The use of social media is not going away anytime soon. Rather than a passing fad, it is a shift in the way we communicate, the way we share information, and the way we live.
Social media/networking includes all of the resources and applications that facilitate online interactions between people and allow for what’s referred to as user-generated content – it is our updates, opinions, reviews, news, etc. that are being shared. Conversations between mother and child, business and customer, or recruiter and applicant happen in real time from across the street or across the world. Popular social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, and LinkedIn (and in the time it took you to read this paragraph, a new site has probably popped up).
As career services professionals, the impact of social networking and an online presence is especially pertinent as backed up by studies such as the one commissioned by Microsoft in December 2009. It was reported that 79% of U.S. hiring managers and job recruiters checked out a job applicant online before making hiring decisions. Even more significant – 70% of these managers reported that they have rejected candidates based on what they found.
As we rush to educate students on how to build a successful online profile for their job search, social media also opens up a world of opportunities for us to reach students and alumni in a new space, while modeling for our students how to professionally utilize these tools.
The Hegi Family Career Development Center at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas started its Twitter page https://twitter.com/SMU_HegiCareer in the summer of 2009. Since the launch, the account has more than 650 followers from both the SMU and outside community and it has become a staple in the marketing strategy of the office.
Twitter is a form of social media known as a micro-blogging site. (Blog is a contraction for “web log.”) Users exchange “tweets”, which are posts of 140-characters or less, similar in style and immediacy to a text message. As the site has grown, there has been a significant increase in businesses using Twitter to market their services, as well as consumers using it to share with the online world what they may think about a business. It was not long until HR departments and job seekers alike began using the site to post opportunities, respond to opportunities, and promote their personal or company brands. The goal of Twitter is probably summed up best by its CEO, Evan Williams: “It tells people what they care about as it is happening in the world.”
Marketing tends to be an ongoing struggle for career services offices. How do we break through the clutter of everything students are receiving to promote an event or advertise a service?
Using Twitter and other social media resources brands a career center as progressive. Showing that we keep up with technology signals a credibility to students, alumni and faculty and conveys that we understand the way social networking is changing the recruiting landscape.
Twitter allows for conversation and dialogue between career services and students in a space that is comfortable and informal, yet still enhancing vital professional skills.
Maximizing the social networking site is affordable. It is free to use Twitter and the only real cost is staff time. Using a student worker is a great way to reduce the use of staff resources and may result in tweeting that is more relatable to the student body.
What to Say – or Tweet!
So you have decided to give Twitter a go… now what? There are many purposes for which a career center might tweet. Some of these include:
Promoting an upcoming career center event.
Generating traffic to your blog or Web site through a link.
Linking to a relevant, career-related article.
Posting a job search tip or piece of advice.
Re-tweeting someone else’s advice or article. Using Twitter is a great way to build relationships with other career centers and career experts across the world.
Starting a dialogue with students, alumni and the university community.
Remember, you only have 140 characters to make your point, so we are talking about an attention-grabbing sound bite. You can always include a link for more information.
Simply using Twitter is not enough to rise above the polluted marketing space. A recent article in The New York Times reported that 55 million tweets go out per day! Maximize your Twitter potential and credibility with some of these tips:
Tweet regularly. The more you tweet, the more attention your page will get from your followers. A reasonable goal is one tweet per day. Try to avoid the early morning, where it’s likely to fall off the page before your main audience – students – wakes up!
Vary your tweets and don’t just re-tweet other posts (though include these as well). Have some original content and post information about the university that isn’t necessarily career-related, e.g., congratulate the football team on a victory or recommend a theatre production.
Engage your audiences with questions and discussion topics.
Add a “Follow us on Twitter” link to your Web site and to your e-mail signature to generate followers.
Follow and read other career centers’ tweets and glean some best practices. Communicate with them. This can be a way of networking for your office as well.
We will always be competing for the coveted attention of our students and using social media tools such as Twitter will not be the end-all, be-all strategy to capture it. It does, however, provide a new forum for reaching out and communicating in the “quick glance” style to which our students are now accustomed. Happy tweeting!
Caryn Statman, M.Ed., LPC-Intern is an Assistant Director and Career Counselor at the Hegi Family Career Development Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. In addition to career counseling, Caryn plans workshops, presentations and events for students and coordinates the marketing efforts of the HFCDC. Prior to joining SMU, Caryn worked in the public relations industry for six years. During that time, she received her Master’s in Education in Counseling from the University of North Texas. She received a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-768-7304.