Graduate business school recruiting is a high-stakes game, considering students may easily pay $100,000+ for an executive MBA program. And with 6,000 business programs around the world vying for top candidates, higher ed marketers need every advantage to reach prospects.
Until fairly recently, marketers have concentrated on email campaigns to generate leads among known prospects – a hit-and-miss strategy since many prospects either don’t share their email address or don’t open the messages they receive.
Social media has provided business schools with new ways to reach potential candidates. According to GMAC’s 2016 mba.com Prospective Students Survey Report, 96% of prospective students use social media and 67% use it to learn about graduate education opportunities.
LinkedIn is proving to be marketers’ digital platform of choice for reaching high-quality candidates. With its emphasis on professional connections and career advancement, it’s a natural gathering place for those who might be most interested in prestigious business programs.
In addition, a recent study showed that for half of the respondents “friends, family and peers were most influential when considering further education — second only to the institution’s website. And professional networks were twice as influential as personal social networks.”
And as candidates look to their LinkedIn connections for guidance, marketers are able to engage prospective students through relevant content and gradually encourage them to move through the enrolment funnel.
Engaging candidates through content
With the recent retrofit of its University pages, LinkedIn allows marketers to provide this content in a number of ways, including:
- Showcase pages, customized pages that many universities are using like a microsite to highlight graduate programs, research and faculty profiles.
- Sponsored content that allows marketers to reach specific audiences with targeted advertising. This targeting ability is especially important, considering candidate demographics may range from current undergrads to established business leaders.
- Sponsored InMail which gives marketers a way to deliver relevant content directly to prospects, along with the ability to conduct A/B testing to further tailor messages.
Tracking through the enrolment funnel
Along with these features, LinkedIn offers marketers a wide variety of analytics to both track how users engage with this content and prompt them to move to the next step in the enrolment funnel:
- Updates enable users to track impressions, clicks, interactions and engagement for each individual LinkedIn post.
- Reach and Engagementdata details both overall and unique page impressions, plus clicks, likes, comments, shares, and followers.
- Follower demographics provides information about prospects from their LinkedIn profiles, meaning marketers can segment audiences by attributes like industry, title and seniority.
- LinkedIn Insight Tag, a tracking tool embedded on a university website or landing page, tracks when a visitor performs a conversion activity, such as completing a form. It also allows marketers to “retrack” visitors by showing them relevant advertising even after they’ve left the website.
Lead generation at Smith
The Smith School of Business at Queen’s University is one of the world’s largest and most respected providers of executive education and offers four highly acclaimed MBA programs. I asked Neil Beares, Director of Marketing, how his team uses social media analytics in their recruitment efforts.
“We’re not beholden to any one platform,” he says. “Because we’re focused on a business-to-business lead generation strategy, we look at what’s getting us the cheapest, highest-quality leads. It’s like a giant poker table; you have to move your chips as the cards change.”
At the moment, Beares says that LinkedIn’s data and tools make the platform “our bread and butter” when it comes to identifying and engaging high-calibre candidates
Beares describes how his team uses LinkedIn tools to help move candidates through the enrolment funnel. As an individual completes one conversion activity, the resulting data triggers the next opportunity to engage.
“We build on low-commitment conversion activities. First, we might invite them to sign up for an information session. Then we can suggest they speak with a program advisor. Then later they can submit their LinkedIn profile.”
As each activity gets more specific, the candidate group grows smaller, but those who remain are most engaged and are likely to apply.
The biggest piece of advice Beares offers is to stay flexible as new tools appear.
“When you try new things, you have to be prepared to change your entire process. Media products are fairly simple to change – you can change an online ad with a couple of clicks. But the back-end processes will need to change, too, and that’s not so easy.”
Despite the challenges, “Social media analytics provide a far more reliable dataset than banner advertising,” he says.
“The main thing is to be less religious about which social media you use. Keep driving it back to business results.”
Lessons for Others
Here’s what we can learn from the Smith School of Business about using social media analytics:
- Social media platforms are different. Use the ones that best help you meet your business goals.
- New tools tools are appearing every day. Be prepared to change your processes to take full advantage of the data they provide.
- By asking your prospects to take small steps through low-risk conversion activities, you have a better chance of keeping them engaged.
Smith School of Business
Industry: Higher Education
Name of Organization Contact: Neil Beares
Authored by: Beth Bohnert
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GMAC. (2016). 2016 mba.com Prospective Students Survey Report. Retrieved from https://www.gmac.com/market-intelligence-and-research/research-library/admissions-and-application-trends/2016-prospective-students-survey-report.aspx.
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