Why You Should Segment Your Campus Conversation: Owned

Have you ever heard the saying “How do you eat an elephant?” 

The answer is “one bite at a time.”

When it comes to social listening, your data set is the elephant, and your segments are the bites we’re taking as we eat our way through the data. Segmentation is all about taking an unwieldy full dataset and breaking it down into more manageable, usable parts. 

How do we figure out what those manageable and usable parts might be? We match them with your strategic priorities and the questions you have about your campus conversation. Each way we segment your data serves a purpose and helps us craft a better understanding of your campus’s unique situation.  

Want to know more about how prospective students talk about your campus? There’s a data segment for that. Wondering just how much of your institution’s overall conversation relates to your basketball team’s March Madness run? Segmentation can help with that, too. 

Curious about some of the ways we segment data at Campus Sonar? I’m excited to break down some common types of segmentation we use with our partnership clients (and why we find them useful!).

In this post, I’ll focus on segmentation strategies we frequently use for owned conversation. Your campus’s owned posts are an opportunity to showcase your campus, success stories, and overall vibe to the world. Small changes here can make a huge difference, and the first step to making those changes is understanding your data.

Next month, we’ll dive into some of the ways we like to break down earned conversation.  

Account-Based Segmentation

There are a variety of segments we typically construct using author-based lists. Many of these segments help us track conversations that originate on campus and/or from your campus communities. These segments are traditionally classified as owned conversation; however, the actual level of ownership a campus’s marketing and communications team has over the accounts in each of these segments varies—often greatly! 

Core/Flagship Accounts

With this group, we segment all the mentions from your core institutional accounts across all social media platforms. Core accounts typically bear the name of your campus (@YourNameHere), and are typically run by your central marketing team. 

This is probably the most underrated way to segment your data. You might be asking—what can I gain from creating a segment for posts I already know about, and in many cases, was responsible for authoring? Lots, actually!

  • How does your published content for a week/month/quarter/year align with your strategic goals? Does this review show you’re posting too much about one topic or not enough about another?
  • What engagement trends can we uncover? Do posts with a particular style of copy or imagery perform better than others? How can we use that information to subsequently inform and benefit future content?

This segment provides an overview of what you’re posting so you can determine if it aligns with your overall strategy and goals, and what content drives engagement.

Owned Athletics Accounts

In this segment we include mentions from your core athletic account as well as the team accounts for each official varsity sport. It’s worth noting that the person/people behind these accounts varies greatly depending on the size of the campus. 

  • At larger campuses both core athletic accounts and major sport accounts may be run by sports marketing professionals.
  • At mid-size or small campuses, accounts are often run by coaches or a combination of student interns and sports marketing professionals. 

One reason to segment your owned athletics accounts is the volume of mentions they produce. Athletics accounts frequently use social media (and Twitter especially) far differently than other campus accounts. In season, it is not uncommon for team accounts to produce 50+ mentions per week, particularly when they live-tweet from games. Giving athletics its own bucket via segmentation allows you a better opportunity to identify any themes in your non-athletic mentions that may have otherwise been drowned out by sports-related chatter. 

The utility of an owned athletics segment isn’t just about “getting rid” of these mentions from your overall campus mention pool—athletics content is valuable! Why? Athletics are popular; for many of our clients, athletics chat makes up 50% or more of both their owned and earned mentions. Accordingly, it can be really advantageous to strategically incorporate athletics content into a campus’s general content. Following your athletics accounts gives you a leg up on doing just that. These accounts are a tremendous resource not just for tales of on-field accomplishments, but for human interest stories as well. 

Institutional Accounts

For the purposes of segmentation, we typically classify mentions from accounts that are directly affiliated with your institution but fall outside of your core accounts as institutional mentions. These accounts are most likely run or overseen by someone employed by your campus (such as academic departments or admissions, alumni, or student affairs professionals) but are most often not directly controlled by marketing and communications.

Institutional accounts are a hugely important piece of your campus’s overall content pie. While you or I may not consider accounts that aren’t run by marketing and communications to meet the traditional definition of “owned accounts,” the same can’t be said for the audiences consuming your content. In their minds, the Chemistry Department and the Career Services Instagram accounts represent your campus just as much as your primary account. They may actually be the only institutional accounts that that person even follows! Any and every institutional page serves as a representative of campus, so it’s important to understand the content those pages produce. 

