Colleges & Universities Need To Buy Social Media Monitoring Software

Quite often, I see higher education social media professionals dreaming about all the things they would do if they had more staff. The desire for more staff is understandable, since it seems the majority of higher ed social media teams consist of one person (based on a very unscientific Twitter poll I conducted earlier this year). During a January 2016 episode of Higher Ed Live about social listening for admissions offices, I submitted a question for all three panelists—if you had additional funds available, would you seek more people or more/better tools? The panelists overwhelmingly chose people. I asked the same question on Twitter, and “more people” was once again the prevailing response.

More people will give you the capacity to create more content, which seems to be top of mind for many pros. But will more content make your program more successful? Or are you better off making sure you have a crystal-clear picture of what’s already being said about your institution online, so you can better engage your community and learn more about what’s on their minds?

Why You Need Social Media Monitoring Software

Social listening is integral to a successful social media program. Whether you’re interested in reputation management, pro-active customer service, competitive analysis, or audience research, you need a paid tool to effectively monitor social media (here’s how to choose one). Why? Because the social web is more than Twitter and your campus Facebook page and groups. It’s Instagram, discussion forums like College Confidential, StudentDoctor.net and Reddit, comments on the Huffington Post and personal blogs, public Facebook status updates, and Tumblr posts.

No matter how many staff you have, you cannot find all the mentions of your institution across the 80 million+ online sources without software.

Software does all the searching for you based on pre-determined queries, alerts you when new mentions are found, and provides you with tools to aggregate and analyze the results to determine volume trends, sentiment, sources, topics of conversation, and influencers that participate in the conversation.

Software can give you the confidence to tell your boss that when someone talks about your institution online, you know about it immediately. It can provide you the tools to measure common higher ed social media success metrics, like share of voice and sentiment or response time. And, it can vastly increase the efficiency and productivity of a one-person social media team, at half the cost of an additional staff member (or less). Good software will cost you $10,000 – $25,000 per year. That might seem like a big number, but take a breath and read on.

How Many Social Media Mentions Are Your Missing?

If you work in a central marketing and communications office, I don’t think you can afford not to buy a comprehensive social media monitoring and analytics product. Every mention of your institution is a potential lead, PR opportunity (or nightmare), chance to address a complaint, or a crucial piece of audience research. Here are three real-life examples of campus conversations on the social web I searched for with good social media monitoring software on March 6, 2016.

  • A small liberal arts institution in the northeast United States had over 1,400 online mentions in one week, only 17% of which were from Twitter.
  • A mid-size private Jesuit institution in the midwestern United States returned over 400 mentions in one week, with only 7% coming from Twitter.
  • A comprehensive Canadian university with almost 40,000 students had 1,300 mentions in one week, and 15% were from Twitter.

Finding The Money

If you realize you need social media monitoring software, but can’t fathom getting the budget, think about the following cost-savings measures.

  • Do you subscribe to a press-clipping service? If most news outlets you regularly get clippings from are online, you may be able to drop that subscription and replace it with social media monitoring—just confirm with your chosen vendor that those sources will be included in your searches.
  • Was your office caught off-guard by a PR situation that started online within the last year? What was the cost of that in staff time and unexpected expenses? A social media monitoring solution will alert you of potential issues immediately.
  • Does your admissions staff comb through College Confidential and other discussion boards searching for mentions of your campus? Automate those procedures to increase efficiency and free up resources.

So, what do you think? Are you already using social media monitoring software? If so, what value has it provided? If not, are you considering implementing it?

Note: Hopefully it’s obvious, but no vendor asked me to write this post, nor was I compensated. This is my personal opinion.

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