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The Lab: Think Out Loud By Listening

I recently participated in a unique experiment called The Lab, more specifically the Nonprofit Lab (#NPLab). The Lab is the was created by Erica Mills, Peter Drury, and Zan McColloch-Lussier, three rockstars of nonprofit marketing.

The Lab is not another tweetup or opportunity to collect business cards, although that did happen. It was started because Erica, Peter, and Zan were having similar conversations about the change and innoviation that is happening in the nonprofit sector and wanted to open it up to a bigger conversation. And so The Lab was born.

As they put it:

It is our goal to convene a consistent core of smart, engaged, strategic nonprofit leaders. But not just that. We want to create a community of professional peers who together can take risks, inquire, challenge, respect confidentiality, and think out loud. Together.

The first event featured T.A. McCann, the CEO and founder of Gist, to share his insights on how to listen effectively using social media.

Here are the highlights from T.A.’s talk:

And the deck that T.A. shared:

Listening and influence for non-profit success with Gist

After TA’s presentation we broke into groups to talk about what it means to listen (ironic, I know). I don’t talk about it a lot on here, but as the Director of Communications and Social Media for Jolkona, this is kind of my thing. However, as we were talking and I described some things I’m struggling with in regards to engagement on Jolkona’s social media channels, I realized one detail TA left out –

Yes, the first step to social media success is listening, but are you really listening when you publish content as a brand or organization on owned social media channels?

Yes, you can follow people on Twitter and “listen” to what they are saying, but if you are not following everyone who follows you, does that count as listening to your community?

[Enter slapping head on forehead]

Figure out who your community is outside of owned-channels and go to where they hang out. Start adding value to third party communities and then bring those users into your own. Start by adding value instead of pushing content down their throats (social is an engagement platform, not a push channel). Give them a reason to listen to you once you show that you’re listening to them. Content without value is noise. Answer the “why,” then go to the “how.”

Now that makes sense.

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