What Can Social Media Analytics Do for Higher Education?

Karine Joly is executive director of Higher Ed Experts, a professional development company, and editor of collegewebeditor.com.

Measuring the return on investment of social media initiatives isn’t easy—definitely far more difficult than using Facebook, Twitter and the like.

However, while 68 percent of the respondents to the second CASE survey on social media practices in higher education think measuring the ROI of their social media initiatives is tough, it’s not impossible.

It’s not even THAT difficult.

You just need to learn how to use social media analytics—and then get on the program (and if you want to find out where you stand when it comes to web and social media analytics, make sure you take my survey about The State of Online Analytics in Higher Education by Thursday, May 12).

Stephane Hamel Stephane Hamel, a certified web analyst and a recognized expert in anaytics, teaches the art and science of online analytics at the University of British Columbia and the University of Laval. As one of the rare university instructors in this specific area in North America, he has a very different perspective on social media ROI than most in higher education.

That’s why I was curious to hear Stephane’s take on some of the questions that were raised after the CASE survey results were released last month. I think you’ll find his answers interesting.

1. Many in higher education think it’s impossible—or very difficult—to measure social media outcomes and ROI. Is it?

Yes, indeed, it’s not easy. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it! Measuring outcomes starts by defining our goals—are we into social media to boost our ego and get the most Twitter followers and Facebook likes or are we into it to rally new students, create a sense of community or simply better serve them by communicating where they are? I like to think of social media strategies in four quadrants ranging from negative/positive sentiment on one end, and level of activity on the other. Should we engage (positive/high activity), observe (positive/low activity), watch & respond (negative/low activity) or enter into a dialog (negative/high activity)? This, in turn, will drive what we should measure.

2. Some institutions have started to rely on Klout scores to measure their social media activities, what do you think about this practice?

Klout and other tools are a starting point but they measure the microcosm of social media. They certainly don’t measure the real business outcomes such as enrolling new students and making sure they are satisfied—just like any other business in fact!

3. Can you share one thing institutions can do to better measure the results of their social media activities?

Very simple: define your social media objectives. Do they align with your core strategies and values? It’s amazing the number of organizations that are jumping on the social media band wagon because they’ve been told they need to be there, but have absolutely no clue as to why, exactly, they are doing it. It is fine to experiment and make the jump, but it’s much better to define clear objectives. And no, having thousands of followers or doing it only for “brand awareness” aren’t good objectives in themselves. Social media marketing needs to lead to something else!

Have YOU defined clear social media objectives at your institution? What are they?

2 responses to “What Can Social Media Analytics Do for Higher Education?

  1. Great interview article and couldn’t agree more! Working with so many higher education clients, we definitely have seen the evolution from website redesigns to website content management systems to analytics and now the social media movement. But too many organizations forget that even though the medium and tools may change the foundational guiding principals remain the same. Goals and objectives should drive website content decisions, marketing efforts, analytics measurements and, yes, social media strategy. And if you later need help with the tools to quantify your goals and assist your efforts, I know of several. Count me in for your ongoing efforts to promote these keys for higher education :).

  2. Excellent piece with advice that is stellar: objectives first, align them with institutional goals, then get on social media. Keep the discussion going. Also, I totally agree about Klout. The real value there is in looking beyond the “score” and mining the wealth of other data there. For instance, Klout is a great place to mine for leads, services, and best practices by hunting down “influencers” in a topic area. It’s not so much about (me) on Klout, but others that are there as well.

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