5 Must-Haves in a Social Media Audit

It’s “strategy season.” You’re either a planner and you’re kicking off your grand plan now, or you are catching up and getting your 2017 plans in place now. For both cases, it’s never a bad idea to take a step back and do a social media audit for your brand. Even if you have solid plans for the next 3 months or even the next 12, it never hurts to take a step back and look at yourself in your own industry and also in the complete social media brand spectrum.

Pictured above are my University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL) from Fall 2016. What an excellent group of social and digital marketing minds who are GOING PLACES. All semester we learn about the nuances of each social media channel, look at case studies of brands who have it all together and definitely discuss the social media hall of shame (Kitchen Aid and DiGiorno, I’m looking at you – Google it).

Right at about the time I lose my voice from over lecturing and harping on all things content, we make it to the best part in the semester – the social media audit and strategy of a “real” brand.

The students team up and choose a local or national brand to investigate. They are armed with a grading rubric and the knowledge from all previous lectures. And off they go. I never cease to be amazed with their work.This semester was a local craft brewery, Square One Brewery and Distillery, along with a national grocery we all know and love, Trader Joe’s. The students pick about their existing social media activity, compare to the competition and ultimately use their research to make recommendations for their future social media actions.

Now, back to YOUR 2017 planning. If you are looking for a concise audit you can complete in about a half day or so, the following 5 points are your guide. This is exactly how I grade my class’ efforts. They must hit on each point below, and then show me part of the future strategy for full points. It’s a great starting point for working your way into your first social media strategy.

(#1) Properly introduce us to your brand. The way you introduce someone new to Grandma.
What is your brand?
What is your brand’s mission?
What do they do?
How do they make money or raise awareness?
What is some recent news about your brand?

(#2) What is the goal of your brand’s social media efforts? This is your “why bother” moment of truth.
Improve customer service or customer retention
Increase brand awareness
Drive website traffic
Generate sales/leads/client acquisition
Source qualified job candidates

(#3) Audit Your Current Social Channels. It’s OK if this is painful. Only up from here!
Which social networks are you currently on?
Does your brand have a blog?
How often are you posting?
Who is the audience of each social network?
How many followers on each channel?
What is the engagement like with users today?
What is the purpose of each channel (use goals above)?
What is the ratio of jabs vs. hooks (credit Gary V.)?
Include screenshots of current channels and content
Hint: make a table to concisely display this information to business leaders

(#4) Audit Your Competition’s Social Presence (audit at minimum 2 direct competitors). Find out what the cool kids on the block are doing.
Which social networks are they currently on?
Do the competitors have a blog?
How often are they posting?
Who is the audience of each social network?
How many followers on each channel?
What is the engagement like with users?
What is the purpose of each channel (use goals above)?
What is the ratio of jabs vs. hooks (another credit to GV)?
Include screenshots of channels and content for each competitor
Hint: make a few tables to concisely display this information to business leaders

(#5) Which social networks align with your business and why? There’s a reason all the financial firms are not blowing you up with Snaps (yet).
Pick from: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, Blog… But more importantly, explain your specific reasoning for investing time into each channel.

Whew, you made it. Now, you are ready to make your social strategy recommendations. I look for my class to answer the following:
How does your team recommend the brand move forward?
What should they do more of (give specific examples/screenshots)?
What should they do less of (give specific examples/screenshots)?
How should the brand use social advertising on each channel?
How can the brand improve each channel based on what you’ve learned as best practices this semester?
Which social channels should they add to their strategy, or remove?
Should your brand change its blog strategy or add a blog? Be specific about why.

Then, we actually start to execute on the plan. This is as close to “real life” as it gets kids. Develop a Content Strategy and Sample content Calendar by answering the following:
What types of content should the brand post and promote? Think: Videos, Photos, Ebooks, Webinars, Blog posts, Infographics, Whitepapers and Case studies
How frequently should they be sharing?
Where will the brand promote the specific content?

