Social Listening for Program Research

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Liz Gross, CEO at Campus Sonar joined the podcast to talk about how social listening can be utilized beyond mere brand monitoring exercises, including sophisticated programmatic research. 

The general mandate of we need to do more. Social listening usually doesn't get you anywhere, but we need to understand our audience so we can better position our program in a way that feels authentic to them. Might you're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. I'm Eric Olsen with Helix Education, and we're here today with Dr Liz Gross, friend of the show and CEO at campus sonar. Liz, it's great to have you. Thanks for having me. Eric. Really excited to talk with you today about how social listening can be utilized for programmatic research. Before we dig in, can you give the listeners a little bit of background on Campus Sonar? Sure so. We are an agency dedicated to higher education and we hope colleges and universities measure their brand and reputation, understand and engage with key audiences like enrollment audiences, improve customer service or manage crisis. And what makes us different is that we do that by understanding data and, more specifically, public online conversations, which we collect and analyze through the process of social listening. So we are a specialized social listening agency for higher education, and what you can do with that can be a lot of things and I'm excited to talk more about that today. Yeah, I think the case studies that you've been releasing this year have really opened up my mind and to the what you can do with that. So, to help kick us off, can you help expand our understanding of kind of all the research opportunities of social listening beyond what people might often pigeonhole it as as a mere brand monitoring exercise? Let's get it out of that pigeon hole. Yeah, for our purposes, social listening is a research method and if there's any research nor it's listening. It is similar to archival ethnography, which at some point people started calling netnography, since we were using the Internet, and basically what it means is you position the researcher within some sort of archival environment so that they can gain the cultural perspective of those who are responsible for the creation, collection, care and use of those records. I was trying to think of, like, what are really fun examples of archival ethnography and a team, and I came up with two of them. One is Hamilton. Like the creation of Hamilton came from looking at all of these papers and biographies and and work to really understand what we're Hamilton's motivations. What were the Dynam a mix of relationships of folks and ultimately it was...

...expressed through art. So we're not looking at a research paper, but that came out of this idea of archival ethnography. And, if we want to stay in the entertainment realm, the crown also is doing that in terms of the royal family of Britain. So when you think about that, for social listening, the records are online social data and the opportunity is huge because there are trillions of posts from over one hundred million unique data sources that can be analyzed and more are being created every single day. So social listening finds the online social data records that are created by a select group of individuals or about a particular topic, and then we, as the researchers and strategists tell the story of what was set online in relation to strategic objectives of the organization that's conducting the research or, in the case of campus on our that's our campus clients. So for you and your listeners, think about who may be creating online social data records that could be of interest to you. That could be prospective or current students, alumni campuses you compete with, or maybe even professionals that work in a specific field talking about their work and their experiences. You can learn more about the perspective of those people through social listening research. Super Helpful contact and I've been calling you, Liz a Le Manuel Miranda, of hire it for a long time, so I'm glad that you gave me a good basis for that. I need to work on my wrapping skills with the one of them up to everything patient. I love that context. Can you walk u through a Program Specific Social Listening Research Study? So, like, let's say I'm an institution. I'm looking to grow my Undergrad nursing program. How could social listening help? Yes, so first I just want to say no one has ever asked campus ownard to do that specific project yet. So if someone is listening and wants to do that, get in touch with me and you can be the first. But if we were asked to do that, there would be some some context we would need to gather before even doing the research. So first we would talk through your existing goals and strategies so we know what you can build on or what might need to be created. We want to make sure this research is useful and actionable, so we'd want to drill down those goals a little bit more. He said grow a nursing program. We would ask you know, do you want to win more applicants from your direct competitors? Do you want to attract new students from your current recruitment area or expand your recruitment area? Are you looking to increase applications or are you more interested in your yield rate? You know, do you have a very specific nursing specialty that you want to recruit for? All of those would be important for us to understand how people are going to be talking about the experiences in the thoughts that will come up in the research. And then we want to understand your current strategies. Right it. So do you already have a robust digital strategy that includes a website and integrated social media, or...

