Almost every university has embraced social media as an essential communications platform. My mother always told me that the most effective communicators are those that do an equal amount of talking and listening. Most institutions have no problem with the talking part, filling their Facebook and Twitter feeds with the latest campus news and events. But many schools are still missing out on the listening component, which can be a valuable resource for admissions and marketing staff.
Reasons to Listen
The goal of social media monitoring is to collect relevant information that will enable you to make better-informed decisions for your institution. Students are among the most active users of social media so you know there is a whole treasure trove of information available. Students, parents, and applicants are talking about your institution whether you’re listening or not.
The real-time feedback collected from students is better than any focus group can provide. The data is straight from the source, unfiltered, and in real-time. Are students frustrated by the constant downtime of the internet in the library? Did you even know it was a problem? What do visitors really think of campus tours on open day? Does your website turn prospective students away? One school’s application was so confusing for the student that he never bothered to apply. The university is losing out on applicants and doesn’t even know it! For every one student that voices their opinion, another ten might share the exact same problem.
Social media monitoring is also useful for more than just feedback. Often times a prospective student will mention that they’re considering your university but they’re still unclear on some points. If it’s on a public platform, such as a forum or Twitter then this is the perfect opportunity to send a friendly message. Be genuine and offer to answer any remaining questions they might have. The student usually appreciates the one-on-one personalized approach.
There are a lot of basic tools available if you’re just starting out with social media monitoring. Some of these resources are even free!
A very popular social media dashboard that allows you to track keywords and monitor mentions. Really useful for Twitter.
Receive email or RSS feed updates for specific keywords that Google indexes. Good for finding blogs, forums, videos, and news about your university.
Similar to Google alerts but also includes social media sources such as Facebook and Twitter.
There are several drawbacks when relying on free tools for social media monitoring. After all, you get what you pay for. Tweets can be lost, history is limited, algorithms aren’t perfect, and spam can clutter everything. Not to mention that utilizing separate tools can be confusing and time-consuming. Sometimes it’s worth considering an all-in-one enterprise solution.
Most brands and large corporations are increasingly using these social media monitoring tools. They include premium features that universities will find extremely useful such as sentiment analysis, extensive analytics, CRM integration, and multi-language support and translation. There is a range of vendors to choose from and most offer the same features. The task is to find which platform is easy to use, integrates with your existing setup, and fits your budget. Here are some of the best platforms:
The main downside that prevents most schools from investing in these tools is the high cost. Depending on the vendor and plan, you can expect to pay between several hundreds to several thousands of dollars per month. Here are some tips to remember when evaluating a purchase:
Ask about the support provided – Vendors should have easy-to-follow documentation for self-support, as well as live and recorded webinars you can access. Ask how many hours of phone support you are allotted per month and if the company offers additional services such as on-site training.
Try before you buy – Be sure to ask for a 30-day trial before signing a contract. Everyone on your team that will be using the platform should be comfortable with it. If it’s too confusing then try a different vendor. There are many other options so don’t be afraid to shop around before making a long-term commitment.
Experiment for best results – During the first few days of monitoring you will likely encounter either zero results or information overload. Fine-tune the settings for a happy balance. It’s better to receive more results and have to manually filter through the spam rather than less results with no spam. You don’t want to risk missing out on important data.
Social media monitoring is a crucial component for any social media strategy. Your institution needs to decide whether an enterprise application is worth the steep investment. Remember that they are only tools, meaning that the person operating them determines their effectiveness. Next week we’ll look at some advanced strategies to improve your social media monitoring.