Social media

Present a Polished and Compelling Social Media Presence. Business School Admissions Officers will be Looking.

Last month, Kaplan released results from its 2018 Business School Admissions Officers Survey. The survey found that 40 percent of admissions officers review applicants’ social media pages to learn more about them, up from 35 percent in 2017. Further, 71 percent of the admissions officers said it’s “fair game” to review applicants’ social media and that they do not see it as an “invasion of privacy...” Admissions officers are typically reviewing applicants’ pages to look for red-flags, or a lack thereof, but some say that a poorly constructed social media presence can hurt an applicant’s chances. Conversely, a strong social media offering can benefit an applicant. Forty-six percent of admissions officers reported that they found something on social media that helped an applicant while 36 percent reported finding something that hurt.

Social media can be an excellent tool for demonstrating your personality and articulating your interests. Just remember that producing well-written content should not be taken lightly because of the casual nature of the platform. We believe you should consider social media an extension of your application. Thus, we have provided some important guidelines for social media writing below.

1.       Know your audience.

Review your social media pages to ensure your security settings accurately reflect your intent. Some sites, such as LinkedIn, should be more publicly accessible, while others, with more private content, should be limited to peers.

After updating your security settings so that you are clear on who your audience is, ensure that your content and tone is appropriate. Review old posts and keep your audience in mind as you post in the future, never forgetting that admissions officers may be following you. LinkedIn requires a more professional tone and industry-related content, while Instagram is a good place for sharing your extracurricular interests and hobbies.

In addition to formality and word-choice, consider how you can curate the information you write and share to your audience’s interests. Add color-commentary and your opinion where appropriate to differentiate the articles you share from other sources.

2.       Ensure that your writing is technically correct and your voice is consistent.

While your tone can, and probably should, vary across social media platforms according to your audience, your will want your voice to remain consistent. Whether writing casually or more professionally, you should always put forth the best version of yourself. It is critical that your writing is technically correct for every post. Thus, it may be beneficial to investigate tools such as Grammarly, which provides grammar and spell checks on social media content. Always read your writing aloud prior to posting, and for longer posts, give yourself an opportunity to step away, re-read, and revise prior to going live.  

Additionally, your posts should be respectful of others and opposing viewpoints. Always keep in mind that schools are looking for red flags.

3.       Stay on-brand, but don’t forget to showcase your unique attributes.

 Do not miss the opportunity to display your personality and any unique skills. For writers, consider adding more long-form blog posts. Photographers should let their pictures take center-stage and only add shorter captions or explanations. Consider also taking advantage of alternative media formats such as graphic design or video to showcase your community involvement or hobbies.

 4.       Stay current by reading widely.

One of the best ways to elevate your writing skills, while also ensuring that you have something interesting to say, is to read a variety of well-written content. Read as much as possible, and as broadly as possible, across news outlets, books, and articles. Additionally, following people that you respect on social media, including the graduate institutions to which you are applying, in order to stay abreast of their content and discussion topics may inspire you as you create and curate your own content.

Want to Achieve Your Goals? First, Define Your Personal Brand.

In a Forbes article, writer Greg Llopis said that people often confuse the notion of a personal brand with having a curated social media page. In truth, however, social media is just one portion of a much larger idea. Your personal brand is how you express the compilation of experiences you’ve had, what you have to offer, and your intentions going forward. While social media accounts should align with your brand, they do not define it.

Llopis says, “Every time you are in a meeting, at a conference, networking reception or other event, you should be mindful of what others are experiencing about you and what you want others to experience about you.” This awareness of others’ experience allows you the freedom to put forward your most authentic self, rather than letting nerves or other outside influences change how you respond in a situation.

Spending time defining your personal brand will pay dividends as you move forward in your career, whether that means creating an exceptional grad school application, building a compelling resume, prepping for an interview or career-fair, or working towards the next promotion. It will not only allow you to be a proactive planner and decision maker, it will also act as a filter when you evaluate various career options.

To begin defining your personal brand, consider the following:  

1.       Your past experiences

Have you ever been so engaged in a pursuit that time seemingly disappeared? What have you found most difficult?  Which experiences stand out as those which prompted an evolution in your perspective? What are you most proud of? When have you felt most fulfilled?

