If you’re applying to an MBA program this year, be careful about what you post online. It’s becoming increasingly common for the admissions team to do a quick Google search on your name before making their final decision. If you’ve demonstrated bad judgment by posting pictures of yourself partying or doing not-so-upstanding things, or making offensive or otherwise politically incorrect comments, you’ve given them an easy reason to move your application to the ding pile.
Make sure your profile on any of the major social media platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn—won’t derail your MBA application efforts by checking if they pass what I call the Grandma Test. If you wouldn’t want Nana to see it, then the admissions committee or potential employers shouldn’t, either.
Once you’ve scrubbed your baseline profile, it’s time to get strategic about using your online presence to enhance your MBA candidacy and personal brand.
Application Strategy: Define your ‘shareable story’
Savvy candidates can actually use social media to boost their credibility and solidify the good impressions made through their application materials. Start by fine-tuning a clear and purposeful narrative that you can leverage through social media. The articles and thoughts you share, the comments you make and the professional affiliations you display will provide schools with a multidimensional view of who you are, as well as support your expertise and passion for a particular industry or activity.
Some examples of shareable stories might be:
- “My passion for people extends beyond U.S. borders. My love of travel has connected me with individuals around the world. I nurture and maintain these relationships and learn and grow through these connections.”
- “In my free time I eat. And cook. And entertain. I love bringing people together over a great meal. Exploring unusual recipes, experimenting in the kitchen and sharing my culinary successes is an important hobby of mine.”
- “I am a driven finance professional with a passion for improving education systems. Through lobbying, recruiting and fundraising, I have affected thousands of children by improving their educational experience.”
Application Strategy: Incorporate that story across social media platforms
I recommend applicants initially focus on three key platforms. Most of us are on Facebook, so this an easy area to develop a content strategy that positively reflects your personal interests. LinkedIn is also a must-have, as it is the professional social network. Twitter is a great option to start if you haven’t already since you can use it to expand and build your brand.
For Facebook, choose a cover photo that represents your shareable story. For example, the avid traveler would highlight a photo from a recent trip. A candidate passionate about mentoring disadvantaged children should select a photo that highlights those efforts.
Remember to “Like” the business schools you’re targeting, but don’t try to friend the director of admissions. Also, make sure the things you like reflect the personal and professional interests you have shared in your essays. Let’s say that you’re hoping to switch careers after business school, and in one of your essays you share your intention to work for a company that develops clean-energy options in third-world countries. You could post about a local conference you attended, or you could give your take on the most promising advancements in the field.
LinkedIn is critical as you embark on your MBA career and is an excellent place to network, gather information and build your brand. Connect with schools, companies, and LinkedIn figures of influence but don’t try to connect with people you don’t already know.
What you update on LinkedIn helps to reinforce your brand, and actively developing a strategy now can help tell your story later. Maybe your career to date has led you to become somewhat of an expert on microfinance. Reinforce that reputation by letting people know when you were quoted in an article or asked to participate on a panel.
LinkedIn may not be the place to meet people, but Twitter definitely is a great platform to engage with people who share similar interests. Make sure your bio includes information that reflects your shareable story. A profile photo is a must, and the background photo should also support some element of your story.
Are you a marketing guru? It would be easy to weigh in on—or share—what some of the biggest brands are doing on social media. Follow relevant users, publications or brands on Twitter based on how you want to present yourself. Look at their followers to discover more people with similar interests. You can express your own story by sharing articles, adding commentary, and tweeting your thoughts on the topics that appeal to you. Make sure to follow the business schools and admissions directors you are interested in as well.
Application Strategy: Make the time investment count
You can tweet and post all day long, but you’ll get lost in the Internet jungle if you don’t reach out and link and connect with others. Build your content and your audience based on your passions and you will attract an audience of like-minded people. And make sure that you work to forge connections, on and offline.
Finally, don’t forget to link to your social profiles within the application to make it easy for the admissions committee to have that other touch point by which to assess you. Remember, if you don’t consider social media to be another way to strengthen your candidacy, you may be missing out on a great opportunity that other MBA applicants will most certainly take advantage of.
Before becoming an MBA application advisor with Stacy Blackman Consulting, Sherry Holland spent four years working at The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University as an Assistant Director of Admissions where she evaluated applications, sat on the admissions and merit scholarship committees and coached unsuccessful applicants on how best to improve their application so that they could reapply the following year. She also supervised Fuqua’s international admission procedures and traveled extensively throughout the US, Asia, Europe, South America, the Middle East and India recruiting and interviewing prospective students.