Last week we looked at the basics of social media monitoring. We covered why you need it, where to get started, and how to select a vendor. This week we’ll look at some advanced strategies that will make your social media monitoring more effective.
The main term you should track is your institution’s name. You will be able to see every time someone mentions your university across the social web. Remember to include every variation of your name. Words are often shortened on the internet, especially by students. So if your institution is the “University of Victoria,” be sure to also track the keywords “Victoria University,” “Victoria Uni,” “Victoria U,” “UVic,” etc.
Often times many institutions will share the same abbreviations, such as “U of V” or “VU.” This is especially troublesome if you are a smaller school because your results will often be drowned out by a larger school with the same name. Most enterprise applications can eliminate this by focusing your search results to a certain geographic area. This way, if your school is in the U.S., you won’t get results from Australia and the U.K. which also happen to have schools with your name.
Finding the Good Stuff
The three most valuable sources of data for universities are: Twitter, blogs, and forums. Twitter is by far the best source of feedback for institutions. This is because students are very active on the social network and most users leave their account public. Students post comments all the time about what they like and dislike about your institution. Prospective students also talk openly about what schools they are considering applying to and what they think about your university.
Some students also maintain personal blogs. These can be incredibly useful for admissions and marketing staff. Many first year students document their experience adjusting to university life. Here you will often find what they liked about orientation, what they think of residence and classes, and a lot of other feedback you never knew about.
Forums are also a valuable source of information. Here you will likely find inaccurate information and rumors being spread by random users. This is really important to stop because no matter how impressive your recruitment team is, students still select a university based on the recommendations of others. Now would be the perfect time to interject and set the record straight. You are probably already aware of College Confidential and The Student Room, which are very popular sites where students talk about college. But students also frequent fashion forums, video game message boards, and sports websites where they often mention your university.
Facebook is not very useful for social media monitoring since most students keep their posts private.
Universities are still able to read the comments on their official pages but what students actually say behind their personal walls is more of a mystery. However, with the recent Timeline update, we’ve found that an increasing number of posts are being made public. This is probably because the new privacy controls are confusing for new Timeline users and this situation likely won’t last forever. Therefore, Facebook only offers marginal value for higher ed when monitoring social media.
Universities can also benefit from monitoring their brand on YouTube. Now that smartphones contain video cameras, students often capture and upload videos taken from around campus. A number of incidents have occurred where students have uploaded inappropriate videos associated with the university. These range from fights on campus to lewd behavior in campus dorms. Universities that are monitoring for these situations can take appropriate action immediately and thwart a potential crisis.
These tips should help any university or college starting out with social media monitoring. We’ll explore the topic more in-depth in future posts.