The trick to social networking is that it's just a tool. The value of the tool is the value of your raw materials - the actual network of people who you know, who know you and your work, and who respect you. Whether you exercise this network old school style with a Rolodex or in the modern age with Linked In or another medium, it's the depth of actual personal contacts that generally offers the value over something like a relatively anonymous job site.
When you're just starting out as an intern or new college hire, this network is necessarily thin. The key is to build it, and use the tools for their ultimate power - keeping track of people, how you know them, what they are up to and how you can connect these points into a win/win situation with your next career move.
In my experience, any "please apply here" style of job posting is going to raise the problem of more volume than any intake mechanism can reasonably and intelligently parse. The more elite and limited the posting venue, the more likely you are to hear back quickly - the broader the base, the more likely that the intake mechanism is so deluged by applications that responses will be slow and the feedback/turnaround may be sketchy overall.
A point for comparison - I've found using Stack Overflow Careers with smaller companies has a high success rate. Using Linked in with little to know follow up via my personal network has been largely unsuccessful, and with some highly prominent companies, almost any anonymous mechanism has been completely pointless.
The best vector for job applications via social media is that you also use the media to contact your personal contacts that might be able to help and mentioning your interest. The user interfaces on sites like Linked In usually facilitate that sort of communication. The power of an internal reference in many companies is profound enough that it'll get your resume to the top of the pile.
The truth of any job search is you only really need one job offer, if it's the right job. If there was a magical way of instantly matching the right person and the right job, we could all save quite a bit of effort interviewing with each other, reviewing benefits packages, building resumes, and applying over and over again.
The goal with an effective search is not to reach every employer - but to pick, apply to, and successfully interview with employers who offer work you want to do, in environments you'll like, that you yourself are qualified to do. A job description and a resume are the crudest ways of figuring out these three qualities. A better way is your network.
As you start searching for jobs and companies, keep an eye on the aggregate information of your social network. Ask things like:
- who do you know working in a similar industry?
- how many folks that you know and like are working in this region, industry or company?
- do you have any friends of friends that are in the industry?
Almost every social networking tool offers a feature that wasn't available in your Rolodex - the power of "who knows who?" If you've fallen in love with a company through your research on sites like Linked in, or job review sites like Glass Door - then start digging through your network. Don't stop at the gap where you don't have any friends who work there - do you have any second degree connections? How do your connections know the other connection. That's not always obvious - but sometimes it's easy - folks who both worked at the same company or went to the same school will both have these aspects on their profiles. Start asking your friends - "you know anyone who works at X?"
The real gold of a social network is being able to vet the company you're applying to and give the company an extra way to vet you. Just because a company looks great on a large job review site does not mean it's a great company for you. Sitting down with an employee for a cup of coffee can be very enlightening about the real culture that can't easily be described on a simple survey. Similarly - you are more than your resume. Making a contact at a company who has faith in you who will be your advocate internally is a huge benefit.
Broadcasting and Sharing
The last great thing about a social network of any sort is the ability to let others know what's up with you. The trick to having a friend do you the favor of helping you get an interview or filling you in on conditions in a given job prospect is that you have to do the same in reverse. Keep others in the loop with a clear and complete profile. Drum up interest with notes about your endeavors. That way you're in a position to help others if requested.
It's a fine line - I generally stick to broadcasting the good stuff, or the very impersonal. Example:
Good stuff: "Wow, just finished a major project. Stay tuned to the company website for a product release! It was hard work and we're really proud of it!"
Impersonal stuff: "Just read XYZ book by ABC author. What a waste of time. I wanted to learn X, but found that they only skimmed the surface... looking for more good resources here." Given that ABC author isn't my pal, my collegue or anything personal to me, there's really no damage here... I'm just suggesting a thing worth skipping.
The trick is to avoid the work drama or critique of a person or organization you're affiliated with. If you have negative feedback about something you know personally - give it privately, don't broadcast it. And keep company proprietary information private.