however, encourage them to swarm the site with positive comments about your company, however. It’ll look staged and potentially backfire. (And it should go without saying that employees, public relations team members, random family should not comment as genuine “fans” on a post.)

Outside of the social media activities, it’s always a best practice to make sure that your media list and contacts are up-to-date and targeted appropriately. The media landscape changes quickly. And while you can’t be in-the-know on every trend piece or industry round-up, a well-targeted media list and time spent building relationships with those on it will help you earn great coverage on an ongoing basis.

What advice would you add? What do you do when you miss “the” story?

Guest Post: A Perspective on Required Social Media Participation

Kelli’s Note: Diane Gaines, an ’07 graduate was one of the first classes of students that was required to blog in my class. It’s been fun to follow her career and to hear her views on this topic. Pretty rewarding for those of us who think social media are important for you to learn. You can find her on twitter at @drgaines.

Recently, several students posted their concerns about being “forced” to participate in social media as part of their public relations coursework to a student website. As a recent graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, I feel compelled to share my insight and experience in the workforce.

Millenniums, please know that you are explicitly hired for your innate understanding of social media and digital technology—something your older colleagues struggle to achieve. Your understanding of social media is not only an asset in this industry, it’s an expectation.

The author of the blog post prompting mine said that she can’t imagine using Twitter ever again outside

of her required coursework. As a working adult, I use Twitter every single day. I don’t have much to offer to my followers, but I gain so much from the industry professionals whom I follow. I read industry-related blogs and articles; I watch podcasts and video interviews. In short, Twitter helps me be the subject-matter-expert my employer hired and depends on.

Thankfully, my public relations education focused as much on understanding social media as it did on learning how to write a press release. Not only did I learn how to blog, but I learned how to become a blogger. I learned about social media strategy, and produced a social media communication plan for a real company as part of my coursework. I learned how and why businesses use social networking to reach new demographics and expand their reach. I learned to think of the Internet as a two-way conversation. And guess what? I enjoyed it very much.

Since graduating, I’ve worked as a public relations coordinator for a Fortune 500 company and currently work in internal marketing and communications for a high-tech company. As a student, I interned for a public relations agency and a performing arts venue.

That all being said, I understand that school is school and forced participation is not the same as an organic, voluntary experience. But I would challenge you to really explore what working in public relations, journalism, marketing or communications actually means. Social media is at the core of each of these industries, and if that doesn’t excite you now, it’s probably not going to make you happy long term.

Freshly Scrubbed Linky Love

After a three term hiatus, I’m again teaching the advanced writing class – now call Strategic PR Communication. As part of that class, I publish a list of my favorite posts from the week for students to choose from and respond to on their own blogs. While the list is specifically for the class, I hope that other visitors will enjoy, too.

Why Should I Work for You, Dude? (Council of PR Firms): In a tight job market, it’s important to hire good talented. How do you as soon-to-be grads look at your opportunities and how can organizations retain you for the long term. Interesting article on a really interesting topic (and one I study, for what it’s worth).

The Community Manager Role Unplugged (Buzz Canuck): Our class is doing a little community management this term with PROpenMic during the first week of May, so I found this post interesting. It’s also a  good look at best practices for this increasing important role in organizations.

Is Social Media a Requirement for PR Pros? (Social Media Today): Interesting debate by two smart people about whether social media is a requirement for our profession. Complement the Social Media Today post with one on PROpenMic by a student not pleased with having to learn social media and well, we have ourselves a little trend. What do you think?

Build a Stronger Network (Journalistics): Building your network can feel intimidating – and do so in public settings can be uncomfortable. But, it’s important. These tips are great and worth considering before you head out to Portland Paddle or a mixer/event.

13 Ways Your Resume Can Say “I’m Unprofessional” (The Ladders): It makes me a little sad that a site like The Ladders (which posts positions that have $100K+ salaries) would have to post such a list. Shouldn’t their audience know better? I’m guessing not… Great advice.

Journalistic Sodbusting (Occam’s Razr): This is a fascinating look at astroturfing. Not sure what astroturfing is, take a look at this case and see what you think.

9 Ways to Breathe Life Into Your Blog (Altitude Branding): You’re just getting started with your blog, but Amber (as always) has some terrific tips that are relevant for newbies as well as those of us who have been around a while… and should be blogging more. What can you take away from Amber’s advice?

Why I Don’t Link My Social Media Profiles

It seems like a good idea. When you update Twitter, why not update Facebook automatically… and while you’re at it, how about LinkedIn?

To me, each of these tools serves a different purpose and therefore needs different content. Certainly there is overlap in many instances, but it’s important to think about how each fits into your overall personal social media use – or how, as an organization, each helps you reach your objectives.

I know that the social media time suck is a big deal and we’re all looking for ways to make the most our time in front the screen – but if you’re going to “do” social media, do it right. And be prepared for how much time it takes.

Twitter: Short updates, more “real-time,” drive traffic to Web or blog, personal appeal. Tweets often don’t make sense out of context and when you add hashtags, RT’s and @’s it can be confusing, particularly for those on Facebook who aren’t familiar with how Twitter works. And yes, there are still plenty of people for whom that’s true.