...are you starting from scratch and you just need an idea of where to start? Like do you use, or are you open to using, influencers in your marketing? Is that something we should have our eyes out for? Are Your current students already involved in your marketing, or is that another area of wide open, Blue Sky Opportunity? Do you generate leads mostly through your in Brown marketing, or are you working through traditional list bys? That's important. And then can you coordinate online and offline marketing tactics to an integrated strategy, or we working just with your digital marketing folks? Like all of that matters. So, in order to not make this be an hour long answer to your question, let's say that maybe you want to increase applications from anywhere in the country. You already have a functioning website that you can adapt over time, you have a somewhat personalized comflow and a basic social media presence to build from. Knowing all of that, we could scope a project that seeks to answer the following questions through social listening. And normally you want to keep this to like three to five but I of course did six because I can't control myself. So first you might want to thank you. Just want to answer the basic question, like we're online. Do students talk about nursing programs so that you know where you should be involved, or advertising, whatever that might be. Then you might want to look at how do perspective students talk about nursing programs like? What can we learn from the general topic analysis of prospective students asking about nursing? We could get more specific there and then say what questions do prospective undergraduate nursing students ask their peers when they're deciding to apply to college? And some of those are probably going to be a yeah, Duh, but you might find some really surprising answers they're diving even deeper. What positive things do current nursing students say about their programs? What don't they like? What negative things are they saying? And then really understanding your role in this, how is your institution represented in these conversations that we've already analyzed? And if you want to get into competitive set, what are the top ten institutions named in these conversations and how do they relate to yours and geography, program size, faculty sighs, etc. So this project could go a variety of different ways, and I'll just note that it'd be totally different if the curriculum was offered mainly online or towards a certain specialty. But if we could answer those six questions, you'd be able to craft your website and email content better identify your competitors, as they are determined by students, not you, who set benchmarks for improvement. If you want to grow your reputation over time in terms of how folks are talking about your institution, you can identify places where current students could be encouraged to interact online to really give that peer to peer reference, and you could determine how to most effectively use your social media accounts to improve application numbers based on the answers to those questions. So that...

...be a lot and that just one project. So I really like to think the opportunities are and yeah, they really are. Let's dig into that topical analysis bucket, because from a social volume or sentiment analysis standpoint, how can social listening help understand how my institution stacks against programmatic competitors that potentially I may not have even had on my radar because they aren't within forty miles of my institution right we've done some really interesting projects related to this recently, so I've got some good examples, but we'll stick with your nursing example and assume we completed that research that I described. I'd guess that we'd probably have a data set of Tenzero or more mentions from a variety of sites and we'd be looking at current or perspective students talking about nursing. We'd probably have data from Reddit, twitter, Youtube. I'm thinking we'd see all Nursescom the student Doctor Network and college confidentials. So we'd have a wide set of sources and TENZERO ISH mentions. Next, our researchers would use some of the AI in our software to identify the organizations that are mentioned most in the data set. This is one place where are a AI can be helpful. We're going to have thousands and thousands of words. What we want to know like who are the colleges and universities or other organizations that are mentioned? That is likely going to include both own and unknown competitors for you, so we'll look at that together and decide which of those competitors are worthy of further examination. It would probably be a combination of WHO's mentioned the most and who you traditionally see as a competitor, and then within that tenzero or so mentioned data set will create segments of mentions that include those competitors. There's a lot you could learn from that, but I'm thinking about three in particular. One is determining student consideration groups. So we might want to see which competitors are most likely to be mentioned together. When a student says I'm thinking about studying nursing at university a, college B, campus x, we want to know when these are grouped together and we can get that out of social data. We could also start to look at sentiment by competitor, like very specifically what you asked about. We recently did this at campus sonar for a college within a state flagship university, so a set of programs related to a single discipline, and we compared conversations about that college is programs with similar programs at seven other universities. When we did the sentiment analysis, we found that our clients negative sentiment of all of their mentions was the lowest. It was only eight percent, while some of their competitors mentions were up to twenty five percent negative and their neutral sentiment was the highest. So, knowing that that's somewhat of a differentiator for them, we can then dive into the actual content of the negative mentions of their competitors to prop some new ideas for our client to differentiate themselves, and then we can...

