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VOL. 127 | NO. 43 | Friday, March 02, 2012

Study: Social Media Plays Role for Job Searchers

By ERINN FIGG

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At Obsidian Public Relations in Downtown Memphis, it’s not unusual to find employees on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites as they handle their clients’ PR needs throughout the day.

It’s an interesting scene, considering that less than five years ago, an office full of workers Tweeting, uploading photos and posting Facebook statuses would have raised eyebrows, not to mention questions about productivity levels. Now, at companies such as Obsidian, not only is frequent social networking the norm, it’s expected.

“Particularly since we’re a public relations firm, social media is a relevant part of our day-to-day business,” said Crissy Lintner, director of client services. “Identifying trends, keeping up with news, following business developments, tracking journalist activity – these are all things our clients expect of us, and social media allows us to stay constantly connected.”

In fact, social networking has become such an important tool that Lintner says she looks for social media proficiency and an active social networking presence when she’s interviewing and researching job candidates.

And apparently that scrutiny is mutual.

According to a recent study by San Jose, Calif.-based networking solutions corporation Cisco, 56 percent of college student respondents said they would either not accept a job offer from a company that blocked social media access at work or they’d join and find a way around that company policy. Forty percent of college students said they’d accept a lower salary in return for social media access in the workplace.

Cisco surveyed 1,400 college students and 1,400 young professionals between the ages of 21 and 29 in 14 countries.

Claire Price, 25, is slightly amused by these statistics. She graduated from the University of Memphis in 2008 and currently works for a Memphis-based insurance company that does not allow social media access at work and blocks networking sites with a firewall program. Giving customers her full attention is her main priority, she said, which leaves no time (or need) for social media interaction, although employees can and usually do check in with their social networks from their smartphones during lunch hour.

Price says social media access wasn’t part of her criteria when she was job hunting.

“I chose my current job because the salary and benefits were competitive, and there are good opportunities for advancement at this company,” she said. “Those were my main objectives.”

She admits, however, she found a no-social-media policy extremely frustrating at a previous events-planning and promotions job.

“That was a circumstance where I felt like I could have really enhanced my job performance with social networking,” Price said. “I felt a little bit out of the loop, and that’s difficult when you’re in promotions. So I think the significance of social media access when making a job decision really depends on the industry.”

To that point, more Mid-South companies seem to be weighing the possible benefits of allowing social networking on the clock.

Memphis-based International Paper Co. managers could not elaborate on the company’s social media policies at this time, primarily because they’re currently a work in progress. “We are actively working on ways to leverage social media to better connect our employees with one another and with our customers,” said Tom Ryan, senior manager of public relations and employee communications.

Meanwhile, managers at Crye-Leike Real Estate Services are encouraging their agents to embrace social networking, so much so that the company offers them social media training seminars and gives them the opportunity to earn an in-house Social Networking Professional (SNP) designation by completing certain social media milestones (build profiles on designated pages, obtain 500 friends on Facebook and 400 followers on Twitter, and attend a two-hour training seminar, among other requirements).

“We’re definitely placing a growing emphasis on it,” said Angie Vandenbergh, Web manager for Crye-Leike. “Real estate agents often get the most business from their spheres of influence – family, friends, past customers – all the people they usually network with anyway. So the idea is not to have them use Facebook as a hard-sell territory but to look at it as a way to be there, be accessible and stay engaged with their network. We encourage them to mainly use it to keep in touch with their networks, but to occasionally post relevant real estate articles or pieces of information to remind their connections that they’re also valuable sources of industry information.”

At Obsidian, Lintner said she often has clients request ideas for ways they too can use social media to engage employees and communicate with current and potential customers – another reason her firm encourages its employees to use social media freely and frequently.

The one piece of advice Lintner always gives clients, regardless of tactics, is to first have a social media policy in place, particularly when introducing social networking as a tool for internal and external company communications.

“We’re a small company, we’re dedicated to our clients and we’re very intuitive about the professionals we hire here, so I’ve never seen anyone here take advantage of their social media privileges,” she said. “But it’s very much understood that we wouldn’t tolerate a lack of productivity if we ever saw something like that. Having a social media policy that clearly communicates your expectations to your employees should be the first step in integrating social networking into any company.”

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PROPERTY SALES 54 266 12,031
MORTGAGES 111 406 15,756
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 27 107 3,130
BUILDING PERMITS 0 606 28,832
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BUSINESS LICENSES 17 119 4,274
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 121 549 17,732
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