Social Media Analytics

A conversation I had last week with the CEO of a social media start-up, along with an article from the February 4, 2011 issue of the Chronicle for Higher Education titled, “Can New Online Rankings Really Measure Colleges’ Brand Strength? Unlikely, Experts Say” by Kathryn Masterson has me thinking about social media analytics.  The article poses some interesting questions that colleges and universities are beginning to ask:

  • “Colleges and marketers are just starting to try to understand how to measure the success of their social-media efforts, says Mr. [Michael] Stoner.  Many are counting “touches” – the number of Twitter followers, the hits to a web site, the number of friends or comments on a Facebook page.  The more difficult question, he says, is what do these measurements mean?  Do tweets, blog posts, and Facebook “likes” translate into someone choosing your college, recommending it to a friend, attending an alumni event, or making a donation?”
  • “Are more people now seeing that the university is creating the next generation of leaders, that Stanford faculty are experts in their field, and that the university is making a difference in solving world problems?  Do alumni feel connected to the community?”

The few university and college integrated social media communications plans I’ve seen make little or no mention of using analytics, or even a shared dashboard technology platform, both of which could be used in an attempt to help answer portions of these questions. 

However, rankings of college and university online influence are beginning to be publicized.  This might change the scope of social media strategies going forward along with how information and technology are used by institutions that seek to improve rankings.  Klout’s Twitter analysis report on most influential colleges on Twitter and Global Language Monitor’s “TrendTopper MediaBuzz” college rankings were each mentioned in Kathryn Masterson’s Chronicle of Higher Education article.  Both attempt to provide relative indicators of brand equity and online influence based on rankings of higher education institutions using different criteria derived from social media sources.

There are other tools  available to measure online influence as well, some of which are nicely outlined at onefortyHootSuite is one example of a social media dashboard that has grown in popularity and is likely to be found in use at many campuses.  SAS Social Media Analytics is a somewhat different offering that appears to be more geared toward enterprise-wide applications and seems to go beyond monitoring of activity.  But there is little evidence that any of these offerings are being applied as an enterprise-wide platform within higher education institutions for the coordinated use of social media across (or often even within) academic programs, constituent relations, student services, public announcements, etc.  The sprawling use of social media continues without much overall strategy beyond enacting policies for appropriate use, awareness campaigns and “how to” type of training. 

Has any higher education institution made it a priority to implement an enterprise-wide platform to provide integrated views of aggregated information that identify who was reached through a given use of social media, the context within which groups or individuals were engaged through such use, and what sort of response the outreach may have triggered?