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Brain Waves Newsletter

Liz's Letter

Dr. Liz Gross, Campus Sonar CEO

We love data around here, and since we last graced your inbox two new reports were released—the 2019 PEW Research social media usage study, and The Survey of Digital Media in Advancement from CASE and mStoner. A few things stood out to me while reviewing the reports.

The PEW study found the share of U.S. adults using social media is largely unchanged across most networks compared to last year. Other than a continued increase in the use of Instagram (particularly among young adults) usage of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest are the same. The popular narrative that people were going to quit social media amidst rising concerns of privacy doesn’t play out in the data. For us, this means people will continue to talk about their experiences online, and savvy organizations will use that intelligence to inform their strategies. There’s another gem for us in this report: PEW is now asking questions about Reddit, which is increasingly a source of fascination for Sonarians. Although only 11 percent of U.S. adults say they use Reddit, that percentage doubles in young adults, and people with at least some college are more than twice as likely as people with a high school education or less to use the platform.

People forming the shape of an instutition, demonstrating an institution's social conversationThe digital media in advancement study caught my attention immediately because they asked their 1,030 respondents about social listening. When asked to identify what social media goals were important from an institutional perspective, 78 percent chose “monitor what people are saying about our institution on social media (social listening)”—it was tied for five out of 25 possible social media goals. I’d like to see institutions push this further; don’t set a goal of monitoring online conversation—rather, seek to understand it and its implications for both online and offline action. That is where the true value will come. While 83 percent of respondents said they engage in some form of social listening, they also said it was difficult to use social listening to make decisions—the only thing rated more difficult than social listening was CRM integration at the institutional level. Two percent of respondents say they rely on an external partner or agency to provide social listening services.

Combined, these studies paint a compelling picture. Use of social media in our country is stabilizing, ensuring an adequate supply of public online conversations. Higher education marketers and advancement professionals know social listening contributes to important institutional goals, they’re trying to do it themselves, and they’re finding it very difficult. We want to help those of you who want to move forward quickly. Here’s how we can help.

Liz Gross Signature

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A New HQ

Bri KrantzWe've said it before, and will likely say it again: our business is about people. As we've shared, we've been going through a lot of changes recently. Our most recent big change is that we moved into a new space in our Madison headquarters. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about it, but I do feel it's worth mentioning because physical space can be so critical to how people and teams feel, function, and grow. This won't be surprising to you though, in an industry built around helping students do those very same things.

The new space is open-concept, big-windowed, and has tons of places for Sonarians to think in solitude or easily band together to collaborate. We've been exploring how to make it our own and how the heck to make desk configurations work for our current team and what we know will be a growing team throughout the year (check out open positions).

Campus Sonar team photoWe are loving the space and associated opportunities it provides us. We're becoming even more flexible and functional in collaborating across local and remote teams, which is already generating more and new ideas for the business and our clients. We have even more access to other members in our communities who are also trying to create and innovate, which will help to continue pushing us to do the same. And our access to coffee has drastically increased, which means we're amply fueled to tackle the exciting things each day brings.

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Campus Execs on Twitter: What it Means for Your Institution

We partnered with Dr. Josie Ahlquist for our newest research that examines the online presence of higher education executives. Josie’s experience with digital engagement, influence, and leadership partner well with our analysis expertise to offer higher education execs an authoritative source they can use to shape their digital presence.  

Data under a magnifying glass representing researchOur social media data analysts researched, listened to, and analyzed the digital presence of 194 higher ed presidents and vice presidents over six-months, segmenting them into: presidents vs. vice presidents, institution type and size, length of time in current position, and geographic region. Specific research highlights include:

  • No particular institution type, size, or executive role leads to greater online influence for higher ed executives. However, the most influential presidents differed from the average president—they were younger, more racially diverse, and more likely to be male. Historically Black College or University (HBCU) presidents outperformed their peers in social media influence.
  • All of the executives in our top 10 Influencer list manage their own Twitter accounts.
  • Executives are most active Monday through Friday, although they are online through the evening (generally until about 9:00 p.m.), and tweet two or three times per day on average.
  • Executives tweet text and image posts most frequently, tweeting very few videos or links. Text-only posts are most likely to elicit replies (i.e., start a conversation).

