A familiar refrain in the song about embracing social media goes like this “it’s about listening.” David Alston of Radian6 gives us another verse in his presentation on "I Love Stories" captured over at the Conversation Agent blog. It’s 45 slides but skip to #30 to learn the ten conversations you need to listen for in social media. The one to focus in on is #1: The point of need. How can we as associations remain relevant if we don’t know the changing needs of our customer base? And, how can we grow if we don’t anticipate future needs?
David is obviously talking about social media conversations. I would suggest that these conversations are happening in many places around our associations in addition to the social media sphere. Take your components (you know chapters, communities of practice, councils, sections, SIGs) for example. These are natural places for your customers to gather and they do talk about their needs and about you. Are you listening?
Here are a few suggestions for being a more active listener …
- Have a town hall meeting featuring your chief staff and elected leadership at volunteer leadership conferences but make sure the leaders are doing the talking.
- Take your leadership conference on a road trip.
- Read your chapter’s newsletters with an eye to what’s changing in their world.
- Invite staff who don’t work with components to attend a group's meeting. Ask them to share what they heard – it’ll be through fresh eyes and ears.
- Get out and visit your chapters. The caveat is that this road trip isn’t to pitch the association and your latest “opportunity” for them to help you, but to do a listening tour.
- Pay attention to how long it takes your volunteers to respond to a personal email from you and how they respond. Look for trends in response time, length and content.
- Ask an outside, objective third party to conduct a series of confidential phone interviews with component leaders. Ask for a summary of topics, key words, and attitudes.
- Have members evaluate their components for you – send a simple annual survey.
Do you have other ways to listen? Share them.