Create 5 example posts (tell us if jab vs. right hook); 1 example/slide; include at least 2 Canva.com or Inform original images. Remember Google is not a “free” image source. If blogging is part of your brand’s strategy, give 5 blog titles your brand could use immediately.

Finally, don’t forget to define social success. Which metrics will your brand use to define success for your newly planned social media and blogging efforts?

Please don’t fail by failing to set goals or setting weak goals. Or worse, tracking nothing. Reach for the social media stars here. You won’t win the creative game if you don’t miss a few goals at some point. Much more in my innovation post about my thoughts on the major disconnect of metrics and setting business goals, but in a nutshell, you cannot innovate if you fear failure. You will remain status quo until you get over this.

Now go get ’em you social superstars.

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Top 3 Takeaways: LinkedIn Talent Connect 2016

Keep it simple stupid. A phrase I often forget, but that was in the back of my mind during my time at LinkedIn’s 2016 Talent Connect Conference in Las Vegas. No, the presentations were not remotely simple or stupid, but as I continue to grow in the talent brand space, I realize that more often than note, the more simplistic the idea is, the more scale it has and the more effective it can be on your budget.

Marketers like me always want to boil the ocean, so this conference really helped me level set on what is possible to create with current resources, and it allowed me to focus on the tactics that will meet my goals, instead of using every possible tactic and new marketing product available. Yes, I want to do it all, but it’s more efficient on your people resources and budget to focus on the right activities to best accomplish your business goals.

My objective of each session I attended was to write down 2-4 actionable items I could take back with me to work and start implementing immediately. I had many more than the 3 below items written down, but here is what I found to be the recurring themes of my conference notes. I gained the most new knowledge from the speakers representing Uber, Starbucks and Eventbrite. They were able to provide new insights into the talent attraction process and EVP (Employer Value Proposition) development, two key focus areas for me this year.

#1: Take the best parts of the consumer marketing experience and apply it to your TA experience.
We are all used to being marketed to. Ads, coupons and social media promotions have become part of our daily consumer experiences. Brands like Target have even taken it to another level utilizing an app called “Cartwheel” to enhance their consumer experience, and gather more data around it.

A positive consumer experience includes being able to easily find what you are looking for, then easily completing the transaction and moving on with your day. Today’s talent lives and transacts online similar to today’s consumer. Job hunters should be able to quickly locate roles of interest, pertinent information about your firm and lines of business. Then, they should quickly be able to complete their “transaction,” or application.

Employment branding marketers utilize the same consumer branding levers – brand, influence and conversion to drive their candidate outcomes. Attribute your outcome to the right marketing tactic, and drive more resources to the right activity at the right time.

Brand: Social and general media buys will build brand equity in the long-term.
Influence: Owned channels like your careers site will influence the reason to apply, or “buy.”
Conversion: Paid tactics will increase applications. Measure your results from using job boards, paid search and paid social media campaigns.

#2: Based on your marketing efforts, would you be excited to work at your own company?
EVP, or Employer Brand Proposition, has been a buzz word in this space for a few years, but have you acted on it? Have you defined the unique set of offerings that would make someone want to join your company? Once you define your EVP, you can begin to attract and inform your desired talent pools by using videos, social retargeting campaigns, your website, job descriptions and blogs.

Not sure if you’re acting on your EVP? Face some brutal facts like these, then get back to work on your content plan:

Do you have a voice? Specifically, are you using the voice of your employees?
Are you being social on social media? Or just talking at people instead of with them?
Are you more worried about quantity of content over quality of content?
Have you put up more red tape than you really need to get things done?

Measure where you are today before further implementing. Know your current careers site activity, social followers and display ad results in order to evaluate future efforts.

