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Are MBA schools missing the online conversation?

Students and business use of social media trending upwards while some schools lag

September 2011 More MBA students and prospects today expect social media options as a curriculum subject and tool to research their choice of school. This reflects the growing demand in the business world for employees with honed social media skills, a survey of prospective and enrolled business school students suggests.

The online survey, conducted by The MBA Tour, an independent, high quality information source for MBA candidates, which has represented top business schools in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America since1993, found 85 percent of pre-enrollment students globally say they use social media sites to research their choice of school. This is higher than the 71 percent of students already enrolled who reported using social media for their school research, suggesting a strong upward trend is underway.

More pointedly, the survey also found when two questions were combined, nearly 77 percent of pre-enrollment students reported disappointment with their schools’ use of social media tools (14 percent) or, while acknowledging the schools had made an effort, were left wanting more. For already enrolled students or graduates, 55 percent felt the social media options and subsequent classes were either “not up to par with the growing industry” (17.7 percent) or weren’t provided (37.7 percent). Additionally, 98 percent of students researching business schools reported social media was either a “necessity in every field of study” (51.7 percent) or “somewhat important dependent on the field of study” (47.6 percent).

“The results are thought-provoking – especially as 85 percent of prospective students are researching the biggest choice of their life through social media,” observes Peter von Loesecke, CEO and Managing Director of The MBA Tour. “We might want to ask whether schools are missing out on the right conversation with their students. What the survey suggests is schools might want to consider using social media not only for their recruitment programs, but also to more aggressively incorporate social media into their curriculum because there appears to be a growing demand both from students and businesses.”

The survey also found students in both categories turned to the blogsphere for the bulk of their social media research while, somewhat predictably, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter figured highly. Among the top three types of information sought: general information about the school (70.6 percent), application tips (54.5 percent), and GMAT help (41.3 percent).

At this stage, the absence of a social media curriculum at a school isn’t fatal: the vast majority – 73.4 percent of those surveyed – said a lack of social media classes wouldn’t sway their decision to choose a school.

However, for tomorrow’s business leaders, social media skills are essential, says Christine Eberle, a UK-based senior executive for Accenture’s Talent and Organization Performance practice and contributor to The Social Media Management Handbook. In addition to advising clients on social media strategies, Accenture has also embedded these practices into their own organization and aggressively recruits via social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. It expects to recruit about 40 percent of new hires through social media in the next few years.

Eberle says as corporate recruitment evolves to meet the changing dynamics of the marketplace, graduates without a social media skill set could find themselves passed over.

“Talent managers must recognize the change in recruiting, organizational design, learning, technology, rewards and incentives,” says Eberle. “Leadership must commit to a strategy to adopt social media and convey its benefits throughout the organization. Social media savvy is a necessary skill for professional development.

“Businesses must learn how to use social media to start a two way conversation with their customers and potential customers. Those companies will look for that leadership among business school graduates.”

Schools are also realizing the landscape is changing more quickly than it has in the past and all institutions – like any enterprise – must adapt and evolve.

“UCLA Anderson utilizes a slate of social media tools for prospective students, from Facebook and Twitter to blogs, not only to provide our audience with news and updates, but also to give prospective students a taste of our collegial community here,” says Jessica Chung, associate director of MBA admissions at UCLA Anderson “We also weave content on social media into many of our classes as this is increasingly becoming an important element of business strategy.”

As such, change is inevitable.

“The demographics of the student body are partly what’s driving change,” said von Loesecke. “The students themselves see this trend instinctively because they are the Internet generation – they’ve grown up with the Web. They know of no other world.”

About The MBA Tour

The MBA Tour travels internationally with top universities and business schools from around the world. It offers MBA candidates the chance to take part in panel presentations and round table discussions, hone their networking skills and meet admissions staff.

See The MBA Tour’s website (www.thembatour.com), join the conversation at www.facebook.com/thembatour or follow them at www.twitter.com/thembatour.

For more information on The MBA Tour, the conducted survey, or a specific interview request please contact:

Media Contacts:

Tanya Dodaro
On Q Communications
tanya@onqcommunications.ca
W: 416-572-4444
C: 416-725-8020

 

The MBA Tour
35 Forest Ridge Road
Suite 240
Concord, MA 01742
USA
       Phone:  978-451-4200
Fax:  978-451-4201
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