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 todo more. Social listening usually doesn't get you anywhere, but we need tounderstand our audience so we can better position our program in a way that feelsauthentic 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 theircollege or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies ortools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into theshow. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETUpodcast network. I'm Eric Olsen with Helix Education, and we're here todaywith 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 forprogrammatic research. Before we dig in, can you give the listeners a littlebit of background on Campus Sonar? Sure so. We are an agency dedicatedto 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 managecrisis. And what makes us different is that we do that by understanding dataand, more specifically, public online conversations, which we collect and analyze through theprocess of social listening. So we are a specialized social listening agency forhigher education, and what you can do with that can be a lot ofthings and I'm excited to talk more about that today. Yeah, I thinkthe case studies that you've been releasing this year have really opened up my mindand to the what you can do with that. So, to help kickus off, can you help expand our understanding of kind of all the researchopportunities of social listening beyond what people might often pigeonhole it as as a merebrand 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 researchnor it's listening. It is similar to archival ethnography, which at some pointpeople started calling netnography, since we were using the Internet, and basically whatit means is you position the researcher within some sort of archival environment so thatthey 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 creationof Hamilton came from looking at all of these papers and biographies and andwork to really understand what we're Hamilton's motivations. What were the Dynam a mix ofrelationships of folks and ultimately it was...

...expressed through art. So we're notlooking at a research paper, but that came out of this idea of archivalethnography. And, if we want to stay in the entertainment realm, thecrown also is doing that in terms of the royal family of Britain. Sowhen you think about that, for social listening, the records are online socialdata and the opportunity is huge because there are trillions of posts from over onehundred million unique data sources that can be analyzed and more are being created everysingle day. So social listening finds the online social data records that are createdby 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 inrelation to strategic objectives of the organization that's conducting the research or, in thecase of campus on our that's our campus clients. So for you and yourlisteners, think about who may be creating online social data records that could beof interest to you. That could be prospective or current students, alumni campusesyou compete with, or maybe even professionals that work in a specific field talkingabout their work and their experiences. You can learn more about the perspective ofthose 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 needto 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 SocialListening Research Study? So, like, let's say I'm an institution. I'mlooking 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 ownardto do that specific project yet. So if someone is listening and wants todo 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 wewould need to gather before even doing the research. So first we wouldtalk through your existing goals and strategies so we know what you can build onor what might need to be created. We want to make sure this researchis useful and actionable, so we'd want to drill down those goals a littlebit more. He said grow a nursing program. We would ask you know, do you want to win more applicants from your direct competitors? Do youwant 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 yieldrate? You know, do you have a very specific nursing specialty that youwant to recruit for? All of those would be important for us to understandhow people are going to be talking about the experiences in the thoughts that willcome 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 includesa website and integrated social media, or...

...are you starting from scratch and youjust need an idea of where to start? Like do you use, or areyou open to using, influencers in your marketing? Is that something weshould have our eyes out for? Are Your current students already involved in yourmarketing, or is that another area of wide open, Blue Sky Opportunity?Do you generate leads mostly through your in Brown marketing, or are you workingthrough traditional list bys? That's important. And then can you coordinate online andoffline marketing tactics to an integrated strategy, or we working just with your digitalmarketing folks? Like all of that matters. So, in order to not makethis be an hour long answer to your question, let's say that maybeyou want to increase applications from anywhere in the country. You already have afunctioning website that you can adapt over time, you have a somewhat personalized comflow anda 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 Iof course did six because I can't control myself. So first you might wantto 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 beinvolved, or advertising, whatever that might be. Then you might want tolook at how do perspective students talk about nursing programs like? What can welearn from the general topic analysis of prospective students asking about nursing? We couldget more specific there and then say what questions do prospective undergraduate nursing students asktheir peers when they're deciding to apply to college? And some of those areprobably going to be a yeah, Duh, but you might find some really surprisinganswers they're diving even deeper. What positive things do current nursing students sayabout 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 representedin these conversations that we've already analyzed? And if you want to get intocompetitive set, what are the top ten institutions named in these conversations and howdo they relate to yours and geography, program size, faculty sighs, etc. So this project could go a variety of different ways, and I'll justnote that it'd be totally different if the curriculum was offered mainly online or towardsa certain specialty. But if we could answer those six questions, you'd beable to craft your website and email content better identify your competitors, as theyare determined by students, not you, who set benchmarks for improvement. Ifyou want to grow your reputation over time in terms of how folks are talkingabout your institution, you can identify places where current students could be encouraged tointeract online to really give that peer to peer reference, and you could determinehow to most effectively use your social media accounts to improve application numbers based onthe answers to those questions. So that...

