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Social Listening for Schools
Lanitta Collier

Within the last decade, social media strategies have become so personable and fluid in how companies, brands, and schools utilize them. As social media continues to expand, so does the discourse and dialogue within it.

*This is when social listening enters the chat.*

Implementing a social listening strategy can break down that fourth wall between your school’s social media audience and develop a deeper understanding of their needs and what they’re saying. Go beyond the analytics and hard data, and dive into the conversations current and prospective families are having about your school or district.

What is social listening for schools?

Just like the name suggests, social listening allows you to cultivate a solid understanding of what current and prospective families are saying and thinking about your school or district in real-time on social media. 

It dives into the surface-level metrics that are already included in social media platforms through the tracking, gathering, and analyzing of that available data. From there, you’re able to unpack any community feedback and direct mentions of your school in regard to brand-related end markets, trending content, pain points, competitors, topics, and keywords.

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Why does social listening matter?

Nothing is new under the sun. In the last decade, companies, brands, and schools alike have been trying to assess the social media discourse of their online communities. However, social listening surpasses traditional research methods because of its non-incentivized, cost-effective, and efficient approach to obtaining community feedback in real time.

The feedback obtained through the analyzed data can feed into your school’s marketing strategy, admissions goals, digital advertising, and many other places in the life of your school. And, most importantly, it can ultimately have a positive impact on your school’s enrollment numbers. 

But, before we get there, let’s establish the difference between social listening and social monitoring.

Social monitoring vs. social listening

Social monitoring

Think of social monitoring as a prerequisite for social listening. Social monitoring revolves around your school or district’s social channels solely. It provides a surface-level number based on metrics like mentions, comments, direct messages, etc. Provided by the social platforms, you can obtain data for social monitoring with their analytics tools.

Social listening

At its core, social listening is the act of understanding the emotional intent behind actions taken by social media users. And, with social monitoring being the prerequisite toward your overview of all conversations related to your school, end-markets, and competitors, you’ll need external tools to get the full scope. Third-party social listening tools not only collect surface-level data but showcase deeper insights and organize your audience from a holistic point of view. Being able to segment your sphere of influence based on personas that are tangibly visible can ultimately help fuel your lead-generation strategies in an intentional way. 

To sum it up Social monitoring involves looking at how people interact with your school (likes, shares, comments, @ mentions), while social listening is the act of observing how people talk about your school, often in a non-direct way (through conversations or the attitude about your school.

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For example, St. Anne's-Belfield School and Orange Unified School District were not directly tagged in Carvel's or Great Britain Senior Women's National Softball Team’s post — but through active listening on social media, they saw that their community was highlighted and were able to share it to their school accounts!

screenshot of OUSD softball tweet

Social listening tool recommendations

There are some great tools out there for social listening, but not all of them are free. Tools that are entirely free like Tweetdeck are great for schools with a heavy social presence on Twitter, or Google Alerts and Trends for tracking online conversations, competitors, and topics. Tools with free and paid versions like Hootsuite, Social Mentions, Owler, and BuzzSumo are great for easy-to-use social media tracking. Paid tools like Brandwatch, Sprout Social, and Lately offer more robust features.

Investing in a social listening tool for your school or district is a great way to save time (and headaches) down the line as more social media channels and online conversations pop up.

Free Download: the Complete Social Media Calendar for Schools

How can a social listening strategy help your school?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of social listening, the overall benefits, and tools, you’re probably thinking about whether it would actually fit into your school or district’s inbound marketing strategy effectively. And, that’s valid. Social listening is still a relatively new addition to social media marketing, but it can keep you one step ahead of your competitors.

Let’s turn this information into action.

1. Brand health, reputation, and growth

From online reviews to word-of-mouth, your school’s reputation relies on the voices of your community. Your reputation on social media is not so easy to monitor at the same level as Google reviews or ratings, because the reviews and conversations don’t accumulate in one place.

Social listening allows you to track topics, hashtags, and more all in one place — so you don’t have to go searching for (and potentially miss) important conversations about your school or district. From negative comments to positive statements, you want to keep track of all conversations so that you can address problems, keep your brand and reputation in check, and ensure that you are aware of the sentiment, news, and ideas circulating in your institution.

screenshot of sprout social

For example, here at Finalsite, we’ll use social listening to keep an eye on any conversations happening about Finalsite. This helps capture conversations that may not directly tag our accounts, and it allows us to see what is most important to the school professionals in our community.

2. Identify new opportunities for outreach

Picture this: You’re gearing up for admissions season. You’ve posted about your open house, held a social media takeover to showcase life at your school, and even hosted a live Q&A with your admissions team. Your social monitoring has shown that your audience is loving this content! Your community is liking, sharing, and commenting. 

But, how can you identify new opportunities for social media outreach?

That's where social listening comes in. Search for the online conversations happening about your school, start following relevant hashtags, and you’ll identify new opportunities to engage!

3. Understand your audience better

When it’s all said and done, the main goal of your school’s social media strategy is to take a prospective student or parent through the inbound marketing funnel of a content viewer to new members of your school’s community.

Social listening can help personalize your organic social media strategy when you’re organizing campaigns. By implementing social listening tools into your strategy, you’ll have a closer insight into the content they watch frequently, language preferences, and issues that are top of mind within your community.

Key takeaways

Make a positive impact on your school or district’s bottom line by investing some time in social listening and helping your school better understand the sentiments of your social media audience.

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Lanitta Collier Headshot

In her position as Social Media Manager, Lanitta assists with demand generation efforts across all social media channels, email, and website communications. With almost 5 years of experience in content creation, digital marketing, and social media management, Lanitta enjoys working with clients to create, produce, and strategize. She holds and maintains a number of certifications from Google, Hubspot, and SEMRush.

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