Social Media Listening: You Don't Have To Be Joey Chestnut on the 4th of July! | Beth's Blog

Social Media Listening: You Don’t Have To Be Joey Chestnut on the 4th of July!

Digital Strategy

Wendy Harman from the Red Cross wished me a Happy Fourth of July with a Joey Chestnut reference which reminded of a post I wrote almost a year ago.  Let me explain.

Joey Chestnut won the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest in 2008.   His total for the day was 64 hot dogs.    In 2009, he won again, beating his own record by consuming 68 hot dogs. The thought of consuming 68 hot dogs makes me feel a little uncomfortable.  No downright sick in the stomach.  It’s the same sort of discomfort that some people feel about approaching the task of listening for learning using the social web.

Doesn’t listening require plowing through mountains and mountains of unstructured information?   Won’t it make you dizzy and uncomfortable?  Don’t you have to be Joey Chestnut to be successful?


Networked Nonprofits understand this.  They know how to use social media to engage people inside and outside the organization to improve programs, services, or reach communications goals.  Everyone in the organization understands that social media is more than an external communications tool, and they use it adroitly for their professional learning and even their personal lives.   Networked Nonprofits spell this out in their organization’s social media  strategy handbook and policy guidelines and encourage personal exploration and learning.

It’s one thing to have it written in a social media policy.  It’s quite another to put it into practice.   It does require that someone inside of the organization can help with one-on-one coaching, answer questions, provide support, and do this without loosing their enthusiasm.

It is harder to convince people who aren’t already social media users to use it in their personal lives.   One strategy is to use it as a professional learning tool.  This can be put practice by using listening (and engaging techniques) for program development.

Three Tips for Getting Started

1.  Think of Professional Learning As A Gift To Yourself


Professional learning is and should be a part of staff’s job and honored by the culture. That you feel it is okay to spend some of your work day investing in your knowledge and you gather wisdom from your professional networks via social media channels.

Jeremiah Owyang wrote a great post two years ago called “Pay Yourself First.”   In a nutshell: “Every morning, for about 2 hours, I pay myself first by researching, reading, and writing blog posts…before I dive into email hell.” Many of us in nonprofits can’t afford to spend two hours in professional learning through listening, but maybe we could spare 30 minutes during the day to get started?

I put a sticky note on my computer that reminds to “pay myself first.”   I try (when not traveling) to do my professional learning at the same time each day.    I spend 15-30 minutes reading RSS feeds or Tweets and 15 minutes thinking about something I learned.  Sometimes that happens by writing a blog post which take me 30 minutes.

2. Make It Part of Your Routine

Photo by Salon De Maria

You don’t need to necessarily carve out additional time for professional learning because you’re probably doing it already through other channels.  The challenge is adding it your routine. It is difficult because you have to shift gears from your Outlook calendar, answering emails, meetings, or getting tasks done.   It’s a shift from a getting things done sort of productivity to social productivity. Or rather it is finding your social productivity sweet spot.

Ask yourself how time you can allocate to listening for professional learning.   Is it a half-hour a day, an hour a day, or is an hour or two a week? The point is to get started, block out that time, and start paying yourself.

Think about your current routine.   When does it make sense to integrate something new?    I do my social media listening for professional learning before email and after I’ve created my 3 things I must do today list.  I do it in the morning.  I know other people who do it right after lunch.

3.  Cut Up The Salami Into Smaller Pieces

Cut Up The Salami Into Smaller Pieces (Photo by TalkoftheTomatoes)

It can be difficult to get started.  Some people think they are so far behind and there is so much to do – so they just stay with their current routine and habit.   They also need to get past the concern about information overload and too much unstructured information.  Attending to your professional learning using social media and networks requires making sense out of the leaves rather than being presented a knowledge tree.  The initial dip into the leaves can be overwhelming and unpleasant at first, but you will get past it if you keep calm and carry on for a couple of days.

Pick one small step and get started.  Just do that one thing everyday until it becomes comfortable.

Here are some steps to get started with listening for professional learning via social media.  The bigger questions is – are you ready make the shift?

One Response

  1. Ashley Messick says:

    Professional learning is so important, especially if you work in the nonprofit world and even more when working with social media. It seems like there is ALWAYS something new to learn and it is very easy to feel overwhelmed with the wealth of knowledge out there (I know I sure do!) I love the idea of reminding yourself, perhaps even with a visual reminder, to pay yourself first.

    One tip I have for those having trouble scheduling time for professional learning is to sign yourself up periodically for webinars. There are plenty of free (and interesting) ones out there. The Wild Apricot blog puts out a listing of free ones for nonprofits every month, plus NTEN has great ones free for members and plenty more. If I can sign up and put it on my calendar it is built into my schedule. Plus sometimes I’ll ask a coworker to sit in with me, which holds us both accountable to actually attend.

    Another, albeit more of a commitment, tip is to try to find offline lectures or meetups. Netsquared or Social Media Club – or even something less directly related like a Marketing Association or Nonprofit meetup – it’s fun to listen to the speaker plus you get to meet people face to face.

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