...be a lot and that just oneproject. So I really like to think the opportunities are and yeah, theyreally are. Let's dig into that topical analysis bucket, because from a socialvolume or sentiment analysis standpoint, how can social listening help understand how my institutionstacks against programmatic competitors that potentially I may not have even had on my radarbecause they aren't within forty miles of my institution right we've done some really interestingprojects related to this recently, so I've got some good examples, but we'llstick 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 froma variety of sites and we'd be looking at current or perspective students talking aboutnursing. We'd probably have data from Reddit, twitter, Youtube. I'm thinking we'dsee all Nursescom the student Doctor Network and college confidentials. So we'd havea wide set of sources and TENZERO ISH mentions. Next, our researchers woulduse some of the AI in our software to identify the organizations that are mentionedmost in the data set. This is one place where are a AI canbe helpful. We're going to have thousands and thousands of words. What wewant to know like who are the colleges and universities or other organizations that arementioned? 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 worthyof further examination. It would probably be a combination of WHO's mentioned the mostand who you traditionally see as a competitor, and then within that tenzero or somentioned data set will create segments of mentions that include those competitors. There'sa 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 whichcompetitors are most likely to be mentioned together. When a student says I'm thinking aboutstudying nursing at university a, college B, campus x, we wantto know when these are grouped together and we can get that out of socialdata. We could also start to look at sentiment by competitor, like veryspecifically what you asked about. We recently did this at campus sonar for acollege within a state flagship university, so a set of programs related to asingle discipline, and we compared conversations about that college is programs with similar programsat seven other universities. When we did the sentiment analysis, we found thatour clients negative sentiment of all of their mentions was the lowest. It wasonly eight percent, while some of their competitors mentions were up to twenty fivepercent negative and their neutral sentiment was the highest. So, knowing that that'ssomewhat of a differentiator for them, we can then dive into the actual contentof the negative mentions of their competitors to prop some new ideas for our clientto differentiate themselves, and then we can...

...also examine their own positive mentions andidentify areas that are worthy of continued emphasis. Again, we're continually surprised by whatstudents see as positives and negatives. It's not always aligned with the attributesthat an enrollment professional would put out there. And then the last thing, andthis is from that same client, you might want to do sort ofa topic cluster analysis so that you can see which competitors are mentioned alongside eachother and not necessarily like with a consideration set of students, but what doesget thrown up there together in a forum threat or a twitter post. Andin this client project I just mentioned, we actually found two additional competitors withinprospective student conversation that not only were mentioned alongside our client but alongside the peoplethat they consider to be competitors traditionally. So clearly these two institutions should beconsidered as part of this institutions competitive set and what I thought was super interestingwas one was a higher ranked program and a faraway geography and finding that ourclient was considered a competitor of that institution was actually a huge positive and itgave them, you know, ideas of how they could potentially recruit from alarger pool of students if they were already identifying our client as an alternative tothis high ranked competitor or a different part of the country. So lots oflots 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 werethose conversations are taking place and realizing boy, those aren't coming up in my googlealerts for my institutions brand name. How important is it to become awareof those conversations about our programs that are absolutely happening online in these peer networksthat 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 talkingabout 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 andtwenty, which feels like a decade ago, and that was a study on thecollege enrollment journey. And in that study we looked at three years ofonline conversation just in general about students talking about the admissions process. And thatstudy again a year, decade ago, we found that eleven percent of conversationsabout college admissions was on forums. But it's felt different lately. So Idove into some secret data. We're currently updating this study using data from falltwo thousand and twenty, so times we can remember post pandemic, during thepandemic, and this is data that campus on our is releasing in late Februarytwo thousand and twenty one to our stream community. And I specifically looked atthe 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 studyjust thirteen months later and I can tell you the actual number, but ithas increased a lot. There is an awful lot of conversation on forums andsome 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 lawschool 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 itat all, but it is coming through in social listening software. And thenthe other place that I think it's really important for enrollment focused folks to beaware of when they're mentioned online that's never going to show up in any ofthose platforms is comments on youtube videos. And it's not comments on your youtubevideos, you're going to see those, hopefully, but comments on the videoof the student who mentioned in passing that they went to that institution or they'regoing 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 heardof 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 upand Stell, apply and if you can gather all of that data and understandthe trends and who's influencing that conversation, you can be a much more informedand strategic enrollment marketer. I love those examples. Let's talk about the actionabilityof those examples of the social listening research, because I believe that's where a lotof research kind of dies in the vine or and committee. The researchis done, people go that's interesting, I didn't know that, and thenit stops. How do we make sure that keeps on going? So throughthese social listening studies and institution on covers those program questions that they see studentshave their finding points of confusion for their own program out there. How dothey actually capitalize in those findings? Right with our clients we tend to seesort of categories of actionability, but the specific ways to take action are alwaysunique. So some of those categories are focusing recruitment and yield communications, particularlyemail, to answer specific questions for the right type of student at the righttime. Based on what we know they're already asking their peers. The thingis 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 aregenerally asking strangers on reddit about that topic, then that that's the right place,right time. So generally there can be more segmented, personalized, timelyrecruitment and yield communications. And what needs to be communicated about and when isgoing to be different for most programs. Another that is generally applicable is theopportunity to activate student advocates who can provide...

