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How to Use Social Media on Your Summer Job Search

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's a competitive jobs landscape, no doubt about that.

Besides the millions of Americans who are out of work but looking for a job, the career services firm says 51% of employed workers are "either actively seeking or open to a new job."

To gain an edge, job-seekers have to leverage any way they can to get noticed by hiring managers. Right now, with one big exception, there really is no better way to land a new job than to wage a smart social media campaign.

According to Jobvite, 40% of new hires say they got their job through "personal connections," proving classic networking has value -- but social media ranks second, with 21% of new hires saying it was the most significant factor in getting hired, followed by online job boards (20%) and classified ads (19%).

Employers are big on using social media to find job applicants. Jobvite reports that 94% of U.S. companies used social media to recruit and hire employees last year (at 94%, LinkedIn was far and away the most popular site used by hiring managers.)

Managers say they value "professional experience" and "specific hard skills" when looking for job prospects on LinkedIn, while they used Facebook and Twitter to evaluate "cultural fit" and "industry-related posts."

"A social media presence such as LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook is important for anyone seeking employment because most companies are using these sites to promote their brand," says Jayne Mattson, a senior vice president at Keystone Associates, a Boston career management consulting firm. "Recruiters, hiring managers and human resources managers go to social media to see what they can find out about potential candidates."

If youre not on social media, Mattson says companies will move on quickly to the next potential candidate who is. There are other reasons to take the LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter route too.

"Another reason to use social media in your job search is to reflect that you are up to date with technology hiring trends and that you have a willingness to learn," Mattson says. "Lastly, if you are in the baby boomer generation, being on social media can help mask your age."

Mattsons best social media job search tips:

Focus on "target markets." With LinkedIn specifically, Mattson advises leveraging your target market sites and subgroups to keep updated on trends and get more information to share with your connections.

Get involved. Make sure you're "in play" on LinkedIn. "Each week, review one to five of your 'tier one' connections' LinkedIn profiles for their areas of interest both professionally and personally," she says. "Research articles or information to share with them as way to connect and inform within your network."

Get tracking. On any social media site, start following the A-list companies where you want to work. "Start contributing to the online conversations or start a discussion to show your interest in their company and products," Mattson says. "You will learn what others are saying and asking about the companies, which could help you become a person in the know." By participating in discussion groups, youll raise your profile as an expert and as an influencer, she says.

Network on Facebook. Facebook pages for companies are a great resource for job applicants. They can give you access to company news and events, video introductions, links to blogs and websites and special promotions. "If your targeted companies have Facebook pages, use a combination of like, comment and share of relevant information," Mattson says. "Also, review your friends "About," "Work" and "Education" sections to determine if they may be connected to people who work at one of your targeted companies, and send them a private message to ask if they would consider making an introduction for you."

Get to the decision-makers on Twitter. Use Twitter as a "tracking device" and follow key influencers (C-suite execs, hiring managers, etc.) at targeted companies.

And dont forget to use hashtags to find and engage with followers who share your interests, Mattson says.

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