How to Succeed in Social Media Research by REALLY trying: Advice for young scholars entering academia
One of my favorite movies growing up was the classic movie “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” with Robert Morse or here is the Broadway version with Daniel Radcliffe. There are so many lessons and funny scenes in the movie that are quite entertaining. However, there are several lessons that can be taken away from this movie that can not only be applied to business, but even social media practices and research.
Like social media practice, getting into social media research does involve some of the necessary digital skills and expertise you see in practice. However, the more I talk with rising scholars and fellow colleagues, there are certain things that need to be noted for those who want to get into this area. Here are some things I think young professionals who are interested in pursuing scholarship and research with social media need to consider:
- People will steal your ideas for research and implications / best practices. If you have not seen the classic movie and Broadway show “How to Succeed in Business w/o really trying,” you really need to. Be protective of your ideas for research and work. One of the things that is featured in the movie surrounds a brilliant idea, and the advice the book gives the main character in the movie Finch is if you can’t think of a good idea, steal one. This happens in real life as well – you never know when you may see your contributions mentioned in various publications and presentations without a reference. This happens in social media research – while it is not fair – it is good to be aware of this ahead of time.
- The social media research arena is very competitive and a dynamic field. Like point #1, everyone wants to be part of social media since there are a ton of opportunities and jobs. Some will try to prevent you from doing this – whether it is rejecting your paper and then publishing a very similar study a few months later or taking credit for work that is not their own. These things happen – so it is best to be aware of the current environment you are facing and be able to formulate strategies to address these. Look at the competition featured in “How to Succeed in Business” – as Finch rises up, he gets some support by his coworkers, but most of them are not happy with his success. Keep this in mind – some people will love the work you do in social media research, and there will be those also who will not like you because of what you are doing. You just have to be aware of this.
- In order to know how to do social media research, you have to live it. People may say they are researching or “experts” in social media, but in order to truly be one with social media, you have to live it. This means more than “I’m on Facebook” – this means you live, breath, and have social media in your DNA 24/7. You have been a student of the emerging technology from day one and it is an extension of your brand and personality. Like Finch, he was experiencing the overall culture of the business and learning as much as he could to succeed in the business. It’s not all about social media tools, but rather the experience of being part of social media and how it evolves into a lifestyle.Learning does not stop once you get out of the classroom.
- Separate yourself early on in your social media research: Be strategic and creative and highlight who you are as a researcher based on your experience, personality, and interests. Don’t try to be like all of the other researchers in social media. Look at what are some emerging skills and trends people in PR are looking for and see if you can incorporate these in your research. You have to make an independent mark for yourself in the field – this way, you will be memorable and have a stronger presence. You have to make an immediate impression with your research, like Finch did with his actions in the movie.
In summary, there are a lot of great and wonderful opportunities out there for social media research. Explore the areas you are interested in and follow your passion. Become a student of the technology and make sure to spend a little bit each day improving your skills and expertise in the area. It is an area that is garnering a lot of attention and focus in academia – which means more people want to get involved which makes it more competitive. While competition helps evolve the social media research and practice within PR, there are also some challenges we have to be aware of as emerging scholars. If you are aware of these, you will be prepared to handle them and will be successful.
Hope you all have a great day!