Help Your Nonprofit Listen Like Starbucks and Dell | npENGAGE

Help Your Nonprofit Listen Like Starbucks and Dell

By on Nov 4, 2010


I’m trying to help the world of social media monitoring come to life for you. We’ve talked about Setting up Your Social Media Listening Dashboard in 30 Minutes or Less and How to Make Your Listening Worth It, but as Brian Solis points out (see more below), listening is not enough. It’s only one side of the interaction. Listening is key, but it’s useless without taking the next step and engaging with the people talking about or to you.

Active Listening

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Good listening is key, but if you don’t take the next step by responding, asking questions, providing feedback, giving insights, sharing stories and opening up the folks your trying to learn about and connect with will walk away.

Brian Solis recently shared a post by Michael BritoActive Listening on the Social Web; It’s Overrated”. Here’s a quick quote …

“A lot of organizations today do an excellent job at listening to their customers online. In fact, some very well respected companies and technologies have emerged that address this new trend of listening on the social web (BuzzGain, Radian 6, Visible Technologies). Many of these tools have great reporting functionality; and some even help create feedback workflows for brands. But the work doesn’t stop there.” 

What can we learn from Starbucks and Dell?

The StarbucksMy Starbucks Idea” initiative allows those who register to make suggestions directly to Starbucks.

“You know better than anyone else what you want from Starbucks. So tell us. What’s your Starbucks Idea?”

The DellIdeaStorm” web initiative also allows those who register to make suggestions directly to Dell.

“Where Your Ideas Reign”

 Starbucks and Dell are doing a nice job building their respective online communities through allowing fans to provide suggestions in a public fashion – Crowdsourcing at its finest. As their fans submit suggestions they allow their communities to vote on each of them. Then they take the top suggestions and implement them! Crazy, I know.

Giving their fans a forum to provide suggestions is not what makes these programs work. The key to it all is the action they take. Without it these programs fail. With it these programs sore.

Starbucks also does a nice job showing how suggestions are shepparded through the process of being submitted, voted on, reviewed, scheduled and launched. This shows great transparency – Another piece of the puzzle that allows the community to thrive.

If I’m a fan of either Dell or Starbucks and I’m engaged enough to submit an idea this type of interaction and commitment gets me excited. I get to see real people being heard by mega corporations. It helps put a face to the organizations and takes it to a slightly more personal level

How can your nonprofit listen like Starbucks and Dell? 

  • Build community – Help your supports connect around the cause(s) they love.
  • Solicit Feedback – Let people share their thoughts with you.
  • Be transparent – Let the community see what others are saying, sharing and suggesting.
  • Respond – Show you care enough to take action on the things they are sharing with you.

Check out a recent report by Charlene Li and Wetpaint if you want to read more about what large for profit brands are doing.

What nonprofits have you seen doing these things well? If you’re one of them please share your insight with us.

Photo Credit: Vanessa Pike-Russell


Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

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