Category Archives: Tech Trends and Analysis

My Analysis on Social Media and Technological Trends

Top Journals in Communication According to Google Scholar in 2014

Google Scholar recommendations

If you are a lover of Google Scholar like me (I’ve written a few posts on becoming a G Scholar power user, in case you’ve missed them) you may have seen that the 2014 Google Scholar Metrics are out.

Here are the top 5 journals in Communication according to the ranking:

  1. New Media & Society
  2. Journal of Communication
  3. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
  4. Public Opinion Quarterly
  5. Public Relations Review

 

A complete list is here.

So how is it ranked? According to their site, Google uses h5 scores for h-index and h-medians. An h-index is described on the Google Scholar Metrics page as: “the largest number h such that at least h articles in that publication were cited at least h times each. For example, a publication with five articles cited by, respectively, 17, 9, 6, 3, and 2, has the h-index of 3.” They describe an h-median score as “the median of the citation counts in its h-core. For example, the h-median of the publication above is 9. The h-median is a measure of the distribution of citations to the articles in the h-core.” The h5, what they use, is that score for only articles published in the last 5 complete calendar years.

What’s covered in 2014’s list? Articles published between 2009 and 2013, indexed in Google Scholar in June 2014.  Here’s more detail on what is included.

There you have it. According to Google’s ranking system (that is, based on citation numbers as described above), those are the top journals in Comm. You can see all the different fields, browse, and search the Google Scholar Metric here.

For more information on G Scholar Metrics, here’s a release on the Google Scholar blog.

Cheers!

Matt

Facebook’s Controversial Study: Some Thoughts and Teaching Opportunities

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By now, you’ve probably heard about the controversy surrounding the massive study conducted by Facebook, titled “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks” and published in the June Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences.  In the study, individuals, and lots of them (there were 689,003 unknowing participants) were exposed to positive or negative posts on the service. The study then looked to see if people who saw more negative posts in turn wrote more negative posts.  (As a side note, if you aren’t familiar with the idea of emotional contagion, a few semesters back I used an interesting book called “The Dragonfly Effect” in my Social Media and Social Change class. The book discusses the concept. Essentially, the value of the idea as argued by the book is that an emotion has a viral quality to it that can spread and that thus telling the emotional aspect of your cause is critical for spreading support for a social causes.)

I’m not here to comment on whether the study was ethical or not (certainly it wouldn’t have passed any IRB I’ve ever heard of). No matter your opinion, this case brings up a very interesting situation that will make for a great discussion opportunity in a research class when it comes time to talk ethics and IRB.

In my experience teaching research methods, students tend to be disinterested (see: blank stares, checking smart phones) in discussions of the ethical obligations of researchers and the IRB. And I understand. Unless a student is going to graduate school the likelihood that she will have to deal with IRB and research ethics outside of our class seems fairly low (unless of course they participate in studies). But this case is an important reminder to students that research does not have to be confined to the academic setting. While this study was published in an academic journal, the Washington Post reported that according to posts on the Facebook page of employee and co-author Adam D.I. Kramer, Kramer stated “… we were concerned that exposure to friends’ negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook.”

And what better way to find out than through social scientific study? Facebook has the access and clearly the ability through their algorithm to manipulate what you see. The fact that they are doing this doesn’t surprise me (They manipulate users’ news feeds in an attempt to optimize their service). And the anxiety and controversy it is causing doesn’t surprise me (It brings questions to the mind of many: How else are they manipulating me? And that breeds distrust). What I find interesting is that they make public their work and used it to contribute to scientific understanding. And, in a way, I’m glad they did because it creates teaching and learning opportunities for all of us.

Great Discussion Topic For Class #1: Informed Consent: What is it?  What consists of consent? And did users consent in this case? And what are the ramifications of not having informed consent?

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I tell my students Informed Consent means exactly that. You are INFORMED as to what the study is about and you CONSENT to participate. There was no overt informed consent. No one actively stated their agreement to participate in the study, and they were not informed about the study and what it entailed.

The obvious argument is that Facebook should have disclosed this information. From a professional communication perspective, this works. Clear. Transparent. Don’t violate the trust of your users.

If Facebook was concerned that negative content might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook, was their answer to enlist users in an experiment without their consent? Which is more likely to keep people from visiting Facebook?

I always tell my students that one of the ramifications for unethical or deceptive scholarly research is the threat to public trust of scholarship and scholarly institutions. The public has long heard about the Milgram studies and other ethically dubious research. And they’re nervous to participate in academic research for those reasons. People don’t like to be duped and the common perception is that scholarly research involves deception or trickery – that some hidden hand is manipulating them in an uneven interaction where the researcher is supposed to be blindly trusted. And this case with Facebook may produce the same wariness among the public psyche as those famous studies we all learn about in school. Indeed, it seems more and more people are concerned about privacy and what they’re giving up about their lives for gain of free services (e.g., concerns about Google and its Google Glass).

