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Brain Waves Newsletter

July 2018 │ Issue 9

In this Issue

Director's Letter

Social media may bring you and I together in-person in October. Let me explain.

I met Jason Simon (Vice President, SimpsonScarborough) on Twitter. Months (maybe years?) later, we connected on the phone. Early this year he introduced me to Mara Zepeda (Co-Founder and CEO, Switchboard), saying he thought we should know each other. Mara and I connected this spring, and it was like a really great first date—but totally professional. We scheduled a follow-up and Chelsea Haring (COO, Switchboard) joined us. We shared information about our companies and were pleasantly surprised to recognize a lot of ourselves in each other’s missions. We believe that people are at the heart of every great innovation, but too few people/institutions are actually listening to other people to understand what they’re saying, discover what they need, and amplify their success.

We want to change that for higher education. The success of a campus is tied to the success of its community. When people feel heard, invested in, and served by your institution, they’ll trust you, enroll, persist, volunteer, and donate. The stakes have never been higher.

Asset 13@5xSo, in October we’re convening ListenUp EDU: a gathering to explore how adopting a culture of listening, service, and trust-building will create a twenty-first century approach to accelerate student success outcomes, alumni engagement, marketing and communications, and advancement. A phenomenal list of curators, including all the aforementioned people plus Carlo Salerno (Strada Education Network), and Jay Le Roux Dillon (University of San Francisco). Together we’re going to construct a day and a half of learning, sharing, and networking experiences to help higher education embrace an ethos of listening. It’s all going down in Chicago, October 17-18.

This isn’t your standard conference. It’s a small group (100-150 people) of innovators at all levels in marketing and communications, enrollment management, career services, student services, alumni affairs, and advancement. I hope to see a few Brain Waves subscribers there. Registration is now open.


How to Talk to Executives about Social Listening

Whether your executive leadership is socially savvy or not yet up to speed on "the Twitter," it can be challenging to explain the concept of social listening. Some of the challenge can be chalked up to the presence of social in the term. It's not surprising that their mind may immediately jump to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat and the efforts they've heard about chasing followers and engagement rates. In many cases, these social media efforts haven’t been tied to strategic priorities or value to the organization. That's a problem for another column, but the challenge remains: how do you talk to executives about social listening?

I've given dozens of talks on social listening over the last year. All of them ended with this statement:

"Social listening is not a social investment."

Followed by the version of this sentence that best fits the audience's needs.

Social listening is a strategic investment to ...

... get closer to your students, audience, and community.
... better manage your reputation.
... meet modern consumer expectations.
... seize engagement opportunities.
... identify insights that ignite your campus strategy.

Or simply:

Social listening is quickly becoming a required component
for strategic intelligence in higher education.

On this slide, everyone pulls out their camera or tweets a quote. The executives nod their heads. It seems that we're on to something! But how do we demonstrate this to executives? Hmmm….

Strategic social listening doesn’t help you get better at Facebook or go viral on Twitter. And it takes more than software and a techy student employee. It requires the appropriate inputs and analysis, and results in real-world outcomes and impact. Outcomes like more conversations with prospective students and families, increased alumni engagement and giving, more strategic media pitches, and more effective marketing materials.

I want you to be able to have this conversation with your campus leaders. To help you, we've created The Power of Social Listening, a three-page handout that explains that strategic impact social listening can have on campus. Page one outlines a general strategic social listening approach, and pages 2-3 demonstrate the approach applied to specific campus goals.

  • Marketing: Improve national brand recognition
  • Admissions: Increase STEM enrollment
  • Advancement: Increase young alumni giving

 Download the handout and keep it handy. If you use it, please let me know how it went.

Meet Analyst Rochelle Kulas rkulas-analyst

Campus Sonar analyst Rochelle Kulas loves to challenge the status quo and has a passion to grow and learn that can’t be matched or contained. When she’s not reading up on the latest trends of organizational psychology, you’ll probably find her fantasizing about her next international excursion.   

What intrigues you the most about social listening?