...also examine their own positive mentions and identify areas that are worthy of continued emphasis. Again, we're continually surprised by what students see as positives and negatives. It's not always aligned with the attributes that an enrollment professional would put out there. And then the last thing, and this is from that same client, you might want to do sort of a topic cluster analysis so that you can see which competitors are mentioned alongside each other and not necessarily like with a consideration set of students, but what does get thrown up there together in a forum threat or a twitter post. And in this client project I just mentioned, we actually found two additional competitors within prospective student conversation that not only were mentioned alongside our client but alongside the people that they consider to be competitors traditionally. So clearly these two institutions should be considered as part of this institutions competitive set and what I thought was super interesting was one was a higher ranked program and a faraway geography and finding that our client was considered a competitor of that institution was actually a huge positive and it gave them, you know, ideas of how they could potentially recruit from a larger pool of students if they were already identifying our client as an alternative to this high ranked competitor or a different part of the country. So lots of lots of opportunity unities when you start diving into that data. There really are. I was fascinated by when you started mentioning some of those social channels were those conversations are taking place and realizing boy, those aren't coming up in my google alerts for my institutions brand name. How important is it to become aware of those conversations about our programs that are absolutely happening online in these peer networks that Google alerts that other social media monitoring tools just aren't picking up on? Yeah, it's incredibly important if what you care about is how people are talking about your institution in the admissions process, and we have some data about that. So specific to enrollment conversation we release the study in January two thousand and twenty, which feels like a decade ago, and that was a study on the college enrollment journey. And in that study we looked at three years of online conversation just in general about students talking about the admissions process. And that study again a year, decade ago, we found that eleven percent of conversations about college admissions was on forums. But it's felt different lately. So I dove into some secret data. We're currently updating this study using data from fall two thousand and twenty, so times we can remember post pandemic, during the pandemic, and this is data that campus on our is releasing in late February two thousand and twenty one to our stream community. And I specifically looked at the percentage of conversations about admissions on forums. So in January two thousand and twenty, our study found it was eleven...

...percent. The rerelease of that study just thirteen months later and I can tell you the actual number, but it has increased a lot. There is an awful lot of conversation on forums and some of them you know read. It is a huge source of conversation. But there's also these specialized forums like the student Doctor Network, all Nursescom law school life and all of these are things that Google alerts throughout social hood, sweet or whatever you're using for monitoring your social accounts, they're not catching it at all, but it is coming through in social listening software. And then the other place that I think it's really important for enrollment focused folks to be aware of when they're mentioned online that's never going to show up in any of those platforms is comments on youtube videos. And it's not comments on your youtube videos, you're going to see those, hopefully, but comments on the video of the student who mentioned in passing that they went to that institution or they're going to be applying to that institution, where they were accepted to that institution, and there are comments from perspective students, sometimes very early in the enrollment cycle, like late junior high, early high school, asking you know, that's been one of the institutions I've been thinking about, or I hadn't heard of that one before. What's your experience? How how do you like it? And that is how students are making their decisions of how to show up and Stell, apply and if you can gather all of that data and understand the trends and who's influencing that conversation, you can be a much more informed and strategic enrollment marketer. I love those examples. Let's talk about the actionability of those examples of the social listening research, because I believe that's where a lot of research kind of dies in the vine or and committee. The research is done, people go that's interesting, I didn't know that, and then it stops. How do we make sure that keeps on going? So through these social listening studies and institution on covers those program questions that they see students have their finding points of confusion for their own program out there. How do they actually capitalize in those findings? Right with our clients we tend to see sort of categories of actionability, but the specific ways to take action are always unique. So some of those categories are focusing recruitment and yield communications, particularly email, to answer specific questions for the right type of student at the right time. Based on what we know they're already asking their peers. The thing is they are not necessarily going to the experts on campus to answer those questions. But if they happen to find out around the same month when folks are generally asking strangers on reddit about that topic, then that that's the right place, right time. So generally there can be more segmented, personalized, timely recruitment and yield communications. And what needs to be communicated about and when is going to be different for most programs. Another that is generally applicable is the opportunity to activate student advocates who can provide...

