Stephanie Hatch Leishman, Social Media Strategist at MIT, is one of the 12 higher ed professionalswho presented at the 2015 Higher Ed Analytics Conference (now available on-demand).
In this 3-question interview, Stephanie tells us about a professional “big analytics win” in 2014, the state of analytics and what colleges and universities should focus on in terms of analytics in 2015.
1) What was your biggest analytics “win” in 2014?
For a period of time some of the main university social accounts focused primarily on research-based news content. Although this type of content was important, it was an imbalanced portrayal of the university and its priorities. I made several arguments in support of a more balanced approach, including increasing campus life-based content. The content balance was important because we would be able to more adequately support multiple Institute priorities.
At a time when account management was in a state of change, I was able to experiment with posting more campus-life related posts on the Institute’s social channels, and I provided reports on key metrics to prove the effectiveness of my proposal to adjust the balance.
One metric that made a strong case was click-through rate. We experienced a high amount of click-throughs to online content that supported Institute priorities. Through effective reporting of these metrics, I was able to convince decision-makers to support the adjusted balance on social media.
2) What is the state of digital analytics at your school?
We enjoy analytics.
In MIT’s Social Media Working Group, I encourage a culture of sharing successes and failures. We talk about numbers. We reflect on what we’ve done. We discuss metrics and the stories behind them. Creating this culture over the past few years has been important to me. We need to learn from what we have done or we cannot adequately move forward.
3) In your opinion, what should your higher ed peers focus on in 2015 when it comes to Analytics?
Every university has its unique strengths and areas for growth, so I cannot say that there is necessarily one important focus I recommend for all universities. However, I’ll offer two tips for specialists and managers:
1. Specialists: Improve your ability to communicate upward.
This may mean that passing on large analytics reports files will be less effective than interpreting the data and communicating recommendations. It may mean improving your ability to communicate key analytics messages by visualizing data through graphic design.
2. Managers: Include analytics tasks like reporting and evaluation in job descriptions and give staff time for reporting.
In a university setting, communications staff are expected to take on many roles. While holistic communications strategy involves reporting, it is usually lower on the priority list than the content production. A job description might include, “produces alumni newsletter, sends weekly emails, updates website,” but oftentimes, job descriptions leave out “produces monthly reports and makes analytics-based recommendations for improvement.” We are rewarded for what we produce, mail, launch, send, pin on walls, and tweet, but not rewarded enough for reflecting on and evaluating what we’ve done.