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Brain Waves Newsletter

Director's Letter

I’m keeping my letter short and sweet this month; I’m honored if you’re even reading this newsletter prior to the holiday break. We’re in full-on celebration mode at Campus Sonar; this week includes a holiday lunch and the corporate holiday party for our parent company. Last weekend, I hosted a #SonarianShindig at my house and took the opportunity to turn it into a PowerPoint party. Yeah, you read that right. I asked each Sonarian (and their partners, if they liked) to prepare a 3-minute presentation on the topic of their choosing. Topics ranged from How to Pack Carry-On Only to Preformationism, and even Crazy Things You Learn Working for the IRS. Those who exceeded the 3-minute time limit had to wear a bedazzled pink Santa hat, which was everyone—three minutes goes by quickly! I imagine the team is excited that the next gathering will likely be outside, in the summer, making PowerPoints a bit less feasible.

I share this because I want you to learn a bit more about us as humans; specifically that we like to have fun in addition to working really hard. We’re going to add to our team in 2019 in every single area: research, client success, business development, and marketing. Some roles will be in Madison, while others may be remote for just the right candidate. Keep an eye on the Join Our Team page for openings. We’re excited to introduce you to our newest Sonarian in January’s newsletter (yep, we’re keeping you in suspense).

Liz Signature

Social Listening and Bots: What We're Finding

bot-conversationCampus Sonar Social Media Data Analyst Lindsey Hinkel has been busy digging into bots on social media. Bots are social media accounts that are programmed to perform simple tasks repeatedly (e.g., like, share, or comment on posts) or author posts based on an algorithm. They’ve been in the public awareness in recent years, specifically bots that might have an impact on United States politics. That’s not the only type of bot out there, however, and believe it or not we’ve seen bots adding to schools’ online conversations.

There are “good” bots and “bad” bots. “Good” bots serve a purpose—generally humor, activism, or image editing—and always identify themselves as bots somehow on their profile. “Bad” bots don’t identify themselves as bots and are often sold to the highest bidder for advertising or used to spread misinformation. Social platforms have rate limits to try to catch accounts that are churning out a lot of content, but they can’t always keep up with blocking all “bad” bot activity. 

@wiggleunch is a good boy, er, good bot. The devleoper behind this bot tweets generated pet names. People can opt in, but the account doesn't piggyback on pre-existing hashtags, nor does it try to connect with Twitter users who haven't opted into receiving its content.

Lindsey is working hard to find ways to identify bots and segment them from our clients’ online conversation. Filtering bot activity from online conversation allows us to hone in on what real people are saying about our clients. We’re also able to look at conversation that is only from bots and analyze if and how it’s impacting the conversations real people have: Are real people connecting with the content? Are they commenting or sharing? Do they agree or disagree with the content bots are producing?

Whether we like it or not, bots are a part of online conversation. The trick is identifying them and analyzing the impact they have on conversation. Watch for more detailed bot research in a Brain Waves blog post, coming soon.

Update on Tuning In Research Study

At the American Marketing Association conference last month, Liz presented findings of the first round of Campus Sonar’s research into higher ed leaders online. gearing-upAnalysts Lindsey and Rochelle are gearing up to complete the second round of research in the next couple of months. For the study, we identified 194 college presidents and vice presidents from across the U.S. and Canada with an active Twitter presence. We looked at their online activity to determine what behaviors correlate with more online influence, and segmented the data by things like enrollment, Carnegie classifications, and length of time in role to find any differences between segments.

In the first round, we found that executives tend to be more positive than your average tweeter, and talk about things happening on campus and student and faculty accomplishments. If you want people to interact with your content more, tweet about social issues and sports updates. It also can’t hurt to throw a picture of your super adorable dog in the mix every once in a while, either.

In our next round, we’re looking to answer the following questions:

  • Does a more influential and visible leader correlate to prospective students engaging with the campus online?
  • What themes resonate most with students?
  • What do influential leaders have in common in terms of tweet activity and conversation themes?

Sign up to be one of the first to receive the research before we release it to the public! 

Ask an Analyst

research-iconWithout giving away your mad skillz, what are your favorite resources/tricks/tips to write effective Boolean queries? I know I struggle from time to time with developing one that's clean but does the trick.