#3: Build affinity, not attraction, by telling a story that other people come to on their own.
Great IT and sales people are not applying for jobs. They are already meeting or exceeding, and are likely satisfied in their current role. It’s time to stop hunting unicorns, and start reigning them in. By really utilizing storytelling in your marketing mix, you will start to build an arsenal of content that the great talent will use in their decision to explore making a life move to your company.

Make sure you are maximizing your content mileage. If you make a long-form story about a particular role or job family, leverage the images and quotes from the story in your future social media posts. Link to the stories from your job descriptions and encourage recruiters to use the stories in their candidate InMails.

Thanks LinkedIn for another great conference. I’ll see you in Nashville in 2017!

Innovation Across Generations

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I recently participated in the St. Louis American Cancer Society’s “Society Talk” Leadership Speaker series focused on the topic “Innovation across the Generations.”

Joining me on the panel were Patrick E. Smith Sr., Assistant Vice President – Division Operations, of Ameren Missouri and Carter Williams, Chief Executive Officer, of iSelect Fund Management, LLC. The panel was moderated by Jennifer Rigdon, Manager – Event Strategy, of Edward Jones.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of the panel, and learned a lot from the other panelists and attendees in the room. This is a great speaking series to have on your radar as many industries and fields of work are represented in the room from many successful St. Louis companies. You can view the dates for the 2017 Speaker Series here.

Below is a recap of my questions and answers from the panel. I am already looking forward to attending the events in 2017!

Q: What was the last app you downloaded?
A: Snapchat. I was very very late to the party on this network as I’ve been immersed in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and IG, but now I love it and understand why all the middle schoolers and high schoolers are addicted. I’m still working through how it would be effective for business use in my industry.

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Q: Favorite creative or inspirational space in St. Louis?
A: CIC, or the Cambridge Innovation Center. It’s St. Louis’ largest innovation community with co-working space for all stages of startups and existing businesses. If you have not been up to their Venture Café on a Thursday night, you are missing out.

Q: Who is your favorite innovator?
A: Of my time, I liked watching Steve Jobs’ and the Apple product journey. Steve and his team were able to consistently produce products and services that we didn’t even know we needed. And now it would be a challenge for many of us to live without them.

Q: Who most inspires you today?
A: I continue to watch Elon Musk and Tesla. Tesla has all the technology and research for electric car production, but they know that they cannot produce the cars fast enough to address the energy crisis. Tesla’s patents and research are freely available to all that would like to use it to advance electric car production.

Q: What if any “key” do you have to unlock your creative thinking – like a song, favorite place, exercise, journal?
A: For me, it’s running and venti Americanos… but not in that order. There are days where I can sit and focus at my desk, but other days my best ideas are born on the road when I am less focused on coming up with great ideas. I just have to remember to write they down as quickly as possible!

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Q: Tell us a little of your back story. How did you map your career to get to where you are now?
A: My career background has been in financial services consumer marketing and advertising. I made a switch a few years back to helping brands attract top talent to open job roles. This space is called “employer branding.”

It’s a pretty new concept, but many companies now have teams dedicated to giving candidates a great digital experience, similar to your online experiences as a consumer. I’m currently leading the Recruitment Marketing team for Scottrade, working to attract candidates to headquarters and nationwide branch roles.

Q: How do you manage the fear of failure, channeling risk in a positive way within an innovative environment?
A: We cannot move forward without failure. Leaders need to let their teams know that failure is an option, or they will continue to produce at the status quo. Status quo is no longer acceptable with the amount of technological advances going on around us. We must be running at all times to keep up with the tech changes affecting all of our businesses.
One of the best business examples on this is Kodak. Kodak’s leaders just could not picture a world without film and printed pictures, so they did not work to innovate into the digital space quickly enough. I think we all know where this story ends.

Failure is acceptable and to be expected. We set measurable goals for all of our new projects so we know if we were successful or not. Even if we fail, we learn what changes we need to make for next time or we just totally abandon a concept. If you cannot remember any recent failures, you’re probably not innovating.