A mobile phone showing an executive's authentic profileAnother major takeaway is that authenticity—posting things that are truly interesting and personal about themselves—is a universal characteristic that makes an executive most impactful online. Creating an intentional digital presence is something that Josie advocates in her coaching program, The Connected Exec.

Watch for the report on April 22 to learn more about our research, including who the top 10 influential executives are, the general sentiment of executive tweets, emerging content themes, and more.

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Get to Know Amanda Jeppson

Amanda Jeppson HeadshotCampus Sonar analyst Amanda Jeppson is excited to return to higher education. She has a fondness for data exploration across various platforms and fascination in harnessing the power of social media, both of which support her role in analyzing and monitoring social media data to drive institutional decision-making. When she isn’t indulging her inner nerd, she enjoys brunching, crafting, reading, or planning home projects.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about social listening?

I was surprised to learn that social listening even existed as a possibility! I’ve spent the majority of my research life collecting data in focus groups or interviews and analyzing that kind of data, so the concept of using an existing repository of public conversation on a topic to influence decision-making had never entered my mind. Imagine my delight at realizing there is a way to meaningfully leverage our access to unfathomable amounts of publicly available data—it takes some careful query writing, rule creation, and dashboard building, but it is possible to take the “chatter” of social media and use it to direct strategic action!!!

Social chatter narrowed down through query writing, rules, and dashboards

What is the most memorable vacation you’ve taken in the past?

My husband and I went to Hawaii for two weeks in August 2017 after we got married—it was amazing! We toured the entire Big Island together, drank so much good coffee, hiked so far I had to leave my shoes behind, and we saw all of the different color sand beaches (black, green, yellow, and white).

What’s rocking your world this month?

Spring—more daylight and warmer temperatures! That means I can finally get back to running outside! Also, Easter candy.

What current part of your job is your favorite?

I’m a person who has lots of favorite things in general. I’ve been really loving the team’s vibe—the people side of an organization is so important! My fellow Sonarians are wonderfully smart, positive, creative, and kind people. I also enjoy learning new programs to crunch data, so diving into Brandwatch has been really fun. Finally, we moved offices, and I’m seriously digging the awesome view out of all of our windows!

What would you like to accomplish in your job this year?

My biggest goal for this first year beyond mastering my “day-to-day” job duties is to learn A TON! I want to learn from my team, the field, and my own experiences as I grow with this awesome company. Ideally, I’ll be able to leverage my experiences and what I learn to contribute new and impactful ideas to the research side of Campus Sonar.

What’s the last book you read?

Inside spread of an illustrated bookThe last book that I listened to was The Operator by Robert O’Neill. It was a fascinating look into his SEAL training and the shots he fired that eliminated Osama bin Laden. In terms of books that I’ve recently read…I’m reading The Gunslinger by Stephen King now, but it is very different from the books I normally read and enjoy. Up next is Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders that America Forgot.

What are you currently watching on Netflix?

My husband and I have settled in to catch up on “Supernatural”—we’ve been with Sam and Dean from the very beginning, and we’ll be with them until the end. I’m also re-watching “Schitt’s Creek,” which truly is a hidden gem. I laugh out loud at least once during each episode.

How do you use social?

I use social media to connect with others, and I use it when I need a good laugh. I tend to use Facebook and Instagram to stay connected with my friends both near and far. I lean into Twitter to keep up on other day-to-day happenings with people that I’m not connected to on Facebook or Instagram. I rely heavily on Reddit for laughs. As mostly a lurker, I particularly enjoy r/AnimalsBeingJerks and r/CatSlaps.

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Oh, potatoes for sure. You can make them all sorts of different ways and you can even have them at every meal or at any time during the day or night. Potatoes are the best. Bring on the potatoes.

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Ask an Analyst 

What's the most challenging thing you've learned about collecting social listening data?

