#MCS3: Online Reputation IS Your Reputation: Are You Listening?

Liz Gross, Director of CampusSonar and a long-time evangelist for social listening, kicked off the second round of morning sessions today with a look at how to help manage your online reputation.

We have a trust problem in higher ed; large percentages of people distrust “the system,” and 60% of people put their most faith in “a person like me.” And reputations can be made and destroyed overnight, because of “an emboldened public who has seen Twitter bring down corporate titans and foment socio-political unrest around the world.” (from IHE)

For bad (United Airlines and the Dao incident, Joel Osteen and Hurricane Harvey) or good (Starbucks’ made-for-social-media unicorn frappucino), social listening is real life: transcribed, categorized and analyzed to provide your institution with the insights it needs to support data-driven strategies. You can take all conversations, run the right queries, and create results that will help drive your decision-making.

Dr. Gross talked about four strategic uses in higher education:

Reputation Management – What “PR” used to be. Modern reputation management includes knowing about issues before your president does, being able track the origin and spread of issues in real time, and to quantify it (Is it four angry people tweeting, or is this a much larger issue?)… and to adjust accordingly.

Prior to November 2016, Ohio State did a lot of social listening to track, and because of their size, they worked to manage a query that keyed in on issues of campus security, boycotting, tuition costs, weather, and Greek life — but didn’t use the word “stabbing” or “knife,” which caused them to miss a violent incident on campus right away. However, being prepared to focus their listening allowed them to get a handle on the incident quickly, which enabled them to assist students with individual concerns while also managing brand reputational issues on a large scale.

Customer Service – “Help the haters!” Social media users are unhappy with response times. Despite the fact that higher ed doesn’t like using the “C” word, students are our customers, and it’s key that we’re able to find ways to manage expectations. Statistics show that less than 2/3 of businesses respond to complaints in 24 hours; this is way too low! In fact, a Sprout Social study ranked education 13th (!!) out of 16 business sections in brand engagement in the first quarter of 2017.

Market Research – Market research is just research! Traditionally, we think of “market research” as people with clipboards asking questions, but the internet allows us to make sure our research is fast, flexible, longitudinal, quantifiable, and most of all, human. We have access to unfettered options all over, and Dr. Gross says that modern market researchers need to be better at making use of them. While they may not stand up to the scientific scrutiny of the mall clipboard survey, the thoughts and opinions that we all express online, every day, are authentic and have the potential to provide valuable insight to our organizations.

Brand Management – Modern brand managers need to understand the online conversation about their brand. They need to understand the concept of “share of voice,” which helps quantify the effect of brand marketing; to understand what role campus content plays in the online conversation; the difference and interplay between earned and owned media; and to utilize digital reputation metrics.

Schools NEED tools to make this happen, particularly at scale. You want great data, AND powerful search AND you want it to be free. But you can’t have all three. Social listening is not a social media investment; it’s a strategic investment to get closer to your audience, to better manage your reputation, and to meet modern consumer expectations. Dr. Gross whole-heartedly believes that social listening is going to help higher education re-establish the public’s trust and allow campuses to start building more authentic relationships with their constituencies.