Hockey, Marketing Clients, and Social Media
A specialist in social media today, Andrew Smith boasts a background in science and sports.
Smith – a new, tenure-track hire in the marketing department – calls competing in an international science fair the “nerdiest” thing he’s ever done. His prize-winning project blended baseball and molecular computing and earned his team a trip to Silicon Valley, where they met Andy Grove, the CEO of Intel Corp.
“My co-partner in that whole affair now has his own lab at the University of California, San Francisco, so you can tell who stuck on the science path and who didn’t,” says Smith, now an instructor in the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, where he expects to receive his Ph.D. in business administration this spring.
A native of Canada, Smith retains a deep attachment to hockey, though he hasn’t played in nearly a decade. His competitive experience included tournaments in Sweden and Finland, “an experience I still treasure to this day,” he says.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in commerce from Queen’s University Kingston, Ontario, in 2005, Smith spent three years at Ipsos Camelford Graham/ASI, a survey-based marketing research firm. He says that experience stimulated his interest in marketing communications and social media.
He worked with clients from many industries, valuable experience for an academic: “I use my learning from those engagements to guide my interpretation of relevant marketing theories, frameworks and cases. I bring this learning into the classroom.”
He returned to Queen’s and received a master’s in management in 2009.
Even as social media’s power impresses him, Smith admits he’s a more low-key user himself.
“Social media is undeniably a powerful force that is redefining relationships between consumers and consumers, consumer and marketers, marketers and marketers, as well as all of the aforementioned parties and other social constituents, culture and the material world,” he says.
While wanting to become more active, he says now uses Facebook and Twitter extensively and YouTube only as a consumer.
“As a marketer and researcher, I am interested in Pinterest, but it’s never really worked its way into my routine.”
Smith wants to encourage in the classroom the collaboration that social media emphasizes. He draws a close connection between his research and his teaching.
“At a high level, my research on social media impacts my approach in the classroom because it shapes my philosophy regarding collaboration. At the heart of social media is an ethos of co-creation, collaboration, and participation, and I like to promote the same ideals in the classroom,” he says.
Digital literacy, he says, “is incredibly important, as it has the potential to empower us as consumers and make us more valuable as employees. To this end, I hope to foster this in some regard by leveraging various online platforms for class exercises and assignments.”
His dissertation, “Sense and Cents: Collective Consumer Sensemaking and Sensegiving in an Online Investment Community,” received an ACR/Sheth Foundation award from the Association for Consumer Research in 2012.
Sensemaking involves how people give meaning to experience.
Smith uses an example of widespread media reports of a particular make of car’s engine inexplicably bursting into flames.
“Consumers might engage in sensemaking in an online car forum to try to understand why this is happening and how they should act in response,” he says.
The complementary concept to sensemaking is sensegiving, which, he says, “entails communicative or symbolic acts that are intended to shape the sensemaking process.”
In the fiery car example, people engage in sensegiving when they share theories on why the car engines burst into flames.
Smith’s doctoral research focused on investors who gather information in online stock market forums to help them make their own investment decisions. He explains that his dissertation identifies the sensegiving strategies – such as framing, engagement or tutoring – that investors use to shape sensemaking discussions and how other investors respond – through praise, collaboration or questioning.
After years at large Canadian universities (York’s enrollment is 55,000, Queen’s 24,500), the smaller class sizes attracted Smith to Merrimack. He is scheduled to teach undergraduate marketing strategy and a graduate course in marketing when he starts in fall 2014.
“The culture of the school strikes me as being very collegial, which holds much appeal,” he says about Merrimack. “There is a positive energy of advancement on campus that is heartening.”
Canadian to the core, he says his students may find his most unusual trait is his pronunciation of “about.”