Why You Should Segment Your Campus Conversation: Earned

In the first part of this series, we discussed segmentation strategies for owned accounts. Here in part two, we’re diving into some of the best ways to break down earned conversation. 

The six most common ways we segment owned conversation all take advantage of author lists. We identify the accounts that match with the description of each segment (core/flagship, owned athletics, institutional, student groups, Greek Life, and influencer accounts) and build buckets for each of them. Breaking your data down in this way helps you better understand your unique campus from the inside out; how your campus constituents talk about themselves and your campus. But what about understanding your campus from the outside, in?  

We break down a campus’s earned conversation in two different ways: by audience or by theme

Welcome back to the segmentation elephant. We’re ready to take a few more bites.

Earned Conversation Segmentation

Earned conversation is all conversation not generated by your campus-affiliated accounts. These mentions refer to, and/or affect your campus, but aren’t directly or indirectly under any type of campus control. 

When we segment earned conversation, we do so to capture opinions and perspectives and to understand trends over time that relate to our two main types: audience and theme. 

Audience Segmentation

Audience segmentation allows us to capture mentions from, quite literally, a more specific segment of a campus’s broader audience, using a variety of different sources. Three of our most commonly used audience segments are: admissions, alumni, and athletics conversation. 

Admissions Conversation

We typically track two types of admissions conversation: mentions from prospective students, and mentions from admitted students. Tracking these two audiences allows us to uncover insights that relate to many questions frequently top-of-mind for admissions professionals.

  • What questions do prospective students have? What about admitted students? How do they differ? Do they differ in the ways you would expect?
  • Who do prospective students see as your campus’s competitors? Are they different from who you identify as your competitors?
  • When do different types of questions arise? Is there a cyclical nature to the type and volume of these questions?
  • Where are students most frequently discussing your campus?

Most importantly, once we uncover this information, we can also help determine how you can use it to make evidence-backed, positive changes. Maybe you adjust recruiting tactics based on newly identified competitor schools. Or maybe you can proactively build content that addresses common questions from prospects and admits. Once you have the data, you have options. 

Alumni Conversation

There are several reasons to track alumni conversation. Alumni are an incredibly valuable audience for every college campus. Many alums are passionate about the colleges they’ve attended; they’re campus critics, cheerleaders, and most definitely influencers. They provide advice and insight to prospective students. They give feedback (solicited and unsolicited) regarding campus goings-on. And as they stay connected to your campus, that’s a relationship that can be mutually beneficial. Through social listening and alumni segmentation, we can help campuses identify alumni successes—job changes, promotions, philanthropy—so you can celebrate right along with them.    

Athletics Conversation

Campuses with athletics receive a lot more conversation volume; on average, roughly two to three times more. While athletics-oriented conversation absolutely has its own value, it can also dilute your overall mention pool, making it difficult to find the nuance and substance of other mentions. In this sense, separating out athletics conversation has two primary benefits. First, it pools athletics mentions together. Second, removing that volume from the overall pool makes it easier to uncover key themes in non-athletic mentions.

While these are three of our more common audience segmentations, the only limits to whose conversation we can try to pull out are creativity and keywording. There’s nothing our analysts love more than creating the perfect Boolean string to gather insights and analysis about an audience you’re particularly interested in tracking.

Thematic Segmentation

This type of segmentation allows us to pull together mentions that relate to a particular topic of interest from all of the different sources we track. Commonly, we use thematic segmentation to parse conversation by:  

  • Locations
  • Events and campus initiatives
  • Person, people, or groups


Maybe you have more than one campus and you’re curious about the volume of conversation each one receives, or whether the topics discussed differ by location (and how!). Maybe there are landmarks of significance to your campus, like a stadium, or a new building, and you want to track conversations about them. Maybe you want to know how your campus is perceived internationally compared to in the United States. These are all questions we can answer using location-based segmentation. 

Events and Campus Initiatives

Event-based segmentation is a great way to gain insight into the online footprint of any type of event—big or small. If there are plausible search terms, geotags, and hashtags related to it, we can track the conversation around it. 

Looking for user generated content from commencement or homecoming? Event-based segmentation is great for this. Curious how much attention your campus received during a bowl game appearance? We are too! With event segmentation we can really dig into your campus’s traditions and help you answer questions about their impact on your community, target audiences, and goals. 

Person, People, or Groups

There are situations where it’s valuable to understand the conversation taking place that relates to a particular individual or group. Sometimes this is related to a crisis-type situation. Frequently you may just want more information on how often a person/people of interest are discussed, and how they’re referred to in conversation. It can also be the case that someone is infrequently mentioned online, but you want to be sure you know about it when they are. 

Segmentation Leads to Action

And that’s segmentation. Knowing and understanding both owned and earned conversation helps us uncover trends, make recommendations, and take action. 

  • Audience-Based Segmentation—Mentions from a more specific segment of a campus’s broader audience. The insight gained from these segments will help you learn more about who contributes to your conversation, provide you with a better understanding of their needs, and unveil engagement opportunities you can act on.
  • Thematic Segmentation—If you have a topic that you’re interested in tracking, we can write the Boolean string that funnels those mentions into one tidy segment. This works great for locations, events and campus initiatives, and tracking mentions of a person, people, or group. 

Make sure you read the companion post about how to segment owned conversation and ways you can use it to showcase your campus. And read our case studies to see how campus clients used segmentation to meet their goals.

Read Our Case Studies