GOVT 2306: Texas Government
Jeremy Martinez’s analysis of his internship with SWBC is a fine example of how to situate an applied experience within a scholarly literature. Drawing on ten scholarly resources, the review marries Jeremy’s first-hand under-standing of the use of social media in the insurance industry with the advice of academic studies. Noting the departure between the best practice stipulated by scholars and “real world” practices, Jeremy’s analysis is an excellent example of how to generate recommendations from a combination of primary evidence and secondary sourced research.
– Fiona Ross
Social Media and Business: An Intern’s Experience
Social media is a new dimension in the business world which has revolutionized the way companies go about doing business. The mortgage industry is no different. This past summer, I had the opportunity to work with SWBC, a financial company working with mortgage loans. I assisted Mr. Chris Planto, a loan officer, in growing both his Facebook and LinkedIn networks and helped Mrs. Tami Buron to grow the SWBC team and find quality candidates.
The use of social media as a tool for recruitment is still a new concept to employers. The importance of good staffing is stressed by Shannon Alter; “the outcomes and results your company has… begin with how and who you hire,” (43). In 2009, “46% of over 2600 hiring managers reported searching [Social Networking Sites] to learn about job candidates, an increase from 22% reported in 2008,” (Vaughn and Brown, 219). As an intern, I was assigned to screen potential candidates for new loan officers to bring in from other companies. I used sites such as Google and other social sites to find out as much information as possible. Mrs. Buron would evaluate the information and decide whether or not to pursue the candidate.
In order to practice business in Texas, loan officers must have a special license. To obtain this license, they take several courses on laws and practices regulating the industry and register with a database. This database is open to the public. It includes candidate’s work addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses along with their career history, and any disciplinary actions taken against them. It was a good starting point, although to find more personal information, other sites were used. On LinkedIn, Mrs. Buron had a premium account which allowed her to access profiles anonymously, even when the owner has set their profile to private. The information found on the site was then used to recruit the individual. This is the aim of making a profile on a professional networking site like LinkedIn. With options to upload a resume and list particular skills that allow one’s contacts to verify them, the whole point of the profile is to market oneself to employers. However, one cannot help but feel uncomfortable by the use of the premium accounts. Mark Ferrer wrote on the use of social media for such matters, “in an era when privacy is a sensitive topic and the boundaries between work and personal lives sometimes get uncomfortably blurred,” (48).
I found this statement to be true when I ventured onto Facebook to find further information. Most of the candidates had set up business pages but when searching for them directly, no personal profiles could be found. These personal accounts are desired as information about their hobbies and residences can be beneficial. For example, to find one candidate’s account, I searched for a secretary who worked for the same company and shared his last name. She had no need for a business page and therefore using her name and company, I found her profile. From there, I verified that she was indeed the wife of the loan officer. Her profile included a link to his profile through tags in her pictures. Through their personal profiles, we were able to find in depth information about the candidates. A key piece of information found concerned their residence and their office was in a city an hour and a half away. We also learned that they were volunteers at the local animal shelter in Montgomery County. This was gold to Mrs. Buron, as SWBC was also partnered with the same animal shelter. This information was valuable in persuading this particular loan officer to leave their current company and come to us. The practice of researching candidates online seems to be a common practice in the business world as, “37% of all employers are using… [Facebook and LinkedIn] …to research job candidates,” (Drobocky 17). These sites are also used to recruit passive job-seekers, who work for other companies yet, “ use the websites to indicate that they are interested in and available for certain job positions and occupations,” (Davison, Maraist, Bing, 155). Companies benefit as, “employers who used social media reported a 49 percent improvement over candidates sourced through traditional channels,” (Carter 28). Employees benefit as well as, in 2012, “15% [of job-seekers] say they successfully secured a new job opportunity that originated via a social media site,” (Drobocky 16).
SWBC is not the only company recruiting online. In order to help Mr. Planto, he had given me access to his LinkedIn. Having trouble with the site, I asked Mrs. Buron for some help. She noticed that Mr. Planto had a large amount of unread messages. She clicked to view the messages and discovered other companies were trying to lure Mr. Planto with promises of promotions and better working environments. He had over 90 connection requests from recruiters. Mrs. Buron then opened every message from a recruiter. After reading the message she would delete it. Sharing many of its practices with other companies, SWBC is not the only company to do this. Given the opportunity, other companies would do the same to retain their employees.
