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Brain Waves Newsletter

May 2018 │ Issue 7

In this Issue

Director's Letter

Some of you may know that I’m an avid vegetable gardener, and I usually spend much of May outside getting my beds prepped, planting seeds, and transplanting the seedlings I started in the basement under lights. This year is no different, but we’re also doing some transplanting in the office by bringing on three new team members! Campus Sonar is now a team of seven, and our growth pattern demonstrates our top values—expertise (which leads to product innovation) and our ability to support custom campus partnerships. We’ve added to the team (Lindsey, Rochelle, Traci) and promoted Amber to research manager.

I suspect we’re not finished with our rapid growth period, as we still have some operational needs to fulfill, but our core team that provides support for campuses is in place and I could not be more excited. You’ll get to know the team more through this newsletter, our blog, and our social media posts.


Changes in the Social Listening Software Landscape

When campuses ask me (Liz) what social listening software they should use, I provide a very long answer. Part of my response is to make sure you enter annual contracts, rather than multi-year, because the industry is changing rapidly and is going to continue to do so for the next 5-10 years, at least. The recent announcement of Meltwater’s acquisition of Sysomos illustrates this. Both companies have higher education clients, and some campuses may have worked with both at one point.

So, what’s my take? I was honestly surprised by who acquired who. Sysomos has invested heavily in the development of their social intelligence platform over the last few years, and was well on its way to becoming a leader in this space. Meltwater, however, has lagged behind in the social intelligence department (but not in its sales prospecting!); the interface was clunky, queries were incredibly restricted, and I felt their data was not as clean as some other offerings. Meltwater’s strength has always been traditional media monitoring and PR support for news distribution. With this acquisition, Meltwater is basically admitting that its social intelligence product was sub-par. Integrating the more advanced Sysomos platform will bring it closer to the all-in-one media monitoring/PR/social listening/social media management platform it’s aiming to be.

The competition is not sitting on its laurels. Brandwatch continues to invest in product development and integrations, recently announcing a partnership with LexisNexis that brings print and pay-walled media into its Analytics platform. Part of Amber’s new research manager role is to make sure we stay on the pulse of the software landscape, so we’ll keep sharing insights here and with our Social Listening Program Launch Consulting clients.

Meet Analyst Traci Sesko tsesko-headshot

Traci Sesko is one of Campus Sonar’s newest analysts. She has 12 years of experience in the student loan industry and a lifetime of experience studying human behavior. When Traci isn't analyzing conversations, she's engaging in them, making new connections wherever she goes.

What intrigues you the most about social listening?

It’s the vehicle to re-establish public trust in higher education.

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

The invasion of bots on social. Luckily, our clients have skilled analysts to combat the noise they produce, providing only relevant conversations that matter. Picture Will Smith armed with earmuffs.  

What’s rocking your world this month?

Public perception has become reality yet campuses are often unaware of what students are saying about them, which keeps them out of touch with reality. Big decisions are being driven by false assumptions, rather than listening to students’ shared voice to power data-informed strategies.

What’s your most significant current challenge?

Queries! Using Boolean operators to create queries and rules to segment conversations for additional analysis into a category or a tag.     

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

To clean data so thoroughly that relevant conversations sparkle from clients’ dashboards. It’s going to take a lot of elbow grease but I’m up to the task.

What’s your secret talent that no one knows about?

I can tap dance. Usually when I reveal this about myself I’m asked to demonstrate—which I politely decline.

What are you currently watching on Netflix?

Wild Wild Country”—it’s an apt name for this documentary series.

What is the biggest impact that social has on actual behaviors/relationships?

On Facebook, I’ve been able to stay in touch with my high school best friend’s grandma. Relationships used to be deeply rooted in proximity and now you can live across the globe but maintain a lifelong relationship. No more awkward family reunions.

Notes from Now You Know

Campus Sonar Team at NYKAll the Campus Sonarians attended Now You Know, a social intelligence conference, earlier this month in Chicago. Over 450 professionals from a variety of industries gathered to nerd out about social listening, analytics, and the future of social intelligence. Here are the Campus Sonarian’s key takeaways. Want to discuss more? Reach out to @CampusSonar on Twitter to dig deeper!

  • When dealing with data, it’s easy to forget there are real people behind it.
  • Intelligence is about simplifying complex things, but true insight incorporates the human component of data.
  • As innovators in social listening analysis, we must seek simplicity and reject complexity unless necessary.
  • Whether veterans or newbies, it’s important to continually test our assumptions as analysts. It keeps the ethical component of our job top of mind (what are our responsibilities as the collectors and gatekeepers of data) and it drives innovation.Liz and Nick presenting at NYK
  • To provide real value to our clients, we must always provide the why instead of just the what. The insights are the why. We can’t afford to just be interesting—we need to be useful.
  • Sentiment isn’t the fundamental story in social media analysis. We need to push for more and draw a connection between the fundamental variables of people, content, and time.
  • Social intelligence isn’t just valuable for marketing and PR—it’s a tactic that can support the strategy of almost any business unit.

