Education Spotlight: 4 ways social listening will help universities

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    1.Reputation Management

    The most important function of social listening is in the practice of reputation management. Social listening tools have the ability to identify when your organisation is being publicly mentioned online. This means that you can respond to conversations involving your brand in a proactive way as they happen, rather than being reactive after the conversation becomes viral. Social listening tools enable you to know, in real time, when your organisation is part of online discussions, positive and negative.

    Talkwalker sentiment analysis dataviz tool - Coke vs Pepsi vs Dr Pepper

    Sample Talkwalker sentiment analysis results

    A key purpose of social listening is to identify reputation gaps. A reputation gap explains the difference between the way an organisation attempts to represent itself and the perception of that organisation in the minds of its target market. Not identifying (or even worse, ignoring) an issue can quickly result in it developing into a crisis that rapidly erodes organisational reputation and places stakeholder relationships in jeopardy.

    In a Higher Educational context social listening will quickly alert the marketing and communication team when a university is being spoken about online in a negative way. For example, if a prospective or current student is complaining about a customer service experience. This provides a valuable opportunity for the university to follow up with the person posting and with the customer service team to investigate what happened.

    In his book, Hug Your Haters, Jay Baer explains that people who take the time to post online about their negative experiences and tag your organisation are most likely doing so as they are still seeking assistance from you. This presents an excellent opportunity to turn their negative experience into a positive. However, if you are not conducting social listening consistently, you will miss these mentions.

    2. Identify Opportunities to Engage

    On the flip-side, social listening will identify fantastic opportunities to engage positively with prospective/current students and staff online. Incorporating relevant keywords (short and long-tail) into social listening searches can help university marketers identify pertinent conversations in which they can appropriately engage.

    For example, social listening will identify online questions and comments relating to Open Day, so university marketers can join the conversation to engage with the prospective students (or parents of prospective students) posting it. Doing so can help to develop positive brand associations and organisational relationships to assist with the decision-making process.

    Active social listening is also an effective way to find and curate positive User-Generated-Content that mentions your university. For example, resharing posts from commencing students at the beginning of the semester and including a welcome message from the university or retweeting an announcement by an academic staff member when winning a research grant or award.

    social listening theme cloud

    Quick Search Keyword cloud

    3. Market Research

    Social listening can also help with market research, monitoring what your target market is discussing online about university study. Understanding these conversations and identifying what is important (and unimportant) to your target audience can greatly assist when creating social media content that connects and resonates with the people you are trying to attract.

    Conversations between new students about what they fear most about starting universities can provide the basis for a series of social media content addressing these topics to provide reassurance. Similarly, discussions between prospective students about the attributes of their favourite universities is valuable information for social media marketers in the higher education space by providing insights to assess how their institution compares and what enhancements can be made if it doesn’t rank highly.

    Free search demographic

    Talkwalker’s Free Social Search

    4. Competitor Analysis

    Regular social listening will monitor the mentions of your competitors. This is helpful because it will identify where their deficiencies exist. If your social listening data is returning information that shows your competitors underperforming in a particular area this presents you with an amazing opportunity. By identifying this deficiency it means that your organisation can step up and own this space by attracting a competitors’ target audience.

    Using a social listening tool to monitor your competitors will provide insight into how their social media content is performing. Posts performing well can provide inspiration when creating content for your university because it demonstrates what resonates positively with the same target audience.

    Two Powerful Social Listening Tools

    With the benefits of social listening apparent, what are the best ways to undertake this function? My book, Strategic Social Media Management - Theory and Practice, includes a list of effective social listening tools, but the following two are my all time favourites:

    Talkwalker Quick Search

    Talkwalker Quick Search is another powerful social listening tool that can track mentions across a whole range of sources including online news, social channels, newsletters, and podcasts. The data provided by Quick Search will help in learning more about the people mentioning your organisation online, where they are located, reach of their mentions, and the most commonly used words, hashtags, and emojis used in the posts. All of this information can help in crafting relevant responses.

    Google Alerts

    Google Alerts is a free tool that allows users to track particular keywords when they are published on the internet. It is an effective way to keep track of when your organisation’s name is being mentioned. It is a powerful method of reputation management because you can set it to receive an email as soon as your nominated key words are published online allowing faster response times than a traditional Google search. Google Alerts is also a helpful tool to source curated content for social media posts. For example, creating an alert around the key words “higher education Australia” will return industry news that can be then shared on other social channels internally and estnerally when appropriate.


    This blog post explained why social listening is of great benefit to marketers and social media managers in the higher education space. Social listening provides opportunities for proactive:

    • Reputation management
    • Engagement
    • Market research
    • Competitor analysis

    While there are many social listening tools available, the benefits of Google Alerts and Talkwalker Quick Search were explored to assist you on your university’s social listening journey.

    Do you undertake a regular social listening process for your University? If so, what are your favourite social listening tools? Please share your experience in the comments section below.

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