2.       How you engage with others and the world

What strengths have you developed over time? What are your greatest weaknesses? How have you dealt with adversity? What feedback do you consistently receive when working with others? How do think others experience you? What five adjectives would you use to describe yourself? Do you think others would use the same five adjectives? If not, which would they use?

3.       Your future goals.

What type of work do you enjoy? What type of work do you aspire to do? What would you like your professional relationships to look like? What sort of environment do you think you would thrive in? What is your ideal work-life balance? What aspects of a position are most important to you and where are you willing to compromise? What are your short- and long-term goals?

Once you’ve refined your brand, you can start to put it into action to determine which opportunities will (and will not) be a good fit for you. Just remember to express a consistent message everywhere, including on social media. Recruiters or admissions officers should never be surprised by what they see online, rather the content should provide further depth on the person they know.

Use Social Media to Enhance Your Graduate School Application

Last week, Kaplan Test Prep released data from their survey of over 150 business schools across the U.S. on the role of social media in the admissions process. Of the admissions officers surveyed:

  • 35 percent say they have visited applicants’ social media profiles to learn more about them, up 13 percentage points from 2011
  • 33 percent of those admissions officers who’ve visited applicants’ social media profiles say that they do so “often”
  • Social media has helped and harmed applicants’ admission prospects in almost equal proportions (48 percent and 50 percent respectively)
See the full press release, including a video summary of the findings here: http://press.kaptest.com/press-releases/kaplan-test-prep-survey-growing-number-business-schools-turn-social-media-help-make-admissions-decisions 

Admissions officers who are reviewing students’ social media pages are looking to get to know the student and their background more fully. Prospective students can take advantage of this by ensuring that their social media profiles are up to date and supportive of the personal brand they’ve put forth in their applications. As such, we recommend that anyone applying to a graduate program, or an internship or residency, take at the least a cursory social media scan. Below, we have provided guidelines for doing so.

The Basics: If nothing else, confirm the following.

  • Ensure that your social media privacy settings reflect your preferences, but keep in mind that even private information can leak or be distributed more widely.
  • Review your pictures. Are there any that present you in a manner that would be embarrassing for an admissions officer to see? Be sure to go back and review even your oldest pictures. Remove those that you deem inappropriate, borderline, or simply not reflective of you.
  • Ensure that your LinkedIn resume is up to date, grammatically correct, and in line with what you’ve submitted to the admissions committees. Similarly, confirm that your posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are grammatically correct.
  • Confirm that none of your content could even potentially be considered racist, sexist, or containing prejudicial language. You should consistently represent yourself as someone who will add to a diverse intellectual environment. Make it clear to your friends that you should not be tagged or otherwise included in groups that don’t share this spirit.
  • Review your profiles often. Ensure that others are aware that you don’t want to be tagged in inappropriate pictures, videos, or comments.

The Upgrade: Use social media to enhance your application.

  • Consider if your pictures are showcasing your hobbies and interests beyond, but including, time spent with friends. If not, add pictures that show a broader array of “you”. This might include shots from travel, volunteer work, cultural activities, time with pets, or engaging in other hobbies that show off aspects of your personality that will bring your essays and interviews to life.
  • Ask co-workers from various points in your career to post recommendations on your LinkedIn account.
  • Ensure that your goals are consistent between your application and social media posts. Don’t post different career goals than those that appear in your application, or actively discuss pursuing full-time careers that don’t require the graduate program to which you are applying.
  • Keep your accounts up to date. Post about your current activities and events including conferences, speeches, or panels and include your reactions to the events. Share news or research articles on areas that you’re interested in. Take this opportunity to show off your writing and critical thinking skills or link to a blog containing your writing.
  • Don’t hide those things which make you different. Admissions officers want a diverse graduate population, and social media is the perfect way to show off qualities and interests that set you apart from the crowd, as well as demonstrate how you currently contribute to the diversity of your community.

While, social media should continue to be a personalized and fun outlet for you, don’t forget to consider that it may also inform admissions committees or future employers about who you are, and ultimately impact their final decision.