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Brain Waves Newsletter

June 2018 │ Issue 8

In this Issue

Director's Letter

When’s the last time you did something differently than everyone else around you? Take a minute and think about it. What was it that made you realize it was different? My hunch is that you were told by someone else. Someone in the office may have said, “We don’t do things that way,” or you received some puzzled looks when you explained a choice you made. Over time, these reactions can add up and cause self-doubt. When it seems everyone else is looking on in judgement or confusion, it’s easy to tell yourself that different = wrong.

This has been my regular experience throughout my 15-year career. And in the last year it’s occured on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Thankfully, it’s also balanced by creative, innovative voices that are encouraging, challenging, and inspiring. These are the voices I choose to surround myself with, and they push me to be better. They encourage me to dare to be different. In addition to my close friends and professional colleagues, I’ve recently been inspired by others outside our industry who regularly do things differently.

  • Manoush Zomrodi—Creator of the Note to Self podcast, author of Bored and Brilliant, and now an entrepreneur with her business partner Jen Poyant. Manoush is a nerd’s nerd, and she’s using that lens to redefine journalism. She confronts the hot topics and buzzwords of the day head-on and makes me question my technology habits. (She’s also keynoting the HighEdWeb conference and I’m totally going to fan girl.)
  • Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg—I read How Google Works in preparation for a conference workshop applying Google leadership to higher education. Do I think universities should function exactly like Google? No. Should they be seriously considering what a change from a corporation/institution-focused economy to a platform-focused economy means for their institutions? Yup.

Higher education needs to dare to be different. The current system is unsustainable. Many of the people who could benefit most from higher education can’t afford it. Most campuses are built for high-achieving 18-year-olds, even though the new economy requires education for all ability levels, delivered in multiple ways, over the course of a lifetime. We’ve seen major disruption across industries that shift market power to creators from companies. I see a probable future where educators, not institutions, hold the cards. Education will always matter, but it’s changing.

Will you—and your organization—dare to be different? What voices are inspiring you to be different? I want to know—reply to this email and tell me.


Insights from New Social Listening Software Industry Reports

If you’re venturing into the land of social listening software on your own, it’s helpful to have a tour guide. As with most enterprise software, the international consulting firms Gartner and Forrester regularly analyze the ever-evolving landscape of social listening software, and clients have access to reports and personalized consultation. Check with your IT department to see if you have an institutional subscription with one of these firms—they keep the good stuff behind a paywall.

This summer is a big one for the social listening industry, at least with Forrester. In May, they released Now Tech: Social Listening Platforms, Q2 2018 and in August they’ll release the Forrester Wave™: Enterprise Social Listening Platforms report. We’ve reviewed a copy of the Now Tech report, and have a few highlights to share.

The report starts with a definition: “social listening platforms manage and analyze customer data from social sources and use that data to activate, measure, and recalibrate marketing and business programs.” While this is an excellent interpretation of the power of social listening, I think it’s a reach to say that the platforms themselves activate, measure, and recalibrate marketing and business programs—that’s the type of work humans do! But the platforms provide the backbone data and analysis that you (or a partner like Campus Sonar) can use to have major organizational impact.

Forrester goes on to mention that entry-level use cases for social listening include brand monitoring and customer service, but evolved abilities include optimized brand messaging, conducting market research, and propelling product innovation. This is the stuff that we get excited about! We can’t wait to see more campuses integrate social listening into academic program development and campus service delivery (what product innovation means to higher education), brand research, and the messaging that appears in marketing campaigns.

This particular technology landscape is confusing—dozens of companies say they offer social listening. The Forrester team astutely sorts these vendors into three categories.

  • Social listening-focused platforms are built to find and analyze social data and gather that data from as many sources as possible, and may focus on eliminating spam (i.e., data cleansing), incorporating visual search and analysis, or covering world-wide sources.
  • Social media management solutions focus primarily on helping marketers publish, monitor, and respond to social network posts from their audience. While they may provide social listening as an add-on, coverage is usually limited to conversations on owned pages and direct mentions of a brand. The data set is inherently smaller, and frankly, this type of social listening could be done without paid software. It’s like checking your social inbox.
  • General-purpose text analytics platforms are data source agnostic. They could analyze text from sources like emails, web pages, social streams, or CRM text fields. We haven’t heard about many colleges and universities using platforms like this at the business level.

Forrester analysts organize 30+ software solutions into these categories and summarize their geographic presence, top three market verticals, and a small list of sample customers. While we see some familiar products listed (we know at least a few campuses that use them), it’s interesting to note that education is absent as a top market vertical. Currently, no top social listening software providers are focused on the education market. You’ll likely realize this if you sit through product demonstrations, and it’s why we started Campus Sonar. Right now, our industry needs to gain the strategic advantages social listening offers, and a special skillset is required to apply social listening techniques strategically in the education industry.

Meet Analyst Lindsey Hinkel lindsey-section-3

Campus Sonar analyst Lindsey Hinkel holds market research near and dear to her heart. She's been using social listening for research in the higher education industry since 2015, and loves using expertise to help colleges and universities—she’s even started training her daughter!

What intrigues you the most about social listening?

To steal a line from The X-Files, “the truth is out there.” People are talking about pretty much everything online—and they’re talking publicly, allowing a window into what people really think about organizations, public figures, and major events. Social listening pulls all this public information into one place, and gives analysts like me a super-nerdy playground to uncover the truth.

Aisa in CS Office

Lindsey’s daughter Aisa exploring the Campus Sonar office.