Amanda Jeppson HeadshotAmanda: As you can imagine, there is a ton of information available on public sites and public social media accounts. That means that when we’re working with a client, the Boolean query is one of the most important parts of an analyst’s work to ensure we’re delivering relevant and actionable data and insights to our client. As someone who came into Campus Sonar with a purely qualitative research background, writing large scale queries (thousands of characters long) has truly been an adventure. The biggest challenge is not only meticulously testing each chunk to make sure it’s pulling in the relevant information, but also making sure those darn parentheses get closed in the right part of the query. I would be lying if I didn’t confess to spending over an hour trying to identify one missing parenthesis in a query for a Free Snapshot (that query was almost 4,000 characters). Throughout my onboarding process, I’ve learned to not only have a sharper eye for writing these queries, but to also have patience with myself when I get those dreaded error messages in Brandwatch telling me I’m missing something! I get up, walk away, then come back to it. In the end, careful crafting of the Boolean query is what defines success for our clients and what makes the sometimes challenging aspects of writing it in the first place that much more rewarding!

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Our Blogs

Using Online Conversation Benchmarks: Conversation Volume by Michelle Mulder, March 13

How Social Listening Can Inform Your Brand Strategy by Bri Krantz, March 20

Using Online Conversation Benchmarks: The Authors behind the Conversation by Liz Gross, March 27

Using Online Conversation Benchmarks: The Madness of Athletics Conversation and Sentiment by Stephen App, April 3

How Social Listening Can Help You Stay On-Message (When You Don’t Have One) by Joseph Master, April 10

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Key Social Listening Resources

2019 Online Conversation Benchmarks for Higher Education—Campus Sonar’s newest research is designed to provide you with data to define your online conversation, conversation volume, and branded content based on comparable institutions.

Do You Hear What I Hear? #31Minutes Podcast, Episode 2—A conversation with Campus Sonar founder and CEO Liz Gross about what social listening is, how it can help you develop your strategy, and ideas for implementing social listening on your campus.

How to Harness the Power of Social Media for Effective Climate Crisis Management—A resource from EAB to introduce enrollment managers, senior student affairs officers, and their teams to the concept of social listening and how to apply it to managing climate flashpoints and crises.

The Survey of Digital Media in Advancement—A new whitepaper from mStoner Inc. and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) that covers how advancement tools, practices, and attitudes are evolving toward digitally enabled advancement.

To Build Better Customer Relationships, Start with Better Data—A high-level introduction to social listening for market research.

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See Campus Sonar

ListenUp EDU, April 17-18, Portland, OR
Campus Sonar is a co-sponsor of ListenUp EDU and Liz is one of the many higher ed speakers and facilitators for the conference. ListenUp EDU ditches the typical conference agenda and explores how listening, service, and trust-building can accelerate student success, alumni engagement, marketing and communications, and advancement.

A Primer on Podcasting: What to Know Before (And After) You Start Your Institution’s Podcast, April 22, Podcast
Listen in as Andy Fuller, Ma’ayan Plaut, Jackie Vetrano, and Steve App discuss the challenges and do’s and don’ts of the podcast platform.

CASE Social Media and Community, April 24-26, Portland, OR
Liz and Stephen are on the faculty for the CASE SMC conference. Attend their sessions or follow along on the back channel—#casesmc.

Liz’s Sessions

  • Crafting a Social Media Strategy
  • Presidential Social Media

Steve’s Sessions

  • Who’s Hungry? Why You Need to Think of Your Content Like a Thanksgiving Dinner?
  • Hashtag Higher Ed Live: UG’s Experience with Facebook Live
WACAC Superconference, May 20-22, Phoenix, AZ
Visit the Campus Sonar table to chat with Liz Gross and Steve App.

TCPRA, May 22-24, Maryville, TN
Attend Liz Gross's keynote session or connect with her throughout the conference to chat about social listening in higher ed.

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Tell Us That You Think

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Campus Sonar C/O Spaces, 811 E. Washington Ave. Suite 500, Madison WI 53703 USA

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