Digital Engagement Metrics – What Counts at University of Denver?

Janet Yenter
Wyatt Hornsby

One silver lining of engagement migrating to digital formats is the ability to collect information on who is interacting with your content and how and when it’s happening. We turned to University of Denver’s Wyatt Hornsby, assistant vice chancellor, creative engagement and Janet Yenter, assistant vice chancellor, alumni engagement, to learn how they are tracking interactions.

Q: Was DU already deep into digital engagement or did the current environment necessitate a “pivot” that you had to get behind quickly?

A: Ironically, we had been discussing adopting a more hybrid approach to events in anticipation of the next budget year. So, we were thinking about how we could expand in the virtual space and then suddenly we had the opportunity to play in that playground and experiment quite a bit.

Q: How did you determine how to collect and disseminate all of the content that was being created?

A: We decided early on that our primary marketing goal would be to drive people to a specific microsite,, for COVID-related resources that could help our communities personally and professionally. In terms of content, simplicity was top of mind for us so we identified six over-arching categories that could serve as gateways or conduits to specific information. As you can imagine, the offerings within these buckets has been changing over time, depending on what is most engaging and helpful to our communities at that moment. For example, what’s top of mind for our small business alums or what do our students and their families need right now. And as other DU sites materialized with their own great information, we made sure to link to these so that it all could be found in one place.

Q: What kinds of measurement did you put in place to help track all of this engagement activity?

A: Historically, we’ve tracked engagement in three buckets: philanthropy, in-person and virtual – although virtual in the past mostly captured email and phone touchpoints. Now our tracking is becoming much more robust. Because almost everything today can be considered digital, we’re working closely with our business intelligence and analytics team to identify more relevant categories to track, such as which interactions are more about career and professional development. Tracking registrations to digital offerings can be a bit challenging because different departments use different platforms, but we’ve found ways to consolidate the information. We also measure who engages with our video content. For example, we use Wistia to track who watches a webinar that happened live and is now archived and available online. Then, of course, we closely monitor the Stay Connected site activity through Google Analytics so we’re able to get a sense of the site traffic, as well as the effect of any marketing campaigns underway. And we’ve developed a fairly streamlined approach to funnel all of the data into our main engagement database.

Q: How do you think this new information will help DU in its future engagement efforts?

A: We are learning a lot in terms of the types of data we want to hone in on. It’s still somewhat of a manual process of reviewing who is interested in what and where there might be specific opportunities. Our team meets on a regular basis to try to fine tune how and what information we’re collecting. We are continuing to assess how to slice and dice the numbers to yield the best strategy.

Q: Favorite discoveries thus far?

A: Two immediately come to mind. The first is when we were looking at our overall engagement for this fiscal year, we thought we’d be lucky to reach 90% of our pre-COVID goal. We’re thrilled to say that heading into the last quarter we were already at 103%. It’s safe to say that we will never go back to thinking digital is a second-best alternative. The second surprising effect is the inclusivity and reach that this digital migration has fostered. Virtual programming can create such incredible scale. A favorite example is a reimagined career development event that would typically have attracted a specific community within the Denver area. The digital version reached alumni in six countries, which really showcases the impact that DU can have in a truly global way.


To learn how Level5 Events by The Expo Group can help you develop, design and incorporate digital elements into your event strategy, contact us here. 

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