It's always been important to know what people are saying about your institution, but it hasn't always been this hard. With the rapid evolution of communication technologies—and the fact that students are among the fastest adopters of new apps, social platforms, and communication trends—you may feel you're running on an ever-increasing treadmill. Fortunately, there are tools and software programs to keep you up-to-speed.
Defining Social Listening
At its simplest, social listening tracks online conversations that are important to your organization (in this case, your school). It tracks brands, words, events, mentions, influencers, and even images. Long gone are the Mad Men days when public relations and advertising staff could write much of the script in an attempt to control how companies and brands were perceived.
That power has now shifted to anyone with a social media account and a message to share. And, if you're not listening to what's being said about your school, you're missing an opportunity to engage with your audience. Listening provides you with a unique opportunity to connect with your audience, control your image, and grow your business or brand.
Why Social Listening Matters
- It provides answers. In the past, if you provided poor service, customers might tell their neighbors, but most likely they would just go somewhere else, leaving you clueless as to why. Now you can listen to your customers, understand why they feel a certain way, and change your approach in response to them.
- It provides opportunity. You take part in the conversation—shaping the conversation, finding pain points, solving problems, and discovering new areas for growth that allow you to maintain and expand your customer base.
- It measures ROI. It's easy to measure the return on your investment by gauging your audience's reaction to your social efforts and their level of engagement.
- It shapes strategy. You can leverage your findings to shape your campus strategy—identify future trends, shape new products and services, discredit common myths about your brand, and demonstrate excellent customer service in a public forum.
How Social Listening Has Evolved
As with any successful program, you need to determine what you want to get out of social listening, what you hope to learn, and how much time you're able to put into your program.
Social listening is no longer a manual process—there are more than 80 million sources you can search for mentions of your institution. Conducting searches and compiling results is tedious and time-consuming when there are programs, tools, and companies that do social listening for you—some services are free and some are fee-based.
- Hootsuite is a free tool that gathers social listening information and harnesses it in a dashboard. The platform allows you to manage all of your social media marketing, use their tools to manage your social profiles, and automatically find and schedule effective social content.
- Brandwatch is a paid platform that monitors conversations about your business or institution. You can find key customer insights, understand what matters most, and how to react to the knowledge you've gained. Their software solutions help you discover vital insights within the millions of online conversations happening every day.
- Campus Sonar is a social listening agency that offers project-based and subscription services to help colleges and universities get closer to their students, audience, and community. They identify your high-priority needs and their analysts build custom queries and analyze online conversation data to deliver actionable results and automated alerts.
The bottom line is, you can't have a successful program on campus unless social listening is part of it. You need to listen to your audience in order to get closer to your students, audience, and community so you can give them what they want.