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Brain Waves Newsletter

August 2018 │ Issue 10

In this Issue

Director's Letter

The Campus Sonar team spends a lot of time thinking about words and language. They’re the building block of the queries we write to find online conversations. Sometimes, this means keeping tabs on evolving language usage (we’re a bit gauche and get excited by words like yeet). Lately, I’ve been thinking about the historical influence of prestige and sense of place on higher education institutional branding.

Most campuses can trace their name back to a person (e.g., founder, historical figure, benefactor) or a place, and may also share their name with other common words or high schools. Only recently have colleges and universities started creating unique, recognizable brands—mostly in the for-profit sector (i.e., DeVry, Capella). This is in stark contrast to the branding efforts new companies in other sectors undergo; striving for unique words or phrasing for brand recognition and “Google-ability.” This is why we see so many new companies with made-up words for names. I wonder if founders would have named their institutions differently if they knew they would be typed into a search bar someday.

This has implications for social listening—it’s easy to search for online mentions of uniquely-branded companies and products like Pepsi, iPhone, Lyft, or Netflix. It’s harder to search for Columbia, Trinity, or Baker (that’s why we started Campus Sonar). Even Yale shares its name with multiple companies. Some institutions have taken steps to claim a unique version of their name—Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences legally changed its name to MCPHS University in 2013, and the University of Missouri liberally uses its “affectionate nickname” of Mizzou in official communication and campus branding.

I’d love to hear from you—particularly marketers and admissions pros. Do you ever wish your campus had a more unique name? Do you think we’ll see more moves like MCPHS and Mizzou? Reply to this email and share your thoughts, or contribute to my ongoing Twitter thread on campus naming.


Social Listening Powers Recruitment at Seneca College

Seneca logoThis month we're spotlighting smart social media strategy (including social listening) at Seneca College in Toronto. Kayla Lewis (Associate Director of Communications and PR) and Rema Tavares (Social Media Specialist) shared their strategies to recruit and retain students with a small team and tight budget at the National Small College Enrollment Conference. Here are some of the highlights. You can find more details in Liz's live tweets from the conference.

  • Their social media strategy aligns with their business objectives. The primary goal is to use social media to recruit and retain students, meaning all content must appeal to prospective, admitted, or current students.
  • They measure effectiveness by tracking referrals to their application from social media. This data prompted a change in digital advertising strategy—specifically, an increase in enrollment marketing spend on Instagram. It's working for them and they have the receipts.
  • Research guides their social media efforts. Through primary research and staying on top of digital trends, they understand the role of social media in developing trust with millennials and Gen Z. Rema shared, "It's beyond necessary at this point to have engaging social media accounts."
  • They prioritize engagement, and involve online-engaged students in campus events. Seneca conducts Facebook Live campus tours and will take special requests to feature particular academic program facilities. During the tour, they give shoutouts to applicants who have already engaged (and identified themselves) on Facebook.
  • They use social listening to identify content created by your community. The Seneca College Instagram is almost exclusively reposted content that students and the campus community share using the hashtag #SenecaProud.
  • They use social listening software to search for people talking about—but not to—them. They found a student comparing Seneca to other schools on Twitter, and entered the conversation. Kayla dropped the mic when she explained, "We are the only school that engaged online because our competitors aren't using social listening tools. Jessica applied and enrolled." That's social listening ROI.

We love sharing real-life examples of strategic social listening supporting effective recruitment, marketing, and alumni development efforts. If you have a story to share, reply to this email.

Ask An Analyst

Q: What do you wish people knew about your job?

A: We can’t look at any private data!

  • Traci—Social listening has a noble cause. It’s not to impede upon privacy through unauthorized surveillance.
  • Emily—It’s all information that’s publicly available based on people’s privacy settings. I know we’ve mentioned this other times, but it’s the thing I seem to have to explain the most in detail to people when I tell them about my job.
  • Lindsey—I think the most important thing for anyone to know is that I analyze publicly available online data—they don’t need to worry about me getting past any privacy settings they might have selected.

A: Despite its name, social listening goes beyond just “social media.”

  • Lindsey—It’s blogs, news sites, review sites. Anything that’s available publicly online and updated regularly.
  • Amber—Agreed! It’s so powerful to be able to understand your online presence, and not just on social media. It helps assess an institution’s online brand and illustrate what your audience sees when they look for you online.

A: Social listening helps organizations and institutions put the customer first.

