coffee-circle-white-bkgrnd-200Shannon is Mention’s Content & PR Manager, where she crafts words, creates strategies, and recruits loyal advocates. She’s based in New York. Get in touch with her at @ShannnonB.

I’m a huge fan of General Assembly, not only for the fact that they give anyone at any level the opportunity to build new skills, but also because they are incredibly community-focused. They’ve done a stellar job of building a community of creatives, entrepreneurs, and startup folks.

Established in early 2011 as an innovative community in New York City for entrepreneurs and startup companies, General Assembly now has twelve campuses across four continents. They’ve established a global reputation as an educational institution that transforms thinkers into creators.

media monitoring

When you have a community as large and involved as GA’s, you need a way to keep a pulse on what’s being said about your brand, as well as the conversations happening in the industry. For this, GA uses media monitoring. I had the chance to chat with Erin H. May, GA’s Head of Content Marketing, about how they use media monitoring for reputation management, and she had some great insight and tips to share!

Why & how do you use media monitoring for General Assembly?

To collect real-time qualitative data on how our existing students, alumni, and greater community are using and feeling about GA.

We also use media monitoring for general reputation management. We’re looking to see what the conversation around the GA brand is — which conversations are positive and which are negative.

Media monitoring also allows us to identify brand advocates and develop relationships with influencers and potential ambassadors.

We’ve even established ongoing partnerships with individuals who weren’t familiar with GA before we joined the conversation.

How do you decide which keywords to monitor?

Of course we’re monitoring @GA, as well as “General Assembly.” Because we have an interesting name as it relates to international relations, with Mention, we’ve been able to set up our alert to block out “United Nations” and an NYC-based restaurant named General Assembly.

As far as monitoring conversations not directly related to GA in order to communicate with our larger community, we focus on the terms most important to our brand and offering, such as web development bootcamps, entrepreneurship, startups, and women and minorities in tech.

What type of conversations have you been surprised by?

Having been with General Assembly for only two months now, it’s been a great experience seeing how overwhelmingly positive the conversations with and around our brand are. We once had a dominatrix who was really excited about GA, so that was entertaining for us too [laughs].

Beyond social, where have you been able to find people talking about GA?

Having a very tech savvy audience, we’ve found a lot of really great business people, entrepreneurs, and bloggers taking it upon themselves to talk about GA on their blogs, Medium, and on forums such as Quora.

We’ve been fortunate to experience a ton of organic earned media around GA and have used media monitoring to discover these stories.

How do you join these conversations? Any tips for increasing engagement?

Developing quality relationships requires a bit of detective work and tracing back where a conversation came from. When a conversation is discovered from one-off comments, you have to gather the context to learn what a person’s true interests and needs are.

When developing your messaging, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Be transparent and start the relationship slow. If it’s the first time you’re talking to someone, it’s probably more appropriate to direct them to your blog or invite them to an event than it is to try to sell them your platinum-level partnership.

When it comes down to it, there are a lot of win-win situations to be had with the people talking about GA — we can help each other, which is a tremendous opportunity for everyone involved..

Has there been an instance where you turned an opinion about GA around?

At GA, we view feedback as an opportunity to examine our approach and readjust. We’re always on the lookout for feedback to help us evolve and create the best experience possible. This isn’t typical with most companies, and so it’s usually a surprise to people when we want to discuss something they’ve posted online to see how we can turn their experience around.

One such case was a tweet we received saying: “There are some things that I loved about my @GA experiences, but there are def more things that I can’t stand and bug me like no other =.”

Although this tweet wasn’t especially negative, it bothered us to know that someone out there didn’t absolutely love their experience with us. We told him we would follow up with him shortly, and his course producer reached out to set up a time to chat over student happy hour.

It turns out that the student was frustrated in his job search, so his course producer began working more closely with him to find more opportunities. During the time in which they tracked down the perfect placement, he also came on board at GA as an “Engineer In Training” (basically a TA-in-training.) Since landing a great job he’s very happy with, he also plans on coming back to TA with us in the near future.

Some of our biggest advocates are our instructors, as they live, breathe and preach GA across the globe. To be able to convert someone with a so-so feeling into one of our advocates is just one of the many reasons we value social listening.

Are there any other ways media monitoring has helped with community building and reputation management?

GA has a pretty robust global network of students, instructors, and alumni. Media monitoring allows us to keep a pulse on the conversations happening within our community, such as alumni setting up their own meetups.

After identifying influencers related to our core areas of interest and passion, we’re able to invite them to blog for GA. In some instances, these influencers may even become GA instructors.

How has media monitoring influenced your content efforts?

Despite the volume of content available online today, there’s a lack of a certain types of quality and curated experiences that we’re looking to fill for specific audiences. Listening to our audience for quality content ideas that answer their questions is a big part of filling that void.

Any last words or pieces of advice you’d like to share about media monitoring?

Any business in 2014 should be monitoring their brand online and looking to build relationships with the people talking about them.

Rather than a top-down approach to starting the conversation, media monitoring allows us to build more meaningful conversations, especially in terms of developing content that our audience wants and needs.

media monitoring

How are you using media monitoring? I’d love to hear your story, and feature it on our blog!

media monitoring

Erin May is the head of content marketing at General Assembly. Likes: Macs, premium cable shows, perspicacity, keyboard shortcuts. Dislikes: cilantro. Get in touch with her @erinhmay.

Shannon Byrne is the Content & PR Manager at Mention where she crafts words, creates strategies, and recruits loyal advocates. She’s based in New York. Get in touch with her at @ShannnonB.

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