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

All the different uses for it. When I first started using social listening years ago, my team at the time primarily leveraged it for customer service and marketing. Over the past couple of years I’ve really embraced it as a tool to conduct market research—it’s truly the largest, most readily available focus group out there!

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

A few years ago, my husband (fiancée at the time) and I took a road trip for a Hanson Day celebration. For those who don’t know, once a year Hanson fans from all over the place congregate in Tulsa, OK, for these events. It was the first time Ben saw me act like a 12-year-old girl at a Hanson concert, so probably the most memorable part of it is that he didn’t call off the wedding and leave me stranded in Oklahoma.

What current part of your job is your favorite?

I love working with the Campus Sonar team to find creative ways to help schools. There’s so much data available, and I enjoy finding creative solutions.

What are you currently watching on Netflix?

I just finished the new episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Arrested Development. Next, I’m catching up on Riverdale.

What super power would you like to have?

I would like to be able to talk to animals. I’m pretty sure all my pets (3 dogs and 1 cat) would have very interesting things to say!

How do you use social?

I primarily use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family (and share pictures of my ridiculously cute kid and pets), and Twitter to connect with fans of whatever TV show, movie, or music I happen to be enjoying at the time. I love the communal experience of live-tweeting while I’m watching a show and interacting with others watching it at the same time.

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

I think one of the biggest impacts on actual relationships is being able to easily keep in touch with people who you might have otherwise lost contact with, like family across the country. I even connected with a distant cousin who lives in Germany through Facebook, and I would never have met him otherwise!

Ask An Analyst

What are your strategies for uncovering insights around "silent" topics or topics that consumers don't openly overtly discuss online?

Campus Sonar’s social media data analysts had a few ideas for how to uncover insights around topics that aren’t openly discussed online. Use these ideas to widen your search queries.

  • We consider the “silent topic” a challenge to explore and identify other ways people may be talking about the topic covertly. What words or phrases might people use that we wouldn’t expect? We want to uncover them if they exist. We could utilize topic clouds, for example, to identify additional words that are used to discuss the topic.
  • We would also investigate whether or not the topic is silent only in the present—or if we can find historical conversation around it. A social listening tool can pull data from years ago, which might give us an idea of where the conversation is happening today. Is there a new review site/forum that we weren’t searching before? Is there historical data that suggests a shift in how people are currently talking about the topic?
  • We also want to identify what greater conversation, if any, the silent topic is part of. If we can scope what people are talking about in the greater conversation, we’re able to better understand what’s missing (the silent topic).

Have more social listening questions for our analysts? Send them to

Read Our Latest Blog Posts

Six Ways to Get Social Listening Buy-In by Erin Supinka, May 16, 2018

For the Love of Why: Campus Sonar Introduces Three New Analysts by Lindsey Hinkel, May 23, 2018

Shaking Up Social Media in Higher Ed by Michelle Mulder, May 30, 2018

Case Study: Analyzing Prospective Student Online Conversations with Social Data by Michelle Mulder, June 6, 2018

Liz Gross’s Top Picks for the 2018 eduWeb Digital Summit by Liz Gross, June 13, 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

A Case Study in Influencer Marketing With the decline in organic reach on social media, colleges and universities are relying more heavily on influencers. In this episode of Marketing Live, learn how Drake University has leveraged influencers for a social media-first approach to successful marketing. We’ll cover strategy, execution, results, and more.

Advancement Leader Q&A: It’s Time to Shift to a Digital First Strategy Jon Horowitz profiles higher education advancement leaders on topics related to digital alumni engagement. The first installment features Matt Manfra from George Washington University. Learn his key takeaways on alumni relations.

How Brandwatch Moves Social Listening From So What to Now What  Listen to Will McInnes, CMO at Brandwatch, discuss the current state of social listening and how businesses should respond to data.

Social Listening Drives Strategic Engagement Campus Sonar’s very own Research Manager Amber Sandall wrote a blog post about the benefit of social listening for the eduWeb blog. Read what she has to say about how it’s the modern higher education professional’s tool to inform strategic, authentic, and consistent engagement efforts.

Starbucks Anti-bias Training Didn’t Make it Any More Popular on Social Media This article exemplifies the importance of identifying sentiment and benchmarking for crisis monitoring through social listening.  

See Campus Sonar

Amber and AshleyCollege Media Conference, Washington, DC │June 25-27
The College Media Conference helps campus communications professionals prepare media materials that produce results and interact with some of the nation’s top digital media experts—including Campus Sonar in the exhibit hall.

National Small College Enrollment Conference, Louisville, KY │July 16-18
Network with admissions, enrollment, and retention professionals from small colleges and universities, and higher education thought leaders like Campus Sonar. Attend Liz’s session “Using Social Listening to Impact Enrollment Outcomes” from 10:00 to 10:30 on Wednesday, July 18 or find us in the exhibit hall.

CASE Summer Institute, Boston, MA │July 23-27
Dr. Liz Gross is one of the faculty members at CASE's flagship training program for professionals who want to hit the books and revisit the basics. Liz presents three sessions:

  • Plenary Session: Is Social Listening Your Missing Ingredient
  • Social Media Strategy Workshop
  • Elective Session: Measure What Matters

eduWeb Digital Summit, San Diego, CA │July 23-25
Push the boundaries of higher education in the digital space at the eduWeb Digital Summit, and learn how Campus Sonar can help. Visit Ashley and Amber at booth #25 in the small schools zone.

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