Posted by Jay Wilkinson

Let me ask you this: What is the worst thing someone could say about your nonprofit online?

The answer should be, “Nothing.”

But I guarantee you that if your organization has been around for at least a year, someone, somewhere, has talked about you online. Maybe on Facebook, maybe through Twitter, or it might have been on LinkedIn. But someone has talked about you.

Knowing this, wouldn’t you rather be a part of that conversation than not even know it’s happening? A key to successfully managing your nonprofit’s brand online is making sure that you’re not only sending out the right message through your website or your social networks, but that you’re listening to what is being said about you as well. People are talking, guaranteed.

If we do social media properly, listening is a necessary component. And we can manage our social media presence in 15 minutes or less per day, if we do it right.

I want to recommend two tools that will help you with this—tools that have been around for a while, but you might not yet be taking advantage of. These will make it easier to deliver the messages you want to send as well as listen to what’s being said about your organization.

The first is Google Alerts.
If you just type Google Alerts into a search bar, it will bring you right to the Google Alerts page, and you can sign up for alerts easily. If want to know about every time somebody mentions your organization online, you can create an alert and this information will be delivered to your inbox daily. You’ll be able to see what types of things are coming up, how people are talking about you and what’s being said. It’s a really great way to listen to your online audience and know how they’re talking about your organization. Again—it’s about joining in the conversation.

The other tool is HootSuite.
This is the tool that I prefer to use when I’m managing my personal social media presence. Simply go to HootSuite and you’ll be able to see all the things you can do with this tool, including posting an update to several networks at a time, or scheduling messages and tweets and tracking brand mentions. The great part about HootSuite is that it helps you both communicate and listen, and you can do this all in one place. You don’t need to go from one network to the next—you can organize and manage everything social media-related in one spot.

I’m a proponent of investing first and foremost in your website—all of your online activity should flow to and from your site. It’s your marketing and communications hub. How much you invest in social media after that is dependent on where your audience is and how much they are engaging—do they want to connect with you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter? Listening to what people are saying online will help you determine that and bring you into their conversation.