In fall 2020, Stony Brook University hosted five virtual industry-related job and internship fairs in Handshake. Across all five events, over 1600 students attended, forming over 5000 connections with employers.
The team’s virtual fair marketing strategy was key to their success. They created tons of content and programming themselves, and used key assets from Handshake’s Virtual Fair Launch Kit.
“The virtual fairs we conducted this semester provided an amazing opportunity for us to think differently about how we could facilitate connections between students and employers. We attracted a diverse representation of employers that included many organizations new to recruiting at SBU, and the tool allowed for more planful and meaningful 1:1 sessions. Our marketing team put together an incredibly comprehensive plan that built anticipation for the opening of schedules including a daily countdown and incorporated key stakeholders including live Instagram sessions with academic deans, faculty members, and employers. The virtual platform allowed for more access and resulted in increased engagement with students and alumni from diverse academic and demographic backgrounds.”Marianna Savoca, Assistant Vice President for Career Development and Experiential Education
Elizabeth Ann Moon, Marketing and Digital Content Specialist for the Stony Brook University Career Center, shared details on five unique strategies her team employed to drive students to attend the fairs.
1. Build hype around key dates
Elizabeth’s team focused heavily on promoting two dates:
- The start of student registration
- The dates of the fairs themselves
Both are critical times for students to take action.
The team positioned the start of student registration like the launch of a new, coveted product with limited availability. They urged students to sign up to meet with employers they were most interested in before space filled up.
“The goal was to replicate the idea of being online as soon as something becomes available—for example, tickets for a concert or the sale of a popular new item.”Elizabeth Ann Moon, Marketing and Digital Content Specialist
The team also posted a daily countdown to each fair on their Instagram Story. To expand their reach, they partnered with relevant organizations on campus to post countdowns as well. For example, the College of Business Instagram account posted the countdown to the Business Job and Internship Fair. You can find examples of the countdown posts here.
2. Share short virtual fair walkthroughs
Elizabeth’s team created a series of graphics for Instagram that illustrated how to find and register for fairs. In addition to posting the graphics to their Instagram story, they also saved them to their Instagram Story Highlights section so students and alumni could review them at any time. Check out the graphics here.
They also created a long-form walkthrough video. The video illustrates each step to register and sign up for the fair. Check out the video here.
3. Host an Instagram Live series
Elizabeth’s team started consistently using Instagram Live as a way to stay connected with students when the COVID-19 pandemic began. 30 to 60 viewers typically tuned in live and the videos were published to Stony Brook’s Instagram feed, driving the viewer count up to about 200. These good engagement numbers led them to try the platform for virtual fair marketing as well.
On the day that student registration for the fair went live, Elizabeth held an all-day marathon of Instagram Live sessions. Faculty and administrators from different colleges and divisions on campus—including the Vice President of Student Affairs and the Dean of the College of Business—participated in short interviews about their career story. Interviewees also provided career advice for students.
Each session garnered about 30 live viewers. The videos were also saved on Instagram for students who weren’t able to attend live. Collectively, they’ve been viewed over 600 times.
Read more about the series and watch all of the interviews here.
4. Highlight tips from employers
The Stony Brook team recorded a series of videos with registered employers. Each employer was asked to provide tips students could use before, during, and after the fair. Employers were encouraged to tailor their tips to the virtual fair experience.
“This series was a triple threat. It allowed us to promote fair registration, highlight key employers, and share advice with students to make them feel more prepared to attend.”Elizabeth Ann Moon, Marketing and Digital Content Specialist
Check out one of the videos featuring tips from Nature’s Bounty here.
5. Send personalized reminders
Elizabeth’s team sent different versions of reminder emails, depending on how many sessions a student had signed up for. For example, a student who had only registered for one session would get an email that said:
“We see that you have only signed up for one session. It is important to sign up for more than one 1:1 or group session so that you have the opportunity to meet with as many employers as possible.”
Emails were also used to highlight which employers still had available spots, as well as share other important logistical information. This tailored approach meant that students were more likely to read the email and take action. The team tracked over 550 clicks on the fair link from email alone.
Check out even more virtual fair marketing assets from Stony Brook here. For more recommendations on marketing and hosting Handshake virtual fairs, check out the following resources:
- A Guide to Virtual Fair Marketing, which includes a sample marketing plan
- Advice on How to Staff a Virtual Fair from Kennesaw University
- Advice from Career Services on Hosting Virtual Fairs in Handshake, featuring tips from seven of your career services peers