The writers of the ad proffer that "we now live in an era of unstructured data." They point out that companies that keep their data in rigid, structured databases will have difficult succeeding in a world that, from a data point of view, is seemingly chaotic. Their solution is an approach called Meaning Based Computing (MBC), which has been sweeping every industry.
I wonder how schools might benefit from this approach to mining what appears to be unstructured data, or if the independent education industry is different from all others (highly doubtful). Like many other businesses, we are using data-collecting websites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the like (some schools do this more than others, obviously). These social networks turn the tables on traditional data-gathering strategies, meaning that customers (families, in our case) are more in control of how they communicate with our schools...and about our schools...on these networks, apart from how they communicate with us via our website, email system, etc.
The authors of the ad provide a scenario that should be of interest to us: "After observing a dramatic spike in positive sentiment on Twitter around a particular product line, a company automatically updates its homepage to give that product more prominent billing. The company then tests which messages about that product are most effective in engaging customers on its website, and then passes along those insights to agents in the call center, and updates its online advertising campaigns. By injecting this understanding throughout every phase of the marketing cycle, a business can maximize revenue across all channels."
To translate this concept in school terms, let us suppose that your school introduced an amazing service learning program, and that you informed your constituents about this program via multiple communication vehicles. If your school then received real-time (or as close as we might get) results that showed positive buzz about the program, you could update your digital, real-time media to reflect that positive sentiment. The next step would be to test several messages about the service learning program to see which ones push the most traffic to your website, then allow those same messages to permeate your communications. If you could do this each time you propose something innovative and/or meaningful, it would help your communications to remain fresh and interesting, and would result in increased attention to your school (i.e., your product); that increased attention, if mined correctly, could result in increased applications to your school.
This approach necessitates more time and dollars allocated to marketing and communications, but I submit that, in the "new normal," such a hard turn in this direction is necessary, and it may remain so for a long time. It would require education of the faculty and staff as well, as everyone would be participating in this marketing effort. Admissions is the name of the game, and everything that we can do to 1) retain current families and 2) attract new families will be central to our existence, going forward.