In addition to the impact the content produced on these pages has on your overall brand, the posts from institutional accounts also provide excellent opportunities to repurpose content or collaborate with key stakeholders on campus. 

For an even deeper dive into institutional conversation and its importance, check out Using Institutional Conversation to Avoid Brand Fragmentation.

Student Group Accounts

The next segment includes mentions from accounts run by student groups. This can include student government, newspapers, clubs, causes, and intramural sports teams. These accounts frequently have some measure of oversight from student affairs and are typically expected to adhere to and uphold campus community standards.

One question prospective students frequently ask is “what can I do at (your school)?” Student group accounts provide an inside glance into practical examples answering that very question. Opportunities for activism, intramural sports, and clubs connecting students with common interests can all be found in student groups—and these groups often provide your students with some of their most memorable college experiences. The mentions pulled together through this segmentation can help you craft a better understanding of what it means to be a student on your campus, and to share that with a broader audience.

Greek Life Accounts

A particular subsection of student groups, for some campuses it can be useful to separate mentions from accounts under the Greek Life umbrella from more general student group accounts. In these situations, separating out Greek Life mentions is typically a “noise reduction” strategy—they’re mentions that absolutely relate to your campus, but depending on the volume of conversation, may dilute your overall mention pool and make it more difficult to uncover trends in topical conversation. Giving Greek Life-related accounts their own segment ensures you’re able to stay on top of this portion of your campus’s conversation and filters Greek Life conversation into one, specific place. 

Influencer Accounts

Influencer accounts are most commonly part of your earned conversation, originating from specific, and often prominent, sources. Depending on the situation, an influencer segment may include a grouping of accounts you would like to track collectively—like professors on your campus or athletes from your football team. The type of influencer segmentation that is useful and applicable for a given campus is very much dependent on your goals and the realities of your particular campus.

For some campuses, you may want to follow specific individuals with a large following. If you’re like Baylor University, where twin influencers Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight (who have over 6.9 million followers/subscribers on both Instagram and YouTube) were recently students, you might want to keep up with what they’re doing and how they discuss your campus. Over at Louisiana State University, maybe you want to see what gymnast Olivia Dunne, the most followed college athlete in the United States, is up to. If there are prominent voices on your campus, we can track them—and give you insights about possible broader impacts.

An influencer segment can also have tremendous value in situations where a campus has agitator accounts associated with it. We define agitator accounts as those who respond to campus accounts and news prolifically, and most often, negatively. While it’s important to keep track of this conversation, it can also disproportionately skew metrics like sentiment or share of voice when included as part of a campus’s broader pool of mentions. Agitator segmentation can also be a real positive for your (likely overburdened) campus social media manager. It can be difficult to cope with the feeling that every response to your work is negative; filtering mentions from accounts that typically only complain into their own, smaller segment can demonstrate that a few bad apples are not reflective of the whole bunch. 

Segmentation Leads to Action

So there we have it. Six different types of segmentation we use to break down a campus’s owned conversation, uncover trends, make recommendations, and take action. 

  • Core/Flagship accounts—The 100 mile view of your own work. Pulls you out of the weeds and helps you gauge whether what you’re posting aligns with your overall strategy and goals.
  • Owned athletic accounts—Separates a typically prolific segment into its own sandbox to play in. Valuable both for identifying themes within those athletic mentions and for identifying themes in your more general mentions. It can also help you find athletics content to repurpose as more general content.
  • Institutional accounts—Sometimes an institutional account is the only account your audience follows. For them, that account is you. Is their content on brand? Can you repurpose it? Can you collaborate with someone on campus and make great content that benefits you both? 
  • Student groups and Greek life—Helps you answer questions about what it means to be a student on your campus (and share it with your more general audience).
  • Influencer accounts—Group together like accounts you’re interested in keeping tabs on. Highly customizable and very much dependent on your goals.

Use the information you gain from segmenting your conversation to showcase your campus, share success stories, and communicate your overall vibe to the world. Small changes can make a huge difference, and the first step is using segmentation to understand your data.

Watch for the next post in a few weeks where I'll share how we segment earned conversation and ways you can use it to take action on campus. In the meantime, read our case studies to see how campus clients used segmentation to meet their goals.

Read Our Case Studies