...authentic yet authoritative responses where these students are asking questions, because often they're asking questions of spaces that are meant to be informal and aren't places where they want to see campus experts. But if you've got student ambassadors or alumni who you're not going to supervise because you can't control what they say, but who you trust to represent your institution, well, they could be tapped when you find these questions through social listening, to answer them, and that not only reaches the individual student when they're actively seeking information, but all of the lurkers who are reading it and overall it can raise the profile of the program but again, where those questions will be asked, what they'll be asked about, who is right to respond tends to vary from campus to campus. One other thing is highlighting the aspects of programs that students most consistently refer to positively. I mentioned this earlier, but it might surprise you what people think is the most attractive part of a program sometimes it could be a particularly exciting and easy to get to know faculty member who's particularly charismatic, and that is someone who you want to make sure it gets integrated into materials, even if it's not like flashy marketing stuff. Yeah, or or it could be a student Org. There are things that really surprise us all of the time. And then I want to mention but I didn't want to mention it first. It is social listening. So it can help you develop a more strategic, purposeful social media presence. Know how you should be posting content, who you should be interacting with, all of those things. But that is absolutely not the number one outcome of most of these studies. List such Christ stop, you really really broaden my mind about the potential opportunities out there in these student conversations that I'm now more excited to uncover any next steps recommendations for institutions listening to this going. Oh, I kind of get it. Now. What's their next step? What do you recommend they do on campus to kind of try to pitch a fight for taking social listening more seriously as a strategy? Take advantage of our free work resources from campus on art to help you sort of build your ammunition for that fight or making that case. We have a free newsletter, free blog, free books. Check out all that stuff that we put out over the last three years and find one or two use cases that make the most sense for your institution. The general, you know, mandate of we need to do more social listening usually doesn't get you anywhere, but we need to understand our audience so we can better position our program in a way that feels authentic to them. Might so that is definitely like. Go through all that stuff that we've got. You'll be able to find something that is helpful for you. And in terms of very, very tactical things, of you just want to kind of get your hands dirty and do some of it for yourself. Doing the research on the scale that I talked about require some enterprise...

...level software, but at the very least you can start searching for names of your campus and Murquy programs on Reddit and on Youtube to see if anything comes up that you've been previously blind to. Campus on our also offers a snapshot service where, for a very low investment, we can do that with a wider reach and scale for folks. Also, one of the things that we have available, which is new for campuses, is stream, which is our syndicated trends research for enrollment advancement and marketing, and that's where we're going to help. At an industry level, folks understand things like how is admissions conversation changing? What was the impact of Covid nineteen? All of that can be found on our website and of course we're happy to talk to folks about custom research. But I will just say if you want to know about social listening and Higher Ed go to campus on our. You're not going to be like, immediately replied to with a sales pitch. We've got tons of resources for you and if it makes sense to work together, great, but if we're just there to educate, that's fantastic as well, and we be happy to provide examples of other folks who are doing the s well on campus's. Thanks so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions. Probably twitter. If suming this goes live in January, I'll be off of my end of your social media a break. You can always find me on twitter at Liz Gross. One four four, because a hundred and forty four is a dozen, dozen and that is a gross. I learned something new today. Not that that. That is your your your Avatar namestake. That's really funny. Yes, and if you're not into twitter, I'm also on Linkedin all the time. It's linkedincom slash list gross, and you can also email me directly l gross. LGROSS AT CAMPUS SONARCOM. Awesome. Thanks so much for joining us today. List. Thank you so much for having meerk. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Kelix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom playbook you've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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