We have published our first B-school rankings based on a popularity index. Unlike the other B-school rankings, our attempt is to find out the top 50 international business school that have the best online footprint. Or in simple terms – the most popular business schools.
The big assumption here is that the level of interest in a bschool’s ‘online properties’ (website and social media presence) is directly correlated to how popular it is among prospective students as well as other stakeholders (staff, employers, alumni).
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the full list first before reading the rest of this post: Business School Rankings
Welcome back. So now that you have seen our B-school rankings and you have idea of what we have done to evaluate and rank the bschools, let’s take the discussion forward. What is the relevance of this list? What are the key takeaways?
Insights from the MBA Crystal Ball B-school Rankings
Brand power doesn’t automatically translate into internet dominance
Sure, it does help to have a strong brand. If you thought online popularity for bschools is directly related to the strength of their brand, that isn’t entirely true. Many strong brands don’t figure on the top in our rankings.
For instance, an Ivy league b-school such as Dartmouth – Tuck is ranked at number 44.
Ditto for the European brands like Cambridge, Oxford that have relatively young MBA programs, but very strong university brands (giving them the advantage of high website traffic to the parent site). However, when it comes to overall online popularity rankings where we consider not just the website traffic but also social media parameters, they rank in the bottom half of our list.
No single bschool has really cracked the internet code
For each of the online platforms we’ve considered for our bschool rankings, the rules of getting traction differ. For instance, the tone and type of content that is appropriate for Facebook may not work for Twitter, and vice versa. Bring in a relatively more formal platform like LinkedIn, and the complexity increases. Then there’s the regular website to be taken care of as well.
With all the diversity involved, no single business school seems to have really conquered them all. Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) is the only school to have single-digit ranks for all 4 sub-categories. Harvard and Stanford are the closest competitors in terms of consistency.
Bschools have plenty to learn from each other
This one’s a derivative of the previous point, but independent and important enough to be mentioned separately.
There are some bschools that are doing extremely well in one arena, but lagging behind in the others. Re-inventing the wheel isn’t the best strategy. Rather than trying to come up with all the answers on their own, bschools could learn what their competitors have been doing.
Competitor analysis in the online space is a little easier than getting a sneak peek into other bschools’ offline initiatives. Irrespective of the closed door meetings that happen, there are plenty of signals in the public domain that bschools can look at and improve their own strategies.
We’ve done some basic analysis here as well in terms of the best practices, but we’ll keep that for another post if there’s interest.
American business schools do it better
Among the 50 top ranked bschools, 50% of the schools are based outside USA. Though it’s not a comprehensive list, the choice of schools is fairly balanced when it comes to locational diversity is concerned.
Despite the number of international (i.e. non U.S.) bschools in the list, within our top 10 there are only 3 non U.S. bschools (IMD Switzerland, HKUST Hong Kong and IE Business School). In the next 20, there’s only one (Rotterdam School of Management).
Maybe it’s the longer track record for these schools. Maybe it’s the greater demand for the degree by domestic employers. Maybe it’s a better overall marketing strategy that includes offline and online initiatives. But when viewed with a global lens, bschools in USA have in general fared better when it comes to online popularity.
B-Schools need to focus more on their online strategies
What the absolute ranks don’t reveal is the huge relative gap between the top ranked bschools and the rest. We use an internal scoring system to rank each bschool. To avoid confusion, we’ve kept these internal scores out of the main b-school rankings. But for us to appreciate this next point, here’s a table that lists each school along with its score. It’s a relative scoring system. We’ve eliminated some schools that did not make it to the top 50 list.
