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Published February 15th 2019

Research Spotlight: Campus Sonar’s Study Into Online Benchmarks for Higher Education Institutions

New research helps teams in higher education to benchmark their social performance against similar institutions.

“There’s a real lack of awareness of how much online conversation is occurring about US colleges,” says Liz Gross.

It’s a problem that she and her team at Campus Sonar are looking to solve with their new research into conversations around higher education institutions.

The team used Brandwatch Analytics to identify trends in mention volume, sentiment, topics, and owned/earned conversation among colleges in the US, enabling social teams to benchmark their own reporting against their peers.

“Over the last two years we’ve observed that most institutions don’t have the resources to measure and assess their online conversation. This benchmark study provides a better understanding of the general online presence of higher education institutions with the goal of helping your institution determine where it might fit within the industry and your peer group,” writes Amber Sandall, Campus Sonar’s Research Manager.

Some key findings

The report looks at conversation generally, at conversation around alumni and prospective students, as well as at conversation relating to athletics.

Here are some of the findings from those areas:

General conversation

The team found that mention volumes varied wildly from institution to institution:

“The annual online conversation volume for the sample ranges from 21 mentions (a very small, private, nonprofit faith-based institution in the Southeast) to about 9 million mentions (a large, private, nonprofit doctoral institution in New England) from August 2017 to July 2018, with a median value of 3,509 mentions.”

Generally speaking it is large, doctoral institutions that generate the most conversation but, as the study finds later, athletics conversation can help level the playing field.

Prospective students conversation

Generating interest among prospective students on social media has obvious benefits – if institutions can create a positive image around their culture and the student experience, they are more likely to gain more enrollments.

“Students are online, engaging in conversations that influence their enrollment decision. Each conversation is an opportunity to provide an admitted student with the information they need to make their decision. Listening for and responding to these online conversations can have a very clear ROI in the form of tuition revenue or fundraising.”

– Amber Sandall, Campus Sonar

Of course, Campus Sonar acknowledges that it’s a two-way exchange. While the university might be generating all kinds of positive content around the student experience, the conversations actual students are having about their experiences are equally (if not more) important. Having an awareness of earned and owned conversation is key.

Athletics conversation

Campus Sonar’s study highlights the impact athletics programs can have on conversation volumes around higher education.

Apparently, institutions with an athletic affiliation have an average conversation volume that’s 16x larger than those that don’t.

Athletics gives lesser-known institutions the chance to gain positive conversation around their brand, particularly if they make full use of content around their athletics programs.

Read the report

You can read Campus Sonar’s study for free by clicking here.

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