Higher education institutions are learning that social media networks are the best way to reach qualified candidates. The question is, which social channel is the most influential, particularly for MBA prospects?

LinkedIn Named Most Influential Social Network

A new study called Tomorrow’s MBA was recently conducted by Carrington Crisp and other global prospects. The research led them to this conclusion: the most influential social network in the decision-making process when selecting a college or university is LinkedIn.

Overall, LinkedIn was the second most influential tool out of all digital media options after Google. The third and fourth most influential tools, respectively, were MBA.com and Economist.com. What this means is that students interested in pursuing their MBA trust LinkedIn (and Google) to guide their decision-making process.

LinkedIn’s Research Shows Similar Results

LinkedIn wasn’t exactly surprised by the results, though they were honored for the recognition. Last year, LinkedIn conducted their own study that analyzed how prospective students have changed in the digital age.

According to their research, professional networks like LinkedIn were found to be more influential than personal social networks in terms of choosing a college or university.

The study discovered other trends in today’s MBA/Masters students, including the fact that Millennials have a different mindset than GenXers. Millennials are mostly driven to further their education for an increase in salary, while GenXers are motivated by personal growth.

Another highlight from the study is the critical “short list” that MBA students create. You want your higher institution to be on this short list. Let’s explore more about it below.

Getting Your School on the Short List

As a higher ed marketer, it’s important that you connect with prospective students early on in the process so that you can be a part of their journey. One thing to realize is that students build a “short list” of schools that they are interested in attending. They may not know much about these schools, but there are certain aspects that draw them to the programs.

Here are a few things to know about the schools that make the short list, according to research from LinkedIn.

  • The average short list includes three colleges or universities.

  • Most students (72%) create their short list before reaching out to the institutions.

  • Almost all students (93%) enrolled in one of the schools on their short list.

With nearly three-quarters of prospects deciding which schools they want to attend before connecting with the institution, it’s absolutely necessary that you make your institution visible early in the decision-making process.

A prospect might have enjoyed a blog post that came from your school or an email that was sent. Whatever the initial interaction was, this is how to get your school on the short list and become a valid option for the student. If you wait to win a prospect over, it might be too late.

Creating the Right Content

Now, we must point out that MBA students are different from undergraduate students. They want different things, so you must be thoughtful about the types of content that you post.

In general, MBA prospects crave information about the institution in general to see if it will be the right fit for them. Here are examples of the specific types of information that prospects like to see in the early stages of the decision-making process.

  • Institution rankings

  • Education and industry news

  • Information on courses and degree programs

  • Career advice

  • Staff and professor profiles

  • Alumni profiles

As prospects move further down the funnel, the information they seek gets more specific. If they’ve narrowed down their selection to two or three schools, for example, they will prefer to know things like how long the program will take to complete, how many hours of coursework will be needed each week and whether the credit hours will be accepted by their workplace.

As with any customer/client journey, it’s important to provide prospects with the right content at the right time. Make sure you understand the journey that your contacts are going on as they make their decisions so that you can create content around that journey.

Recognize the Prospect’s Mindset

Also be sure that you have your target personas narrowed down. MBA/Masters students are unique in that they often have full-time careers, are raising families and already have school debt. They tend look for schools that have fast, efficient programs with reasonable workloads and fair prices.

Don’t forget that Millennials have different factors that motivate them to continue their education. They want increased salaries, enhanced leadership skills and a jump on the  corporate ladder, so you need to tap into these goals. For example, does your school have research on how your programs have helped graduates increase their salaries? Do you have success stories from past alumni?


There are three main takeaways from the research. The first is that LinkedIn is the most influential social media platform for MBA/Master prospects in the decision-making process. The second is that it’s necessary to connect with prospects early on in the journey, otherwise you might be too late. Lastly, remember who you are writing to and craft your content around their journey.