Spring Hill College Refreshes their Brand with Social Listening

Social listening is a flexible and direct way to earn insight into understanding the mindset of your target audience. Audience research and conversation analysis allows you to identify a target population and analyze all (or a sample of) their conversations over a defined period of time. Campus Sonar recently worked with Spring Hill College (SHC) in Mobile, Alabama. Using conversation analysis, Campus Sonar helped SHC uncover their brand and define it so they could move forward, using brand research to build their strategy.   

Researching the Audience

As the oldest Catholic college in the southeast and the third oldest Jesuit College in the United States, SHC is a highly residential college that focuses heavily on theology, psychology, philosophy, as well as traditional liberal arts majors. Ashley Rains, Assistant Director of Media Relations at SHC, knew that SHC was unique, but she wanted to better understand how others identified with the college’s brand. Just telling people “here’s our brand, identify with it” doesn't work. The marketing department wanted to know what people were saying about SHC on many different levels.

  • Potential Students and Parents: Why did they choose SHC and what are they most excited about in their decision to attend SHC?
  • Current Students and Parents: What do they think about their experience at SHC while they’re in school?
  • Alumni: What are alumni saying and how can SHC create a partnership with them, increasing engagement and keeping them associated with the college?
  • Community: What does the community know about SHC? Does the community understand the Jesuit mission of service and how the college gives back to the community? 

Uncovering a Brand

Ashley worked with Campus Sonar and analyst Emily to analyze SHC’s conversation. The analysis was surprising in a very, very positive way. Emily analyzed three years of online conversation and looked for emerging trends. She found that family emerged as a prevalent topic.

Emily provided Ashley and SHC with a number of deliverables that helped them build their brand strategy. The 3-Year Conversation Trends Analysis allowed Ashley and her team to look at the historical conversation surrounding SHC as a whole. It included volume, owned and earned conversations, and authors and influencers, and showed that “family” was a surprisingly common topic in the online conversation. In order to better understand the “family” part of the conversation, Emily and Campus Sonar dove deeper into the conversation and provided Ashley with a Conversation Analysis.

“When we got the Conversation Analysis, I was going through it and scribbling notes about action items. What I scribbled was what I found at the end of the trends analysis—we’re really in sync with Emily and the Campus Sonar team. We’re all on the same page.”

— Ashley Rains, Assistant Director of Media Relations, Spring Hill College

Defining Family at SHC

Looking at the owned and earned content, Emily found that “family” organically surfaced in SHC’s content. It was well-received by prospective students, current students, former students, and their families; and many of the posts were often retweeted and shared by the SHC audience.

  • Tweet from a prominent SHC alumnae about SHC familyA marine biologist alumna currently serving as the Foreign Affairs Specialist—Office of Law Enforcement for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration in Washington, DC, has 1,538 followers on Twitter. She received her BS in Marine Biology from SHC in 2006. In 2015 she retweeted an article about SHC history, calling her time at SHC the “best years of her life” and saying she missed her SHC family.
  • Tweet from an SHC alumnae about familyThe granddaughter of a prominent alumna occasionally tweets about the legacy of her grandmother who was the first black graduate from an all-white university (SHC). Her tweet celebrating her grandmother is currently pinned to the top of her profile and has been retweeted over 2,500 times.
  • Tweet for SHC family for Mother's DayThe SHC-owned social media accounts regularly refer to the “Sprhill Family,” “Badger Family,” “Baby Badgers,” “Mama Badgers,” or “Papa Badgers.” These posts are often retweeted, liked, and shared by the SHC audience. On Mother’s Day, the athletics Twitter account sent well wishes to “Mama Badgers.” 
  • Tweet from the SHC men's basketball team about familyThe SHC’s men’s basketball team tweeted a photo and tagged it with #Family when they gathered for Thanksgiving. The tweet resonated with the team and coaches/staff, as evidenced by the retweets and likes from this group.

SHC knew that family was important, but they weren’t actively promoting it as their brand. Everyone knew that SHC was family oriented, coming to and leaving SHC makes you a part of a family forever, but they never knew how to articulate “family” to the students. To see that the message was out there organically was amazing—and something that SHC could begin to build a brand around. The data was research that supports strategic goals.

To act upon Campus Sonar’s analysis, Ashley and her team put the report in front of SHC’s cabinet members to get their feedback. SHC doesn’t need to develop a whole new brand—family already matches their brand. It allows them to build on their current brand. SHC’s mission is “forming leaders engaged in learning faith, justice, and service for life.” “For life” is part of family. Strategically SHC is moving forward to develop a complete definition of family based on feedback across campus—allowing faculty, staff, and students to weigh in to establish a comprehensive vision.

“The Campus Sonar team has really come to understand what this college is, what it means to us, what family means to us, and what it means to us to get the brand out to people.”

—Ashley Rains, Assistant Director of Media Relations, Spring Hill College

What’s Next for SHC

SHC wouldn’t have found the insights uncovered without the help of a social listening conversation analysis. Being able to engage and further understand the public conversation about SHC has been vital to taking their branding to the next level. SHC continues to define and build their family brand using the strategy they develop from the insights gained from the 3-Year Conversation Trends Analysis.

The Higher Ed Social Listening Handbook

You’ll find more about audience research and conversation analysis in our go-to resource for everything related to social listening in higher education—The Higher Ed Social Listening Handbook. Learn how to build a social listening program at your institution and how social listening impacts campus strategy, using case studies from campuses like SHC and others, such as Beloit College, Loyola Marymount University, and Ohio State. You'll also find outlines for implementing data-driven strategies such as crisis management, engagement, brand management, and influencers.

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The post Spring Hill College Refreshes their Brand with Social Listening originally appeared on the Campus Sonar Brain Waves blog.