  • Traci—It’s today’s most effective avenue to gauge true customer satisfaction and keep the customer in power to revolutionize even the most traditional institutions like higher ed. It’s been a longstanding trend for companies to ask for customer feedback. This makes their customers feel valued, allowing their insights to shape companies. In today’s digital age, comment cards, surveys, and focus groups have evolved. Customers now have a direct forum to share their valuable insights by taking to social media. Feedback is no longer directed to the company, rather it’s about the company on social. Social listening ensures customers’ voices remain at the forefront of executive decision-making by monitoring publicly accessible social media accounts for valuable insights to keep the customer in control.

As with most research methods, social listening comes with limitations. One of the ways we mitigate this is by working towards specific research briefs designed to best inform our client’s strategies. An unofficial motto of the Campus Sonar team is “tools before strategy, heading for tragedy.” (Amber)

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

Read Our Latest Blog Posts

Social Listening in Higher Ed: Specialized Analysts Needed by Liz Gross, July 25, 2018

Keep It Clean! How to Clean and Validate Social Listening Data by Emily Prell, August 1, 2018

Case Study: Monitoring Conversations around a Social Media Crisis by Lindsey Hinkel, August 8, 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

Advocating to Zeal: The A-Z Guide to Telling your Brand Story To, Through, and With Influencers 75% of marketers consider finding the right influencers the most challenging aspect of any influencer strategy. To help, Sysomos put together an A-Z guide with everything you need to know about influencer marketing.

The Delicate Art of Creating New Emoji You probably haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about emojis, but there’s a 12-member consortium—the Unicode Consortium—who are tasked with adding emojis to the major keypads. It’s a job that takes political and cultural finesse.

The Facebook Algorithm Explained From Brandwatch, how the new Facebook algorithm works and what it means for publishers and brands.

The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News A fascinating new study of every major contested news story in English across Twitter’s existence (126,000 stories) claims that the truth can’t compete with hoax and rumor. It also claims that the difference in how true and false news spreads on Twitter cannot be explained by bots.

New & Next in Digital Martech: IGTV Opportunities for Higher Education Three ways EDU marketers can take advantage of IGTV as part of their digital marketing and community building strategy.

RSF Trustee Mario Luis Small on the Importance of Qualitative Research A lecture by sociologist Mario Luis Small (Harvard University) explaining how qualitatively strong pieces of scholarship or journalism demonstrate cognitive empathy and identify outgroup heterogeneity bias (the tendency to think of your own group as highly diverse and thinking of other groups as homogenous).

Teens Are Debating the News on Instagram More and more teens are getting current event information from flop accounts on Instagram—pages that are collectively managed by several teens, many of them devoted to discussions of hot-button topics.

Your Tweets Are Somehow Worthy of Scientific Study If you’re on Twitter and tweeting publicly, it's likely you’re part of some scientific study—you agreed to it in Twitters user agreement. Twitter is the preferred source of social media data for research because it’s cheap and easy for scientists to use.

See Campus Sonar

NACAC National Conference, September 27–29 / Salt Lake City, UT
Stop by booth #106 or attend Liz’s presentation Beyond Hashtags: Creating Social Success in a Dynamic Landscape, September 27 at 8:30 a.m.

CUPRAP Fall East Workshop, October 15 / Philadelphia, PA
Liz is keynoting the one-day workshop and presenting Using Social Media Insights to Drive Offline Outcomes.

ListenUp EDU, October 17-18 / Chicago, ILAsset+13@5x
Campus Sonar is a co-sponsor of ListenUp EDU and Liz is one of the many higher ed curators who will spend the conference creating a 21-st century approach to accelerate student success outcomes, alumni engagement, marketing and communications, and advancement. Register now!

HighEdWeb, October 21–24 / Sacramento, CA
If you follow Liz on Twitter, you’ve no doubt been waiting for more on her presentation with Andrew CasselAre You Addicted to Data? Balancing Heart and Mind in Your Content Strategy. Join them at HighEd Web!

2018 AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, November 4–7 / Orlando, FL
Campus Sonar is ready to talk to you in booth #504—stop and say “Hi!”—and don’t miss Liz’s session on “Trends and Tactics for Higher Ed Executives on Social Media (And the People who Support Them). She’ll most likely be sharing our new handout on The Power of Social Listening.

AACRAO SEM, November 11-14 / Washington, DC
Stop and see us in the exhibit hall and watch for more information about a presentation Liz is giving with Adam Castro

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