Ask An Analyst

What three things do you wish social analytics/listening tools could do in 2018?

The Campus Sonar analysts have a big wish list for 2018—a lot more than just three things! Here's what we came up with. What's on your social listening wish list?

  • Integrate deep learning and query building. Allow the software to “teach” social listening analysts to build more elegant and relevant queries.
  • More adept segmentation. Segment out the noise produced by irrelevant authors like bots, which are getting more sophisticated.
  • Listen beyond monitoring and marketing. In the past, social listening was seen as “monitoring” social media channels and conversations, and as a tool used primarily by marketing. More and more organizations are recognizing the power of social listening insights (beyond simple monitoring) for voice-of-customer research to answer questions applicable to pretty much any area of an organization.
    • Note: Tools and analytics can do this, but they’re still very heavily geared toward marketing/monitoring. So we’re looking forward to the standardization of use cases outside of the accepted norm.
  • Mention recognition. Ability to recognize mentions about a brand without it being named (e.g., “I love my college,” “I wish my school ___,” etc.).
  • Privacy protection. The industry is in the throes of understanding the impact of the GDPR, and we’re excited to see how platforms respond to the regulation while simultaneously protecting privacy and assisting customers.
  • Operation transparency. Social listening is a powerful method of qualitative market research, and we look forward to learning more about the nuts and bolts of how it works (from API integration to crawlers to direct relationships). Working with vendors to pull back the curtain will help the industry demystify what social listening is for those who may be new to it.
  • Sentiment accuracy. More accuracy with sentiment due to improvement in natural language processing—for example, a filter that can identify sarcasm.

Read Our Latest Blog Posts

Are You Listening? Leverage Podcasts to Meet Your Goals by Jackie Vetrano, April 18, 2018

What We’re Hearing about The Higher Ed Social Listening Handbook by Liz Gross, April 25, 2018

Eureka! The Alumni Engagement Data Gold Rush by Jon Horowitz, May 2, 2018

Introducing Amber Sandall: Campus Sonar Research Manager by Amber Sandall, May 9, 2018

Key Social Listening Resources

Each month the Campus Sonar staff shares what they’ve been reading, watching, and listening to as it relates to social listening. If you have resources you think might be helpful, send them to

The Higher Ed Social Listening Handbook Download Campus Sonar's free eBook—your go-to guide for implementing social listening strategy in higher education.

How to Spot a Fake Instagram Influencer Influencer marketing on Instagram can be one of the best marketing tactics you’ve ever used—follow these tactics to make sure you’re using someone who can bring you sure-fire success.

Meltwater Acquires Sysomos Meltwater, a pioneer of media intelligence, announced their acquisition of Sysomos, a leader in social analytics and engagement—enabling organizations to analyze social media, news and other human-generated content in one platform, furthering Meltwater’s mission to give businesses the insights from outside data.

“Quick Wins” in SEO When Re-launching Your .EDU Website Outlines the top five SEO tasks for higher education websites leading up to a transition of your website from a vender owned and managed to an internal infrastructure.

User-Generated Content Brings Authenticity to Brands The average person wants to feel a real human connection to your brand before buying from you. If your content is rich enough to capture their attention, they’re more likely to click on content offers and promotions. Learn four ways digitally smart brands use user-generated content (UGC) creatively.

See Campus Sonar

MIDWest Conference / Dubuque, IA / May 20-22
Liz Gross and Melissa Dix from Beloit College share case studies from the admissions and marketing offices of Beloit College and other campuses in their session, Using Social Listening to Impact Enrollment Management Outcomes on May 21 at 3:30 p.m.

PNACAC / Spokane, WA / May 23-25
Liz co-presents with Jens Larson from Eastern Washington University about Enrollment Agriculture: A Digital Strategies Round-Up—an explanation of online and digital channels and strategies. Check it out on Thursday, May 24 at 8:30 a.m. PT or look for Liz in the exhibit hall.

UW E-Business Consortium Marketing Peer Group Meeting / Madison, WI / May 30
Listen to Liz and Wendy Scherer from the Social Studies Group co-present Social Listening and Social Consumer Insights about what social listening is, why it’s important, and what the top five business uses are.

AAUA Leadership Seminar / Philadelphia, PA / June 7-8
Liz and Tim Jones from Beloit College co-present Using Online Conversation Insights to Restore the Public’s Trust in Higher Education. The session reviews case studies and includes a panel discussion with Dr. Joshua Merchant (Buena Vista University), Laura Jack (Colgate University), and Dr. Michael Berman (California State University Channel Islands).

Summer Seminar / Minneapolis, MN / June 14-15
See Liz on Thursday, June 14 as she presents The Strategic Value of Social Listening and learn how campuses can leverage social listening intelligence from online conversations to impact public perception, alumni engagement, crisis engagement, and more.

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