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Monitoring conversation on Twitter

I wrote earlier about UniSA using Twitter and I mentioned it’s also possible – to a certain extent – to monitor what people are saying on Twitter. This can provide valuable insight to us, or any, organisation about what we’re doing well, or not.

So how can you monitor what people are saying on Twitter?

If you go the web address – http://search.twitter.com/ and enter a search term – eg UniSA into the search box and click the Search button, you’ll see everyone’s who’s used the term ‘UniSA’ in their tweet.

The only trouble with using UniSA as a search term is that the University of South Africa uses this acronym too and wading through results can be a bit time-consuming (hint – clicking through to the person’s Twitter page might inform you as to their location).  A search using the term University of South Australia yields results mainly from the media.

It may be that Twitter takeup is more predominant in South Africa than South Australia and we’ll catch up here soon and therefore have more to monitor.

It is also possible to subscribe via RSS to the search results so they show up in your feed reader to save you remembering to have a look in Twitter search whenever you remember to do it.

 Note that, unlike Facebook, it is possible to view Twitter pages without having an account or being a friend.

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Twitter at UniSA?

twitter Pictures, Images and PhotosWe have dipped our toes, and are starting to get our feet wet into the sea that is social media with accounts on Flickr, YouTube, Facebook and blogging but are yet to delve into Twitter. At least I think so as I’m unaware of any UniSA specific Twitter accounts. Updated: UniSA are now on Twitter.

There are myriad uses for Twitter, but first of all, what is it?

Twitter is a micro-blogging platform which allows 140 character status type updates and a very quick way of getting the news out there. When the plane crashed into the Hudson River people were Twittering about it before news reports happened. It was also an immediate way of finding out what was happening with the Victoria bushfires.

As a regular reader of social media type blogs, and others, Twitter is mentioned a lot and while I can’t find out how many users there are, its use is very widespread as Barack Obama,  Stephen Fry, and you can see others on Twitterholic use it. I read just as much about Twitter as I do about Facebook, if not more, and its recently taken off in a big way as more and more people use it.

So how could Twitter be used within higher education? My initial thought was that it would be good in an emergency or crisis situation and hopefully we won’t have one of those. But there are other potential uses. 

Jeremy Wilburn suggests using it as a substitute for live chat in admissions. For us it could be Campus Central and perhaps Student Admin using it to help out new students enrol and feel their way around studying at UniSA.

Mike Volpe on HubSpot suggests we could engage our CEO (our Vice Chancellor) in Twitter, have live updates about events, or keep in touch with media.

I had a scout around to see which higher education institutions are using it, or what Twitter might be used for in higher ed. This is what I found:

So there’s some reading to keep you going for a bit.

But I haven’t mentioned another powerful use for Twitter, that is monitoring the conversation about an organisation. That’s for the next post.

Quick Response (QR) codes

UniSA Quick Response (QR) codeUniSA have recently started a pilot using QR codes on some of its publications. QR codes only recently came across my radar when a friend mentioned them to me so when I saw a code (similar to image on left) on one of those big cardbooard movie advertisements that cinema foyers have, I knew what it was.

What is a QR code? QR stands for Quick Response. A QR code is kind of like a barcode that’s on just about everything we buy, but a QR code can hold a lot more information like web addresses and other textual information like contact information.

We’ve written more info about what QR codes are, and we’ve even got an explanation video on how to read them.

Social media explained in plain English

I came across this video today and it explains social media in layman’s terms.

And icecream is the perfect analogy to use on a really hot day like today.

Social Networking and Student Recruitment

Universities are increasingly promoting the brand of their institutions through SNS to attract the brightest domestic and international students. A prediction by Dr. Daniel Guhr, an American consultant who addressed the Australian International Education Conference in Melbourne late last year, said Australian Universities were “likely to surrender to the lawlessness of cyberspace and embrace such sites to recruit students within the next 5 years.”

The rise of social networking sites is changing the face of recruitment and alters the ways in which a prospective student conducts his/her information search. In the past, students would rely on information sent to them via mail, program guides, school visits and expos etc- where the universities remained in control of content. Even online chat rooms were a controlled medium as recruitment officers had inherent control over content and the ability to respond directly to problematic conversations and to be responsive to concerns and questions. Today, with the explosion of SNS, prospective students can read what others have posted and gather information distributed by a range of parties. In effect, the content posted online often cannot be controlled by the universities.

Due to the nature of SNS, universities are sometimes subject to unfavourable comments posted online. Dr Guhr says that universities should not try and control anything on the internet, and that those who had, had only made themselves look foolish. He was referring to a situation where a staff member at the Australian National University amended the university’s Wikipedia profile to describe the institution in glowing terms instead of the neutral tone preferred by the site. The entry was “peacocked”- badged with a picture of a peacock to draw attention to the fact it was parading its feathers.  In this example, the university was trying to manage its image, however correcting misinformation posted online and guiding the tone in public conversation forums can work in the university’s favour.

Universities have to be present across a variety of sites given the audience’s tendency to zip between sites. UniSA already has a presence across a range of sites including Facebook, Second Life, You Tube, Flickr and a number of blogs. However, simply acquiring a presence on these sites is not enough. They need to engage with the audience, have a high degree of human interaction and personal connection and need to be seen as both credible and useful.  SNS is another component in the recruitment process and when used in conjunction with other recruitment activities, can potentially be a strong marketing tool.

More UniSA videos on YouTube

We started a University of South Australia YouTube channel in May of this year. Since then 105 videos have been uploaded. Most of the videos are student testimonial type ones.

There are also some others like ‘Tomorrow’ which has been the most popular.

We also add many of these videos to our corporate website but YouTube provides another channel for marketing UniSA to people who might not otherwise visit our website.

