New research explains the roles of social media communicators in organizational settings

Posted on: December 2, 2016

In modern day organizations, social media tools enable companies to gather and disseminate information, engage with their audience and create relationships with multiple communities.

Companies are hiring social media communicators to represent their organization, interact with the public, and speak and publish on behalf of the company due to its newfound necessity.

To understand the roles of social media communicators (SMC) in organizational communication efforts, Serena Carpenter Ph.D, assistant professor of Journalism Innovations in MSU’s School of Journalism, and Alisa Lertpratchya M.A., a doctoral student in MSU’s AD + PR department, applied a variety of research methods.

“I am fascinated with how people working within innovative roles navigate that role,” said Carpenter. “The internet and other new technologies have led to a number of workers working in newly created roles.”

Exploring roles

The first study conducted by Carpenter and Lertpratchya explored role stressors associated with SMCs and how they handled job stress in this recently created position. The purpose of the study was to assess how people holding innovative roles learn and navigate the responsibilities of often ill-defined jobs.

Carpenter and Lertpratchya drew results from qualitative interviews that investigated how this digital workforce contributes to the organization when their role is not well understood.

The interviews revealed that SMCs did not experience conflict as a result of leadership holding multiple expectations of them. Instead, a large portion of SMCs experienced role ambiguity because management and coworkers did not fully understand what they did for the organization.

As a result, SMCs used several tactics and resources for guidance in learning more about their responsibilities. Results showed SMCs navigated the ambiguity by turning to search engines to get questions answered, having a mentor, networking, participating in seminars and training sessions and more.

“In the digital media environment, social media communicators addressed ambiguity by banding together with outside social media experts to help each other advance within their own organizations.” said Carpenter.

While jobs varied for SMCs involved in the study, SMCs overall saw the ambiguity of their role as empowering rather than stressful. In their respective companies, SMCs were regarded as experts because of their ability to use social media to improve campaign efforts, relationships and other communication tactics.

The study concludes that knowledge workers, or SMCs, must regularly learn and share their expertise to manage role ambiguity. But as a whole, the study deduced that social media communicators were not only adept and personable, they were digitally literate and self reliant, too.

Expanding understanding

Carpenter and Lertpratchya conducted a second study to create and define a set of social media communicator roles, leading to the creation of a measure that illuminates what these employees do within an organization.

“The study specifies the various functions of their position,” said Carpenter. “People working in such positions can better understand their job responsibilities and leadership can better understand how to manage digital media workers.”

To understand social media communicator roles, 10 SMCs were interviewed and asked 10 multi-part questions. Following the interviews, the researchers received feedback from social media experts that assessed validity and evaluated their scale. Additionally, Carpenter and Lertpratchya administered a pretest to eight professional communicators and surveyed experts to assess and adjust their questionnaire structure.

As a final step, the two researchers conducted a quantitative survey to professionals under the SMC role.

Roles is a sociological concept, and roles aid social scientists in understanding how multiple publics such as management, colleagues, audiences, and other social media experts influence how they define their role,” said Carpenter.

Defining these roles can help inform those unfamiliar with the various roles and responsibilities of SMCs. The results of this study showed five common general behaviors that describe the roles of SMCs: customer service provider, mobilizer, information disseminator, researcher and community builder.

Read more about the stressors associated with SMCs and the various roles of SMCs through a scale.

By Lily Clark

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Interdisciplinary team led by ComArtSci receives USDA grant to study retail purchase decisions

Posted on: November 14, 2016

vlcsnap-2016-11-11-13h26m20s268The answers behind purchase decisions may lie in the eye of the beholder according to a recently funded interdisciplinary study involving the Michigan State University departments of Advertising and Public Relations and Horticulture.

Beginning early 2017, Professor of Retailing Patricia Huddleston will join Professor of Horticulture Marketing Bridget Behe in leading a student research team that will use eye-tracking technology to investigate how people make product choices—in this case, plants. The two-year project recently received a Federal State Marketing and Improvement Program grant for $136,000 through the United States Departmehuddleston-pat-09132016-3032-2nt of Agriculture.

"I've always been interested in what happens at the moment of truth," Huddleston says. "It's fascinating to looked at what consumers do when they are actually picking a product off a shelf or a rack. The context here are plants, but you can apply this research to any type of product."

Huddleston explains that much of the success of retailing depends on getting things right—or the science of finding the right mix of product assortment, pricing and merchandising that attracts and entices consumers. The recently funded study, she says, will look at how merchandise—specifically selections of herbs or flowering annuals—ispresented at the point of purchase, and how information in displays affects consumer behavior.

