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Brain Waves Newsletter

Liz's Letter

“I just realized that social listening—what y’all do at Campus Sonar—is research!”

Liz Gross

I heard this from a partner at a research firm this summer, and I couldn’t have been more overjoyed. Social listening goes by many names; you may also hear social intelligence, social insights, or online conversation research. No matter what words you use to describe it, research is at the core. A social data analyst makes a series of methodological choices when approaching their work, including how to scope a query, if mentions should be sampled, how to categorize conversations, and what analysis techniques to use. This is what separates social listening from social media monitoring. It can stand on its own as a research method, or complement traditional research.

So when I saw this tweet from Ashley Budd (Director of Digital Marketing for Cornell University’s division of alumni affairs and development) last week, I was eager to see what she had to say.

Tweet from Ashley Budd "I want to go on record. Even though I don't say social listening in this week's newsletter. I'm absolutely talking about social listening."

The phrase Ashley chose to use in her newsletter was market intelligence. And yes, social listening is market intelligence. She kindly agreed to let me share her words with you here. If you want to get more of her words on a weekly(ish) basis, subscribe to her newsletter. I recommend it.

What is marketing intelligence?

Ashley BuddMarketing intelligence is knowledge of your audience. 

Here's what we know. People are more likely to connect with us when our interests align. We have more information about what people like than ever before. And, we can reach a lot of them at any moment through text message, or social media, or email. 

Mobile phone with an enlarged love symbolTo increase our IQ, we need better insights and analysis. We have access to a massive amount of information. We either need more people looking at it or some robots crunching predictions. With better interest information, we can build out tailored audiences. Here's the other thing we know—smarter audiences = higher conversion rates.

Your audience list is only as good as your ability to deliver a message over the right channel at the right time. Unlocking tailored communication requires the same investment—more people or better tools, and often both.

One of the many reasons I get excited about what we do is we’ll never run out of research questions. Whether social listening is applied to studying brand, campus climate, student behavior, educational ethos, professional conversation, or opportunities for content marketing, it provides audience intelligence—increasing your IQ and effectiveness.

Liz Gross Signature

P.S. We’re hiring. Our next account executive is expected to be remote, and we’d like our graphic designer to be in Madison, WI.

Identifying Authentic Advocates

According to a study by The New York Times, “The Psychology of Sharing, Why do People Share Online,” more than 60 percent of people share on social media to define themselves and what they care about. Some of these people are influencers—people with an expert level of knowledge or social influence in a particular field. They often have access to a large audience and are able to persuade others based on their authenticity and reach.

Some of these people are already influencing students’ higher ed decisions. But if you embrace the strategy of influencer marketing, you can spread your institution’s message and bolster your institutional brand through the people who experience it—current students, alumni, counselors, faculty, and others. 

Illustration of the amount of people influences impact with their social posts.How do you find these people who have knowledge of your institution and social influence with your audiences? One way is through social listening. Identifying the authors, or individual contributors to public, online conversation who talk about your institution either directly or indirectly (see Steve App's “iceberg effect” article) will help you improve brand advocacy, expand brand awareness, reach new target audiences, and increase your share of voice, among other things.

If you’re looking for help finding influencers, we’ll soon introduce a new service—Infuencer Identification. As a subscriber, you’ll be the first to know when it’s available. In the meantime, contact us if you have specific questions.

Understanding the Iceberg Effect

Steve AppA few weeks ago, while conducting a free social listening snapshot for a prospective college, I stumbled across a 17-minute(!) YouTube video from a current student. In this barely-edited video, this student talked about her experience at the school, dishing on topics like parking on campus, dining hall food, class sizes, campus community, and local attractions and hot spots, to name just a few. 

YouTube screen shot of College Pros and Cons video

The video itself had 845 views and 24 likes, not bad for a YouTuber with 164 subscribers—though far behind other student experience and college advice YouTube videos (I’ve seen view counts well into the thousands or even approaching one million views for videos that pertain to more selective institutions).

Q and AFor admissions and marketing professionals, the real beauty of the video wasn’t in the view count or even the video content. It was in the comments. You see, this video featured 12 comments, made up entirely of Q&A exchanges between prospective and admitted students and the current student behind the video. 

What does any of this have to do with icebergs? Well, as you probably know from sixth-grade science class, 90 percent of an iceberg’s volume is beneath the surface. Similarly, on YouTube in particular, I’m finding that some of the most valuable insights into prospective and admitted students, including their perspectives and questions about your institution, are taking place below the surface on social media in the form of comments. 

YouTube comment "When I went on the tour, the dorms were really hot and stuffy. Was it like that year round?"

Why is this considered below the surface? For starters, many of these comments don’t include the name of the college in their text, meaning that if you’re using software (like we do!) to find relevant conversation taking place about your institution, you’re not going to find these comments. It takes a human analyst to dig below the surface and pull these insights out from the depths of social. 

And while it may seem strange to say that the majority of value from a YouTube video comes in the form of 12 comments, rather than 854 views, it’s important to note that those 12 comments represent contextually right content that can provide your team with new content ideas, insight into a target audience, and information on individual students that you can tie back to your CRM. 

Question mark in a conversation bubbleOn this video specifically, students asked questions about the stuffiness of the dorm rooms, the social scene on campus, how to make friends, and more. All questions that could be easily answered in a blog or social post, or incorporated into future comm flow sequences. 

In the case of this college, the questions were answered by the student who created the video, almost assuredly without input from the college. And while this school, and any school, can simply scan the surface for relevant content and cross their fingers that everything they can’t see is positive, wouldn’t it be better to look below the surface and see a clearer picture of your conversation?

Content We're Consuming

Sonar bullet point Josie and the Podcast: Teresa Riley, From First Gen to First Fem—Josie talks to Dr. Teresa Riley, Chancellor of The University of Arkansas Fort Smith. Dr. Riley shares her transition strategy, philosophy as chancellor, and approach to social media.

Sonar bullet point The Great Enrollment Crash—Bill Conley, vice president for enrollment management at Bucknell University, details changes in enrollment over the last 40 years and predictions for the future. 

Sonar bullet point The Not-So-Secret Life of a TikTok Famous Teen—A day-in-the-life of a TikTok famous teen provides a glimpse into the world of teens, their parents, and what engages them on social.

Sonar bullet point Where Did All the Students Go? Five Views on the Great Enrollment Crash—In case you missed it, read five views on the current state of enrollment in higher ed from Jon Boeckenstedt, Angel B. Perez, Richard A. Clark, Madeleine Rhyneer, and Stefanie D. Niles. 

Brain Waves Blog Posts

This month we wrote about influencers, OSU’s executive Twitter strategy, how to use the benchmark report, and campus climate. Find the posts on our blog.

See Campus Sonar

Hopefully we got a chance to chat at HighEdWeb in Milwaukee or you're heading to AMA in Las Vegas. We’d love to chat with you at an upcoming conference!

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