The Donation Maximization Blog

Pros and Cons of Social Listening Software for Nonprofit Clients



Social listening software can serve as a valuable tool to help manage your nonprofit client’s online reputation while identifying trends in its industry. It works by tracking conversations around specific words or phrases, @mentions, and hashtags, in order to get a sense of what people are saying as well as what kind of content is gaining the most traction.

Donors use social media to get information, praise the organization, vent frustration or confusion about its mission, share an experience related to the organization, or ask others about their engagement with it. Without social listening, there’s no way to know what’s out there. It generally leads to better approaches to social media and donor engagement in general.

Social listening software is beneficial, although it is not without potential drawbacks. Let’s start with the key benefits:


A More Holistic Approach

By tracking data and identifying trends, social listening tools are great for looking at the overall picture. This includes real time intelligence about the organization itself as well as the marketplace in which it exists. Your clients can monitor their organization’s presence and also look at similar organizations to see what they are doing. This analysis can help with the development of actionable marketing steps.

Provides Insights and Signals

Social listening makes it easy for them to see the dialogue about their organization and to track patterns and draw conclusions based on the location and timing of these conversations. It provides insight to how an organization’s campaigns are doing, where they are succeeding and where they are falling short. Organizations also can see what people are saying about new initiatives and track the promulgation of press from news outlets. All of this allows them to tweak their approach based on data.

Fosters Interaction With Supporters and Donors

Social listening helps them join the conversation about their organization and its mission. When they are mentioned, listening allows faster responses that keep supporters in the fold. Problems with the organization’s image can be noticed quickly and dealt with. Furthermore, social listening can help engage with supporters who bring up the organization, and foster influencers and advocates who can be ambassadors.

When it comes to downsides, the overriding concern is social listening may give an inaccurate impression. Here are some ways that happens:


Language Isn’t Always Analyzed Accurately

Most software cannot fully understand the nuances of language. Tools that register positive and negative sentiment in social traffic may not account for this, potentially causing false alarms or even incorrectly characterizing sarcastic comments are positive.

Only Sees Publicly Available Information

A portion of social media traffic will not be covered because it is walled off through various privacy settings. As a result, the organization may not get the full picture. In some cases, publicly available data may even be contrary to what the overall population thinks. (For example, a Twitter storm of negative comments may go completely unnoticed by people who don’t use the platform.)

Not Always a Clear Measure Of Success

Sometimes, organizations are tempted to see social media success, whether it’s a positive reaction or simply a high level of engagement, to be a clear sign of success. Unfortunately, such traffic doesn’t always translate into an enlarged donor base or increased revenue. Social media noise may not help with fostering continued value from existing donors.

Creates A False Sense Of Confidence

Social media may not give an accurate indication of who an organization’s supporters are and what they think. As such, relying on data from social listening may create a false understanding the market. In the rare event of a crisis, focusing purely on social media may lead to a neglect of other avenues of engagement that may have more impact.

These downsides demonstrate the importance of also engaging existing and potential donors directly through email and direct mailing.

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