Supplemental MBA Education, Free on Social Media Sites

When you search for information about an MBA on line or through traditional programs and school counselors, make sure to find out whether the business school curriculum covers social media. Future business leaders will have to be familiar with social networking and how to use social media marketing. At least 97 percent of retailers have a Facebook page, 96 percent have a Twitter feed and 90 percent have a YouTube channel.

Social media allows stores to not only advertise to customers but also to hold a two-way conversation with them. Social media is also a way to reach a younger generation of shoppers. According to Arbitrage magazine, 29 percent of Facebook users are between the ages of 18 and 25, and 23 percent are between the ages of 26 and 44. Most Facebook users have an income between $25,000 and $75,000 per year, and most are either in college or possess a college degree. Additionally, many customers who follow a brand on Facebook or Twitter tend to shop at that retailer more often. For instance, 51 percent of people who follow a brand on Facebook will purchase that specific brand; the same is true of 67 percent of Twitter followers.

While some customers assume the role of brand evangelists, other customers will use social media to force significant changes in a brand. For example, 22-year-old Molly Katchpole used social media to persuade Bank of America customers to sign a petition opposing a proposed $5 per month debit card fee. Katchpole obtained over 300,000 signatures, catapulted herself into the national spotlight and persuaded Bank of America to rescind the fee. Customers who follow a brand on social media are more likely to persuade others to shop with the brand, but they are also more likely to spread negative feedback to others.

Many retailers forget that developing a social media strategy involves more than just setting up a Facebook page or a Twitter feed. In many retail call centers, for example, employees monitor social media channels for customer issues so that they can respond quickly to complaints. The best retailers strategically use the analytical tools from social networking sites to analyze trending topics so that they can respond quickly to customer feedback.

Social media communication has to be precise and professional. Marketers who truly treat customers as “friends” may find themselves saying something too informal or even inappropriate. Asking meaningful questions and offering information about new products and promotions are appropriate uses of a Facebook page and Twitter feed. Also, don’t forget Pinterest. The Pinterest network is growing quickly and serves as a “window shopping” opportunity for many brand followers.

Never start a social media campaign unless you plan to have staff who are dedicated to watching and responding to customer conversations. Also, be aware that social media ROI can be nebulous and difficult to determine. However, anyone who wants to go to business school should make sure that his or her education includes some exposure to the business side of social media. Companies without an active social media presence will be left behind in the digital age.

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