The other aspect of social media with which I worked was Mr. Planto’s social media marketing. Social media marketing is very new to the industry and more research is being done to discover what works. “Marketing has experienced a very rapid development since the advent of the Internet in the way it communicates, in its communication media, and in its very definition,” (Erragcha, Romdhane, 8). The general approach for companies like SWBC is to, “use a ‘top-down’ approach where they ‘build up a business case, get it signed off by management, outsource the actual work to agencies, plan their posts weeks ahead, and get them approved by legal, et cetera’,” (Katona, Sarvary, 147). Prior to my arrival, Mr. Planto had no real social media presence. The previous month he had posted two posts to his Facebook business page from hearsay.com. Hearsay.com is the company used by SWBC to handle social media. The corporate offices will create various posts for social media for SWBC patrons and the site will allow the patrons to pick and choose which posts they like. The site also allows for automatic posting. Facebook will then track the number of people who saw the post and the number of likes, shares, clicks and comments it receives. This data is then compared to data generated from the previous week and the progress can be tracked and monitored. Over the course of two years, Mr. Planto’s page had generated a total of 108 likes. The posts from the month prior to my working on his page had reached a total of eight people and had generated no interactions. To revive the page, I set up his Hearsay account and subscribed his page to every campaign available. There was to be a new post on his page every two days for the next few months. Initially these posts looked promising as early posts generated two new likes to the page and more likes to posts as well as clicks. But after the first week of this, the buzz died. The posts still reached their audience, an average of roughly 12 people per post, but people seemed bored with a mortgage company spamming their Newsfeed.
According to research, SWBC is not in the right place regarding social media. There are large numbers of people on Facebook as, “Facebook users spend more than a fourth of their time on the site consuming and interacting with the Facebook Newsfeed; this activity represents 4 percent of all time spent online in the United States” (Bruich et. al. 40). It is not that posts fail to reach consumers. Consumers are just not interested in clicking on the posted links. The uniqueness of the social media medium in marketing is that the target audience has the opportunity to interact with what is presented to them. The company can receive direct feedback from their marketing campaigns. In order for this to happen, solicitors must take, “the time to think about the desired audience and the type of content that is important to its needs,” (Schlinke, Crain 86). This suggests SWBC is not meeting the needs of its customers with bland posts telling the audience to turn their clocks back on daylights savings time and how to properly trim hedges.
One company which properly utilized social media was the Maersk shipping company. The company initially used the same top down approach as SWBC but after discovering their archive of photos from Maersk vessels of scenery from around the world, they began to share it with their followers. The public loved it. These photos encouraged followers to take their own pictures of the ships and share them with the page. They would also post pictures of their administrative team to give the company a face. As the company grew, they expanded their social media presence onto other sites, such as LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. They discovered that on each site, the audience was different and therefore responded in varied ways to diverse content. The community within LinkedIn was composed largely of professionals within the industry. Therefore, their community responded more to news and events relating to the industry. The Instagram community, however, was composed of fans of the company who responded, similar to the Facebook community, to pictures of vessels and scenic views.
This method should be implemented with SWBC’s marketing scheme. SWBC is not engaging its target audience and should invest in new content for their social media posts. Perhaps they could photograph the elaborate architecture built into some of the homes which have mortgages, or create a weekly update of things happening within the office so as to personify the company and have followers feel as if they are reading a friend’s post as opposed to being solicited.
Overall, the opportunity to work with SWBC mortgage was an eye opening, raw experience as to how business operates in the real world. It was interesting to see how the company used all the resources available to them, social media in particular. Its implementation into the realm of Human Resources was a concept that I knew existed, but not to such an extent. With the boundaries of social media yet to be defined, it is truly amazing the lengths at which a company will go to meet their ends. To have the opportunity to see all that goes into creating and posting marketing material on social media was rewarding to say the least.
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