Rochelle: First, we need a clear understanding of the desired scope. Our queries always need to strike the perfect balance of volume and accuracy. For example, a term, phrase, or hashtag could bring back 10,000 mentions, but if 90 percent of them are irrelevant to the client we need to be sure that the 10 percent of relevant mentions provide value to our clients. If they don’t, we’d likely exclude that term.

The first step to writing a quality query is knowing what our clients want to achieve. Character limitations mean we need to make sure we don’t repeat the same word in the phrases we choose to include. It’s also important to use an operator so we only have to include the word once, creating a more elegant query. I like to use the asterisk with the various case-endings that apply in lieu of repeating a root. This catches all versions of the word in a more condensed format. I also make sure to test the string as I go to ensure I’m striking the volume/accuracy balance.

Traci: The best place to start is to compile terms the client provided through initial exploratory calls and needs assessments. Then, reading about the institution on their website helps me discover variations of the terms and new terms that the client didn’t provide. I also perform simple Google searches to get a feel for their online presence and even watch YouTube videos when visual research of the campus is needed. Understanding that I only reviewed content put out by the institution and the terms creates a taxonomy of how the institution talks about themselves. I put the terms into our social listening software and preview mention results to learn how the population-at-large speaks about the institution. After performing this research up front, I’m creating a robust query of terms and am able to write context around the terms, informed by phrasing used in actual mentions of the institution.  

Catch Up on Our Vlog

What Is Strategic Social Listening?

Social Listening Is Modern Marketing

Strategic Social Listening

How Social Listening Actually Works

Read Our Latest Blog Posts

Listen and They Will Tell: Why Social Listening Is the Key to Increasing Enrollment by Kelli Anderson, November 14, 2018

Digging Into HighEdWeb18 Conversation by Rochelle Kulas, November 28, 2018

The Changing Social Media Landscape by Michelle Mulder, December 5, 2018

Social Media Monitoring vs. Social Listening: There’s a Difference by Donna Talarico, December 12, 2018

Key Social Listening Resources

Amplifying Research Engagement with Social Media Use social media to create engagement with the research your institution performs. Find examples and resources from institutions in the UK that use social media to craft relevant stories about their research

Authenticity Matters: Three Ways to Reach College Students College students are more interested in building authenticity with companies and organizations than building relationships through marketing. Three tips offer perspective into the mindset of college students that will help you engage current students and recent alumni.  

How You Should Be Rethinking Social to Minimize Your Next Brand Crisis More reasons why social listening can help you prepare for and avoid a crisis. If you’re still not convinced, learn more from our resources on Campus Crisis Management.

The Marketing Organization of the Future Simpson Scarborough outlines four higher ed marketing trends from 2018 and predictions for 2019. See how your institution lines up and what you can change for the future. Then revisit the Brain Waves blog post Are You a Modern Marketer?

What CEOs Can Learn from University Presidents At the ListenUp EDU conference in October, one of the sessions was about changing the mindset and business model of the university. The Knowledge@Wharton blog shares what CEOs can learn from university leaders. There are strong leaders both in and outside of higher education that offer wisdom and skills that we can all learn from.

See Campus Sonar

AICUO Communicators' Summit, January 8Delaware, OH
Liz Gross is keynoting the communicators' summit at Ohio Wesleyan University with "How Social Listening Drives Communication Strategy."

CarnegieDartlet Conference, January 22 to 24—Orlando, FL
Liz will be enjoying the event; catch her at the #emchat reception or between sessions.

NAICU Annual Meeting, February 3 to 6—Washington, D.C.
Liz presents a session detailing our newest research. Attend “Online = Real Life. New Research Benchmarks the Online Conversation about College Campuses” on February 5 at 9:00 a.m.

CASE III, February 24-27, Atlanta, GA
Liz and Ashley Rains from Spring Hill College present “Using Social Listening to Understand Brand Perception and Inform Marketing and Communication Strategies” on February 26 at 1:30 p.m. And make sure you stop by our exhibit booth to meet Campus Sonar’s new Account Executive!

Tell Us That You Think

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