Reaching the right audience: Business School communications part II

How Business Schools can use the high potential of social media platforms effectively, with examples of best practice, from London Business School EMBA graduate, Sarah Seedsman

An executive MBA graduate of London Business School’s prestigious Sloan Masters programme, Sarah Seedsman specialises in market research and marketing for Business Schools.

In the second of a two-part interview (the first part can be found here), the focus shifts in more detail to how Business Schools can use the high potential of social media platforms effectively, with examples of best practice. Seedsman also discusses the importance of ensuring approaches remain aligned with an individual institution’s goals and strategy.   

Can you offer some examples of how Business Schools have taken advantage of social media’s power to great effect?

We are seeing a lot of examples during this pandemic crisis. Social media comes into its own in terms of mobilising a School’s communities and allowing them to communicate. For example, INSEAD has set up a group on Facebook, Project Green Cross, to enable alumni to work with each other to support local communities through fundraising and finding ways of moving medical supplies and equipment.

In tracking how active Schools have been on social media over the last year, Imperial College Business School’s Dean has stood out for being really active, which has helped build a real sense of community. Now, the School is reaching out in the community to fundraise for new research which Imperial College is at the forefront of. They already had an engaged audience with which to do this though.

We are also seeing a lot of useful thought leadership, for example how to lead and manage people though a crisis is now popping up on all the different social media channels, including LinkedIn – of course, sometimes we should really think of LinkedIn as being a professional platform and not a social platform. 

In addition, there are campaigns where Schools have thought about the theme that they want to gather content around with a particular hashtag, for example ‘#whyIlovelbs’. Over a period of a couple of years they then have student and graduates, alumni and faculty post across different topics using photos, videos and comments with that common hashtag. This collated content becomes really good information for prospective students in terms of seeing what the community has said about the Business School.

Some deans have used LinkedIn effectively, which helps raise the brand profile of the School. It’s a very competitive market and deans can help build a community and keep a School’s alumni community around the world engaged. Media Minds tracks 100 deans on LinkedIn and top of the list for activity is Geoffrey Garrett, Dean at the Wharton School. He has almost half a million followers on LinkedIn and posts regularly. To put that in context, the Financial Times – an important publication to Business Schools because of its rankings – only achieved one million subscribers last year. Garrett already has access to an audience of half a million, so it is a very helpful channel for raising the School’s profile.

How can Business Schools spot fads on social media, how can they tell if it’s just a trend or if it’s here to stay?

The first thing we say to Business Schools is that they shouldn’t feel like they have to play with every shiny new toy. The important thing for Business Schools is to be quite considered in what’s going to work for their goals and strategy.

Start with the audience you want to reach and understand the best place to reach them with content they want and can engage with. Sometimes it’s a matter of being quite ruthless and quite focused. Keep an eye on data and analytics to see trends.

Instagram is just coming into its own for Business Schools, for example, and many Schools had been relatively slow in starting to use it. However, Instagram is now getting the highest inquisition of new followers. The platform doesn’t just need to be for photos, the Harvard Business Review’s Instagram account uses long posts and gets lots of engagement. Business Schools can still use this platform to promote their faculty’s thought leadership.

It’s a matter of having one eye on your audience and one eye on what you are trying to achieve and then making some decisions based on common sense.

How can Business Schools ensure that their thought leadership reaches its target audience?

Don’t spray and pray. Don’t put it everywhere and hope that people notice.

I think the key thing is to always use your website as a hub, to have everything there in the first place, so that you can keep linking back to it. In addition, many articles can enjoy a long life if you consider using different extracts from it. You won’t reach your entire audience the first time you put it out there, so share in different ways across your channels.

All social media platforms have an algorithm behind them, which chooses which groups see different things, so try and learn about these algorithms. Think about viral promotion and sharing, think about tagging people who it would be relevant to, or who have a large following. If you tag people, your post will be shown to their followership as well.

You should also never forget that it’s about relevance and impact. If your headline and your first line don’t grab the reader, then you won’t get the attention for your content that you want. So really spend time of polishing that first line and headline.

Are you a lover or a hater of social media in your personal life?

I grew up in an era of black and white television, before the internet and before mobile phones. I would say that I am neither a lover nor a hater but a curious observer. It fascinates me. I look at what’s possible and that fascinates me. I have a great curiosity for it, but I don’t use it as much personally as I am involved in it with work. It’s a great source of information for me but it’s not something that consumes all my waking hours outside work.

Sarah Seedsman is Executive Director for Engagement, Insights and Consulting at Media Minds Global

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