...authentic yet authoritative responses where these studentsare asking questions, because often they're asking questions of spaces that are meant tobe informal and aren't places where they want to see campus experts. But ifyou've got student ambassadors or alumni who you're not going to supervise because you can'tcontrol what they say, but who you trust to represent your institution, well, they could be tapped when you find these questions through social listening, toanswer them, and that not only reaches the individual student when they're actively seekinginformation, but all of the lurkers who are reading it and overall it canraise 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 varyfrom campus to campus. One other thing is highlighting the aspects of programs thatstudents most consistently refer to positively. I mentioned this earlier, but it mightsurprise you what people think is the most attractive part of a program sometimes itcould be a particularly exciting and easy to get to know faculty member who's particularlycharismatic, and that is someone who you want to make sure it gets integratedinto materials, even if it's not like flashy marketing stuff. Yeah, oror it could be a student Org. There are things that really surprise usall of the time. And then I want to mention but I didn't wantto mention it first. It is social listening. So it can help youdevelop a more strategic, purposeful social media presence. Know how you should beposting 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 opportunitiesout there in these student conversations that I'm now more excited to uncover any nextsteps 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 oncampus to kind of try to pitch a fight for taking social listening moreseriously as a strategy? Take advantage of our free work resources from campus onart to help you sort of build your ammunition for that fight or making thatcase. We have a free newsletter, free blog, free books. Checkout all that stuff that we put out over the last three years and findone or two use cases that make the most sense for your institution. Thegeneral, you know, mandate of we need to do more social listening usuallydoesn't get you anywhere, but we need to understand our audience so we canbetter position our program in a way that feels authentic to them. Might sothat is definitely like. Go through all that stuff that we've got. You'llbe able to find something that is helpful for you. And in terms ofvery, very tactical things, of you just want to kind of get yourhands dirty and do some of it for yourself. Doing the research on thescale that I talked about require some enterprise...

...level software, but at the veryleast you can start searching for names of your campus and Murquy programs on Redditand 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 lowinvestment, we can do that with a wider reach and scale for folks.Also, one of the things that we have available, which is new forcampuses, is stream, which is our syndicated trends research for enrollment advancement andmarketing, 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 ofCovid nineteen? All of that can be found on our website and of coursewe're happy to talk to folks about custom research. But I will just sayif you want to know about social listening and Higher Ed go to campus onour. 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 towork together, great, but if we're just there to educate, that's fantasticas well, and we be happy to provide examples of other folks who aredoing 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 followup questions. Probably twitter. If suming this goes live in January, I'llbe off of my end of your social media a break. You can alwaysfind me on twitter at Liz Gross. One four four, because a hundredand forty four is a dozen, dozen and that is a gross. Ilearned 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, andyou can also email me directly l gross. LGROSS AT CAMPUS SONARCOM. Awesome.Thanks so much for joining us today. List. Thank you so much forhaving 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 helpingcolleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just publishedthe second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content onhow institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for freeat 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 yourfavorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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