How Nonprofits Should Use Social Listening for State of Union

The State of The Union on Tuesday, January 12 is more than a historic political moment – it’s one of the best opportunities of the year for organizations to engage their supporters on social media.

We asked some of our favorite folks about how nonprofits can use social listening for rapid response engagement on trending terms and hashtags.

Rapid response engagement, understanding what issues are most important to supporters, and sentiments on issues in the upcoming election season, will all allow for more personalized and effective communications. Here’s what they had to say:


Anita Jackson, Director of Social Media and Blogging

“The State of the Union address, and any major event, is a great opportunity to activate the circles with whom we’ve been constantly engaging. Because we have a long history of social listening on a variety of topics with multiple keywords, our audiences are already organized and engaged.

That’s the power of When there’s a newsworthy event on a topic we cover, we’re ready to go with relevant conversation our audience is primed to engage with.

So when the President talks about paid family leave, equal pay, childcare, healthcare, and more, we’ll be ready to amplify our supporters who really care about these things – and hopefully to bring new supporters into the conversation, and show our leaders we’re listening, taking stock, and taking action!”

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Emily Rasowsky, Director of Marketing Strategy

“For Social Driver, engaging influencers around trending events, like the State of the Union, is a way to ‘unleash social-fueled results’.

What I mean by that, is to look at what your audience cares about and position yourself to show up where they already are at the right time and in the right way. 

All day, every day our team of strategists are monitoring the conversation online for moments, big and small, that we can engage the right people around for our awesome clients.

The State of the Union is always a draw for folks in DC and it’s a fun way to engage political or advocacy focused influencers in an organic way for our clients. For the State of the Union we’re focused on understanding how key terms the POTUS says affects the social conversation in our targeted ‘circles’.

When the President mentions education, we know to look directly to our education policy folks and join conversations with people we want to reach. The same goes for most any topic and community online.”

Also, look at the President’s speech once it is released in print (it is usually a few minutes before the actual talk), search for (control ‘F’!) for key terms and words so you can be prepared for the moment the POTUS mentions something you care about.

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Gillea Allison, Director of Community

“Twitter is where a majority of the live conversation happens during SOTUs (and major live events, as we know), so plan to set up your searches accordingly.

If you are working on a certain issue that will likely be mentioned (gun control, access to affordable health care, civil rights), it’s always good to have pre-planned content, responses, and a plan in place and then be ready to create social graphics or adapt once the White House releases a transcript (usually a few minutes before he speaks).

Last year they released the transcript on Medium, and the organizations that were paying attention to social jumped on it, getting their messages out first as it happened live.

As we like to say at Blue State Digital, rapid response should really be planned response, so do as much work as you can in advance to ensure that you’re making the most of it and able to enjoy it yourself!”


Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy

“As advocacy groups live tweet the State of the Union (SOTU), they should incorporate retweets from their members into their own feed. This will enrich the quality the groups’ commentary while deepening relationships with their members.

While it is important for advocacy groups to provide real-time commentary during the SOTU, many of their member activists are also making insightful comments about the speech.

Given that social media is really better when it is people sharing ideas with people, the more an organization can incorporate the voices of its “real people” members into its feed the more compelling it will be. is particularly well-suited for this task, as it makes monitoring tweets from groups’ members and quickly retweeting them a breeze. Similarly, if you are live covering the SOTU via Facebook or other social network, helps you monitor and share your members’ posts there, too. “

Fission Strategy

Adriana Dakin, Senior Vice President, Digital Strategy & Research

“Know ahead of time what hashtag(s) to watch out for and track what influencers are saying using tools like,, or Hashtagify.

See the top mentions for #SOTU, start following those you’re most interested in, write replies to interesting tweets to join the conversation for realz, and write your own original posts (eg thoughts in advance, and quotes & thoughts while listening) with the #SOTU hashtag and influencer name mentions.

You might want to prep a blog post draft that’s ready to insert specific thoughts and opinions that come up during the State of the Union speech, including what your organization does to address these issues, so that you can publish quickly while buzz is at it’s highest (eg toward the end of the speech) and enjoy inbound traffic to your organization’s website.Include a call to action at the end of your blog post to give folks another step to take on your behalf.

For now, you can watch & read President Obama’s prepared reflections ahead of time: to get detailed thoughts flowing!

Using enthusiastic language, short text with images, and relevant influencer mentions will help boost your engagement. Have fun and show you’re having fun!”

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Devon Hopkins, Director of Community & Marketing

“I’d recommend having advocacy groups pre-make some graphics that they can drop quotes from the State of the Union on top of.

Tools like Canva allow advocacy groups to quickly create templates that they can easily adjust live during the address so that they can get them up quickly. Images typically perform better and get more retweets and engagement.

Then, I would use social listening to identify your influencers and @ mention them when you use those graphics. Following the Twitter moments will also put the most influential popular tweets into your feed automatically. That is helpful for tracking the most popular comments that you should be engaging with.”

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Peter Genuardi, Founder

“Social listening with is unique in that it takes a medium where we have weak relationships with supporters (social networks) and creates for us a medium where we can talk to supporters directly (direct message, email, social advertising).

Making this connection is priceless.

You can listen for supporters who mention a broad set of topics and hit them with an email message immediately, asking them to sign a petition, come to an event, or make a donation.

Recency is king when it comes to asking supporters to perform a specific task. The sooner you can identify their interest (by, say, detecting a tweet in which they mention your issue) the better you can capitalize on the recency effect and send them an immediate call to action. lets us do that on autopilot, rather than having someone sit behind Hootsuite looking for people tweeting about the topics important to us.”

Sam Marx, Customer Success Engineer

“There is no greater power for nonprofits than their supporters. What they say, what they share, and what drives them to action helps to shape and define the influence of your campaigns today and into the future. How does one capture that power? Listening (and responding), of course!

Our customers and partners said it best — prepare for this year’s State of the Union. Read the transcript and identify when the issues most critical to your cause are going to be discussed, and make sure you’re keeping a watchful eye on those terms in real time. If those terms aren’t already saved in, make sure they’re set up as well! This data will allow for easy follow up later.

Secondly, engage with those tweets as they’re happening! A simple favorite or follow is nice, but a follow up thank you means more. Showing your supporters that you are interested in what they’re talking about is only going to motivate them to want to help you later.

Finally, follow up the next day! Create a group of all of the folks that discussed your issues or mentioned your organization while tweeting about the State of the Union and send them an email with some next steps.

Or create a Facebook custom audience and target them with an awesome new Facebook post about how the President’s speech inspired new actions and paves the way for progress they want to see. Let them know this isn’t a flash in the pan, but a call to action that can capture momentum now.”

Join the Social Driver War Room on January 12

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Social Driver is gearing up for it’s Second Annual State of the Union War Room. On January 12th, their team of strategists will monitor the social media conversation, track trends and analyze patterns in real time. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, where you will see our live coverage and get insights as the President addresses the nation.

Want to hear more from our Partners? Checkout our past webinars >> drives engagement with your campaigns by turning quiet supporters into vocal advocates

Jeanette Russell
About Jeanette Russell

Passionate to engage stakeholders to solve technical and political issues through transformational initiatives. My deep understanding of technology, partnerships, marketing, advocacy, fundraising, nonprofits, startups and self-directed nature is my brand. I’ve created extensive partner networks, coalitions, spearheaded innovative campaigns and significantly increased revenue/funding for purpose driven ventures.

Posted in Political, Social Listening

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