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Be Social: How to Make Your Career Center Messages Work in the Social Sphere

This is a summary of the presentation that Experience, Inc. gave in partnership with Scott Crawford, Director of Career Services, Wabash College, at Midwest ACE’s annual conference this year on the topic of social media for career centers.

In advance of the session, we polled career centers to understand how they are using social media in their offices today. 41 professionals responded.

  • 93% are using social media to interact with students
  • 61% are using social media to interact with employers
  • 85% are using Facebook, 83% LinkedIn, and 63% Twitter
  • 63% publish once a week, 27% once a day
  • 88% are publishing events and announcements, while only 59% are publishing jobs & internships
  • 43% said that staff in the office publish content, 39% use student workers to help out

Whether you’ve already using social media or if you are just getting started, there are three areas that you should consider in forming your social media strategy:

Promotion – How do I tell students about my social media sites? How do I get them to join?

Content – What should I publish to students? Where do I get content from?

Technology – How do I use technology to make this easy to do?

It was pretty clear in our survey that no office had a dedicated social media person, and that social media is generally an additional responsibility that staff or others in the office take on because it helps them connect better with their student population. With that said, we will address the three areas with this in mind, that career center offices are often resource constrained and need to find ways to embrace social media in the context of what they are doing already.

Promotion

The easiest thing that you can do is leverage existing promotional capabilities so it doesn’t create more work for you. That means adding your social icons (which is how students find out about your fan page etc) via channels that you are already using. Add your icons to the footer of your outbound emails, career services web site, posters, your career center jobs system, and anywhere else where you are promoting something today.

Another clever idea once you have your social sites set up is to cross-promote across sites. If your Facebook page is doing well in attracting students as “fans”, then promote your new Twitter feed in your Facebook status updates, offering students another way to stay updated.

Content

This is the area that seems to intimidate most people. Career centers often think that they need to create original content for publishing. Wrong on two counts. First, you already have lots of original content to select from – you have all the content in your career center system such as events, workshops, announcements, jobs, programs etc. Second, if you need additional content, you don’t have to be the creator of the content; you can find good material for your students and simply share (with proper citations.) Find good sources online – Fortune, Wall Street Journal, local newspaper, job boards, blogs (such as Brazen Careerist, Intern Queen, Lindsay Pollak ) – follow them and share what you find.

Twitter makes this unbelievably easy for you. You can follow the sources that you like via Twitter and then retweet (e.g. RT@experienceuniv) the content to your students. Several career centers that we spoke with said it takes only 1-2 hours a week to find good articles and news.

We saw in the survey that 39% of respondents have student workers managing their social media for them. We think this is fantastic idea if you have peer advisors or student workers in your office. Students get social media – they understand what their peers are interested in, bring a more casual voice, and can use the tools effortlessly.

Another important point is that each social media site can be used for different purposes. You may choose to use Facebook to speak to students, and LinkedIn to bridge a connection between students and alumni. Once you have determined the purpose of each site, you can tailor your content appropriately.

Each of the Big 3 sites also has its strengths. Facebook is good for sharing announcements and news, with images. Twitter is good for pushing out news and articles with a high frequency. LinkedIn seems to invite more discussion among a group of users. Consider how the technology is being used by your members when deciding what kind of content to publish in each venue.

Technology

There lots of technology options out there. Experience makes it easy for career centers to share content (events, announcements and jobs) directly from their career center system (called eRecruiting) with social sites.

If you are looking for free tools, here is a list of the most widely used ones:

Content Platform – Many use these to push our messages from one platform. Some like the tracking that they offer. They are useful if you plan to send the same content to all of your sites. Examples include: Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Posterous.

You can also set up your Linkedin account to auto publish to Twitter, and/or set up your Twitter account to publich to Facebook.

URL Shorteners – These tools are useful when publishing on twitter as there is a 140 character limit. These help you by shortening long urls to shorter ones that take up fewer characters. Examples include: bit.ly, tiny.url, ow.ly.

Metrics – Once you have social media up and running, you will want to get a sense of how well you are doing. Examples include: Twittercounter, FB Insights, as well as the content platforms mentioned above. If your career services site has Google Analytics on it, you can also track metrics through referring URLs.

Ideas from the Group

Here are some ideas that we liked that career center respondents shared with us:

  • “We just started looking into foursquare more and how students can post what they learned from attending a workshop, appointment, event from the career center.”
  • “We have two Facebook sites, one is the basic “office” page for informational purposes – the other is “managed” by our office mascot, a friend to almost all of the students – he does great PR!”
  • “We utilize Facebook to publicize events and programs as well as post pictures. We use LinkedIn to reconnect with alumni.”
  • “We are an academic program and just beginning to use social media. We use LinkedIn with alumni to connect and network. We are launching twitter and FB to educate students about internships – using articles – retweeting, program information, event information and success stories.”
  • “We have a social media calendar with pre-designed/written messages if we are ever short of content and have identified certain days for certain tools (Tuesday Tweets, Facebook Fridays).”
  • “There is no summer school on our campus so there are no students on campus during the summer. We use Facebook to continue to provide ideas and things they should be thinking about while they’re at a distance.”
  • “Lesson learned – we set up our Facebook page as a ‘group page.’ Facebook notified us one day that our page was being taken down. We lost all of our student fans and had to start over again with a new Facebook fan page. If you are going to use Facebook, set up a fan page from the get-go.”

If this sounds daunting, the best way to get started is to simply start. Then ask your students for feedback – what do they like, what would they like to get updates from your office on. Also consider asking your student interns to pitch in and help with some content posting. If you find the right kind of student, they will view this as a great resume building experience.

We also recommend looking at other schools’ social media sites to get ideas and see what they are doing. You can even follow their tweets on Twitter, if they will allow you to. This may be a quick way to get some content of your own – just don’t forget to give credit to the original tweeter!

 

Questions? Please feel free to email us.