Q: How does an organization adapt to change and create an environment for innovation?
A: First, leaders must recognize the need to change and innovate, and be vocal and supportive of building an environment for innovation. There’s much more than just saying “we are going to be innovative now.” Your innovative teams must be broken off from your “business as usual” functions and be given more liberty around work hours, work style, budgets and metrics. They must also be given a communication line with your consumers so they can converse with the people who would be using your new product and services to make sure they are making relevant strides for your business.

Their projects must be thought of as long-term investments, and innovators cannot be micro-managed or constantly asked for status updates on their work. Just get out of their way. Your highest performers just need the opportunity to do their job. Often times we bombard our great performers with processes, reports and meetings, and they cannot really do what they are hired to do. Five million jobs are to be replaced by tech by 2020. Are you allowing your people to re-tool their skillsets and be ready for the changes they will be seeing in their jobs soon?

Q: What do you think is the most important innovation of your lifetime thus far, and why?
A: The most innovative physical device is hands down the cell phone, but then came social media, and it changed everything. I think the latest stat is that we check social media something like 17 times a day, and spend 5 hours a day on our phones. It has changed advertising and how we do business, but ultimately it has forever alerted global communication as we know it. Millennial or not, you are affected by social media. Facebook is now the largest country on earth from a user perspective. It is giving everyone a platform to publicly share their opinions, whether they should have such a platform or not.

Cell phones have taken over the dinner table, and we have become less comfortable with face-to-face communication and are more comfortable communicating via text and social, in which there is much less context provided to both parties, which is dangerous.

Q: What are you doing through your leadership role and work that allows you be a servant leader?
A: For me, it is essential to allow your team to develop so they can perform their role to the best of their ability. As a leader, you must be serving the highest priority needs of your team, and not getting in their way. Make sure you have them working on inspirational projects, and not always buried in the weeds of their day-to-day work.

Listen to what they are looking for in their role and future career, and empower them to get there. Set goals that are reflective of their interests and career path, and don’t hold them back when they are ready to go. Your best work as a leader is getting your people to their next level.

Hope to see you at the next event!

Content Strategy + Amplification

Today, 80% of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles vs. an advertisement. The goal of many content strategists is to build thought leadership via producing original, high quality content. Sounds like a great objective, but is your content making outside the guardrails of your owned media sources to gain said thought leadership?

I recently sat in on a presentation by Matt Kamp of Influence & Co. in collaboration with the St. Louis Hubspot User Group regarding “How to get your content published on influential sites.” Following are my main takeaways regarding content strategies, and how one can go about getting original content published on influential sites.

First and foremost, content marketing is all about people. Step back: what are your content objectives?

  • Do you want to build trust?
  • Boost awareness?
  • Enable Marketing and Sales?

Document your content strategy. Not-so-fun fact: only 32% of marketers have a true content strategy, down from 35% in 2015. Think about how you can break large content pieces like white papers into multiple pieces of gated content or blog posts to get as much usage as possible.

Your strategy should include a value proposition, a competitive content analysis, a brand voice, target personas, prospect/client pain points (hint: content topics), mediums of distribution (ALWAYS work backwards) and goals + metrics. A great tip is to document the questions your prospects and clients are asking. Those are great places to start with your content. Answer the questions that are already brewing in your net new external communications.

In Influence & Co’s The State of Contributed Content white paper, 86% of surveyed editors are planning to incrase the amount of contributed content on their sites. And, an overwhelming 92% of editors prefer contributed content from industry experts and leaders over journalists. Editors want content from the people “living in the trenches” that can actually talk-the-talk about the subject.

Choose your goal publication, and research like crazy. Is your message relevant, non-promotional, educational or unique? You may be tempted to shoot for the stars (aka Forbes, Inc), but in this case the quality of your reader > quantity. A tighter target will likely result in a closer tie to your brand proposition. Develop content for ONE publication. If it doesn’t work out, you can court others later, but don’t play the field with your content. Duplication will not go over well if it is picked up simultaneously.

