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Erin SupinkaErin Supinka, Assistant Director of Digital Engagement at Dartmouth College, is one of the 12 presenters of the 2018 Higher Ed Analytics Conference.

In this 3-question interview, Erin tells us about what’s coming in 2018, the challenges of embracing analytics in higher ed and the best ways to keep learning about data and measurement for higher ed marketers..

1) What’s coming for higher ed analytics and measurement in 2018?

Social listening isn’t new, but it’s definitely a trend that finally started to catch on in 2017. I think more and more higher ed institutions are realizing the value of more active social listening and not relying on their audiences to tag or interact directly with them when making a complaint, comment, concern, etc. We’ve spent the better part of 2017 really honing in on how we fold in this social listening component to our regular reporting and metric updates. It’s just one data point so I don’t want “look at the influence this famous alumnus has on Instagram” to steal (too much) of the show from other more controllable data points.

A subset of social listening, visual listening, is something else I’m looking toward in 2018. The platforms I work with are only getting more and more visual so I’ve found myself increasingly asking “what does this gif/emoji/image mean measurement-wise?” From accounts we own and manage, that answer is a bit easier to come by since each post is shared to promote one of our goals/KPIs. When I’m measuring our audiences’ engagements, sentiment, etc. those answers a little bit trickier. Plus, how do I measure the amount of people sharing my institution’s visual identity or photos of our iconic locations? And what does it mean for my overall goals? We’ve already started to tackle some of these questions, but 2018-2019 is going to be a big year for Dartmouth so it’s something I’ll be focusing on in 2018.

2) What’s preventing higher education from embracing data and analytics more widely for digital marketing?

I’ve always seen it as a resources issue tied to the fact it can be challenging to prove (to administration) the return on investment in higher ed. We’re finally at the tipping point of institutions understanding that we need to have [active and engaging] digital presences. However, we still don’t see many direct “x happened because we optimized our content on website b for audience a” instances so, it’s hard to make a case for something so nuanced as measurement and analysis when we can’t always demonstrate the ROI in dollars or very distinct CTAs.

Plus, higher education hasn’t been impacted by the digital and technology revolution in the same ways as other industries. A lot of the older systems and routines worked and still work to this day so there hasn’t been a desperate adoption of digital. One of my favorite (albeit morbid) workplace décor was in the Democrat and Chronicle’s offices in Rochester, NY. All it said was “Digital or die.” I still have the picture of it on my phone. Higher ed hasn’t really experienced a “digital or die” moment yet, in my opinion, and because of that we haven’t been forced to challenge the status quo and what has worked for us in the past. I have no issues with using your gut in the decision-making process—just use data to research and support your decision! Don’t take it personally if the data says your gut was wrong. We, humans, are surprising and unpredictable. Our online behavior is no different!

3) What are the best ways to keep learning about analytics, measurement and data?

One of the aspects of my job that consistently surprises people who ask about my day-to-day is the amount of time I dedicate to reading and staying up-to-date on the latest news, trends, and tips. Digital changes every day so I find it so important to always be reevaluating and staying connected to leading voices in the field. I’m subscribed to dozens of newsletters. Some of my favorites are Simply Measured, Higher Ed Experts, Later, SproutSocial, Google Analytics Product Updates and Blog, CoSchedule, and The Marketing <> Analytics Intersect by Avinash Kausik. To name a few!

Pro tip: Use a newsletter specific email address so you don’t clutter your work inbox. When a newsletter demonstrates its value over and over again, you can move it into your work inbox, if you like.

I also keep an eye on free webinars (sometimes offered by the companies/blogs above) that are related to analytics. You’d be surprised at how many are out there! I usually have 2-3 on my calendar a week. I can’t always listen or actively participate, but most of the hosts send the recording afterwards so I have a little library to listen to when I need something, am traveling, or just have some free time.

Finally, I am a graduate of the Social Media Measurement Course through Higher Ed Experts and I highly recommend it. It was worth every penny and really helped me get our analytics system back on track after a few false starts and frustrating obstacles. I’ve also taken a handful of MOOCs in data science, Excel, data visualization, and other related courses. The great thing about MOOCs is that 1) they’re FREE! and 2) you can complete them at your own pace. Sometimes, depending on the coursework and my schedule, I’ll just do the readings and discussions. You still get a ton out of them. I currently don’t have a comprehensive list of the ones I’ve taken over the past few years, but just hop over Edx.org and take a look around. Once you start registering/trying out courses, they usually start sending along recommendations that are actually pretty on point!

A conference focusing on higher ed analytics?

The Higher Ed Analytics Conference is a must-attend event for higher ed marketing professionals and teams looking for new ideas and best practices.

Read below what a few of your higher ed colleagues who attended the past editions of the Higher Ed Analytics Conference say about the experience.

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