Now, Facebook argues that your consent to participate is implied as a result of agreement to the Facebook terms of service.  And it can be argued that if people knew they were being manipulated then the Hawthorne Effect would likely take place. And thus the experiment would have not been effective – thus, in the eyes of some, justifying the use of deception.

I’m sure that asking my students next time I teach communication research class: “What if you were one of the participants? How would you feel?” will produce a lively response. I’ll be sure to remind them that it is possible they were and they’ll never know it. I’m interested to know their informed opinion after we discuss these topics: What responsibility does Facebook have to disclose this information?

Great Discussion Topic For Class #2: IRB – what is it? Why is it important? And what needs to be reviewed and what can be exempted?

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Who is responsible for reviewing a study such as this and making sure it passes appropriate guidelines to ensure participant rights are considered and protected?

Of course, at a university we have the Institutional Review Board. We’ve all dealt with them at one time or another. But when a corporation does a study, shouldn’t that also fall under review of a governing board?

Interestingly, this study was done in part with researchers at Cornell. And a quick read of this Washington Post article gives the casual reader the impression that Cornell IRB reviewed and approved this research. However, you’ll note that it states that they approved the use of pre-existing data from Facebook. And that is something many of us have used in conducting our research on Facebook or Twitter. Simply, the data already exists and we’re going to analyze it. But that wasn’t the case in this study, really. Facebook conducted the experiment and now researchers from Cornell were going to analyze it. It seems there may have been some confusion about the fact that Facebook conducted the experiment. And clearly there was some confusion in how the media reported this / or how the public was interpreting it. Because that article was updated to note that Cornell did not approve manipulation in the study. And a follow up article discusses that Cornell’s IRB has made effort to clarify that the study was conducted prior to Cornell’s IRB was consulted.

Because it may seem confusing to someone not familiar with the distinction between conducting an experiment and using pre-existing data, it is a great opportunity to explicate this distinction to students and help them understand the notion of pre-existing data and public data and what can be exempt and what can’t be (and that even if something is going to be exempt, it still needs to go through IRB!).

Altogether, I’m sure this will really help students see why IRBs are in place, the importance of their role, and while it is a lot of work to go through the process, why it is important for ensuring public safety and trust.

These are just some thoughts and starting points. And this post is getting rather long. So I’ll leave it there. I’m looking forward to sharing this with my students and a more relatable and lively discussion when it comes time to talk ethics and IRB next time around. 🙂

What do you think? Was the study ethical? What other articles or questions would make for a great class discussion on this subject?

** Facebook logo Copyright Facebook. photos: Crystal Campbell | Neil Conway

ICA Conference Panel: Social Media Data

I’m back from a great trip to ICA! The conference was filled with inspiring and informative panels. And it was great to see colleagues and friends!

I want to take a quick minute to share a post summarizing a great panel I attended. Since Mary Joyce (@MetaActivism) summarizes the post here and the capabilities of the software, I thought I’d just let her do the talking. 🙂 But first, a quick overview.

The panel was “Integrating Social Media Data Into Communication Research Using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).” I attended it Friday morning and was fortunate enough to get a chair. The room was packed with dozens of people sitting on the floor or standing in the back or along the wall. It seems interest in social media data in the field of communication research is on the rise.

Here’s a great summary of the presentations by Mary Joyce over at Meta-Activism.org.

Web Round up: Tools, Academic News, and Zuck’s status update on Web Freedom

Wow! Spring break has flown by! I can’t believe it is Friday already! While my spring break has been mostly dedicated to catching up on work or trying to get ahead on projects, I took some time to relax and got out and hiked with Scout on Tuesday during our first day of truly nice weather this year (Instagram photos below and to the right of course 🙂 ).

Today’s post is a quick look at some great articles from around the web I’ve been reading over the past week or so that you may have missed.

Thanks so much to the wonderful people on Twitter who shared many of these – you are my go to source for news!

Social Media Tools:

29 Social Media Tools Recommended By the Pros by the always instructive Social Media Examiner

50 Top Tools for Social Media Monitoring, Analytics, and Management by Social Media Today

The (Potential) Pitfalls of Social Media Tools

Duck Dynasty, Amazon Show The Pitfalls Of Big Data – Highly recommend! This article cautions us about relying too much on the info we gather about audiences on social media tools when it comes to informing our decisions. We forget that the audience on social media is not representative of the wider population, and more specifically, our target audience. Reminds me of a lesson I learned in my first research methods class about sampling. 🙂

Academia News and Issues

Lost faculty job offer raises questions about negotiation strategy – Super interesting look at job negotiation and the issues surrounding it. This article tells the story of how negotiating a tenure-track position for one faculty backfired when a university pulled the offer. With job negotiating such a complex and difficult task, this is certainly worth a read.