Don’t be skimpy in your content creation. Actually share your expertise and get personal. It is imperative for readers to get direct content and insights from key players in the industry. Content is typically rejected for being overly promotional or using unoriginal insights. Back your points with data, and then PROOF. PROOF. PROOF.

Start reaching out. Find the Editor’s email via contact info on the publication’s website, use social handles or as a last resort, try web contact forms.

You had to ask. What’s the ROI? If at all possible (and not overly promotional) use backlinks in your content to track traffic to your website or unrelated landing pages. Then track associated apps –> sales.

Thanks again MattInfluence & Co. and STL HUG. Can’t wait for the next update.

Social Media for the Recruitment of Rockstars

 

I was recently fortunate to sit in on a keynote presentation by Social Expert, Crystal Washington. By now, you know that social media has caused a shift in the way we communicate with each other. In fact, we are losing the ability to even connect effectively offline. Social media has provided a visible platform for everyone and anyone – no matter how valuable or annoying the comments or critiques your “Friends” may share.

Crystal opened her speech with some eye opening statistics regarding how candidates are finding jobs on social from a Jobvite study:
– 10.2 million found their latest role via LinkedIn
– 8 million found their latest role via Twitter
– 18.4 million found their latest role via Facebook

Did the Facebook statistic shock you? I was floored. If that’s not a testimony for a clean social profile, I don’t know what can convince you.

So, how are you being located by your future employer on social sites like LinkedIn?

People find you on LinkedIn via Keywords. Keywords are the words or terms that you want to be found for. For example, if you want to work in social media, your profile should be full of terms like social media, marketing, Twitter, Facebook, community administrator, social content and social analytics. You must have the keyword in your profile to populate in keyword searches by recruiters.

You are found via your connections. You will show up higher in LinkedIn search results when you have common connections. Moral of the story: ditch the business card rolodex or binder, and start connecting with your peers, former colleagues, alumni and professional group connections. Crystal recommends www.shoeboxed.com to automate going paperless.

 

You are more “searchable” when you join groups. The basic (free!) LinkedIn user can join up to 50 groups. Join as many groups as you can that are relatable to your industry or field (or dream industry/field) so that you are found by recruiters targeting individuals in those groups.

Finally, remember the elements of a strong  personal social brand:
–  Use Keywords related to the job you are looking to get
– Do you have a visible profile picture? “Or are you a stranger in a ski mask?” (Thanks for the laugh on that one, Crystal.)
– Do you consistently post on your social channels and add value, or do you only show up when you want something? Share interesting articles, comment and answer the questions of others to demonstrate that you are engaged.
– When you make contacts or request connections on social, be yourself. Don’t use a form letter, or template. Write from your own head, and you’ll sound much more authentic.

I’ll end the same way Crystal did: What’s your ONE thing you can do immediately from this post?

I’ll be starting with keywords.

Are You Being Your Brand?

Why is a clean and updated social profile essential? Your social profile can lead to job and leadership opportunities, build credibility, promote recognitions, give higher perceived value to future employers and facilitate partnerships.

Brianna Smith, owner of Being Your Brand, recently spent some time in my Intro to Social Media course presenting best practices for your personal social brand. Here are my 5 takeaways from her excellent presentation.

1. What would people find if they Goggled you?
We’ve all probably Googled ourselves by now, but did you know that Google indexes your social channels content (i.e. comments)? Just because YOUR profile is private, does not mean your activity from your friend’s profiles is private. What do you want people to see when they Google you? Shoot for the results to connect users to powerful information about what you do in your industry.

2. You can promote a clean social brand to companies.
Are you including your handles and blog in your signature, resume and cover letters? 92% of companies use social media for recruiting, and 45% of Fortune 500s include links to social media on their career page sections. Your social profiles and blog can demonstrate your knowledge of a subject to potential employers before you even interview. Blogging and personal social branding can help set you up to find your dream job, and not just to accept your first offer.

