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Higher Ed Marketing Memos by Dr. Liz Gross

I’ve been using the term “social listening” for over three years, but recently I realized it doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone in higher education.

I’d like to take this opportunity to define social listening, and highlight some of the use-cases for social listening in higher education.

Social Listening Defined

Social media listeningSocial listening (sometimes called social media monitoring) is the process of searching the public social web for mentions and conversations of interest to you.

It’s much more than responding to Twitter mentions, posts in Facebook groups, and scanning Instagram for your campus hashtag. To engage in social listening, marketers identify keywords, and sometimes create complex queries, to determine exactly what types of conversation they want to capture. They then use software to scan up to 80 million online sources for mentions that match their query, and may receive results from blog posts, forums like Reddit and College Confidential, news articles, review sites, Tumblr, and more.

This simplest form of social listening is using the search function on popular networks like Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. I use the advanced search function of Twitter, combined with multiple columns in Tweetdeck, to identify content that is of interest to me as an individual. Software can give you access to more sources than Twitter, although that access will also come with a price tag.

4 Reasons for Social Media Listening in Higher Ed

Social media listening supports four key “business” functions for higher education institutions.

1) Reputation Management

Communications staff should be aware of a potential crisis or instance of brand harm before their campus leaders. Social listening enables a team to receive instantaneous alerts whenever new social media mentions appear, if they’re more negative or positive than normal, or if a particular mention is spreading quickly online. This gives the communications staff time to research the issue and develop messaging pro-actively.

2) Brand Benchmarking

Competitive institutions can gather social listening data about peer institutions to determine if volume, sentiment, or other aspects of conversation change over time, and how they compare to their own institution. Keenly designed social listening programs can also deliver competitive intelligence.

3) Customer Service

Often, online complaints are not directed to a campus social media account, yet are publicly available on the internet. Social listening will find these mentions in real-time and enable staff members to pro-actively address problems.

4) Market Research

When you use social listening to identify relevant conversation about your campus or department, you can learn more about the demographics of conversation participants and identify opportunities for content creation or amplification. For example, comparing the top topics from social listening results to the top topics from a content audit can aid marketers in identifying opportunities to create content that will resonate with their audience.

Meet the Author: Dr. Liz Gross

Dr. Liz Gross is a graduate of the Higher Ed Experts Web Analytics certificate program. Higher Ed Experts is a professional online school for digital professionals working in universities and colleges.

When you take a professional certificate course with us, you get a chance to upgrade your skills by working on your projects, interacting with classmates just like you and getting detailed personalized feedback from your instructor.

Dr. Liz Gross is now the director of Campus Sonar, a social media listening consultancy.

Liz received her Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education from Cardinal Stritch University. Her dissertation research examined the relationship between communication methods and the frequency and content of college student interactions with faculty.

She also taught for 2 years and half Higher Ed Expert’s 4-week online course on Social Media Measurement for Higher Education.

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