And the Most Influential Social Network Among MBA Prospects Is…

June 15, 2016

Higher education marketers are quickly learning that traditional media is becoming less and less effective in converting qualified candidates, while social networks are becoming increasingly more influential in the prospective student’s decision-making process.

But which social media platform has the most impact?

Tomorrow’s MBA, a new study recently conducted by Carrington Crisp among global MBA prospects, finds that LinkedIn is the most influential social network in the decision-making process when choosing a school. Among all digital media, LinkedIn was named the second most influential digital tool behind Google, with MBA.com and Economist.com coming in third and fourth place.

This research confirms what we discovered in a study we conducted last year, which revealed that professional social networks like LinkedIn are significantly more influential than personal social networks when it comes to choosing a university.

Leverage Social Networks to Secure Your Spot on the “Short List”

Identifying influential digital media is critical to the higher ed marketer, especially in light of research that reveals just how important it is to engage prospects early in their decision journey.

To learn more about the candidate’s thought process, LinkedIn surveyed prospective students on the details of how they develop their “short list” of schools they would like to attend. Consider the following:

  • The average short list contains only three universities
  • 72% of prospects formed their short list before reaching out to a school representative
  • 93% of respondents enrolled in one of their short-listed schools

The results are telling. With nearly three-quarters of all candidates identifying their top schools of choice before a visit or even a simple e-mail, it is crucial to develop a content marketing plan focused on reaching prospects early in the decision process. In other words, if you’re hoping to win them over during a campus visit or interview, you may be too late.

With professional social networks having such a high influence on an MBA prospect’s decision, a targeted content marketing strategy on the world’s largest professional network is one of the most effective ways to command attention.

What Types of Content Do MBA Prospects Want?

Now that we know where you should be, let’s think about what types of content you should post.

Choosing the right university is a weighty decision for prospective students. They seek a wide range of information about an institution to determine if it is the right fit for them.

But just as important, we found that timing is everything when it comes to content. The information sought by prospects is largely dependent on which stage of the decision-making cycle they are in. The chart below highlights what type of content resonates the most at each stage:

As you can see, program information is viewed as important in all stages, so regularly sharing posts on courses and degree offerings behooves the savvy marketer.

However, relying solely on posts of this sort can become redundant and stale, and today’s audiences place greater trust in organizations that share more helpful information. Therefore, it’s vital to include information on other topics of interest as well.

Here are some examples of effective Sponsored Content shared by business schools:

Stanford School of Business

To draw prospective students to its accelerated, one-year degree program, Stanford shared a link to a page on its website providing salient details about its MSx program.

Duke Fuqua School of Business

Leveraging the current cultural obsession with FitBit, Duke shared faculty research news that examined the efficacy of the popular gadgets, demonstrating their professors’ business savvy and thought leadership on topics that interest consumers the most.

Western International University

Positioning itself as an expert on career growth, Western International provided a link to a free guide with job tips from HR professionals.

In sum, the three takeaways for education marketers are: 1) LinkedIn is the most influential social network among MBA prospects when making enrollment decisions, 2) it’s imperative to impress candidates even before they contact your school and 3) know which content resonates the most in every stage of the decision cycle.

Want more tips on how to win over your best MBA candidates? We’re here to help. Visit our new higher education microsite for additional LinkedIn marketing best practices and success stories.

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