In the US, there are almost 5,000 higher education institutions. This statistic illustrates one thing clearly: your school is definitely up against a lot of competition.

Most educational institutions will already have some sort of social media presence included in their marketing strategy—yours included. But while you understand the value of reaching out and engaging your audience through these channels, are you aware of the importance of listening? To attract prospective students, retaining them, and maintaining good relationships with alumni, it’s important that your school is able to understand exactly what your audience wants and needs. And achieving this means paying attention to what your audience has to say.

How? By supporting your marketing efforts in three critical ways—

1. Providing relevant content

With proper social listening, you can easily offer relevant and unique content via your chosen marketing channels. This can include your website, blog, emailers or newsletter, and especially your social media platforms.

Armed with the insight delivered by social listening, you can easily learn about what your audience is talking about and make sure that content you deliver via your own channels addresses their interests and concerns.

You’d be surprised at how varied and diverse the topics that interest them are. It can range from school related concerns to news and trending topics—and if you’re not paying attention, you’re missing the opportunity to make a huge impact on your audience.

2. Increase engagement from your audience

Now, more than ever, the need to nurture the relationship between your institution and your students is more evident. The competitive nature of the industry means an institution that can communicate and engage well with their audience stands out from the rest.

Listening to communities online and using information you’ve learned from their conversations will help you engage them, based on things that actually interest them. This now gives you an opportunity to talk about things that matter to them, which can include institutional policies, organizational changes, or even curriculum design.

3. Growing your network

It’s quite evident that being on the right social media channels means you have an opportunity to grow your institution’s network. Building a database of students within your social media is a given. But outside of your student body, social listening helps you build and nurture connections that contribute to the success of your institution.

Through social listening, you can extend your network beyond students and include alumni, research partners, policy makers, influencers, key personalities—basically anyone who you believe, shares your values and vision.

Keep in mind as well that social listening isn’t limited to just monitoring your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Insight into your audience’s psyche can also be gleaned from forums, comment sections, even microblogs.

“Whether we like it or not, online is real life. That is how the general public gets much of their information today. The general public is trusting what people are saying online about their experiences, brands, about your campus,” shares Dr. Liz Gross. “Social listening is like walking through the campus quad to hear what people are saying between classes, or eavesdropping in a crowd during a campus event.”

Quite simply, what is said online really matters. And if that seems daunting to you, keep these points in mind:

  • Social listening can be scaled depending on your needs. With the right set of tools, you can track simple keywords or monitor larger, more complicated sets of social data.
  • Reaping the benefits of social listening means preparing to hear both positive and useful insight, as well negative feedback from your audience–so be sure to approach this with an open mind, knowing that you will ultimately be able to approach these constructively.
  • It can also be used to provide competitive insight. Just be sure to focus more on staying up to date on what your core audience needs instead of obsessing about what your competition is doing.
  • Learning about best practices can help you improve customer service and address them quickly, before it affects your institution’s reputation or brand image.
  • This can also help you analyze and measure your progress via quantitative metrics, making it easier to determine which areas need improvement.

“Real-time insights about the conversation related to your campus or other topics of interest to you can inform your marketing strategy, your recruitment, enrollment, and retention strategy, your alumni engagement strategy, and how you handle a crisis,” adds Dr. Gross.

You can listen to the full podcast here.

For questions or comments about this article, feel free to leave a message in the comment section below.

And if you want to learn more about how you can leverage on digital media and improve your institution’s content marketing efforts, get in touch with us today.