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Good enrollment management and alumni affairs teams never let an inquiry go untouched. Whether through automation or personal outreach, responding to any level of interest from a prospect, current student, or graduate is key to converting inquiries to applications and engagements to donations.

Engage Prospective Students

Multiple conversation bubbles show student engagementOne of your institution's most important numbers is your number of enrolled students. As the admissions and enrollment teams move through their timeline, the end goal is to secure the student's enrollment and deposit. As prospective students move through each stage, they're faced with different decisions, questions, and worries. To find your right-fit students, it's important to speak their language and give them the right content at the right time. 

The fastest way to capture this information is through social listening. It helps you gain real-time insights related to the conversation about your campus or other topics of interest that might inform marketing strategy, recruitment, enrollment and retention strategy, alumni engagement strategy, and crisis management.

Mobile phone showing a text conversationIncrease Your Student Yield

If you're an enrollment professional, social listening can help you create strategies that increase your institution's yield. 

  • Understand your audience. Your audiences' online conversation provides you a window into their world—helping you understand what they're looking for so you can build content and communications that resonate.

  • Engage in conversation. Finding and engaging in prospective student conversation in real-time builds a connection between the students and your institution. The relationships you build with the students, translates into an enrollment decision.  

  • Make current students your ambassadors. When prospective students see current students they can relate to at your institution, it's easier for them to determine if they'll fit in and makes their enrollment decision easier. 

  • Reinforce your culture through social media. Use social media to show what your school is all aboutfeature unique aspects about your institution, current students, a day-in-the-life, etc. Creating digital connections with your audience is one more way to make students and parents feel special. 

Engage Current Students

Engaging current students is key to retention and future giving. When you identify what current students are interested in, how they communicate, and what’s important to them, you can profile them to increase the effectiveness of your interactions. Dr. Jay Le Roux Dillon uses the lens of Alumni Identity to measure how deeply a graduate's connection to their alma mater manifests. The more engaged and connected current students feel, the more likely they are to have a high Alumni Identity, therefore contributing to their institution's fundraising.

Social Listening = Modern Customer Service

One way to connect with current students is to provide customer service and respond to questions or complaints. Susie Kirk from Huie Library at Henderson State University uses social media to respond to students who are having issues at the library. In another example, Andrew Cassel from the University of Alaska uses Instagram to uncover content that students are sharing about his institution. 

Overall, modern consumers expect a fast response, but they're often unhappy with the response they receive to online complaints.

Donut chart showing 32% of social media complainers are happy with response time

32 percent of social media complainers are happy with response time

Donut chart showing that 39% of social media complainers expect a response in 1 hour

39 percent of social media complainers expect a response within one hour

In his book Hug Your HatersJay Baer detailed a 2015 study conducted by Edison Research about high consumer expectations. In spite of the high expectations, the Edison study found that only 63 percent of businesses respond to social media complaints within 24 hours.

As Susie and Andrew discovered, institutions can use social listening to: 

  • Meet or exceed response time expectations.

  • Find and respond to comments and complaints.

  • Analyze comments and identify process improvements.

And many social media managers are beginning to formalize campus processes so they can be more proactive and collaborative when handling customer service issues. 

Improve Brand Advocacy

Aside from engaging current students, another benefit of identifying and responding to complaints is brand advocacy. The Hug Your Haters study found that responding to complaints on social media or review sites boosted advocacy (as measured by Net Promoter Score) 20 to 25 percent. Individuals who complained in these places and didn’t receive a response reported an astounding 38 to 43 percent decline in advocacy—even though about half of them never expected a response in the first place. 

Using social listening to identify and respond to online complaints is an easy win for many campuses. With a relatively small investment in tools and automation to find and address complaints, an institution’s brand can receive the same boost it might have from spending more money on brand advertising.

Engaged Students Become Engaged Alumni

Various circles connected by dotted and solid lines to show that engaged students become engage alumniIf you work to engage students throughout their college journey, they'll become engaged alumni. But don't stop there. You need to keep a strong connection and work to engage those you weren't able to reach when they were students. The closer alumni feel to your institution, the more they'll feel compelled to give—both money and time.

  • Identify and nurture relationships with alumni referrals. When Campus Sonar partnered with Cardinal Stritch, we helped them identify influential alumni who were already talking about the university. Connecting with these active alumni increased real-time, authentic engagement. 

  • Collaborate across campus. Jon Horowitz suggests that creating an alumni strategy requires collaboration and objectivity. Work with others on campus to determine the stories behind the data.

  • Engage early and often. eCity Interactive provided some keys to engaging young alumni. One of them was to not wait until they're alumni—their first reaction will be that you want their money. Another tip is to ask for their most valuable resource—their time.

Identify Engagement Opportunities

Now that you know all of the benefits of using social listening to engage students, how do you find these opportunities? The proliferation of social media provides you with the opportunity to identify many previously undetected engagement opportunities on Twitter, Instagram, blogs, and forums like Reddit and College Confidential. The key to identifying them is to find prospective students, their family members, current students, and alumni who are talking about your institution rather than directly to it as they would on your Facebook page or when mentioning your Twitter account.

Whether you’re using enterprise social listening software or advanced Twitter searches, you can start using social listening to find engagement opportunities today.

Understand College Search and Consideration Language

To identify and prioritize engagement opportunities, you'll need to understand the way students, families, and alumni talk about your institution and apply some basic language principles to a search. Know how students refer to your institution and search for verbs and phrases that signal search and consideration. You can also find hidden engagement opportunities by using personal pronouns and familial terms. 

Write a Search Query 

If you have enterprise social listening tools, you can write extensive queries that ensure the relevancy of the results and search as many online conversation sources as possible. This is particularly important for campuses that have a common name. However, anyone can create an advanced Twitter search to identify engagement opportunities. 

Monitor in Real Time and Engage

Once you have queries to identify engagement opportunities, pay attention to them in as near real time as possible. Soon you’ll see opportunities to answer questions, provide encouragement, or address complaints. Not every single mention you identify requires a response—remember, you’re listening to conversations as if you’re overhearing them on campus. Think about that when you decide if you should enter the conversation. The response to some conversations may be best delivered offline (e.g., via email or in-person follow-up from a known administrator).

Strategic Implications of Student Engagement

Social listening is real life, which means that strategic social listening is real life transcribed, sorted, and analyzed to provide your institution with the insights you need to support data-driven, audience-centric strategies. Engaging with students provides you the appropriate inputs and analysis to achieve results in real-world outcomes and impact. It also provides you and your campus leaders with instant access to conversations about your institution from prospects, students, and alumni, so you can easily respond and:

  • Identify requests for information that weren’t made directly to campus

  • Provide helpful information at key decision points for students and their families

  • Celebrate achievements and accomplishments of the campus community

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Icon of a magnifying glass on a document to indicate social listening case studiesCultivate Real-time Authentic Engagement

We worked with Loyola Marymount University (LMU) to uncover new engagement opportunities. Our social listening analysis helped them see how connecting and engaging with prospective students who are active on social media supports admissions and retention. Read the case study to learn the insights we discovered and the campus outcomes for LMU. 

Download the LMU Case Study

We want to help you find insights and take action on your campus.
Contact us for more information on how we can partner!