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A Traveler's Guide to Social Listening Analysis: Off the Beaten Path

What’s involved in social listening analysis? Campus Sonar analysts work diligently with our clients to collect social listening data and report on reviews, segment conversations, and assess target markets. Analyst Traci Sesko takes you on a journey through her analysis for a Campus Sonar client, including the road blocks and strategic insights she discovers as she prepares their Social Listening Snapshot.

Campus Sonar blog image for A Traveler's Guide to Social Listening Analysis: Part 1, showing a plane that is flying off of a globePreparing for the Trip

A curious explorer of social listening data can find themselves chasing answers straight down a rabbit hole on a never-ending path of Why? until you’re so far gone, you forgot where you came from. You’re stuck. Where Am I?

Analysis Paralysis

How did I get here? How can I avoid this immobilizing dead end?

Destination Known

It’s easy to get lost when you don’t know where you’re going. Where are you headed? Fortunately, when I perform a client needs analysis, I know the destination. The client’s goals are top of mind when I, the analyst, set out on my journey. To ensure I don’t travel off course, the strategist serves as navigation, conducting exploratory calls with clients and frequent check-in’s to ensure I’m headed in the right direction as I prepare a Social Listening Snapshot.  

Packing Pros

As a constant over-packer, I live in fear that once I reach my final destination, I won’t have something I need. To keep myself organized and relieve stress before my departure, I create a checklist of items to pack. Packing for a trip to the Everglades looks a lot different than packing for a trip to the Arctic so there is tailoring involved depending on the destination−the same goes for social listening analysis. A research brief outlines the strategy to ensure I have everything I need to meet the client’s goals before I hit the road. Sometimes, I still forget my toothbrush.  

To illustrate this, let’s open my travel journal and reflect on my recent analyst excursions.

  • In this post, it’s easy to see how we, as dedicated analysts, veer off the beaten path to find the most robust guest insights.
  • Back in the driver’s seat, I explore how athletics steers brand perception off course.
  • In Part 3, I identify active pipeline areas for target marketing−definitely not child’s play.  

The Destination: Campus Student Union and Hotel!

Recently, Campus Sonar partnered with a campus client who wanted to understand how people talk about the campus student union and the hotel located within.

Packed and Ready to Go!

Setting out on this journey with another analyst, we created a research brief, outlining our strategy. Using terms provided by the client and our own initial internet searches, we wrote a sophisticated search query to capture conversations surrounding the union and the hotel using our social listening software.

Road Block

But early search results left us stranded−while visitors of the union shared their experiences via social media, guests of the union hotel did not.

This led us back to our initial searches. We observed that the union hotel appeared on popular hotel review sites, namely, Trip Advisor. For the most part, this was beyond the reach of our social listening software. But social listening analysis doesn’t mean reporting on conversations exclusive to social media platforms, rather, publicly available online conversations that matter to our clients. This road trip just went from an automatic to a manual.

Analysis Methodology

  • Sample: 25 guest reviews, reflecting the percentage of each rating found on TripAdvisor: 62% Excellent, 26% Very good, 9% Average, 2% Poor, 1% Terrible
  • Review site surveyed: Trip Advisor
  • Time period of analysis: September 1, 2016 to August 31, 2017

As a preview for a potential paying client, we limited our sample to 25 guest reviews. Once we collected our sample, we analyzed Trip Advisor reviews for trends and highlighted them for the client. The review trends identified were as follows:


Top Trend

Volume #

During the period analyzed, there were a total of 290 reviews. October 2016 and April 2017 had the highest volume of reviews. The heavy hitters for October were reviewers visiting for homecoming and business travel. In April, prospective students visited with their parents. 

Reviewer Demographic

Alumni, parents visiting with prospective students, business travelers, and wedding guests.

Excellent Reviews

Guests raved about the convenient central location specifically mentioning Starbucks, the campus, and the downtown location. They frequently mentioned the free, accessible parking as a major perk of their stay. 

Very Good Reviews

Similar to themes found in the excellent category. Guests enjoyed the friendly staff.

Average Reviews

Although reviewers continued to acknowledge friendly staff, guests criticized the cost of their stay. 

Poor Reviews

Guests complained about noise levels and the small bathrooms, but still appreciated and commented on the convenient location.

Terrible Reviews

A recurring theme in the terrible category was the price. Some reviewers explicitly cited an increased cost due to major events. 

Words from sample reviews generated a word cloud, providing the client with a big picture representation of common themes.


Top topics word cloud showing the Common Themes from Trip Advisor Hotel Reviews

*Hotel guests raved about the union’s central location on campus, free parking, and Starbucks coffee.

Strategic Insight

As a bonus project, accompanying our standard Social Listening Snapshot, I needed to travel off the beaten path to meet our client’s needs. Insights I collected informed deeper dive social listening opportunities for the union hotel, and I uncovered additional opportunities to provide strategic insights, including:

  • Compare pre- vs. post-renovation reviews to understand if there were material differences, and provide feedback to the facilities team rooted in real guest conversation.
  • Analyze conversations of competing hotels (both existing and planned new construction) on social media and reviews on hotel review sites to identify opportunities to differentiate the campus hotel from its competitors, capitalize on perceived weaknesses of other hotels, and unearth threats from competitors that can inform the marketing and guest experience strategy of the hotel.
  • Analyze the general conversation around the hotel on social media, and compare to the specific conversation on hotel review sites. If the conversation is drastically different, perhaps a marketing strategy to encourage social media commenters to submit a review would improve the online reputation of the hotel and the likelihood that a new guest will choose the campus hotel over others.
  • Examine the geographical makeup of hotel guest reviewers to inform marketing strategy prior to key events, like homecoming and spring campus visits.
  • Add additional review sites to our analysis. TripAdvisor is great, but what about Facebook and Google reviews? We want to make sure to include as much guest experience information in our analysis as possible.
  • Explore sentiment and dive into what reviewers like and dislike about the hotel. This could impact how certain features are marketed, how the housekeeping and facilities staff prioritize their work, and even how the campus brand is portrayed in the hotel.

On the Road Again

A curious explorer of social listening data can find themselves off the beaten path. But there is even more to discover with this client. Watch the Brain Waves blog for Parts 2 and 3 of my data analysis. Once the analyst knows the destination and has a well-packed suitcase any road hazard can be diverted into actionable insights to inform strategy for our campus clients. Time to Hit the Open Road!

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The post A Traveler's Guide to Social Listening Analysis: Off the Beaten Path originally appeared on the Campus Sonar Brain Waves blog.

Traci Sesko

Traci Sesko is a Campus Sonar analyst with 12 years of experience in the student loan industry and a lifetime of experience studying human behavior. When Traci isn't analyzing conversations, she's engaging in them, making new connections wherever she goes.

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