Create a Listening Dashboard for your Organization

Amy Sample Ward
See all of Amy Sample Ward's blog posts

This month's Net2 Think Tank question asks, "How do you stay up-to-date online?"  There are so many blogs, news sources, and conversations happening at the same time, every day, and the chances that you'll be able to find them all without trying is pretty unlikely.  There are hundreds of millions of blogs according to Technorati, and that's just blogs! Think of all the places your organization's name, staff, projects, programs or focus area could come up in the news, in campaigns, or in online conversations. 

To stay on top of it all, I suggest you create a listening dashboard for your organization - and here's how to do it!

This month's Net2 Think Tank question asks, "How do you stay up-to-date online?"   There are so many blogs, news sources, and conversations happening at the same time, every day, and the chances that you'll be able to find them all without trying is pretty unlikely.   There are hundreds of millions of blogs according to Technorati, and that's just blogs! Think of all the places your organization's name, staff, projects, programs or focus area could come up in the news, in campaigns, or in online conversations.  

To stay on top of it all, I suggest you create a listening dashboard for your organization - and here's how to do it!

Getting Started

To create a listening dashboad, I suggest using Netvibes.   This is a free web-based tool that is totally customizeable and can be used both privately or publicly.To get started, just visit http://netvibes.com and create an account.

Finding Feeds

Netvibes will let you track all kinds of things online, all by using RSS feeds or ready-built widgets.   Here are some of the best ways to start listening online:

Google Alerts

This free service from Google let's you identify key words, phrases, or URLs that you want to track.   Simply visit http://google.com/alerts to get started.   Here are some example searches using NetSquared as the organization.

  • "netsquared" or "net squared" - putting this in the search term area of the alert would mean that any time "NetSquared" is mentioned or "Net Squared" is mentioned, I will get alerted.  
  • NetSquared.org - putting this URL in the search term area of the alert means that if someone wrote out our URL on their blog, for example, I would get alerted.
  • "Amy Sample Ward" or "Billy Bicket" - putting this in the search term area of the alert means that any time Billy's name (the NetSquared Director) or my own (the NetSquared Global Community Development Manager) is mentioned online, I will get alerted.

Try changing out the organization name and key staff names to match your organization's information and give it a try!

You have a few other options when setting up the Google Alert.   You could choose to monitor only news sources, only blogs, and so on.   I would recommend choosing the "comprehensive" option as you never know where your name might pop up!    

As far as the email vs feed option - we are using Netvibes so you can cut down on email!   Choose the "feed" option and then hit save on that alert.   You can then click on the linked "Feed" word that has the RSS icon next to it (the icon looks like a signal).   The URL you are given will look pretty weird (see the screen shot example below). Skip to the bottom to "Add Feeds to Netvibes" for next steps.

google alert rss example

Twitter Search

If you want to stay on top of all the conversations on Twitter about your organization or the topic of your work, using a feed from Twitter Search is really useful. To get a feed of the Twitter conversations, visit: http://search.twitter.com.   Similar to a Google Alert, type in some key words or phrases using the quotations, like, "netsquared" or "net squared" - it's just like the examples above!

After you hit "search," you will see there's a "Feed for this query" link on the right side of the screen.   Click on that and copy the URL, then jump down to the bottom to "Add Feeds to Netvibes" for next steps.

Blogs

Using the two tools above, you should get notified whenever a blogger uses your organization's name or projects, etc.   But another great way to listen and tap into online conversations is to follow blogs about your sector or location and find opportunities where you can contribute to the conversation.   It is great to comment and be visible in the community of thinkers and doers in your sector.   There will even be instances where you can provide information or resources from your organization that may be relevant to the conversation.    

Find blogs about your sector and subscribe in the same way, via RSS. A great way to find blogs relevant to your organization is to use Google Blog Search.   You can also follow one of the sector-specific blogs from Change.org.

When you find a blog you want to follow, find the "subscribe to RSS" link or icon in the sidebar, or use the RSS icon in your browser's URL bar (the icon is a square signal).   Copy the feed URL and then jump down to "Add Feeds to Netvibes" for next steps.

Add Feeds to Netvibes

Now that you have found all kids of RSS feeds you want to track, you need to add them to your Netvibes page.   With Netvibes you can create tabs to help organize all these feeds, too!

  1. Copy the full URL of the feed you'd like to add
  2. Go to your Netvibes page, and hit the green "add content" button in the upper left of the screen  
  3. Select "add feed" and paste in the URL
  4. When it shows you the preview, click "add" and it will appear in a box below

To move the boxes, simply click on the top of the box (a hand icon should appear instead of your mouse arrow) and drag the box where you'd like it to sit on the page.

To add tabs, click on "add tab" and name it something useful for categorizing the feeds in that section.

Start Listening

There you go!   With your listening dashboard in place you can start monitoring what's being said about you, your work, and your sector instantly.   You can add to it any time you find another blog or item to follow, just follow the same steps as above!

About Net2 Think Tank

Net2 Think Tank is a monthly blogging event open to anyone and is a great way to participate in an exchange of ideas.   We post a question or topic to the NetSquared community and participants submit responses either on their own blogs or on the NetSquared Community Blog.   Tag your post with "net2thinktank" and email a link to us to be included. At the end of the month, the entries get pulled together in the Net2 Think Tank Round-Up.