A four-member team from the University of Nevada, Reno won top honors in a national competition for Beta Alpha Psi, an international honorary organization for financial information professionals, for the first time earlier this month. Michael Peck, David Loomis, Zakahra White and Shyla Pheasant, representing the University's College of Business Zeta Iota Chapter, took first place in the National Best Practices Competition for Social Media against seven other teams, which was held in Baltimore.
"Since I've been faculty advisor, we have competed four other times besides this year," said Betty Cossitt, the faculty advisor for the Zeta Iota Chapter. "The best we've ever done was a third-place finish in my first year as advisor nine years ago."
The Beta Alpha Psi chapters competed by showing plans for the best practices for chapter improvement. First place came as a result of the Zeta Iota Chapter's use of social media to connect with members, alumni and field professionals.
"We had a gap between our chapter and our alumni," said Peck, the chapter's public relations chairman. "We got a list of alumni and used Facebook and LinkedIn to find them. Then we used Facebook, LinkedIn, or email to get in contact with them."
For digital interaction with the chapter members, the group used Google Docs and other social media forms to provide information about community service projects, lunch opportunities with professionals and any other upcoming events.
The chapter also used social media to network with professionals in the area and to create opportunities for students to ask the professionals questions.
"We deal with a lot of local firms, like the accounting department at International Game Technology," Peck said in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal. "So that's what we used social media for. To network with and learn more from them."
Peck believes they won because their plan showed results.
"We implemented and tried it and showed how the plan was working, while others didn't," he said. "The chapter compiled contact information for 41 percent of 575 alumni through Facebook and LinkedIn."
Peck will graduate in December and will be attending graduate school for a master's in accounting. Pheasant and Loomis graduated last spring, and White will graduate in May.
All will continue forward with a greater understanding of the benefits of social media.
"We learned how powerful it is," Peck said. "If you're not using it, it's hurting you. In society, there are so many free ways to market ourselves - inexpensive ways of getting out there."