Bschool ranks and internal scores
|Rank||Business School Name||Score||Rank||Business School Name||Score|
|1||Harvard Business School||75||26||Wisconsin School of Business||10|
|2||Stanford Univ GSB||51||27||Univ of Cambridge – Judge||9|
|3||IMD Switzerland||40||28||Univ of Southern California – Marshall||9|
|4||Hong Kong UST (HKUST)||39||29||Univ of Oxford – Said||9|
|5||IE Business School||38||30||Warwick Business School||8|
|6||Univ of Virginia – Darden||38||31||Univ of Chicago – Booth||8|
|7||Univ of Pennsylvania – Wharton||36||32||UCLA – Anderson||7|
|8||London Business School||28||33||York Univ – Schulich||7|
|9||MIT Sloan School of Management||27||34||Esade Business School||7|
|10||Univ of California at Berkeley – Haas||20||35||Indiana Univ – Kelley||6|
|11||Vanderbilt Univ – Owen||14||36||Manchester Business School||6|
|12||City Univ – Cass London||13||37||Univ of North Carolina – Kenan-Flagler||6|
|13||Columbia Business School||12||38||EM Lyon||6|
|14||Univ of Texas at Austin – McCombs||12||39||Univ of Toronto – Rotman||5|
|15||Northwestern Univ – Kellogg||12||40||Carnegie Mellon – Tepper||5|
|17||Cornell Univ – Johnson||11||42||Emory Univ – Goizueta||4|
|18||Rotterdam School of Management||11||43||Univ of Cape Town GSB||4|
|19||New York Univ – Stern||11||44||Dartmouth College – Tuck||4|
|20||Duke Univ – Fuqua||11||45||Univ of W. Ontario – Ivey||4|
|21||Univ of Michigan – Ross||11||46||NUS School of Business||4|
|22||Yale School of Management||11||47||Georgetown Univ – McDonough||3|
|23||Indian Business School (ISB)||10||48||ESMT Germany||3|
|24||SDA Bocconi||10||49||St Gallen||3|
|25||IESE Business School||10||50||CEIBS||3|
– The overall scores for Harvard (75 points) & Stanford (51) have a huge 24 point gap.
– The score for the next 5 bschools ranges from 36 to 40.
– The rest of the 43 are all bunched in the 3 to 26 point range.
– The bottom half (25 bschools) have a score of under 10.
Almost all the top Business schools spend a significant amount of effort, time and money in offline initiatives such as meet-and-greet events, seminars and conferences across countries to reach out. Each event could be attended by hundreds of interested folks. However there’s a much bigger audience that can’t attend these events – due to accessibility issues or other commitments.
It is easier for bschools to reach this audience through online initiatives. That’s an area that bschools need to tap into more in order to maximise the bang for their marketing buck.
An aggressive online marketing strategy alone won’t help
When the focus shifts towards attracting eyeballs, it’s easy to lose track of the bigger picture. This last point is not directly linked to our b-school rankings data, but we’ve added it here to put things in perspective for bschools that hope to move into the top 50 ranking soon.
Our website gets quite a bit of spam from some bschools that are hoping to capture a slice of the online traffic (fortunately none of them figure in our rankings). So a bad online strategy can backfire too. A hired online marketing company might never appreciate the pain that goes into building a credible brand.
The field of business education is extremely competitive. For many bschools, a strong internet presence (or the lack of) can have substantial implications on their future. The quick-fix option would be to hire an excellent online marketing company and get some super-smart ideas on increasing the online traffic, followers and likes. That’s easier said than done.
But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that a brilliant online marketing and social media strategy does succeed in significantly boosting a bschool’s visibility on the internet. However what happens if there’s little relevant, rich and intriguing content to hold back the new fans and followers?
The brand will lose its sheen rather quickly. So rather than over-focusing on online strategies, schools also need to continue building a strong legacy. This can include investing in their intellectual resources, building a stronger curriculum, attracting the right talent (admission officers, professors, students, support staff) and ensuring that the high expectations are delivered.
This last part can take years, unlike a jazzy new online strategy that can result in a flash-in-the-pan effect.
We hope our unusual bschool rankings help the top business schools as well as the rising stars on the horizon re-evaluate & polish their online brand building strategies.
If you have any feedback or suggestions on our bschool rankings, please post them below in the comment field.