Research Reflections

For our Theory and Audience Analysis class this semester, our biggest task was to write a literature review exploring virtually any interactive media topic we could think of. Hopefully it would be related to our eventual capstone projects that will rule our lives come spring, but it didn’t necessarily have to be. Seeing as I still feel like I’m in space with regards to capstone ideas, aimlessly floating around with no sense of direction, I wasn’t even sure where to begin with a lit review that required at least 15 pages of valuable content and 30 scholarly sources a month ago (really..only a month??). But somehow I landed on a topic, stuck with it, and I think it will actually benefit my capstone work later on. I chose to explore branding through social media in both the commercial markets and the nonprofit sector. Coming in to this program, I had a keen interest in social media and all that it can offer a company or organization, so I ran with this interest when developing my research ideas. While I have never studied branding previously, it intrigued me, so after some light Google searching, I realized there’s quite a bit of literature on this topic already. BINGO! I found a topic. And now I’m an expert. So companies: HIRE ME. I’m a social media branding MASTER. 

Juuust kidding.

But I do know A LOT more than when I started. And while I still may not have a concrete idea for my capstone, I at least have 23 pages worth of knowledge to build upon. I’m still amazed that it all came together in such a short span of time. I’m pretty sure my psychology capstone project senior year of college required a research paper with fewer sources and maybe roughly the same page count, but we had approximately ummm….ALL SEMESTER to do it (that’s 3 months). How I completed more work in less than one month is beyond me…but I did it! And I feel so good knowing my psychology skills (yayyy research!) finally helped me in this program. For a while, I was feeling a little like this:

But after getting some positive feedback on the lit review, I feel at least a little more…capable? Definitely a much better feeling.

So what did I actually learn from all this research? Social media (from YouTube and Twitter to Facebook and blogs) is a power house and it’s not going away any time soon, so companies and nonprofit organizations need to find a way to harness this power and use it to their advantage to build their brand within a changing media landscape. Social media allows unique opportunities to create an identity and communicate core missions and values. It allows for engaged conversation between consumer and brand, rather than just a one-sided flow of information that renders consumers entirely passive. Take a peek at my abstract:

This paper explores branding through social media. In an interactive world that constantly bombards us with ideas, information, and advertisements, companies must compete to stand out and capture the attention, loyalty, and trust of an audience. Branding helps to establish an identity, lay out expectations, and if done well, creates an emotional connection with the customer. Social media has taken the world by storm and is no exception in the business of branding. It has pushed companies to think of new and innovative ways to create their identity, establish credibility, and connect with the consumers. This paper will discuss what branding is, what companies can expect to gain from it, how they can successfully integrate social media into their branding strategies and will offer a unique perspective of social media branding within nonprofit organizations. Overall, current research supports social media as a valuable tool for companies and nonprofit organizations alike to use to further their branding efforts. Social media provides unique opportunities for branding in a way that engages consumers and allows for increased interactivity and meaningful discussion. Future research in this field should explore potential negative effects of using social media as a branding strategy since the majority of studies have focused on positive impacts.

While I’ve heard some students complain that they just don’t get the connection between this assignment and what they ultimately want to do, I found this assignment to be incredibly valuable. Understanding how to conduct research and how to write in this style…and do it well…is so critical in any industry. While you may want to rip your eyeballs out when you’re on your 4th cup of coffee and 30th annotated source at 3 in the morning in the library, it is all worth it down the road when you get a job offer that doesn’t include “part time, no benefits” in the description. And not only are these general skills so beneficial, but the knowledge gained from doing such an in-depth study on a particular topic (well…as in-depth as you can get in a month) helps to be more well-versed in areas highly relevant to interactive media today. I feel as if I could sit down with professionals who deal with social media and branding every day and actually contribute meaningful tidbits to the discussion. I have a solid foundation to build upon and I plan to continue my exploration of this topic to keep up with current trends and better understand all that social media can offer so that maybe one day I will actually be a social media branding master.

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