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Brain Waves Newsletter

January 2021 │ Issue 39

In This Issue

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Liz's Letter

Liz Gross, Campus Sonar CEO

Hi there,

January is traditionally a time to think about the year ahead. But a year isn’t that long. It’s only about 1.3% of your life or 2.2% of your career.

I wonder if too many of us think in one-year increments. We buy a yearly planner, set annual goals, and write year-end reports. If everything on your priority list can be accomplished in a year, you’re not thinking far enough ahead—particularly if you’re a leader.

A clear vision should propel you for a decade, maybe more. If you don’t have that vision, articulate it or seek it out from your leadership. Then make some long-term investments in that vision.

My favorite long-term professional investments are knowledge, infrastructure, and relationships

  • Knowledge: Time spent learning has long-term value for you and your organization. Be sure to develop both depth and breadth as you learn from a variety of sources (e.g., courses, books, blogs, podcasts, conference presentations, journalism). Campus Sonar helps you continue learning in many ways, including STREAM.
  • Infrastructure: It’s time-consuming and messy to build systems and processes, and they rarely have an immediate payoff. But if 3–5 years from now when your CRM is rich with accurate prospect or alumni data, your nurturing communications are triggered by behaviors and audience insights, or your reputational metrics are accurately tracked, it will be easier for you to achieve your short-term objectives.
  • Relationships: Go beyond networking and invest time in relationship development just as you would professional development. Consider relationships a mutually valuable currency that you can never have too much of. If you’re rich in relationships, you have more support, ideas to spur creativity, access to opportunities, and chances to help others. All of these things should increase your overall well-being in addition to making you a more effective professional.

Look at your to-do list, your whiteboard, or your calendar and ask yourself, “what am I doing this week that will contribute to my (personal or organization’s) success in 2025?” That is the work that will impact 10% or more of your career. Be sure to make time for it.

Liz Gross Signature

So You're on Social Media

We’ve been sharing insights from our new STREAM service to give you a peek inside what you get as a STREAM member. Research Manager Amber Sandall shares insights about the relationships between owned social media mention types and institution size by enrollment.

Amber Sandall Research Manager

So you’re on social media—and so is almost every other higher education institution. How do you stand out from your competitors? We recently uncovered social media behavior that’s unique to the size of your institution—looking specifically at large institutions with more than 10,000 students, and those with less than 10,000 students. Knowing how different sized campuses garner social media results can inform how you build your own social strategy.

STREAM Benchmark Report

To level set, these are the key definitions we used in our research.

  • Owned conversation is from social media accounts branded and managed by your campus (note owned content retweeted by any author is considered owned).
  • Earned conversation is from any author not affiliated with your campus.
  • Mention types describe whether a social media mention is an original post, a share/retweet, or a comment/reply.
  • Institutions are defined as large if they have more than 10,000 enrolled students.
  • Median is the 50th percentile in a dataset—50% of measured data is below and 50% is above.

Higher Enrollment = Less Original Owned Social Media Content and More Shared and Retweeted Content

As enrollment increases, owned social media content represents a smaller proportion of a campus’s total conversation. Large institutions generate 21% to 33% of their owned social media content as original posts compared to 32% to 64% for small institutions.

For large institutions, we found that shared and retweeted owned content represents a higher proportion of an institution’s total conversation—64% to 77% is shared or retweeted owned content for large institutions and 33% to 66% for small institutions.

Even Though Large Campuses Have More Owned Accounts, Brand Recognition Wins Out

The median number of owned accounts at a large institution is between 3 and 18 times that of small institutions. We wondered—if larger campuses have more accounts, why is their proportion of original owned social posts lower than that of smaller campuses?

Owned accounts at larger campuses may actually post less original content. However, the proportion of shares and retweets of owned content is a lot higher when compared to smaller campuses. Not only may larger campuses share and retweet more owned content, but their audience may share and retweet their content more often than audiences at smaller campuses do, driving a higher proportion of shares/retweets of owned content.

Owned social media content is one piece of the puzzle. Larger campuses likely have greater resources to produce content, which paired with national audiences means owned content has a greater chance of “going viral” and getting shares/retweets.

Is "Going Viral" the Right Goal for all Campus Sizes?

The other side of the equation is to assess the proportion of earned social media conversation across campus sizes. Do these trends in owned conversation affect the type or amount of earned social media conversation for different sizes of institutions?

Larger institutions see between 38% and 49% of their social media conversation as earned, compared to 32% to 49% for small institutions. These proportions are very similar!

Smaller campuses could emulate a social media approach similar to larger counterparts, but lacking national brand recognition makes it challenging. At the same time, producing so much original owned content appears to have little impact on earned conversation.

Engaging Online May Be a Key to Greater Earned Conversation

What else can you focus on other than “going viral?” Comments and replies from owned social media accounts may be an untapped opportunity. In our recent STREAM report Social Listening Benchmarks for Higher Education: January 2021, we discovered that the greater the enrollment, authors posted less content but more authors contributed to the conversation. In contrast, the smaller the enrollment, fewer authors post content but each author posts content more often.

Refocusing from original owned social media posts to more comments and replies—engaging with your audience online—could motivate more people to post about your campus and begin online conversations. If you’re a small campus, you could encourage more new authors to participate in the online conversation by replying to your audience’s social media posts or posting original content that seeks to start a dialogue with audience members who are important to you.

Social data indicates that spending fewer resources on developing owned original content and more time engaging with audiences online via comments and replies could help increase the size of your online conversation, generate greater awareness of your brand, and support and attract more students to your campus—especially for campuses with less than 10,000 students.

Want more benchmarks so you can gauge your campus’s online conversation? Our new report, Social Listening Benchmarks for Higher Education: January 2021 gives you just that. And, as a part of our new membership service STREAM, by Campus Sonar, the report is just the beginning. Learn more about the value of a STREAM membership.

Content We're Consuming

Social Listening for Program Research—Liz Gross joins Eric Olson on the Enrollment Grown University podcast about how social listening can be used for sophisticated program research. Be sure to watch the fun animation, too.

Thought Feeder Episode 31: Higher Ed Resolutions—Recalibrate your year with Joel Goodman and J.S. Stansel as they talk through ideas for higher ed marketing pros to focus on for 2021.

Digital Community Building Cohort—Dr. Josie Ahlquist has gathered expert guest faculty for a new 3-month program to experience the benefits of online community as you learn digital engagement skills in a small group environment. 

Why Listening Is a Superpower for Social Media Managers—PR Daily shares some benefits of investing in social listening, especially when it comes to building your brand and managing your reputation.

From the Blog

Recently, Matt McFadden and Liz Gross collaborated on how to use social listening to build your brand and we shared a peek inside our STREAM analysis on benchmarking higher ed social media. Read more on our blog.

Blog_Brand Building through Social Listening_Article Banner

See Us or Book Us

We hope to see you virtually this year at an upcoming event. Here's our first event of 2021!

  • The Connection by Carnegie Dartlet. This year, Carnegie Dartlet is hosting a free virtual event for higher education enrollment and marketing professionals. On February 23, Liz Gross shares data and insights from the first STREAM report, Social Listening Benchmarks for Higher Education: January 2021, including specific recommendations from Campus Sonar strategists.

If you’re looking for an industry expert to speak at an upcoming event or lead a workshop, check out our current speakers, common topics, and pricing.

Tell Us What You Think

Brain Waves Newsletter is for you—help us shape it. Send us an email to share what you think, suggestions, or what would help you do your job better.

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