3. Build your brand on where you see yourself.
What are you an “expert” at? What do you find yourself searching for online, or reading about in your free time? Maybe you are not an expert at this point, so think about it more as “what do you rock at?”

If you want to be the guru of tech marketing, you should be writing about it. If you are not in tech right now, you can provide your thoughts on campaigns that tech companies are doing, and point out the best practices they are following (or not following). Your blog can change as your interests evolve, so don’t be bogged down by making this decision. Getting started is more important than being 100% sure. When I started this blog, I wasn’t even in love with the name, but many domains I wanted were taken, and instead I just got going.

Note: Not all your passions are your career or brand. I love running and trying new restaurants, but building my brand on running and eating out is not going to benefit me professionally. There are some lucky folks out there that have an intersection in their personal and professional passions for whom this rule would be an exception.

4. Have a consistent look online.
Keep the same name, profile picture, cover imagery and tone across your social profiles. If possible, match all your handles as close to your actual name as possible. Even if you are not active on all social channels, reserve your handle now.

5. Own a personal website or blog.
Wix and WordPress are user-friendly and economical tools for building your personal following. If you are blogging, blog on a regular basis. Consider setting a goal per month. Use social media to market your online brand and blog posts. Curate and share information that you find relevant to your audience. Brianna recommends checking out www.socialmediatoday.com, www.socialmediaexaminer.com and the Hubspot blogs for curating social and digital themed content on your social channels.

Thanks again to Brianna for stopping by my class and sharing your personal branding expertise! Visit Brianna’ blog to learn more about her best practices and her story.

How I Managed to Embrace the Shift to Digital Marketing

As a 2009 graduate with a degree in Business Administration, a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Communications, I really thought I was ready to take on the marketing world. Or, maybe I had just drank too much of the liberal arts kool-aid (#GoBulldogs).

The first few years of my career were great. I started as a Marketing Analyst, learning the ins-and-outs of the client experience, calculating MANY a cost-per-sale analyses and making recommendations as to which campaigns needed to be accelerated and which needed to be trashed.

As I progressed into marketing generalist roles, all things digital quickly became part of my daily responsibilities. I was creating banners, landing pages and social assets on the fly. Even though YouTube and blogs proved to be fantastic resources for learning more about my new responsibilities, I felt like I had a GAPING hole in my skill set and education in regards to all things digital marketing. Yes, I could brief a designer on how to create an appealing banner, write a clever social post or develop drip email campaigns… but what did this all mean? How did this all work together, and what the heck were we really spending our resources on?

I realized that even graduating in 2009 (wow – less than 7 years ago) was still TOO EARLY to have any formal education on digital strategy. I knew all about consumer behavior, retail marketing and integrated campaigns, but there wasn’t a single digital course or project to speak to from my undergraduate transcript. And not at the fault of my alma mater – this digital takeover just happened so fast.

After a lot of research and networking with the best minds in St. Louis digital, I discovered that Digital Marketing Certificates from universities are starting to be “a thing.” They usually landed in the Professional Studies or Schools of Continuing Education in my research experience. In true Sarah fashion, I jumped right in and decided since I was starting a Digital Certificate, I might as well just complete a full-on MBA in the process since many of the classes could be credit toward an MBA anyway.

