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5 Tips for Recruiting College Students via Social Media

Dan Klamm is the outreach and marketing coordinator at Syracuse University Career Services. Connect with him on Twitter @DanKlamm.

More and more companies are recognizing the value of social media in building their employer brand in the minds of college students.  From the Department of State (@DOScareers) to Google (@GoogleStudents) to MTV (@MTVNetworksJobs), organizations across many industries are taking to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and blogs to enhance their image and build a pipeline of talent from college campuses.

Some companies instinctively “get it.” They know how to use social media to connect with college students and drive interest in career opportunities.  Others struggle with these relatively new methods of communication. Like cramming square pegs into round holes, they try forcing their old strategies for communicating with young talent into new media platforms — without much success.

Here are some tips on how companies can optimize their social media presence to attract college students for internship and job opportunities.

1. Make It Personal

Nobody likes talking to a logo. Show that there are real people behind your corporate HR accounts.  This can be accomplished quite simply. Just include a line in your bio with the names of the people who update your account or feature their photos somewhere on the page.  As an example, @StarbucksJobs has “Tweets from Jeremy at Starbucks in Seattle, WA” in its Twitter bio.  CitiBank takes it a step further, with many recruiters having their own Twitter accounts (@AmyAtCiti, @JulieAtCiti, @LaDonnaAtCiti, to name a few).

Give the people behind your accounts some freedom to inject their own personality, quirks and observations into their updates. By humanizing your organization’s social media presence, students will be more likely to interact with you.

2. Keep It Real

Skip the corporate press releases and sleek marketing videos. For social media, your happy and successful employees are your best asset. Let them show off why they enjoy working at your organization in real, authentic ways.

At Ernst & Young, a first-year staff member tweets about her day-to-day work activities and learning opportunities on the @EYstaff account.  At General Electric, recent grads in the Information Management Leadership Program update the IMLP Blog with firsthand accounts of exciting projects and travel adventures.  Through vehicles like this, students can get a feel for what it’s actually like to work for these companies.

Students don’t like feeling “marketed to.”  Instead of fancy recruitment videos, try walking around your company with a Flipcam, asking employees, “What’s your favorite part of working here?” Off-the-cuff content like this will probably resonate with college students more than a scripted recruitment piece. Plus, it will yield much more interesting nuggets of information.

3. Deliver Exclusivity

Job postings are great, but they’re already listed on your company website. Give your followers and friends something that’s not readily available to outsiders: a behind-the-scenes look at your culture or an opportunity to make meaningful connections with people inside the company.

Mr. Youth, a social marketing agency, posts Facebook photo albums from its lively holiday parties and special events. Google showcases its teams hard at work through a series of candid YouTube videos, “Working at Google.”  Photos and videos give students a real peek at the action.

To create additional exclusivity for your social media friends, create real-life connections.  Host a Facebook contest and offer the winner a personal lunch with one of your recruiters. Many students would be thrilled with the opportunity to get some insight in a relaxed, non-interview setting such as this.  Headed for a campus visit?  Announce an impromptu Tweetup for students who avidly follow your updates on Twitter.

4. Add Value

Students are flooded with information from companies on a daily basis. To make your organization stand out, provide relevant and useful content through your social media platforms.  When it comes to selecting an employer, students are often interested in knowing about the work environment, mentoring programs, advancement opportunities within the company and whether they’ll be able to jump in and make significant contributions in the workplace right away. Address these areas.

Maybe host a Twitter chat for prospective employees, allowing college students to ask questions and receive real-time responses from current employees. Or live tweet your company’s campus information sessions, giving students from other locations an opportunity to participate in the events remotely and gain important knowledge about your recruiting operations.

5. Stay Ahead of the Curve

If you’re fumbling with Facebook while your competitor is developing a mobile careers app, students might judge your company in a negative way. When trying to recruit a generation who is ahead of the curve technologically, you need to stay ahead of the curve as well.

Examine your recruiting strategy and see if it would make sense to utilize location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla in some way.  Consider other emerging technologies, like QR codes, as well.  In general, today’s students want to work for companies that are perceived as technologically advanced.

Now is a time of exciting possibilities in the world of campus recruiting. For companies that put time, energy and strategic thought into connecting with college students through social media, there is huge potential for pay off in the years to come.

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