Facebook Fan Page: More room to wiggle (no character limit), ability to add links with thumbnails for visual appeal. If you update from Facebook, the syncing to Twitter is technically easy, but can look awkward when it goes over the character limit. When Facebook-to-Twitter updates cut off, the result can be just more noise in the Twitter stream. Example:

Picture 7

LinkedIn: Suit & tie network, business-oriented. I see too many status updates that not only have nothing to do with your business-self, but could be less than helpful if a potential employer, investor or business partner happened to visit your profile at just that moment.

That’s not to say that you can’t use the same subject and update each platform appropriately. I do that all the time. I just don’t often update simultaneously. Maybe it’s a control thing. But I want to know that each group of fans/friends/followers is getting the best content for them, at the right “pace” and the most relevant.

When it makes sense for overlap, I prefer to send updates from Twitter. By using “Selective Twitter” on Facebook (where you add #fb to do simultaneous updates) and adding Twitter to your LinkedIn profile (use #in for simultaneous updates), you can be smart about your updates.

My personal rules of thumb are pretty basic. I use my personal Facebook page largely for personal use, so I only sync my Twitter and personal Facebook when I tweet things that are (potentially) interesting for friends & family. But what if you’re helping to manage fan pages and Twitter accounts?

Twitter –> Facebook Fan Page: Updates that translate easily to a Facebook audience. That means knowing what the people connected to the company on each platform want and expect. And, without exception, the expectations are different. For one company in particular, Facebook fans are only interested in updates from the company and I get very little interaction around other information. Twitter friends, on the other hand, like a variety of information and often retweet or reply to non-company-related tweets. When I sync the two, it’s only when the two groups’ interests overlap.

Twitter –> LinkedIn: Updates that are related to my business and add something to my virtual resume. These updates also need to be more “timeless.” That is, I don’t update LinkedIn as often as the other networks, so the updates should add value and not get stale too quickly.

Picture 5

I know full well that people will disagree with me and have a different approach to this conundrum. I’d love to hear what you think!

Thoughts Out Loud: Local Governments Using Social Media

I had the pleasure of being part of a panel on KOPB’s Think Out Loud the morning of October 6. The topic was using social media in local government.

A few key points I think came out of the discussion (based on feedback I got from people):

  • Organizations must be deliberate and approach social media thoughtfully and strategically.
  • Be human and be real. If you’re not, people won’t want to interact with you online. If people/orgs appear insincere, consumers will stop reading or following.
  • Social media will not replace traditional channels of outreach and is not a panacea for organizations to connect with their constituents.
  • Social media is a paradigm shift and is about sharing, not about one way information.

In preparation for my participation on the panel, I thought about potential topics and made some notes for myself. I covered most of these in my remarks, but I wanted to share some of my favorite points with you here.

Why should local government participate?

  • Be part of existing conversations about your agency/organization and its services
  • Put a human face on government
  • Make government easy to access
  • Engage new audiences
  • Build dialogue with your constituents

How should government participate?

  • Listen first. Know where conversations are occurring so you can meet your audience where they are.
  • Be authentic and transparent
  • Be strategic. Think about what you want to accomplish, how it fits in with your organization’s mission and then find the tools – not the other way around.

What if people say negative things?

  • If people are being critical or have a genuine concern, that’s ok. It’s an opportunity to respond and do so publicly. If it’s more than a basic question, take it off the social network to fully explore the issue and help solve it.
  • Spam, hate speech and porn have no place on a public sector site. Create a policy to deal with such comments and have people empowered to remove them.

I found several great resources for thinking about this topic that I’d also like to share:

What do you think? Are any government agencies doing it “right” in your view? I welcome your feedback.

[note: cross-posted at Verve:In Bloom]

Summer Resolution #1: Start Reading, Listening

If you’re thinking about getting started in social media and have designated “this summer” as a chance to do so, the first thing you should do is start reading. Find 10 or 20 (or more) blogs that cover areas of public relations, marketing and social media that you’re interested in and start reading.

Not sure how to begin? Two PR agencies (and me) have created tools to get you started.

Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence’s Daily Influence: Powered by Netvibes (also my feed reader of choice), Daily Influence has tabs for categories in advertising, public relations and social media and subscribes to a lot of the most influential blogs in each. You can create an account on Netvibes and customize your page based on Daily Influence. Keep what you like, delete what you don’t and add in your own.

MWW Group’s M.Insight is a mobile app, which rules. You can get it on the iPhone, Blackberry and phones with Windows Mobile. Again, the application is a starter pack of the best blogs to read – and now in an on-the-go variety. The application is free (yay, free!) and is also customizable. I have it on my iPhone and really like it. It’s a good mix of stuff, most of which I subscribe to and the application is quite intuitive.

Finally, I’ve taken my social media, PR and PR educator tabs and created a public site. It works a lot like the Ogilvy Daily Influence because it’s on Netvibes, too. Compare all three recommendations here and you’ll get a very full list of PR and social media blogs that are worth reading.

Create a habit of checking your feed reader regularly (make it your home page!) and you’ll be on your way! Questions? Just ask!

For those of you who are vets at this stuff, leave your tips!

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