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Social Media Day Builds Connections & Community

Given trends in social recruiting and the new model of career services as a customized connector between students, faculty, staff, alumni and employers — understanding social media has become more critical than ever.

Today, most career centers offer educational programs and advising for students about how to leverage social media in their professional pursuits. However, learning how to use social media tools and tactics is not only important for students. All of our stakeholders are active partners with the career center in building and cultivating networks, facilitating conversations and connections and creating access to opportunities for students.

So, imagine the networks — and the opportunities you could unlock if your career center could bring together the entire University community for a conference on social media designed to educate, engage and empower everyone to collectively raise the bar on their social media efforts.

Last December, Princeton University Career Services spearheaded a campus-wide conference called Princeton Social Media Day (#PUSocialDay). This event was truly unique in the field of higher education in that the career center was leading the charge on social media education. By spearheading this event we enhanced our value proposition among alumni and campus partners, catapulted our re-branding efforts, and re-positioned our office as a leader in the digital and social space. Most importantly, bringing the entire campus together helped us tap into the deep well of networks that already existed across Princeton’s ecosystem. Moreover, our unique approach to meeting the needs of multiple campus stakeholders was recognized as a great model for other career centers by Inside Higher Ed.

Invite Everyone to the Party to Learn, Share & Connect

Our formula was fairly simple—offer something for everyone at every level of social media expertise and find ways to make this event as meaningful, impactful and inclusive as possible. We began by developing a cross-campus steering committee and sponsors including student organizations, academic departments, schools, centers and several administrative offices (such as the Office of Communications)—and enlisted their support in identifying interesting topics and in inviting Princeton’s most prolific and influential social media voices as speakers. Together with partners, we designed a full day and a half of programming around three common themes: learn, share and connect. Then, we invited literally everyone to the party via campus listservs and, of course, social media!

The event included talks by prominent industry experts such as Sree Sreenivasan who offered insights to best practices and innovative new tools and tactics. Panels featured faculty, staff, alumni and students who shared ways they were using social media personally and professionally to initiate important academic, societal or career conversations that reflected their unique interests and passions. In addition, we made sure speakers represented a variety of fields of high-interest to our students and showcased ways social media was used by professionals from the performing and visual arts, entrepreneurs, journalists, educators, scientists and researchers.

To ensure attendees would also receive personalized advice, we invited experts from LinkedIn and other consultants to join our advising team as “social media “doctors” and provide individual consultations and profile critiques. There were also two professional photographers on hand for free headshot photos throughout the day. I invite you to read my blog on LinkedIn for more details about the session topics.

Lasting Results…Priceless

By all accounts, both quantitatively and qualitatively, our results were pretty astounding. We reached more than 1.4 million people and had 11.6 million impressions across just Twitter alone—moreover, #PUSocialDay was trending in the U.S. and Scotland!

Here’s a quick glance at the stats:

  • There were 14 sessions featuring more than 45 industry experts and alumni guest speakers sharing their advice and insights

  • Nearly 400 registrants for the event including faculty, staff, senior University administrators, students and alumni

  • More than 165 participants took advantage of the social media “doctors,” to receive individual profile check-ups

  • Over 250 free professional headshot photos were taken

  • Global conversations with posts coming from 19 different countries

As evidenced in posts and feedback by participants, the incredible response to Princeton Social Media Day was sparked by a collective desire across campus to learn from one another, to expand our social media repertoire(s), and to engage in dialogue about what social media means to us as individuals and as an institution. One of my favorite posts was a blog by senior Stacey Huang entitled, “Five Research Lessons from Social Media Day: as illustrated by the PU Art Museum” drawing connections between the advice imparted at Social Media Day and the great works of art featured in our social media-driven tour of the Princeton University Art Museum that day.

Based on anecdotal feedback and surveys of those who participated, we achieved all of our learning objectives for the event. Nearly everyone reported having:

  • Learned at least one new tool or tactic

  • Improved one or more current profiles

  • Expanded their social repertoire to include a new platform

  • Raised awareness of importance of their digital identity

  • Boosted their confidence in using social media

  • Gained an understanding of ways social media is used by alumni in specific professions and industries

  • Connected with at least two or more individuals or interest-based communities

Another benefit from the career center perspective, was that we also used the event as a forum to issue a “call to action” throughout the broader campus community to join Career Services in building an army of advocates for Princeton students—inclusive of faculty, staff, alumni, parents and employers. We announced our Tiger Career Community that day and it is now more that 900 members strong and growing. In the coming weeks, we will be launching a new mobile chat-based app to support this community due, in part, to our career center spearheading conversations about ways Princeton could better leverage social and digital technologies.

A New Annual Tradition at Princeton

Based on the success of last year’s Princeton Social Media Day, we were encouraged to make this event an annual tradition. We recently hosted a planning meeting for this year’s event to be held on March 3, 2017—and we already have more than double the number of co-sponsors who want to join us in this educational effort, including both campus and employer partners. Potential plans include featuring a flash mob, an all-day student take-over of our social channels, reverse mentoring with students teaching administrators how to use Snapchat and a student meme war contest. Fingers crossed this year will be even more of a “Social Shake-up!”

On a final note, social media is a powerful tool that helps Career Services deliver on our mission to connect students with opportunities each and every day—but we can’t do this alone. It truly does “take a village” and a broad-based community-wide effort. I hope others in the field will be inspired to emulate this idea and take a lead role in empowering their entire campus community to “get social!”

Evangeline “Eva” Kubu (@eva_kubu) is Director of Career Services at Princeton University and an early adopter and evangelist of social media for higher education. The funny coincidence of her first name, Evangeline, and her evangelism of social media is not lost on her. She has conducted 3 nationwide studies exploring best practices in career center social media engagement and is passionate about using social media to create community and connections between Princeton students, alumni and employers — she is a.k.a. the #fairyjobmother.

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