How quickly public opinion changes when it comes to data and privacy concerns. One month there’s pitchforks, protests, and tweets about quitting the internet—the next month we’re having Facebook arguments over whether we’re hearing “Yanny or “Laurel.” (It was clearly “Yanny.” Fight me.)

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

France, France, France! J’adore. While in Lyon I learned hotel food does not have to suck. In fact, the food in Lyon was nothing less than divine—ineffable, actually. Cobblestone streets? Yes, please. I also rode a train through the French Country to Paris. While in Paris, I visited the Arc de Triomphe, took a boat tour on La Seine, shopped along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and roamed the Louvre. Trip of a lifetime!

What’s rocking your world this month?

Right now I’m getting myself acquainted with Machine Learning, cognitive computing, and AI more generally. It’s the beginning of a long term love affair—I can feel it.

What current part of your job is your favorite?

I love that I’m encouraged to probe, challenge, and question the status quo. It’s pretty rare to find these attributes are tolerated let alone encouraged. I truly feel at home with Campus Sonar. 

Who inspires you?

I know it sounds cliché, but my children inspire me every day. All children do. The way they see the world and how they connect seemingly disparate ideas and topics. It’s just a beautiful thing. They remind me to push myself to think creatively but also not to take myself too seriously.    

What’s the last book you read?

Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne. It’s a really sharp, insightful book written by a philosopher right on the heels of the #metoo movement. I highly recommend. 

What are you currently watching on Netflix?

Right now I’m watching The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. I check Netlflix at least once a week for Season 2 of Ozark to come out. As you can see, I enjoy more uplifting storylines.

What social media platform do you use most often?

Probably Instagram. I mostly use it to post pictures of my kiddos to share with extended family. With the occasional selfie, yummy foods, and travel pics thrown in for good measure.

Ask An Analyst

How do you ensure your social listening on Facebook is effective considering its API restrictions?tsesko-headshot

Campus Sonar analyst Traci Sesko had the perfect answer to this client's question.

"Social listening on Facebook has always been challenging. Even before recent restrictions to their API (Application Program Interface—how Facebook communicates with third-party platforms), query searches only collected around 1% of Facebook data. Despite these recent API restrictions for Facebook, our ability to perform effective social listening will remain unchanged. To ensure a wide variety of relevant mentions are collected, Campus Sonar writes strong queries rich in context. Relevant mentions produced from social media platforms are primarily from Twitter and Instagram. According to the Pew Research Center, Facebook is no longer the dominant online platform among teens—Instagram currently outperforms Facebook—and we’re arguably better positioned for the future to capture relevant earned conversations through teens’ preferred social media platforms. As it stands today, Campus Sonar is able to collect and analyze owned Facebook conversations and evaluate their impact with target audiences as well as other trends.”

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

Read Our Latest Blog Posts

Social Listening Drives Strategic Engagement by Amber Sandall, June 20, 2018

The Importance of Measuring Social Media Content Buckets and Types by Nicholas Love, June 27, 2018

Black Holes and Myths in Alumni Fundraising by Dr. Jay Le Roux Dillon, July 11, 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

5 Key Benefits of Social Media Listening  Social media listening provides real-time, actionable insights into your marketing and business approach, allowing you to use it to tune-in to conversations. This post outlines five key benefits of tuning in to social listening.

6 Ways to Use Social Media Listening for Higher Education Emily Truax from Boston University shares how social listening is a powerful tool for understanding what your audience truly thinks about your brand. Campus Sonar founder and director Liz Gross couldn’t have said it better herself!

How to Build a Personal Brand with Content Marketing With consumer trust in corporate brands at an all-time low and an increasing distrust of online advertising, personal brands are at an advantage. The internet has made it easier for people to build their own brand based on trust, value, and reciprocity. Personal branding is becoming more of a requirement for anyone looking to grow their business, get their dream job, or level up their career. 

See Campus Sonar

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 23-25eduWeb Summit See You In SD
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 #15 in the small schools zone.

Look for us at these fall conferences! Watch for more information in the August issue of Brain Waves.

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