RehabCare’s Social Media Success

Feb 11, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Companies are waking up to the need for social media, but very few have done more than dip a toe in a pool. Today, I’m going to introduce you to a company that did a cannonball in the deep end, and is still coming back for more. (Disclaimer: This company was a client of mine in 2007. I got them started on the journey, but the growth of its social media program has been a result of the hard work of its staff).

The company is RehabCare, a provider of physical rehabilitation program services headquartered in St Louis. Each year, RehabCare is tasked with hiring hundreds of college graduates with degrees in physical, occupational, and speech therapy, as well as replenishing its current employees despite a severe shortage of therapists. The campus relations department is a lead generator for the company. Its job is to make contact with students early in their college careers, and shepherd them through the employment process until their graduation. In December of 2007, Leslie Stevens posted here and wanted some hard numbers. The department doesn’t share hiring numbers, as it works in tandem with the recruiting department, but last year, the company beat its goal for college hires, a number not easy to achieve in its market.

RehabCare’s Barbara Wallace, assistant vice president of campus relations, believes social media has been part of its success.

“We’re a very small department of five people and have an enormous number of students to connect with. Social media techniques have enabled us to reach out and stay connected with thousands of students, every day.”

The most visible aspect of its web presence is still the Rehabcare Campus Relations Blog. The blog was started in August of 2007, and is the focal point of its web campaigns. Written entirely by staff, the blog discusses its trips to different colleges, showcases its top facilities, shares interesting stories about the industry, and serves as a platform to launch new initiatives. The biggest value is the ease of use.

Barbara’s team has made a real effort to integrate social media into its daily work routines, which means the work is spread out, other departments don’t have to be involved, and time spent on the sites can directly be tied to candidate tracking. While no one can definitively say that a student joined because they listened to a podcast, we do know that the site offerings give the recruiters something to talk about, and candidates have something to come back to besides job postings and a vague benefit page.

In the last two years, the company has used a number of free services to enhance the site and its offerings:

Facebook: The Facebook site is a fan page that serves as a connection point to students, but also reinforces the branding of the blog and scheduled events. The site hosts a feed of recently posted stories, a calendar, pictures, and videos. It’s a landing point for Facebook, reinforcing with students that RehabCare is
meeting them where they spend time online.

Maps: Using a simple tool, a map is available on the sidebar for students. Selecting areas of the map brings up a picture of the contact person for that region, which allows the students to directly connect with the right recruiter. The picture gives the student the sense that a real person will speak to them, rather than an impersonal email to a universal address (all job seekers dislike anonymous universal addresses, but Gen Y especially wants a live contact).

Podcasts: The use of the Wii in physical therapy is a fun story in general, so RehabCare has taken it further with an audio recording called Wiihabilitation.

Texting: College students love their cell phones, and texting is second nature. Using a text-based messaging group Rehabcare can sign students up for text updates as a hiring date approaches, or when they are visiting the campus. The texting helps students keep appointments, and shows how with the times Rehabcare is in comparison to competitors.

Photographs: Photos of the visited campuses, travel information, and events at RehabCare enhance the site and visually represent the process of getting hired at the company. Plans to integrate a photo-sharing site are also in the works, all easily managed by staff.

Calendars: Calendars may not seem like social media, but public descriptions of where you’ve been and where you are going give you a presence online — and RehabCare needs to make sure that when its staff is traveling, students know they are coming. Calendars are great as direct reminders and help word-of-mouth campaigns maximize face-to-face contact.

Job Posting: While the overall purpose of the site is not to post jobs, a section is set up to let people who get to the site from the search engines see the most visible jobs. Each posting is also a subtle visual way of reminding students that hiring is the main reason to have the blog.

Speaking of search engines, relevant traffic results have been excellent, leading the blog to be on the first page for terms important to the company. Traffic levels have been steady at around 1,600 uniques per month, which is impressive given that it is a niche blog. College students are on the site regularly, and are more comfortable interacting with the recruiters through the blog. Wallace explains that “the blog has enabled us to reach and relate to students on the level that they are comfortable and familiar communicating. It also demonstrates that we are a progressive company and open to fresh and new ideas.”

What does 2009 hold? You’ll have to wait and see, but the desire to be on the cutting edge of college recruiting hasn’t been dampened. RehabCare is clearly an early adopter, and competitors for talent who haven’t joined the party will be playing catchup for some time. There have been successes and failures, but in each project, the knowledge level of the campus relations team has increased, and the rest of the recruiting department and the corporation are benefiting from an increased online profile. Social media has not been a silver bullet, and it certainly doesn’t replace the work the team already performs. Rather, the social media projects enhance its profile, and are an easy way to communicate with its audience. That communication clearly contributed to its success last year, especially in the eyes of the executives, who have green-lighted even more ambitious recruiting goals and strategies despite a tough economy.

The lesson is an important one. Social media recruiting works, but only when in concert with a strong team, a knowledgeable manager, and buy-in from executives. There are no starry-eyed Facebook surfers or YouTube watchers in this department. Just recruiters using social media to do their jobs — better.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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