Social Media Research in Advertising, Communication, Marketing, and Public Relations, 1997-2010

Article excerpt

Abstract

Drawing upon the social media phenomena in both practical and academic arenas, this study explored patterns and trends of social media research over the past fourteen years across four disciplines. Findings exhibit a definite increasing number of social-media-related studies. This indicates that social media have gained incremental attention among scholars, and who have, in turn, been responding and keeping pace with the increased usage and impact of this new medium. The authors suggest that future scholarly endeavors emphasize prospective aspects of social media, foreseeing applications and technological progress and elaborating theory.

Keywords

social media trend, advertising, communication, public relations, marketing

Social media have influenced various aspects of both individuals' lives and society as a whole. The impact of these new technologies on our society is evident in news articles with headlines such as "Universities Use Social Media to Connect"1 and "Keeping Closer Eye on the Employees' Social Networking."2 Stories like these provide a glimpse into the proliferation of social media and exhibit the growing interest and concern regarding the resonance of these communication platforms.

There has been a steady increase in the use of social media for sharing various forms of user-generated content, such as news, photos, and videos, made public within a bounded system.3 As of July 2011, Facebook had globally registered over 750 million active users, with half of them logging on to the site daily.4 At the same time, YouTube users posted thirty-five hours of content every minute to the popular video-sharing platform, while the image-hosting site Flickr offered users access to over six billion photographs.5

These social media phenomena have transferred into professional practice and academia. Social networking sites, for example, have been utilized in the creation of brand communities,6 such as that established in the advertising campaign launched by the automaker Volvo on YouTube.7 Scholars have endeavored to explore social media by offering definitions, determining uses and impacts, and applying theoretical and methodological approaches regarding the topic. For instance, Kaplan and Haenlein identified types of social media based on social presence theory and the concept of self-presentation.8

The significance of social media in both practical and academic terms suggests the need for an examination of the state of social media research to date. This study therefore observes research patterns and trends through content analysis of published articles in journals covering four disciplines-advertising, communication, marketing, and public relations. In particular, this study aims to examine (1) the responsiveness to social media of the journals selected in each discipline, (2) the development of social media research, (3) the salient and underrated topics presented in each discipline and journal, and (4) the theoretical and methodological approaches applied.

This study can thus delineate a retrospective path of social media research for these disciplines and is therefore expected to educate scholars, enabling them to consider prospective directions for future examinations of social media.

Literature Review

Trend Studies of Communication Technologies

Scholars across the four disciplines have explored macro aspects of new communication technology phenomena by examining patterns and trends in the development of Internet-related research.9 For instance, Cho and Khang analyzed the authorial, topical, theoretical, and methodological endeavors of Internet-focused research in the domains of advertising, communication, and marketing.10 Furthermore, they provided an interdisciplinary comparison based on patterns, trends, and the robustness of Internet research.

Ye and Ki examined Internet-related research in public relations by identifying patterns and trends within such research, ultimately concluding that Internet-related scholarship lacked theoretical applications and displayed a propensity for quantitative methodological approaches. …