Industry Insights and Benchmarks

Benchmarks empower you to analyze your campus’s online conversation behavior against a comparable sample. And they help you move beyond vanity metrics.


Metrics that Matter

Vanity metrics like followers, engagement, and impressions don’t assess your impact on campus priorities. A better way to assess your social media efforts is to measure the entire social media conversation about your campus—not just your contribution to it—along with direct goal-related conversions prompted by social media content.


Conversation Volume

Conversation volume is a monthly count of online mentions about your campus. It indicates how many people are talking about campuses and how much they’re talking about them. Measuring overall conversation gives you a starting point to evaluate whether your campus conversation compares with campuses similar to yours. When you evaluate your own conversation against benchmarks, you’ll start to see the trends and characteristics that make your campus conversation unique. 

Including and Excluding Athletics

Athletics drives conversation for campuses so it’s important to look at your conversation volume with and without it. Regardless of your division or association, athletics contributes to everything from recruitment to philanthropy to community relations. All the while impacting perceptions of your brand. Without it, you lose critical awareness with key audiences. Making your class and raising money without that awareness, while trying to balance the budget, is a difficult path to go down. 

We saw during the pandemic that some campuses lost brand awareness when athletics went away. These were campuses that had too much of their brand portfolio in athletics; without it they were left with an unbalanced portfolio that didn’t meet the needs of their campus.



Sentiment is a barometer of how a community feels about your campus. Understanding the nuances associated with positive, negative, and neutral conversation is critical for campuses to better plan, prepare, and respond to all kinds of situations and conversation topics. 

It’s also helpful to understand seasonal sentiment trends to anticipate when and how to create and amplify certain kinds of content, or identify trends that fall outside of expected norms, which could indicate a crisis on the horizon.


Unique Authors

When we talk about unique authors, we’re looking at the number of individuals who contribute to conversation about your campus. Unique authors can indicate an active online community. 

The number of unique authors often increases substantially when you add in athletics. Increasing the number of people talking about your campus online is a good thing, even if the increase is driven by athletics. Many of those individuals have other connections to your campus as prospective students, alumni, or members of your community. 


Owned vs. Earned Conversation

Owned vs. earned conversation compares the amount of online content you control vs. conversation about you posted by other people. It’s the portion of online conversation generated by campus-affiliated accounts compared to others.

Owned Conversation

Generated by accounts affiliated with a campus such as the campus’s official social media account, athletics program, or educational department page. We count retweets of owned accounts as owned conversation.

Earned Conversation

Generated by those without a direct relationship to the campus, such as student-run clubs and organizations (e.g., Greek life), or others creating content about your campus (e.g., a student asking about your campus life on Reddit or a news site publishing a story about your campus).

It’s important to understand your overall online conversation generated by owned vs. earned conversation. Knowing your campus’s typical breakdown can inform goal setting and content strategy. Understanding your campus’s unique balance is also essential because deviations from your norm can indicate a potential crisis or noteworthy event, such as athletics enthusiasm or a newsworthy achievement from a professor or alum. 


Conversation Source

Conversation source tells you where online conversations about your campus happen. Understanding where your annual conversation occurs can inform where to invest your time and effort, and guide your content strategy. Conversation content sources are generally grouped into four categories. 

  • Social Media: Includes social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.
  • News: Includes sites labeled or promoted as news sources.
  • Forums: Includes forum sites like Reddit and College Confidential.
  • Blogs: Includes blog sites that primarily focus on individual or small group opinions.

Measure What Matters

Social media is part of an integrated marketing strategy, and every campus should treat it as the high-profile, high-potential communication channel it is. This includes assessing social media efforts against core campus goals, rather than the metrics provided by social media platforms. 

Measuring social media's impact on brand and enrollment allows leadership to make informed decisions about investments in social media staff and tools to impact strategic objectives.