I have been reflecting on the lessons that we have learnt from our use of social media.
Over the last three years, we have intensified our use of social media to convey elements of the Cambridge MBA. Firstly, we have used different platforms, such as facebook, linkedin, launching a student blog and this admissions blog, and participating in a more active manner on online MBA forums. Secondly, we have experimented with different types of content. We have greatly increased the amount of video content that we use on our website and facebook pages. Our work in the marketing team has expanded beyond just choosing advertising channels to actively thinking about what type of content would be relevant and compelling to people who are interested in an MBA. This has required us to have a better understanding of the interests and accomplishments of our students and our alums.
Most significantly, a social media voice or personality for the Cambridge MBA has evolved. This is a slight departure from traditional advertising which emphasised channels and messages. While channels and messages are still important, in the world of social media, it is just as vital, if not more so, for a brand like the Cambridge MBA to have a strong personality and voice.
Voice and personality is where I find most business schools fall short in their social media initiatives. Most business schools treat their social media channels as extensions of their advertising channels, usually reproducing press releases or event notifications. In contrast, I believe that over the last one or two years, we have organically developed a social media personality that is collaborative, quietly confident, and insightful even if it means questioning popular mainstream beliefs about the MBA. I say that this has been an organic process because there was no grand strategy in the beginning that produced a set of guidelines that everyone had to follow. In fact, I think it would have been impossible to have developed this personality if there had been such a top-down process given how decentralised our social media content is — much of it comes from people outside my team and we don’t tell them what to say about the Cambridge MBA. It is a testimony to the strength of the core values of the Cambridge MBA that characteristics such as collaborativeness, diversity and the courage to look beyond the obvious keep coming up when students and alums speak about their MBA experiences.
So far, our biggest successes have been in the admissions and student blogs, both of which attract a sizeable following. Our facebook page (The Cambridge MBA) has also done well, attracting more likes than other schools’ facebook pages (which cover all their programmes, not just their MBA). I believe these platforms have been successful because they have not focused exclusively on getting people to apply to the programme. Instead, there is a steady flow of content that readers find interesting and relevant, even if the content has nothing to do with the MBA application process itself.
What still confounds me is how to make better use of twitter. Our twitter feed (@CambridgeMBA) has grown organically over the last one and a half years and now has about 745 followers, which is tiny compared to other business schools (eg @OxfordSBS has about 10,000; @insead has about 8,000 and @LondonBS has almost 18,000 followers). Even if one takes the view that it is not all about the number of followers, the level of engagement on twitter has not been as high as I was expecting. Yes, there is the odd retweet or favouriting, but I had hoped that there would be more discussion on our twitter feed. To me, twitter should not be just about broadcasting events but it should be a different way to build links between people who share the values and interests of the Cambridge MBA. I don’t expect all of the followers to go on and apply for the MBA, but I do hope that they gain value from interacting with the CambridgeMBA on twitter, and then by extension that value strengthens the Cambridge MBA brand. I don’t think we are alone in not fully grasping the value of twitter. From what I see, most business schools don’t go beyond tweeting about their events or information which could have just come from their website.
Don’t get me wrong. I personally love twitter. I find it a great way to keep on top of news and to find interesting people who share my interests. Perhaps it is because I love twitter that I feel we should be achieving a lot more through the platform, and we will see what we can do differently in this coming year. As a first step, we have set up another twitter account (@CamMBAInfo) which will focus exclusively on event notifications, application reminders and answering any queries related to the application process. This will free up @CambridgeMBA to focus on relevant and engaging content. We will continue to highlight student and alumni achievements but I also want to have more student- and alum-generated content, particularly on their views about current issues in the business world, which would be interesting and relevant to a larger community, and also strengthen the Cambridge MBA personality. Some of this would take the form of blog posts, while some of it would be in the form of audio or video interviews. It will be another new area for us, and hopefully, we can learn and adapt sufficiently that we will make better use of social media channels such as twitter.