Finding the latest news surrounding a specific issue isn’t always simple. While some organizations and industry topics are easily tracked with clearly-defined keywords and well-worn social media hashtags, other topics require more digging and creative research methods.

As we explained in a blog post last year, online monitoring, or “listening,” can help your nonprofit monitor your reputation, curate content for online channels and track media relations results.

Here are a few best practices to master online monitoring and discover news that you can use:

  • First, make a plan. While it’s tempting to start Googling without abandon, you’ll save time and frustration if you first create a blueprint for your monitoring needs. Identify what outcomes you’d like to see through your monitoring and who or what you want to monitor. We find it helpful to build a list of all known relevant hashtags, top influencer handles, links to websites, and an outline of relevant topics, and drop in items of interest as we discover them. This also provides you with helpful parameters and a roadmap, so you can feel confident you’re covering all your bases.
  • Use web tools to help automate the process. Social media monitoring tools have evolved to be a crucial element of online monitoring. Google Alerts, Talkwalker and Hootsuite are just a few of many tools available to help you make sure to catch all the news you care about, even when you’re away from your desk. Twitter lists are also a Prichard favorite: Easily monitor a curated list of publications, influencers or even competitors on Twitter without the need to manually look accounts up individually. You can make these lists private or public.
  • Search creatively. Many events, issues and conversations have dedicated social media hashtags where the lion’s share of relevant online conversations can be found. However, not everything has an official hashtag, or even a commonly used one. The answer? Search creatively. Here’s one example:  
    • The movement around Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is growing among public health leaders, health practitioners, the trauma-informed field, education and more. However, searching Twitter for “ACEs” typically yields more sports scores than relevant news. We’ve learned to search alternate terms and phrases like “adverse childhood” and “childhood trauma,” and identified the alternate hashtag covering this topic, #ChildrenCanThrive, used by leaders in the ACEs space.
    • A broad subject like early childhood education has an array of oft-used Twitter hashtags, as so many different groups or people are talking about early childhood in different ways online. Our research found that the most commonly used hashtags include #ECE, #earlylearning, #Bthru8, #earlychildhooded and #edchat. By monitoring these terms and more, we cast a wider but still highly relevant net to monitor this far-reaching industry.

Do you have a monitoring tip to share? Add it to the comments section to join the conversation.