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Brain Waves Newsletter

March 2020 │ Issue 29

In This Issue

Psst ... if this newsletter was forwarded to you, you can get your own here

Liz's Letter

Liz Gross

Does social media influence the public’s perception of the value of higher education? Absolutely, according to state leaders discussing the topic at the CASE District 4 conference this month.

I slipped into my chair with my conference eggs and bacon, just as the moderator kicked off the Discussion with State Leadership panel by displaying tweets questioning the value of a college degree, followed by the PEW Research Center data on the public’s view of higher ed. She then asked the panel, “Why do you think the public is questioning the value of our institutions?"

The panelists were nearly unanimous with their response: social media.

“Social media plays a big part in it—it brings to light public sentiment and spurs others to talk about it,” Dr. Stacey Napier, Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations at the University of Texas System stated. “You can give this generation all the facts you want, but they believe what they see on social media. One person’s opinion becomes fact.”

Then Dr. Jim Henderson, President and CEO of the University of Louisiana System basically dropped the mic: “Facts don’t change opinions, memes do.” He went on to implore institutions to develop communication strategies that reach people in both their hearts and minds. He underscored the importance of understanding how younger generations consume media and make decisions if we want our perspective to compete with other prevailing narratives.

Dr. Barbara Damron, Chief Government Relations Officer at the University of New Mexico, also called for communicators to embrace their role in this challenge: “The people who translate what the academy is doing in the ivory tower are the most pivotal. No one can make a difference like you do.”

I left Texas thinking about this panel. It was so refreshing to hear real talk on this topic from senior leaders on the stage. We accept that social media amplifies public opinion. Do we recognize that social listening facilitates the collection and analysis of the public’s opinion?

Opinions about your institution, the higher education industry, issues of unique importance in your state, or just about any topic are forming and spreading on social media as you read this. If you know that, yet fail to develop a deep understanding of the conversation and sentiment surrounding key topics to ensure marketing, enrollment, and fundraising campaigns are effective and optimized to reach your target audiences, you’re not taking your responsibility as a translator of the ivory tower seriously.

Campus Sonar’s vision is for higher education to re-establish public trust and build authentic relationships. Watching this panel was like seeing a glimpse of that vision fulfilled. We’re not there yet, but I’m ready to be a part of the change that gets us there. Are you?

Liz Gross Signature

Coronavirus and Higher Ed

A book and a first aid kitHigher education is a community of knowledge sharing. We believe in the cross-pollination of ideas and supporting each other, which is one of the reasons we created industry briefings to analyze social listening data for coronavirus and higher education online conversation.

Twice per week on Tuesday and Friday afternoons we'll publish a Briefing and slide deck to share with your campus teams and communities.

Other resources:

Crisis Monitoring

We sincerely hope our industry briefings help campuses around the country better understand the conversation surrounding coronavirus, but we also understand that you may need more detailed, tailored conversation insights in these difficult times. If you’re looking to better understand and respond to the conversation taking place about your campus, our Crisis and Event Monitoring service provides 24/7 monitoring of specific topics of concern within the conversation surrounding your campus. With automated alerts at the frequency of your choosing, daily reports, and a final summary, we can provide you and your response teams the metrics and context of what’s being said online about your campus along with critical insights to inform your response strategy and share with leadership. If you’d like to learn more, contact Nicole Baldassarre.

Nicole Baldassarre iconGet to Know Nicole

Nicole Baldassarre joined the team as the twelfth Sonarian and quickly jumped into our first Sonarian Summit of 2020. As Account Executive, she helps campuses identify key areas for social listening data and expertise to inform strategic marketing decisions. In her free time, she curates charcuterie boards and practices her tarot reading skills.

What intrigues you the most about social listening?

I’m most intrigued by the impact that social listening can have on campus across a student’s journey, from admission through advancement. It’s no secret that students live on their phones. In an effort to meet them where they are, more campuses need to add social listening as a tactic when determining marketing and outreach strategies. It goes much deeper than simply responding to a Twitter mention of your campus—that’s a reactive approach. With the level of reach and sophistication today’s listening platforms achieve, it’s easier to identify opportunities for proactive engagement with students and have a voice in those conversations, where it can make all the difference.  

