Lauren, a high school sophomore sits on the bus with a group of teammates on their way to a volleyball game. Everyone’s chatting about school, boys, their least favorite teachers—you know, the usual. In a quiet moment, one freshman girl casually wonders if she should get on Facebook and start an account. A world-weary junior turns to her and says, “What are you, 40?”
Just in case you’re wondering, this is not fiction—this is an actual conversation that took place between current high school students.
Clearly social media moves pretty quickly. Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that only college students could have accounts on Facebook? And now it’s considered the happening place… for middle-aged people.
If you’re trying to reach college students through social media today, Facebook may still work. But if you’re looking to the future and thinking about hiring college grads a few years down the line, it might make more sense to focus on a platform that’s more popular with Gen Z, like Instagram.
Instagram has a pretty simple layout and purpose—it’s a way for people to share and view pictures and short videos. (I can’t resist sharing this clip from The Internship that also explains Instagram pretty hilariously.) You can follow pretty much anyone—friends, family members, celebrities, “internet famous” cats, brands you like. Every post needs to have an image or video and you can choose to add a text caption (with or without hashtags). You can like and comment on other people’s photos. And if you don’t want to share something with the entire world, you can send it as a direct message to specific people.
Now that you’ve gotten a quick rundown of what this app is all about, let’s take a look at five companies that rock at employer branding on Instagram, and how you can use this platform to connect with the college student/recent grad demographic.
LinkedIn uses the @linkedinu account to attract college students to their internships and entry-level opportunities. In addition to sharing their university recruiting team’s activities, they also manage to make LinkedIn look like a pretty fun place to work!
A few recent posts
This post shows the university recruiting team at a recent on-campus event at Georgia Tech. You can see how they used both hashtags (#LinkedIn) and mentions (@GeorgiaTech) in their caption and how they encouraged visitors to check in (a great way to monitor their ROI for the event). Also, look at those smiling faces—who wouldn’t want to work with these friendly people?
LinkedIn is using this post to promote something that most college students can get down with—free money! The image is simple and clear, and the link in the caption takes you to a page that explains the scholarship in more detail. Do you offer scholarships to students? Think about how you could use an image to catch people’s attention and convey a similar message.
Everyone knows the old saying: The way to a student’s heart is through free food. What—that’s not how it goes? Anyway, @linkedinu got our attention with this colorful table full of treats. This post is proof that life at LinkedIn is pretty sweet.
Worried that you can’t be successful on Instagram because you don’t have a visual product or brand? Check out what software company VMware is doing to tell their employer brand story to college students. It involves a lot of personal stories, simple graphics, and glimpses into the company culture.
A few recent posts
Not every image you share on Instagram has to be a photo. You can also share designs like this one from VMware. If someone on your team is talented in graphic design (or knows about super simple and free sites like Canva and PicMonkey), you can ask them to come up with something like this that’s simple, timely, and conveys your employer brand. Getting an image like this uploaded to your Instagram account involves a few extra steps, but hang tight. We’ll cover that in next week’s post!
This is such a simple and effective use of Instagram: Use it to tell stories about your current interns or entry-level employees. This post features a simple headshot of a current intern with the VMware logo and her job title. The caption describes her role in more detail and explains where you can learn all about her experience at VMware.
For most college students, one of the biggest challenges of the job search is not understanding what their day-to-day life as an employee will look like. Instagram is an ideal format for providing a window into your office and company culture. Clearly, the interns at VMware are allowed to have a little fun on the job since this post shows them making gingerbread houses at what looks like a pretty enjoyable holiday party.
It’s no secret—the EY university recruiting team are pros when it comes to storytelling, and their Instagram account is no exception. They use a mix of eye-catching graphics, text, and photos to share their company values.
A few recent posts
This is a super simple image, but it conveys a strong message: EY is interested in advancing women’s careers. The caption also helps to place this image in context since EY was named among the “Top Companies for Executive Women.” Do you have any news or awards you’d like to share? Use this post as an inspiration for getting your message out there in an interesting and compelling way.
This post takes a timely topic—Black History Month—and ties it in with EY’s work. The caption talks about how George Washington Carver found more than 300 uses for peanuts and applied for 3 patents, and goes on to say, “Don’t just crunch numbers. Reveal secrets. At #EY, you’ll look beyond the numbers to help our clients solve complex problems.” If you’re planning to use Instagram to discuss timely topics like this, just be sensitive and use common sense. Is the connection to your company clear? Or will it leave people wondering why you’re posting about this particular topic?
This post is a regram (like a retweet—when you copy someone’s image and share it with your followers, while acknowledging and giving credit to the original photographer, of course!). It shows the first day of Financial Service Office Advisory Training—from a trainee’s perspective. Sharing photos that come directly from interns and employees themselves lends your account authenticity and makes it much easier to relate to your audience.
Obviously Starbucks has an advantage when it comes to branding since everyone knows their consumer brand, but the @starbucksjobs account provides some insight into the employee experience as well.
A few recent posts
For anyone who thinks all Starbucks locations look the same, this post proves them wrong. It’s pretty cool to see how the design team incorporated jazz instruments into the décor at the New Orleans store.
This post is a perfect example of cross-promoting between social networks. Starbucks is using this Instagram post to promote a Twitter chat that will be taking place on the same day. Whether you’re hosting a Twitter chat, an info session, or any other type of event, don’t forget to use Instagram to help get the word out there! Also—love how the Starbucks team responded to the job-seeker’s question here.
This cute snap shows some smiling interns and encourages everyone to apply for the summer internship. Pro tip: Make sure you take plenty of photos when your interns are with you so that you have your own supply of “happy intern” images to use in the future. You can even ask an aspiring photographer intern to be responsible for this project during their tenure.
Your Instagram feed doesn’t need to be totally serious all the time—especially if you have a fun and youthful company culture. The Enterprise Instagram account shares some silly snaps as well as more serious images that tell the company’s story through individual contributors.
A few recent posts
It’s easy to say you have a policy of promoting from within, but it’s another thing entirely to tell an individual success story like this one. If you’re already telling stories about your employees in your company blog or career site, why not create a simple Instagram pic like this to spread the word?
Isn’t this series just the cutest? It shows how several branches dressed up for Halloween (there are tons of others—be sure to check out @enterpriserentacar_careers to see all these creative costumes). A series like this would work especially well if you have a large company with multiple branches or different departments that really like to compete.
Now you’ve got plenty of ideas of how other employers are telling their stories and branding themselves on Instagram. The companies we’ve picked share their messages in creative and compelling ways. Why not challenge yourself to do the same?
The next step: Make a list of the standout features of your university recruiting program. Do you offer scholarships? An awesome internship program? Cool projects your entry-level employees get to work on? Start to think about how to convey those stories with a photo or image. Remember you can always link to a longer blog post or web page to provide the whole picture.