12 Analytics Wild Cards for 2016 in #highered

January 8th, 2016 Karine Joly 14 Comments

Heard about the “Cards-AgainstFor-Social-Media-Strategy” Game?

If you follow the latest higher ed social media news on Twitter, you might have seen a few pictures shared by higher ed social media professionals like Kate Post or Mike Petroff who got their hands on the game designed and created by Princeton’s Social Media team last year: Social Media Strategy Maker.

I’ve been teaching an 8-week professional certificate course on higher ed social media marketing for the past 5 years, so I REALLY loved Ryan Maguire’s and Jill Feldman’s idea (and, boy, it would make my day to see the game – hint, hint).

12 Wild Cards for Higher Ed Analytics

The Ultimate Wild Card?

— but I also HAD to ask about measurement and found out there was 1 “wild card” covering it — and plenty of room for customization with blank cards as pointed out by Ryan Maguire.

While this wild card in Princeton’s game barely scratches the surface about the role measurement plays in social media strategy, marketing and higher education, it’s a great start.

11 Additional Analytics Wild Cards (4 for Social Media and 7 for Digital) to Play in 2016

If you’re yearning for more “analytics wild cards”, I’ve asked 11 of the 12 speakers of the 2016 Higher Ed Analytics Conference (now available on-demand) to share their suggestions on where higher ed professionals should focus their analytics efforts in 2016.

Higher Ed Analytics Conference 2016

Hopefully, these recommendations from your peers will allow you to get some discussions started at your school – so, make sure to share them with your colleagues on campus.

1/4) Define your question – Dr. Liz Gross, Social Media and Market Research Strategist – Great Lakes Educational Loan Services, Inc.


Before you get stuck in the weeds of what to measure and how to measure it, make sure you know what key questions you’re trying to answer.

The question drives the analysis. Without an impactful research questions, you’re simply doing analytics to report numbers.

2/4) Select 3 to 4 KPIs to start- Robert Bochnak, Assistant Director, Alumni Marketing and Communications – Harvard Business School

robert_bochnak-150x150Figure out, when it comes to social media, what types of analytics are most important to your specific institution.

There’s A LOT of data out there and it’s very easy to get lost in the “noise.” My suggestion would be to pick out 3-4 data points to start off with and then add more as you feel more comfortable with the collection and reporting process.

3/4) Focus on Analysis & Audience Research – Chase Baker, Social & Digital Media Coordinator – Colorado State University

chase_baker-150x150In 2016, I think we should all strive to invest more effort into analyses of content and audience research, going beyond the numbers to better understand why certain types of content perform better than others.
Having systems in place to track analytics for specific categories of content would better inform our strategies and would provide a legitimate resource to consult when events, stories, etc. are being pitched to social media from various campus sources.

At the end of the day, we don’t produce content for big numbers in spreadsheets. We produce content for people. So 2016 is the year for getting to know your people and what they like.

4/4) Don’t forget to measure the new channels – Lindsay Nyquist, Director of Digital Communications – Fort Lewis College

Nyquist_headshot_0415_med-e1449439072300-150x150Expand what we currently measure and try new things.

With the rapid escalation of technology and apps, new things are able to be measured every day. In my conference session, I’ll discuss some ways to measure Snapchat – something that was impossible just a few years ago, but now possible through changes to the platform and new startups tackling the issue. Keep exploring!

1/7) Get All Your Data in a Master GA Account – Tatjana Salcedo, Web Strategist – University of Vermont

tatjana_salcedo-150x150There are lots of exciting developing areas in analytics to delve into such as personalization, A/B testing, multi-channel attribution and predictive analytics, but all these areas require a strong analytics foundation.

If you haven’t already, I think that it’s important to focus on merging your traffic data into a master account which can then be segmented as needed. It is also important to put in place mechanisms to measure other meaningful interactions beyond page views that will help drive content and design decisions. Finally, it’s important to validate the accuracy of your data collection systems. Once you have a strong collection foundation in place, you’ll be much better poised to delve into advanced tools that help reveal deep insights and drive meaningful strategic web development efforts.

2/7) Track Your Key Conversions – Alan Etkin, Senior Analyst – British Columbia Institute of Technology

alan_etkin-150x150This one is simple to answer: track your key conversions as monetized goals!

It’s not so simple to do, but it will give you the biggest lift in the value and impact of your analytics activity.

3/7) Get up to Speed with Attribution and Statistical Significance – Joshua Dodson, Director of SEO – Southern New Hampshire University

joshua2013-e1369918926479-150x150Attribution and statistical significance are both big deals. This is something that few focus on and even fewer get right.

With the increased ability to work with “big data” to pull out important trends, it becomes more important to apply the techniques to web and marketing analytics.
Understanding (with statistical significance) which pieces truly contribute to the success or failure of an initiative is important and must become more of a focus for analytics practitioners in 2016.

4/7) Do Less Reporting, More Forecasting – Jens Larson, Manager of Student Communication Strategies – Eastern Washington University

jens_larson-150x150The right answer is probably data quality and data talent: getting accurate info and good people to analyze it. But unless we have lots of money or lots of authority—and digital analysts usually don’t—there’s only so much we can do in this area.

Perhaps a more focused goal is to do less reporting on the past and instead do more forecasting and influencing of the future. We tend to get caught up with “what happened” instead of “what we predict will happen.” Making a shift to forecasting and prediction analysis will require an upgrade to our statistics and coding skills (and we’ll all have to get comfortable thinking probabilistically), but that’s the direction analytics is heading, and we need to head that way, too.

5/7) Streamline Things Up with Data – Avalee Harlton, Service Coordinator & Web Content Designer/Editor – York University

headshot2015-e1449438964560-150x150Let’s put our websites on a diet by streamlining our pages and making them into a resource filled with the content our visitors actually want!

Analytics allows us to see what visitors are looking for when they come to our websites… and what they have no interest in whatsoever. Visitors benefit by being able to easily zero in on the content they’re looking for and we benefit by having our best, most useful pages display better in search results! We have the data, let’s put it to work for us.

6/7) Focus on Attribution – Adam Coulter, Social Media Marketing Specialist – Curry College

adam_coulter-150x150In my opinion, and something that was talked about a lot this past year, those in higher ed need to continue to shift to a contributive analytical logic – taking into account the myriad channels we all are using and communicating through and noting which is sending the best traffic in terms of accomplishing documented business objectives… and why? What’s working and why? Also part of this logic is which channels are affecting other channels growth?

7/7) Invest in Analytics Training – Bryan Fendley, Director of Campus Web Services – University of Arkansas at Monticello

bryan_fendley-150x150If you’re serious about analytics, invest in training.

On the technical side, decide what it is you want to do, and then find someone that can save you time by teaching you how to do it. Know that being a good analyst is more about understanding business needs than it is about being a platform expert. Consider attending a non analytic conference related to a department that you service.

So, what’s YOUR analytics wild card?

Tell us by posting a comment below!

And, if you want to learn more from these higher ed analytics pros, make sure to get a 12-month team pass for the 2016 Higher Ed Analytics Conference (now available on-demand).