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

Initially, I was surprised that social listening software is programmed to determine sentiment. I thought it was really cool (yet borderline terrifying) that these applications are in touch with human emotions and able to discern positive and negative tones. 

Leaning Tower of Pisa, bottle of wine, and spaghettiWhat is the most memorable vacation you’ve taken?

Definitely my trip to Italy last summer. I visited Rome, Positano, Amalfi Coast, Montepulciano, Florence, and Cinque Terre. Specifically, the views from our private boat tour along Cinque Terre were so breathtakingly beautiful that I couldn’t help but shed a few tears in awe. Aside from the gorgeous coastline and historic architecture, the quality of the food and wine was unmatched by any other trip I’ve taken. Anyone who knows me understands how seriously I take my charcuterie, cheese, and wine—Italy did not disappoint!

What’s rocking your world this month?

I’m a big fan of music so I’ll take this question a little more literally. I recently bought tickets to the Dead and Company show this summer—my parents and I have gone for the past two years. Since the purchase is fresh and anticipation is high, I think that the Grateful Dead will be rocking my world this month! 

What current part of your job is your favorite?

Even though I only joined the team in February, I have to say that my favorite part is attending industry conferences and having meaningful conversations with folks who want to get started with social listening or even have a specific project in mind for our team to tackle. I know we’re a social listening agency with a large online presence, but there’s something about the face-to-face connection that is so much more rewarding. I’m definitely the type of friend who will randomly FaceTime you just to check in and say hello!

What’s the last book you read?

I recently finished Life Will Be the Death of Me by Chelsea Handler. She’s one of my favorite female comedians … probably because I grew up watching “Chelsea Lately.” This book was different from her other novels and the themes she touched on really resonated with me.

What are you currently binging?

My roommates convinced me to watch “Love Is Blind” with them on Netflix and I’m ashamed to say that I’m hooked. It’s some of the best trashy reality TV out right now and it’s ridiculously entertaining to watch.

What social media platform do you use most often?

Instagram, 100%. It’s where I stay connected with friends who don’t live in the same city, find new music, browse new recipes I’m interested in testing out, and learn clever life hacks. 

Mobile phone showing social media platform iconsContent We're Consuming

What Sonarians are reading, watching, and listening to this month.

Everybody Writes. We’re big Ann Handley fans at Campus Sonar. Ann’s book is a go-to-guide for ridiculously good content, exactly what we’re trying to create here. If you don’t have time to read the book, sign up for her newsletter; it’s another of our favorites. 

Gen Z Is Reinventing Social Media Marketing. Vogue Business explores how brands evolve their marketing strategies in order to influence and engage young audiences.

How to Make Money in Your Sleep. The latest trend to hit TikTok is live-streaming while sleeping. Crazy, right? But an article quote explains how the streams provide a level of authenticity that users on the platform crave. Sound similar to anyone else we know?

Learning: A Special Report. Articles from The New York Times that explore paying for college, college homelessness, fake news, social media, technology, and more.

Monitor the Online Spread of the Coronavirus to Understand its Global Impact. 24 million posts have been shared about Coronavirus in the last two months. Ipsos compiled and analyzed the online discussion.

Social Listening Resources from Campus Sonar. Find our reports, newsletters, handouts, and more, as well as general information on what social listening is and how you can use it for student engagement, reputation management, influencer identification, and many other campus outcomes.

You're Working Remotely to Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19. Here's How to Stay Productive. Jackie Vetrano, writes about moving from office work to remote work—what to expect, setting up your space, new routines, and more. #Sonarian Beth Miller contributes tips she's learned along the way.

Brain Waves Blog Posts

This month we wrote about coronavirus, using our Sonarian senses in a crisis, continuing admissions professional development, using your medium as your message, and making the most of yield season. Find the posts on our blog.

See Campus Sonar

There are lots of new opportunities to see us in person in 2020! We’d love to chat with you at an upcoming conference. Note that this is subject to change as events adapt their schedules. 

Tell Us What You Think

Brain Waves newsletter is for you—help us shape it. Tell us what you think, send ideas, and let us know what would help you do your job better at We want to know!

Someone throwing a paper airplane to a Sonarian

Campus Sonar C/O Spaces, 811 E. Washington Ave. Suite 500, Madison WI 53703 USA

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