What Should Students Call Their Professors? – This one raised quite the discussion on my Facebook page among faculty friends. The opinions were diverse. I think the article makes a great point that many students simply don’t know what to call their professors due to the wide array of persons teaching them, from graduate students, to MAs, to Ph.Ds., and so forth.

Zuckerberg on Internet Freedom

Lastly, Mark Zuckerberg posted the following on his Facebook page as a status update I thought I’d share. Though it doesn’t relate to the above, it is noteworthy. Reactions have been mixed, with some calling Zuckerberg a hypocrite given his company’s focus on collecting and using information to market to individuals. Here is his status update (I copied and pasted it):

As the world becomes more complex and governments everywhere struggle, trust in the internet is more important today than ever.

The internet is our shared space. It helps us connect. It spreads opportunity. It enables us to learn. It gives us a voice. It makes us stronger and safer together.

To keep the internet strong, we need to keep it secure. That’s why at Facebook we spend a lot of our energy making our services and the whole internet safer and more secure. We encrypt communications, we use secure protocols for traffic, we encourage people to use multiple factors for authentication and we go out of our way to help fix issues we find in other people’s services.

The internet works because most people and companies do the same. We work together to create this secure environment and make our shared space even better for the world.

This is why I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.

The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.

I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.

So it’s up to us — all of us — to build the internet we want. Together, we can build a space that is greater and a more important part of the world than anything we have today, but is also safe and secure. I’m committed to seeing this happen, and you can count on Facebook to do our part.

 

I hope you’ve had a great spring break!

-Cheers!

Matt

What I’m reading: Creatively Canceling School; The Future of Organic on Social Media

Hello from snowy West Virginia!

We’re facing over a foot of snow here for sure. Our driveway is measuring 18 inches! Though I’ve got a ton of projects to work on and a puppy who is getting restless since the snow is too tall for her to get outside (see Instagram photos on the column on the right, and below), I want to take a quick minute before strapping my snowshoes on to share a few articles from around the web.

Just for Fun

Well, school is canceled for us today. Though the announcement from Shepherd University wasn’t quite as creative as the Durham Academy’s cancellation in Durham, NC.

In a related vein, I would love your feedback: With all these snow days, how are you handing your classes? Are you Skyping in? Posting assignments on course management systems? I always find it difficult when classes get canceled.  The lack of continuity and the inability to work with students in class is difficult to overcome virtually. But I think I could do a better job in this area. So any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

To the articles:

What’s the future of organic on social media? Content Marketing and Paid Media on Social Media

Second, not too long ago I wrote about the future of content marketing in 2014. I want to follow-up with three articles that provide further discussion of content marketing in 2014.

  1. Gary Schirr wrote another great post on content marketing’s future, in his 4 P’s of Content Marketing
  2. Mark Schaefer has written a response to arguments against his notion of Content Shock, his term for the negative effects of a saturated content landscape coupled with finite consumer attention.
  3. I also am reading Social Mouth’s ““Organic” is Dead, Say Hello to the Age of Paid Media” – an interesting piece about the likely rise of paid advertising, and increased difficulty

So the question remains – if paid is indeed becoming the pathway to audiences on social media, what will the impact be for strategic communication folks? The Social Mouth’s blog post paints a fairly dire picture, if accurate – indicating that access to publics will be increasingly difficult via organic and that paid may be a must. Or, are these worries overblown, these predictions incorrect? Perhaps I am  missing it, but I haven’t seen a lot coming from the PR blogs about this. Just some food for thought.

What’s coming?

I’ve got a few great posts I’ve been working on ready to release in the next few weeks. So look forward to those! For now, stay warm!

-Cheers!

Matt

What is The Future of Content Marketing in 2014?

As I discussed on this blog, 2013 was to be the year of content marketing. (Here are all my posts on content marketing)

Recently, Gary Shirr (@ProfessorGary) brought up an interesting point in a discussion post he made to the Teaching Social Media Marketing LinkedIn group I’m a part of. It got me thinking quite a bit.

In essence, he asked what the impact of Facebook shutting down the “Like economy” last December will have on organic social media marketing? (And what the proper mix of paid and organic should be)

Gary (whose blog I highly recommend) also alluded to the problem of a saturated content environment, (What Mark Schaefer calls ‘content shock‘).

While I don’t pretend to have the answers to these questions, I wanted to share the problem here on the blog and put out a few related articles that you may enjoy reading. I hope it helps you jump into the conversation (see the great thread of comments on Gary’s post – cited below)!

So what happened?

Facebook made a change to its newsfeed algorithm resulting in a large decline in visibility of branded Facebook posts in an individual’s news feed.

