This article was written in collaboration with Cierra Ashley Wilson, Interim Assistant Director for Employer Relations, and Brittany Cowan, Digital Communications Intern, at North Carolina Central University (NCCU).
When the pandemic hit, transitioning to a virtual environment was a challenge for everyone. Similar to other career centers, much of NCCU’s marketing strategy relied heavily on print, display advertisements, and in-person promotion.
We had to rethink traditional content and pivot to a robust digital strategy. Our approach was simple: curate hyper-relevant social media content to increase student awareness, engagement and conversion. Here is our process.
1. Don’t rely solely on employer marketing
We have seen a significant increase in impressions, shares, and reach when our career services marketing team creates outreach materials.
In our experience, employer-made content doesn't resonate with students because corporate imagery often lacks the branding, diverse representation, and creative use of different channels that would capture the attention of Gen Z students.
Oftentimes, students find the job process intimidating. By incorporating abstract, colorful and whimsical patterns, shapes and lines into your marketing, you will be able to inspire a friendly yet informative feel, which can increase your engagement.
Tip from Handshake: Check out the Marketing Toolkit for a library of ready-to-post and customizable assets to promote Handshake and engage students
2. Understand what resonates with students
Don’t recreate the wheel. Capitalize on current social media trends and popular memes. Use apps like Canva and Adobe Photoshop to build your brand identity.
We’ve found that our Gen Z students love engaging in events that are happening in the moment. Some ways we incorporate live content include:
- Holding interactive live events with employers
- Inviting campus influencers to participate in videos
- Giving a behind the scenes tour of the Career Center
Students also want practical advice on how to navigate their job search. Examples of how we use social media to share best practices include:
- Student Testimonials & Internship Spotlights
- Handshake Profile Completion
- Career Tip Fridays
- Leveraging Digital Career Resources (i.e. Big Interview, VMock, etc.)
3. Diversify your content
Instead of posting static images on your feed, try experimenting with different channels and mediums like:
- Short 15-30 second videos on TikTok, Instagram Reels, or IGTV
- Q&A and Polls on Instagram Stories
- Animated GIFs or videos
- Social media contests
- Carousel posts
User engagement is 2x higher when we incorporate videos and GIFs and 6x higher when we utilize student images. Representation matters when generating social media content for student populations—they want to see themselves as career ready.
Also, be intentional and thoughtful in writing your captions by using SEO buzzwords, call to action, and relevant hashtags to organically grow your reach.
4. Follow relevant accounts
Another good way to expand your reach is to follow other accounts at your school. We’ve found that following other NCCU accounts prompts them to engage more with our content and reach a larger audience. Some ways you can interact with other accounts:
- Cross-post each other’s related events
- Tag other accounts in your posts
- Like and comment on their posts
5. Create a content calendar
With a well-planned social media feed, you can visually convey your brand value in seconds. Use a project management tool (we use Microsoft Lists, which is free) to create a social media content calendar. This will help you:
- Stay organized by providing clarity in roles and responsibilities
- Easily communicate with your team on what will be posted and when
- Track your metrics and outcomes
Scheduling your posts for specific time windows can have a positive impact on student engagement. For example, during the pandemic our Instagram traffic is highest between the hours of 5:00 PM-8:00 PM, whereas pre-COVID our reach was maximized from 12:00 PM-2:00 PM.
Don’t be afraid to diverge from your plan — for example, allowing high performing content to be featured longer.
Ready to take your social media engagement to the next level?
- Follow for inspiration: @nccucareerready on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube and @joinhandshake on Instagram, Twitter, and Tik Tok
- Read “Optimizing Your Social Media Posts” and “TCNJ’s Strategies for Social Media Engagement” for more savvy techniques
- Check out the Handshake Marketing Toolkit for ready-made social content to get started