Clemson Social Media Listening Center

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On February 23rd, Clemson University unveiled its social media listening center, and helped demonstrate the impact social media has made in the classroom. Teaching and learning are occurring in very different ways, the professors and students at Clemson are embracing these changes and using social media to help them approach a number of new projects. The project is the result of a great partnership between Dell, Salesforce, Radian6 and Clemson.


  • 1. Clemson Social MediaListening Centerin Partnership with Delland Powered by Radian6

2. At that time, we were looking for an ideal customer to testa lighthouse account for offering social media solutions, We were excited about doing a pilot withsuch as building social media listening command centers,Clemson in particular, because we wantedshe says. We were excited about doing a pilot withClemson in particular, because we wanted to share ourto share our experience in the space andexperience in the space and see what a command centersee what a command center could offer could offer an entity outside the corporate entity outside the corporate world. At no cost to Clemson University, Dell offered its expertise Maribel Sierra, director of Social Media Solutions and consulting to build a command center at Clemson. Group, Dell Inc. Clemson is now exploring new uses for social media listening that Dell and other businesses could leverage in the future. This puts Clemson University at the forefront of a new technology frontiera point not lost on Bottum.In January 2011 when Clemson Universitys Jim Bottumtoured Dells Social Media Listening Command Center, heWe are early, possibly the first, academic adopters of thissaw much more than the large monitors communicating technology and approach, Bottum says.real-time information. What he saw was opportunity. Executing the planBottum, chief information officer and vice provost for Bottum recruited Barbara Weaver, program managerClemson Computing & Information Technology, is known of Clemsons CyberInstitute, as the IT lead, and Jasonfor his entrepreneurial spirit and for identifying new Thatcher, an associate professor in Clemsons Departmentopportunities and revenue streams in higher education. of Management, as the academic lead. Dell brought inHe had worked closely with Dell when Clemson purchased Radian6 to provide the software.Dells Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM) softwareto increase the universitys computing power. As BottumAccording to Sierra, all three playersDell, Radian6 andtoured Dells command center, his mind began processingClemsonbrought valuable perspectives to the table.the possibilities. Dell brought firsthand experience in operating a command center, Radian6 brought the software expertise, andHow it works Clemson opened the door to using social media listeningUsing keywords to target Dell-related content, operators within an academic environment.of Dells command center can identify and listen to public In June 2011, Weaver and Thatcher traveled to Dellconversations on social media platforms, from blogs to headquarters in Round Rock, Texas, to meet with Sierrasocial networks to discussion forums. Conversations areand tour Dells command center. Two months later,displayed graphically, using movement and imagery to renovations began at Sirrine Hall on Clemsons mainconvey sentiment, share of voice, trend information andcampus. The universitys center would include a teachinggeo-location data. While Dell employs social media area where faculty could hold social media classes andlistening to enhance customer relations and marketingtrain people on using the center.and business development initiatives, Bottum wonderedhow the technology could be applied in academia. Constructing the center required collaboration among several stakeholders. Dell offered points to consider whenWhat I saw in the command center was a company jumpingplanning the centers layout, and numerous departments at on top of social media to gather business intelligence; Clemson provided input on their respective classroom needs. I saw a company adapting to the new economic and market Chuck Heck, the universitys classroom design specialist, realities of our time, Bottum says. I knew I wanted towas able to put together a center that suited a wide range connect my faculty and students with that technology.of users with feedback from Dell, Clemson ComputingWhen Bottum returned to Clemson and began talkingand Information Technology, the Clemson CyberInstitute,about Dells command center, there was no shortage ofthe College of Business and Behavioral Sciences, and theenthusiasm. The faculty saw strong potential in social College of Architecture, Arts and listening as a research tool, and the command center Clemson, Radian6 and Dell spent much of the fall getting thepromised to provide the organized infrastructure to do it. software and hardware installed and running. In November,Eager to get the ball rolling, Bottum approached Dell aboutThatcher conducted a test run with student researchers tobuilding a command center at Clemson. His timing could resolve any last-minute bugs. Then, exactly one year fromnot have been more perfect, according to Maribel Sierra, Bottums tour of Dells command center in January 2011,director of Dells Social Media Solutions Group. the Clemson Social Media Listening Center in Partnership with Dell and Powered by Radian6 opened its doors in time for the 2012 spring semester. 3. February 2012 As he explains, students must create profiles to extract relevant conversations on the social web that arent hidden behind passwords or privacy settings. Building these profiles involves inputting keywords that define the topics, as well as those that dont define the topic and should be excluded. Adds Weaver: Building these profiles takes some time to learn because you have to be thoughtful about the keywords you choose to ensure they are specific enough to attract relevant data. The process requires critical thinking, an important skill that Clemson students develop while learning to solve problems through their Creative Inquiry projects. Thatcher says that his students also are learning to look more closely at natural language processes in developing their profiles. We have had to learn how to build out profiles in the waythat people really talkfor instance, using slang, nicknamesand abbreviations, he says. A lot of social media listening We are early, possibly the first, academicis simply learning the language we use. Weve had to reallyadopters of this technology and approach.learn the voice that our population is talking in. Jim Bottum, chief information officer and vice Once the Creative Inquiry teams have captured target provost, Clemson University conversations, they can drill down into those conversations for further analysis. The listening center also allows student researchers to create alerts on specific subjects and to filter, sort and prioritize the incoming data. Data then can be exported to other programs, such as Microsoft Excel, forSocial media listening and Creative Inquiry further analysis.Weaver and Thatcher ultimately decided to incorporatesocial media listening into the universitys successfulLets say theres a conversation around football, ThatcherCreative Inquiry program. Established in 2005, nearly says. What are they specifically talking about? Is it the2,000 Clemson students are involved in the universitys players, the coaches, ticket sales? You can do that kindone-of-a-kind program, which offers undergraduate of analysis on any content area.research experience in small-group settings under