This education has completely changed both my skill set and overall confidence in digital tactics. There are still things I don’t know that come up, but I now feel like I have the right base level understanding to attack these issues head-on. Here’s a sample of the coursework I recently completed to acquire my certificate:

-Digital Media Marketing Strategy & Measurement
-Clinical Study in Digital and Social Media Marketing (this was like a mini-internship to help non-profits with their digital strategies)
-Social Media Strategies
-Mobile Marketing
-Blogs to Buzz
-Digital Media Buying

Going back to school or fitting in classes on the weekends is definitely not the answer for everyone. It’s about timing. Here are additional non-school resources I have used to round out this new knowledge:

1. Digital Marketing Conferences | Here’s a sample of ones I attend in St. Louis and one I attended in New York this year. Google what’s happening in your city.
Social Recruiting Summit
Digital Marketing Conference

2. HubSpot.com Blogs | One of my best and most visited friends. Search for anything social or digital, and you’ll find very tactical descriptions and tips.

3. Lynda.com | Did you Lynda.com is now a LinkedIn company? Great (and cost effective) resource to pick up more “formalized” training.

4. Hootsuite University | I cannot say enough about how much Hootsuite makes the lives of social media managers easier. As an added bonus, they now offer an entire suite of classes that teach you not only how to best use their platform, but also how to effectively build, target and deploy social campaigns.

5. Networking | Meet with the best digital talent that will reply to your emails. Is there a local Social Media or Digital Marketing Club? I know St. Louis has several. Admit you’re clueless and talk to the experts about how they “figured it all out” in the city you are in. And, these are awesome connections for later when you “get it.”

Digital and social are not only here, they are speeding away. It’s part of our jobs as effective marketers to keep up.

How do you stay ahead?

The 3 Things I Know For Sure About Getting an MBA

Many of my connections know that I recently completed my MBA. People often ask if the time is worth it, if it means an automatic raise, or if the price tag on the school really matters. I won’t delve into my thoughts on all those topics now, but here are the “3 Things I Know For Sure” after wrapping up my MBA.

#1: Like most endeavors in life, you’ll only get out of your MBA what you put into it.
One can complete an MBA doing the bare minimum, and earn bare minimum performance and benefits. I’ve never been a fan of the saying “even the last person in each medical school class is still a doctor.” Personally, I don’t want the poorest performing medical student operating on my loved ones or me. If you read the assigned Harvard Business Reviews, engage in class discussions and equally contribute to group projects, you’ll take more away from your classes than you would by just checking the boxes. I participated in internships, business school advisory boards and clubs to gain even more academic experience.

#2: Time management is not optional.
It is 150% true that your life will have to be rebalanced if you start an MBA. I took anywhere from 6-9 hours per semester, and I did not take any summers off (to keep the momentum going). Gone were lazy Saturdays, and my workout routine definitely took a backseat to reading textbooks and writing marketing strategies. Do not procrastinate. If you’ve been a career procrastinator, now is the time to break that habit. You never know what’s going to come up at work or home, so it’s always better to be ahead on schoolwork. I found some fantastic coffee shops, and focused on my MBA on weekends to minimize homework time during the workweek.

#3: I’m happy I went to a school I could actually afford.
Did I go to one of the top 10 MBA programs? No, but I did ensure the school I went to had an accreditation by the AACSB (The Association to Advance College Schools of Business), and was ranked in the top 3% of US business schools by The Princeton Review. An AACSB distinction is earned by a small percentage of business schools worldwide. If your company covers your MBA, of course this is a non-issue. Attend the best school you can in your target locale. For me, it was a priority to attend a school that I would not resent for 5-10 years after receiving my diploma.

At the end of the day, I would repeat the past 2.5 years in a heartbeat. My MBA has not only rounded out my business education, but has also put me in contact with some of the greatest folks in business that I have met to this point.

I’d like to end with some thank you’s. Thank you to my family and friends for understanding when I had to study, listening to me complain about group projects (no, they never get better) and celebrating good semesters. Thank you to my professors and classmates for sharing your stories and collaborating.

I’m happy to say that I’ll be stepping to “the other side of the desk” later today, and teaching my first course ever – Intro to Social Media Marketing for undergraduates at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.

If you’re thinking about starting your MBA, 2016 could be your year. The hardest part is often just making the decision to begin. The time will pass either way.

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