View our other videos on YouTube.

Components of a blog

A blog is a website that is updated quite freqently and its content is written chronologically, usually with the latest information towards the top. As a blog is a standalone entity it should include information that lets you know what it’s about and who it’s written by. All too often this information is missing and without some back story it can drive people away because there’s no apparent authority behind it.

The About page

The one thing that I think should be included on all blogs is an About page. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of text, just something that says what your blog is about.

As blogs are usually a lot more personal than a corporate website (even if they are corporate blogs) it is appropriate to include information about the author/s behind the writing of the blog.

Questions a reader might ask are:

  • Why is the blog being written in the first place?
  • What do the author/s know about the subject matter?

Contact page

I think it’s courteous to have a facility on your blog so people can easily contact you. Perhaps your readers want to contact you away from the public face of each post’s comments. I know I’ve tried to contact people to let them know of a broken link, for instance, and if I can’t find the contact information I just don’t bother.

This is easy to do in WordPress as a page. There’s even a form built in that you can use. See our Contact page. If you don’t have this option, your email information will suffice.

Corporate information

If you are writing a blog as part of your organisation’s business then some sort of corporate branding is probably needed. UniSA has a Branding and styleguide which has all the information and resources needed for UniSA branding.

It’s also pertinent to let your readers know that you are writing as a staff member, in my case a staff member of UniSA and we have that covered here, both in the blog title and in the About page. 

Subscription service 

The beauty of blogging software is that it has subscription services (RSS feeds) built in. Hopefully people want to subscribe to your blog so they’re notified of any updates and you should make it easy to do so. This WordPress blog has this covered in two ways.  One – is an email subscription service and the other is subscribing via RSS.

Email subscriptions will allow readers who’ve never heard of a RSS reader to be easily notified of any new posts available on your blog.

The above are the main components of a blog, but of course the content is what will keep people coming back.

Did You Know 3.0

Worth a watch, wow, I did not know

Did You Know 3.0

Social Networking an Opportunity for University Marketers

SNS (Social Networking Sties) in general, not just Facebook, have changed the way our market/ audiences communicate with each other. They can spread the word about positive and negative experiences, issues thoughts and beliefs in a matter of seconds and because the audiences can tune into what they want to hear the impact of the message is increased.

Our prospective students, for example, those leaving school, are the most informed generation due to their exposure and access to the internet, which one would expect to see continue and increase with every generation. The ability to make decisions based on information generated from the trial of products and services by others has changed the landscape and rules by which we market. The impact of our markets having access to this information increases the value, focus and importance of generating positive experiences and being strategic enough to leverage off them.

Positive experiences…I am not talking about fabricated student testimonials and bought Istock images, but organic, natural, real, images, comments and videos of your students and your campuses, the things that prospective students engage with and share with others. I agree that direct marketing through SNS would be seen as invasive but the great thing about SNS is that you can be direct with our being direct; the SNS does it for you. Those that do it wrong are seen as invasive because they don’t know how and don’t understand how SNS work.

Facebook provides users (our prospective students) with the opportunity to select information they want to receive or indicate that they have interest in. For example a person can become a “fan of, friend of or even part of a group” lets call it University X. This gives X the opportunity to communicate with them about X just by posting information on the core site which in turn notifies the person that X has posted something. This therefore creates a direct but indirect communication channel between X and audience but does so by through removing the marketer from the process. This communication process is different from sending a person an email and ringing them, they wanted to receive this information and therefore listen and react in a positive nature.

For SNS to actually function it needs a revenue model, most sites, Facebook included use onsite advertising to generate funds to keep the site alive. Facebook gives marketers the opportunity to advertise to selected audiences based on their profile information of which includes level of education and age. Marketers can choose from advertising to generate traffic to their external website or alternatively generate traffic to their Fan Page on the site, an activity currently being used by a number of Australian universities.  

Based on just these points, I would disagree that SNS are not a primary or effective tool for marketing or communicating to prospective students, I would say it is the opposite, especially for international students. The key to success is to be creative, strategic and truthful, you can’t just canvas like other media and if you do then it results in negative experiences. I know that if I were coming from the other side of the world to study in a foreign country, I would want to hear what others thought and what experiences they had and not just take the words in a glossy book as the truth.

SNS by all means are not the sole answer to increasing student numbers, they are as any marketer would know part of a marketing mix and should be used in conjunction with other activities. SNS should be utilised as a tool for online linkage and engagement. Why not let the market speak, listen you never know, you may learn something that might just change the way you market your university.

Social networking site usage

Here’s an interesting article from a website called ‘Web Strategy by Jeremiah’ who writes about Social Networks Site Usage: Visitors, Members, Page Views, and Engagement by the Numbers in 2008.

Have a read of the article. It talks about the huge growth in Facebook – ‘… the 4th most-trafficked website in the world.’ The article also has a number of links off to other sites that talk about the growth of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace etc, and the membership of these sites.

Facebook is the most widely used social network within Australia according to a recent study, but if you’re trying to market internationally, then there are more popular ones. View the map within the article to find out what’s used where.

But, having established that Facebook is very widely used within Australia, it might not be the best marketing tool for attracting students to study here, or anywhere for that matter. At a recent AMA symposium by the Art and Science Group, the role of social networking was talked about for students’ college choice (it’s an American study but I’m sure it would apply here also).

Some of their conclusions were:

  • SNS not a primary or effective marketing/communications tool for prospective students
  • Direct marketing through SNS may be seen as an invasion of private space and become counter productive

We don’t use our UniSA Facebook page as a direct marketing tool for prospective students, but it is a place to share information about latest news etc and the fanbase is steadily growing.