Is Social Media Part Of Your App Strategy?

Social-Media-Stress-SyndromeRemember those college frat party photos that someone put up on Facebook? You know, the ones where your eyes are glazed over, your hair is disheveled, and you look like you are absolutely blasted?

Or what about the rant you once engaged in when someone disagreed with you online? The time you lost your temper over a political issue and went a bit over the top?

Well, it’s no surprise that if you’re applying to a highly selective MBA program at a top business school, you should scrub your social media profile. A new survey of prospective business school students shows that 48.3% of applicants plan to review and clean up their online profiles before completing their MBA applications.

NEARLY 20% OF APPLICANTS PLAN TO CREATE A NEW ONLINE PRESENCE TO ENHANCE THEIR APPLICATIONS

What’s more surprising, however, is that nearly one in five applicants actually plan to create a new online presence to enhance their applications. The survey by Stacy Blackman Consulting, an admissions consulting firm, shows that MBA candidates are increasingly taking social media into account when crafting their admissions strategies.

The survey, completed by 675 respondents online between April 15 and April 24, also revealed that:

  • 29.9% of applicants plan to “follow” or connect with school contacts through social media sites
  • 19.27% plan to create a new online presence (such as a blog or Instagram account) to enhance their application
  • 16.14% plan to inform admissions committees of relevant social media accounts, in the hopes of bolstering the stories in their application

THE GRANDMA TEST ON SOCIAL MEDIA POSTINGS

It’s something of a no-brainer to clean up your online profile, especially because it’s not unusual for an admissions official at a business school to Google an applicant and see what is publicly available on a candidate.  “Everyone has an online brand now,” says Stacy Blackman founder and president of the firm that bears her name. “At this point, half of  the applicants are thinking social media. But right now the way people are thinking about it is, ‘Oh God, I better check over my profile to make sure there are no inappropriate photos or messages and clean it up.’ It’s like cleaning up your room before you have company over. A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t want your grandma to see it, just get rid of it.”

In general, says Blackman, assume that what you put online can easily be misinterpreted and hurt your chances at a highly ranked school which is looking for excuses to reject candidates because so many are qualified to attend. “I would err on being a little more conservative,” says Blackman. “It’s totally fine to see the informal side. We don’t live our lives in a business suit. But pictures with cups in your hand and glazed eyes and sexy pictures are just not okay. You can adjust your profile so that it is private, or just cut the sexy side and the partying to be safe.”

Blackman said the new trend revealed in the survey is that 20% of applicants plan to increase their chances at a time when one school after another is cutting the number of essays required to apply. “I think it’s surprising that 20% actually plan to proactively create a new online presence to enhance their online brand,” adds Blackman. “If you are interested in photography, you can say here is my Instagram account. At a time when word counts are shrinking, you can use that to tell your story.

A SOCIAL MEDIA CLEANUP FROM A CONSULTANT COSTS $850

“What ever interests you have, there are often ways to show that in social media. If there is a certain charity you are passionate about, you might be on Facebook, Tumblr or your own blog, promoting it. You can incorporate travel pictures and art projects into your online brand. I wouldn’t suggest getting too political or religious. but there are a lot of fun interests applicants have that they may not devote much time on in their essays that they can bring to life through social media, like rock climbing or guitar playing.If you reference it, there is a good chance the person on the admissions committee will do a quick check.”

In common with some other MBA admission firms, Blackman now offers offers a social media review, designed by a former resident social guru at Yahoo!. The review, priced at $850, includes consultation with a social media expert; a constructive review of an applicant’s online presence, including social and search results; and strategic recommendations for suggested edits and improvements to applicants’ profiles and overall online presence. The MBA Exchange, another admissions consulting firm, also offer a social media audit for $95.

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