By Avi Gordon, author of MBA Admissions Strategy: From Profile Building to Essay Writing, www.mbastudio.net
The social media revolution has significantly altered how business schools communicate with and promote themselves to MBA applicants. As we speak, schools are desperately figuring out how to integrate their presence and manage their brands across Twitter, Facebook, online discussion forums, feeds, webinars, podcasts, Adcom officer blogs, current student blogs and so on.
While some school blogs are relics of the one-way tradition—being used to merely announce upcoming deadlines and general do's and don'ts—a few have broken new ground in being personable and offering transparent and relatively honest behind-the-scenes views into the admissions process. Where these few go, the rest will soon follow as the "broadcast" model of school-speak erodes in favor of a two-way interactive approach.
This opens up new channels and new modes for engagement with Adcom. It is possible to follow and interact with, and make yourself known in this way. But like all powerful new tools, they can be dangerous. Be sure to keep a tight rein on yourself and what’s appropriate to do and say. Don't, for example, use a blog comment facility to ask about your own personal application. Don’t tweet out your frustration about your dumb interviewer.
Official student blogs are another new resource for applicants. MBA programs (while keeping a weather eye on potential brand risk) have generally been happy to facilitate the emergence of student bloggers and support their role in painting a worm's-eye-view of b-school life.
You can connect with or "follow" current students or clubs via blogs or tweets, or their identities on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. MBA students being what they are, their sites are often on the cutting edge of technology, including audio and video. If there is a Stanford club entertaining Steve Jobs, the talk will be on someone's blog. If Wharton students are on a trek, someone will have uploaded video to YouTube, and so on.
Following this assiduously and interacting where appropriate will give you a window into the nature and culture of the program you are targeting in a way that just was impossible to imagine a few years ago, and better still, this is a fast and cheap way to absorb school ambiance and create essay content that feels like you have done deep due diligence.
So social media allows applicants all-new-and-powerful tools for gaining insight into a program and cultivating relationships with its stakeholders, and you should use it. But there is a downside. As with all social media content, beware as quality is mixed, to say the least. You will get many perspectives from parties with interests that are not necessarily aligned with yours, and some are directly unrepresentative of the truth, mainstream opinion or practice.
Second, remember that if you can find and know the school via these new channels, they can find you. Be careful about what you say online and what you have said. This is not to assert that Adcoms “Google” applicants or routinely use identity sites to dig behind the veneer or corroborate what you put down on your forms. They probably don't. But they very well might.
Expect Adcom to treat you in some ways like a potential employee or client and look you up on the Web. And when they do, they may find that beery and not-altogether-clean bachelor party photo on MySpace. Or that Doostang profile that doesn't adequately match what you've told them. It's quite hard, once something is out there on the Web, to take it back. Be scrupulous about what is out there under your name, make it consistent with your application platform, and try to remove unprofessional material where you can.