Around this time each year, we glance at our calendars and exclaim in surprise, “Where did the summer go?!?” Although September arrives seemingly out of nowhere, you know it is just around the corner when yellow school buses are once again streaming down suburban streets and retail shelves are overflowing with back-to-school supplies. For parents of school-aged children, this often signals that time to shop for new and bigger backpacks. With a dizzying array of colors, shapes and sizes, the choice becomes even more complex with the option of solar backpacks - underscoring just how connected our culture is today.
Like backpack manufacturers, MBA marketing officers are also adapting to our wired world. MBA programs know about the importance of using social media in their recruitment efforts, but it can be a challenge to figure which tools to use and the most effective ones.
Well, some guidance comes in the form of recent research from the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. According to a study of the 2012 US News Top MBA programs, all 70 schools in the sample are using at least one social media tool in their marketing efforts. Here are the most commonly used social media tools:
- Facebook (100%)
- Twitter (96%)
- LinkedIn (87%)
- You Tube (77%)
- Official Blogs (74%)
Of these tools, the most effective are perceived to be:
- Facebook (83%)
- Mobile Apps (82%)
- Official Blogs (70%)
- You Tube (69%)
- LinkedIn (63%)
As business schools find their way in this new digital frontier, the survey points out that there are plenty of opportunities to do more. For example, researchers reveal that listening to online conversation is equally important as participating in online conversation. “Only by being aware of conversation regarding your school or program, can you quickly and appropriately respond and encourage or discourage trending discussions.”
In addition, business schools need to identify the most meaningful metrics to measure the results. While the study found that the top goal for using social media is recruitment, the most popular measures of effectiveness are friends/followers, hits and comments. Only 24% of respondents report that they track resultant applications.
Looking ahead, 82% of MBA programs indicate that they are planning to ramp-up their social media efforts in the next year.
With limited budgets, how will MBA programs manage and monitor their social media efforts? Currently, 50% of respondents report that their social media efforts are managed by MBA offices with 44% indicating they are managed by an external consultant/agency, and 5% stating they are managed by another office on campus.
As MBA programs make their own "back-to-school" plans for the new recruitment season, the important lesson here is not to miss the bus when it comes to social media. Whichever social media tools you include in your recruitment backpack, there are innovative ways to reach out to MBA prospects and promote the business school brand. For example, executive MBA and part-time MBA programs may want to monitor and comment on the social media accounts of key feeder companies. For full-time MBA programs, social media is a great way to promote the new hot ranking of your town or city by Fortune or Money Magazine.
With an MBA social media strategy in place, you'll be well on your way to the head of the class this recruitment season.
Barbara Coward, author of this article, is a marketing communications consultant at Percept Research. Barbara welcomes your questions and comments.