theguidance of faculty mentors. Through the program,Social media listening is teaching students how to workstudents can earn credit for researching topics of their with fuzzy data and extract themes, Thatcher says.choosing. Creative Inquiry teams typically work together Its forcing them to recognize (a) you cant catch everything,over the span of two to four semesters, and many have(b) you can catch too much, and (c) you have to prioritizebeen asked to present their research findings to specialwhat youre listening for, he says.interest groups outside the university. According to Thatcher, when this kind of technology isWith the centers launch, Thatcher began mentoring two put in students hands, they go off and they innovate.Creative Inquiry teams, consisting of students from multiple He relays the story of one student who is trying to predictdisciplines, including communications studies, psychology, the stock market through social media science, engineering, graphics communications,business management and marketing. He started building profiles around the conversationspeople were having on the social web about Dow Jones,According to Thatcher, he and the students discoveredand he says hes already predicting with pretty goodquickly that there is much to learn about using socialaccuracy, Thatcher says. This kind of innovation andmedia listening as a complementary tool to traditionallearning is not coerced; it just happens. The tools areresearch methods.intuitive, and the kids have grown up in this environment. 4. The social media listening center has givenus a new way to be introspective about ourrelationships with our stakeholders and thecommunity at large. Jason Thatcher, associate professor, Department of Management, Clemson UniversityNew technology, new ideasIn addition to Thatchers research teams, faculty membersfrom Clemsons communication studies department areoffering a social media graduate course and mentoring aCreative Inquiry team in the listening center.In addition to connecting with university stakeholders,As various faculty, staff, students and administrators on social media listening presents an opportunity to engage campus learn about the center, they very quickly begin in new forms of research around online discourse that talking about ideas that come to their minds, Weaver says. could impact information systems, psychology, comput-All of these ideas are interesting and even exciting. Some ing, communications studies and many other disciplines, of the ideas are huge projects; some involve significantThatcher explains. To make that happen, were writing collaboration. All of them are important to someone. The grants that reflect the intersections of behavioral science, depth and breadth of the centers potential seem limitless. humanities, computing and business so that we can have more resources to study social-media-driven phenomenon.The business advantages ofsocial media listeningThatcher and Weaver say that as more departments expressIn addition to conducting academic research, Clemsoninterest in the center, they are discovering commonalities.University is taking a page from Dells playbook and usingWe all struggle with understanding the same basic questions:Creative Inquiry teams to listen to what people have to say How do you better organize information? How do you explainabout the universityand engaging in those conversations different outcomes in organizations? Why do people engagewhen necessary. in different kinds of behavior? Thatcher says. When workingStudent researchers are listening to conversations inwith these very large data sets in somewhat nebulous onlinethe following areas: situations, you end up finding that were all tackling the same problems from different directions. Academics (admissions, research, classroom experience) Athletics (NCAA-sponsored events)Finding parallels in business and academiaIn the process of building the universitys listening center, Outreach (alumni activities and community programs,Dell and Clemson discovered several parallels in how partnerships and services) social media listening can impact their organizations. Student activities (intramural sports, student groups, Keeping the pulse of customers, stakeholders, competitors student life) and industry is relevant to both academia and corporations,Says Thatcher: The social media listening center has givenSierra a new way to be introspective about our relationshipswith our stakeholders and the community at large. Listening plays a huge role in business.Engaging conversationsEveryone is realizing how importantThe listening center also has prompted first-time listening is, and a command centercross-departmental conversations and collaboration.provides an organized infrastructurearound listening. Maribel Sierra, director of Social Media Solutions Group, Dell Inc. 5. February 2012And, like Clemson University, Dell has found that its commandThatcher envisions rich partnerships between Clemsoncenter has triggered cross-departmental conversations. For and other industries to study the power and applicationinstance, the employees who man Dells command centerof social media listening in business, academia, nonprofitroutinely have to call upon subject-matter experts fromand all types of entities. For instance, what is the humanvarious departments who can engage in identified onlinepsychology behind social media interactions and strategies?conversations about Dell products and solutions. Why do some social media strategies work and others do not? Clemson can research these topics and provideAlso, both Clemson and Dell have been charged with hard data.developing infrastructure around their centerssuch aspolicies, procedures, training and staffingto make them Both Sierra and Bottum say the pilot project has proven afully operational. win-win.Having the data is not the destiny, but knowing how toListening plays a huge role in business, Sierra says. Everyone interpret the data, what data to react to, who needs to reactis realizing how important listening is, and a command center and when customer engagement is needed. That is what a provides an organized infrastructure around listening. command center needs to entail, Sierra says. A solid social media strategy, policies and a training program are basic I think weve each bent and pushed each other in the infrastructure elements that need to be in place. process of making this project stand up, Bottum says. This entire project has been a public-private collaboration.My personal feeling is thats what we need for this countryLooking to the future to get back on its feet again.In the short term, Thatcher sees social media listeningbecoming a part of the management and communications What weve done with Dell is put together somethingstudies curricula, but he predicts that it will factor into the that required us to not just talk about kicking down walls,lesson plans of other disciplines down the road.but to really get inside each others operations and learnwhat each other does. Were not taking our eyes off ourIts really going to take an ecosystem of researchers andrespective missions, but were figuring out how to advance classes to optimize the value of social media listening foreach other. Thats a real partnership, and I think more of our students, he says.them will stem from this. Ever the visionary, Bottum says the next step is to think about how the university can create new values for the center. He likens the universitys listening center to a In academia, what are we all competingwatering hole for interdisciplinary research, which opens for? The best and the brightest. This center the door to new frontiers. Having such a commodity certainly will benefit C...