The study will be conducted on campus the first year, then migrate to retail settings in mid-Michigan in 2018. Huddleston and Behe will construct displays that vary in product volume and complexity, and then enlist subjects to pick a particular plant for purchase. Participants will wear second-generation Tobii eye-tracking glasses during their retail experience, which enables researchers to gather and analyze data about what shoppers look at, for how long, and in what sequence before making their purchase decision. Participants will also complete a questionnaire to further assess cues and previous product involvement that may influence their decision.behe-bridget

Huddleston says it's exciting to capture physical evidence through the eye-tracking technology, and to translate the results for retailers. Both she and Behe
also say the research charts new territory since previous research involving visual gaze path analysis has typically examined highly-packaged products in boxes and bottles—and not minimally packaged products like plants, apparel, furniture and art.

"This project will push us a bit more in our learning because we will capture, manage and relate visual data in a more realistic retail setting," says Behe. "And what better products to explore the shopping process than plants? Besides, if we all planted more plants, the world would be a better place."

vlcsnap-2016-11-11-13h34m59s267

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Students provide IT solutions to local clients

Posted on: May 3, 2016

The ITM 444 (I.T. Project Management) Capstone is concluding on Thursday, April 28, 2016. This year, 16 organizations (9 sponsoring the I.T. Minor) participated and afforded our students experiential learning opportunities that related to web design, database development, social media communications, and video production.

Students in ITM 444, the capstone course for those pursuing a minor in Information Technology, spent their semester working with local clients to develop high level technology products for local businesses and organizations.

The class of 60 was broken up into 16 teams, and each team was given a client with a unique technology challenge related to web design, database development, social media communications and video production. Clients interested in working with students submitted an application and were hand selected.

John Donohoe, an account services specialist for Ciesa Design, a small design firm located in Lansing, heard about the class in an MSU Today update and decided to submit an application. Ciesa Design was looking for a new promotional video.

Donohoe is also a member of the MSU College of Arts and Letters Alumni Board Awards Committee, and submitted another application for the creation of a digitalized grant application process.

“I was involved with two groups and they both delivered professional products,” Donohoe said. “The Arts and Letters group listened to what we wanted and developed an interactive web tool that will make it easier for students and administrators in the grant application process.”

The team at Ciesa Design was also impressed with the promotional video and plan to show it at an upcoming a development conference.

“I definitely gained a lot of insight in how projects are managed and worked on in the real world, said Kyle Kulesza, a senior Media and Information student. “Working in groups on class projects is one thing, but the external client part really helped me learn skills I'll use in the future.”

The course is taught by Associate Professor Constantinos Coursaris and Assistant Professor Wietske Van Osch, both Media and Information faculty members.

By Victoria Bowles, senior Journalism major and ComArtSci Editorial Assistant

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Crowdsourcing Games Focus of Study

Posted on: November 26, 2013

casey-odonnel3Crowdsourcing, a term first coined in June 2006 where large groups of people come together to help solve a common problem and which is responsible for the success of Wikipedia, has started to be used by biochemists to solve scientific problems. One Media and Informationfaculty member is now studying how biochemists are using this research tool.

Casey O'Donnell, Assistant Professor in the Media and Informationdepartment, received a two-year, $156,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to examine how collaborative games and puzzles are being used to solve problems in biochemistry and molecular genetics.

"The grant is really to try to unpack what is going on with crowdsourcing science and why games have been the focus," O'Donnell said.

Two crowdsourcing games, FoldIt and EteRNA, that simulate protein and RNA folding are the focus of O'Donnell's research. These games harness the knowledge of crowds to decipher the three-dimensional structure of a protein or a nucleic acid.

The primary goal of the research is to examine the socio-technical architecture of FoldIt and EteRNA to gain new knowledge about the processes of crowd knowledge and scientific discovery in networked computer-gaming platforms.

"This research is important because large numbers of players are collaborating to solve very complex problems through games. It isn't simple, but it is a very different kind of science and we need to understand the broader implications," O'Donnell said.

The results of the study have the potential to contribute to fields of communication, information studies and game studies in its theorizing about computer-mediated communication, the politics of platforms, and the role of gaming systems in biochemical research endeavors. The findings also may be used by game designers and scientists in the development and design of future crowd-science collaborative game platforms.

"By using games and players to solve scientific problems, we have shifted how science operates, and this research seeks to better understand the implications of those changes," O'Donnell said.

O'Donnell is working on the project with Hector Postigo, Associate Professor of Media Studies and Production at Temple University's School of Media and Communication.

"The research is primarily being conducted online and in person through a combination of virtual and traditional ethnographic methods. Participant observation, interviews and game play analysis are the primary data sources," O'Donnell said.

O'Donnell is associated with the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab where innovative prototypes, techniques and complete games are designed for entertainment and learning. The GEL Lab's research is aimed at advancing the knowledge about social and individual effects of digital games. The lab, located within the College of Communication Arts & Sciences (CAS) Building, is comprised of game research and design faculty and students at MSU, primarily in CAS.

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