By now, you’re steeped in social media, which is an essential ingredient of your digital marketing for your nonprofit. But as with everything in life, you have to get a little deeper into the details.

The paramount rule for nonprofit fundraisers is to create and develop relationships with their donors and supporters. As the adage goes, people give to people.

So, how does social listening factor into helping you develop and expand your brand, which ultimately leads to increased community engagement and funding?

What is Social Listening?

It’s fundamental to understand that social media is social networking. Meaning, that for your nonprofit brand to have the greatest success in engaging with your audience, you must be an active participant, and that means also listening. You can’t possibly provide to your supporters the content they want to see if you’re not listening to their interests and motivations. We know that we live in an era where a lot of the power has shifted from the brands themselves to the consumers.

Imagine for a moment a conversation between you and someone else over the course of dinner. Let’s say you like this person whom you’ve recently met, and you have looked forward to the dinner. Now, let’s say that this person has spent the entire dinner talking about himself. He hasn’t stopped to ask you a question; he’s blathered on and on about whatever has come into his mind. You might have gotten in a word or two, but that’s about it.

So, how does that little story relate to social listening?

Simple, if you’re not actively tracking–and understanding the context and meaning–of the comments and engagements by your supporters, you’re missing out on opportunities to develop content and have conversations that are relevant to them.

Why Should I Develop Content Relevant to Donors?

You may be asking yourself, why should you produce content that your donors want to see? Shouldn’t they be interested in your cause and give because you’re making an impact in your community?

The short answer is no; they shouldn’t just give to you because of your mission.

Think about it for a moment. Think about yourself and every person you know that’s younger than you. What’s the one device that it seems everyone seems to have on their person? If you’ve guessed the ubiquitous cell phone, you would be correct.

Practically everyone has a cell phone. In fact, most people own a mobile phone, even if they don’t have a computer. And, within those cell phones are countless apps, messages, emails, articles, pictures, video, etc. We live in a connected and wired world, and all day long, people are tapping away on their phones.

What Should You Understand About Social Listening?

Social listening goes beyond the mentions. Seeing the alerts in your social media accounts or management platforms only touch the surface of what you’re supposed to be doing. You have to go deeper.

Let’s go back to that restaurant and that dinner to understand what you should be doing with social listening. Again, you’re excited to be meeting this individual for dinner. Now, instead of a blowhard, he’s speaking about topics you both enjoy, and he also pauses and listens to what you have to say. In addition, he also asks questions and gets deeper into issues that you are both discussing. As you’re talking about an interesting topic, you’re both gaining more insight and understanding, and there’s context to relevant areas of the subject-matter.

That’s social listening at work.

When you’re doing social listening well, you’re not only getting feedback or connecting with someone, but you’re creating a deeper and more meaningful relationship. If someone is complaining about your brand (and in today’s world, people will take to social media to air their disappointments), by being actively engaged and understanding the issues, you’re listening.

Alternately, let’s say someone makes a comment on social media about an event your organization held and that they loved attending. Instead of giving a generic “thank you” on social media, getting involved in a dialogue with a thoughtful response–especially if remember them from the event and can mention something that resonates personally–that type of engagement only helps you to leverage and expand your social networking.

When people understand that you are an active and engaged participant and listener, they care more about your brand and the work you do. When you take the time to personalize responses, understand the context and dig deeper for meaningful dialogue, you separate yourself from the competition.

If you take the time to do social listening, in time, you will be able to track useful social media and community engagements, which will lead to increased brand awareness and, ultimately, funding. You can talk about areas in your nonprofit that people may want to understand more, and people will know that when they reach out and comment about you or to you, there’s a living person who cares about what they have to say. It matters. People want to be heard and, more importantly, listened to; so, move away from the generic replies, and see your mentions and comments as an opportunity to build relationships with supporters and your community.