The impact? Anecdotally, my wife, who runs the Facebook page for an international non-profit, said the change has resulted in a recent decline in her organization’s Facebook page stats.

What’s the Effect?

Gary argues in his post that it is the result of an effort by Facebook to drive more paid advertising (read his post for explanation). As a result, he says, organic won’t be enough to sustain a brand on Facebook.

Mark Schaefer posted a comment in Gary’s blog post that adds further clarity to the issue. In it, Mark is quoting a Facebook exec writing about the change: “On a given day, when the average person visits their News Feed, there are an average of 1,500 possible stories we can show. As a result, competition for each News Feed story is increasing. Pages will likely see changes in distribution resulting in a decline in organic reach.”

In a follow-up post, Gary discusses his recommendations to how businesses should adjust given the change to the Facebook algorithm.

Other Challenges to Content Marketing in 2014

As noted above, Mark Schaefer (@markwschaefer) recently posted about “Content Shock,” his term for the saturated marketplace of content marketing. In essence, he argues that as more people enter the content marketplace, competition for attention increases, and attention becomes increasingly fragmented. This makes sense! But this content is free. So how do you compete with the limitless supply of competition also creating free content? Mark argues that this flood favors those entities with big budgets, and that the cost of social media is rising. Read his post to get the details and more on the why.

Lastly, in a related vein I recently read an article on Shift titled “How Content Marketing Could Kill PR.” In essence, the piece argues that due to the flood of content being created, PR folks are being asked to pitch cruddy content. This may result in a loss of credibility, as those on the receiving end of the pitch are dealt sub par content. In their words, “What could kill public relations is not the content marketing itself, but increasing pressure from brands to pitch mediocre or bad content.”  It is a really interesting read and one I recommend.  So what to do? The simple solution may be “Create Great Content.” But will that really work? Will there be increasing need for PR professionals to help organizations break through this content shocked ocean of content and reach a targeted public?

What do you think? What is the future of content marketing? Is the “market saturated”? And if so, what will the effect be in 2014? How will organizations respond? Is the playing field no longer level for “the little guy?” Will the cost of social media become prohibitive?

Just some thoughts and questions for your Thursday! I hope you have a great one!

-Cheers! Matt

photo CC by Sean MacEntee

 

The Super Social Super Bowl? Great Reads You May Have Missed

 

Another week is almost over.  This weather has really made it challenging to get in the flow of the semester. Classes were canceled on Monday, and school didn’t open until Wednesday at noon. I want to take a quick minute to share some great reads from the week:

Super Social

The big talk this week has, of course, been about the social media and the Super Bowl. Here are a list of great articles I came across about how brands used social media for the big game:

Before

PRNewser’s Study: Doritos, M&Ms, and more score perception bumps with super bowl previews – As we know, brands now release their big super bowl ads before the game. What is the effect? This article explores.

Strategy

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Fast Company had a great article looking at Audi’s plan for the big game. While many were talking about the dog commercial, what went unnoticed by many was Audi being an early adopter of using Snapchat for advertising. From the reactions I saw via Twitter, people seemed to enjoy Audi’s Snapchat photo memes.  Missed them? They were only around for 24 hours (unlike the 10 second limit for interpersonal messages). These messages were unbranded, and not related to cars. Here is one review. Personally, I applaud Audi for trying something new and different!

Winners and Losers

But the big question is often who are the “winners” and “losers” after all is said and done? Opinions of course vary, but you’ll see some trends emerge on these articles.

PR Daily’s “Social media ups and downs for Super Bowl advertisers” –

Marketing Land’s “25 Most Fantastic Social Media Updates From Brands During the Super Bowl

And The Metrics?

Here are some interesting stats from AllTwitter, including noting that game-related Tweets increased by 800,000 from last year.

And Media Bistro put together an insightful infographic of the social chatter, including a look at sentiment for different brands.

So what was my favorite Super Bowl ad? Putting everything aside, I have to say… Radio Shack’s #InWithTheNew 80s giveaway.

Really!?

Talk about the 80s in your ad (oh, nostalgia! My love for the 80s is only eclipsed by my love for the 90s), give away a table-top Pac Man arcade (I spent many of my high school years saving up for one of these only to never get a chance to buy it!) via Twitter to increase engagement, and you’ve got my attention. Doesn’t that make them the big winner? No. I’m not sure what Radio Shack’s future is… they tried to rebrand themselves to “The Shack” just a few years ago. And I honestly don’t know how long they’ll be around. But I loved the commercial… but it looks like despite my Tweet, I didn’t win that arcade game.

Maybe next year!

That’s all for now! I am hoping for warmer weather and less snow in the coming weeks. Though if my WeatherBug app is correct, I won’t get what I wished for. 😛

-Cheers!

Matt