Digital Audits, Data Viz and 360 Video Insights from University of San Francisco
The University of San Francisco is a Jesuit Catholic university located in San Francisco, California. If you’ve ever visited the Bay Area, you know San Francisco is not your average college town. The city’s namesake university has infused its brand with that vibrant, effortless San Francisco cool. Even Business Insider agrees, quoting Niche.com and naming USF the college with the best location.
USF reflects the different cultures, lifestyles and beliefs in San Francisco and the wider world, making it one of the most diverse campuses in the country. The city is the perfect incubator for learning and fresh ideas. We sat down with University of San Francisco’s Assistant Vice President of Marketing, Anneliese Mauch, to discuss a few of her team’s recent initiatives, including a campus-wide digital audit, data visualization and more.
CC: Tell us a little about yourself to get things started. What brought you to USF?
AM: Both of my parents are professors, but I actually don’t come from a professional background in higher education. Before joining the University of San Francisco, I worked in analytics and research, and gradually transitioned into marketing. My last job prior to this role was with Travelocity. I was looking for something equally stimulating as promoting travel, but maybe a little more meaningful. I wanted to be in an organization that was about San Francisco and embrace that through my work.
CC: When we met at the CASE Leadership event, you mentioned a campus-wide digital audit during your first few years on the job. How did you make that happen?
AM: I joined the university right when this office started. Coming from a marketing analytics background, I was used to all things digital. I came in asking, “What are we doing when it comes to paid search?” and heard, “We don’t know, but everyone does what they do on their own individual payment processing, and they might not be experts in digital.”
We decided to hire a firm in San Francisco to conduct a digital audit. We didn’t know who had paid search accounts, so we went to our business and finance department and had them run credit card reports to search for line item, Google. From there, we worked backwards to perform the audit. These insights showed us how much departments across the university were spending and allowed us to take a deeper dive to analyze bid strategy. In total, the audit took about three months.
CC: Smart thinking to come in through the back door with the finance department. Your investigative skills are top-notch. What action items came from the auditing process?
AM: My assumption before the audit was that individual units were bidding against each other all the time, but it honestly wasn’t a huge problem. The bigger issue was that we had people who were not experts bidding on keywords that were irrelevant. The audit revealed the need for a strategic approach to bid placement and comprehensive keyword strategy across the university. We learned a lot from the process and ended up hiring a digital advertising expert to support our university partners with media buying.
CC: Your stories (newsroom) and social media content is very robust. What is your approach to content strategy and how do you manage everything?
AM: My team works very closely with the group that manages our stories. I am particularly excited about our Changemaker Series featuring students, faculty and alumni who are making an impact around the world.
A few years ago, after a very energizing session at the AMA Symposium, we put Story Pitch Meetings in place. Anyone on campus can attend these meetings and pitch a story. Our ideas and leads stem from these discussions. Every other week, a group of us meet to decide which stories we’ll pursue, and we use a digital tool to track who’s doing what. We typically see around 20 leads a month for stories, which is great for our content calendar.
CC: Data visualization is a rising trend for reporting in higher education. Is USF using a tool like Tableau or Google Data Studio for visualized reporting?
AM: Our team started with Data Studio and ended up switching to Tableau, which the university had invested in for our research team. We now use it for all of our digital marketing reporting and have employed students to help set up various reports for clients. It’s allowed us to see, in real-time, what’s happening with all of the departmental budgets.
We look forward to expanding this for more reporting within our office. It’s one of our big initiatives for next year. Everyone loves infographics, and our design group is constantly creating infographics and dashboards for various departments. Tableau enables us to create attractive messaging that is meaningful, up to the minute and much easier to update and push out.
CC: Education marketers are implementing some pretty exciting digital tools. What apps and tech trends are you and your team most excited to test?
AM: 360’ video is exciting to work on. It’s been really fascinating to see companies change in real time to accommodate this new technology. For instance, as recently as February, Vimeo (where we host all our videos) did not support this type of video, and as of March, they had implemented 360’ videos into their viewing software. We’re observing these industry shifts as they happen and know that we are active contributors.
The 360′ video is a great way to highlight our campus for prospective students. It is more effective than the standard virtual tour and is a powerful tool for our younger audience to experience our school. We mainly utilize 360′ on Facebook and on Snapchat via Snapchat Spectacles.
Summer break is here and a new fiscal year is about to begin. Are you testing any of the tools and strategies featured here? What’s your next big idea to promote your institution? Let us know in the comments below!