Research and understanding the core essence of what social media is and how it is being applied is one of the most challenging yet exciting opportunities for public relations professionals and students.

There are many universities that have established either a social media class or has faculty and graduate students doing research in the area.  However, what are some of the main research centers dedicated to studying and exploring the areas of new media?

  • IPR Social Media Research Center:  IPR just launched their social media research center, which is going to focus on the areas of PR research that focuses on emerging technology across various specializations such as crisis communications, health communications, and influence.
  • Social Media Research Foundation: This foundation focuses on open tools, open data, and open scholarship – so it is interesting to see not only the tools these researchers are using, but where their work has been published.
  • Pew Research Center:  Probably one of the most established research center when it comes to social media and looking at various trends, issues, and emerging elements to consider when it comes with new media.  Great reports and white papers looking at demographics and use of this new media among audiences.
  • Altimeter Group:  If you want to look at the leading practitioner research on social media, this is the group you will want to know and follow.  Great research and presentations from all members of the Altimeter Group team, especially Brian Solis and Jeremiah Owyang.
  • Reputation Institute:  This research group focuses primarily on the areas of reputation, brand management, and identity for businesses, but they have explored the influences of new media on a company’s reputation and brand presence with their reputation both offline and online.
Besides foundations and established research centers, there are of course several centers that have been established in universities.  Here are a few that you may want to be aware of and check out their research, publications and presentations, and what they offer to their faculty and students working with the center:
  • University of Washington SoMe Lab: The collaborators and researchers who are part of this team are mostly from information sciences and geography, but this is where a lot of great research (especially in crisis communications) dealing with social media is coming from. There are several focus topics related to this research group with new media, including political communications and organizations just to name a few.
  • Clemson Cyber Institute:  This is very interesting since the institute focuses on not only providing research in one or two disciplines, but transdisciplinary research. The center is not only engaged with research with their faculty, but also with their students – which is great.
  • MIT Media Lab:  Boston is really becoming one of the major global headquarters for emerging research and studies in new media. Great resources and research coming out of the MIT Media Lab that is cutting edge and changing the social media and emerging technologies research lines across disciplines.
  • USC Annenberg: The researchers working in the new media and technology division of their research center focus on the growing changes in the new technology and how it impacts public relations, international communications, social network theory, and communication innovation. In addition, one professor you may want to review and follow is Henry Jenkins – great innovator and thought leader in digital media with his commentary and research.
  • University of Colorado Connectivity Lab: If you are interested in crisis communications within social media, this is a center and research team you will want to make sure to follow as well.  Great resources and research coming out about crisis informatics and how social media is being used in key crisis situations (ex. Egypt protests, CA Wildfires, Virginia Tech crisis, etc).

Bonus and Honorable Mentions:

  • Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford: Great research looking at persuasion and how it can be effectively be used in social media and mobile.  Great studies and resources available here on the website.

In summary, these are just a few of the various research centers in the professional world and at universities.  There is great research and findings being shared and discussed in both the practitioner and academic communities.

More research centers will emerge as the technology continues to evolve and more businesses are expecting professionals not only to be able to look at what has been done, look at the various gaps that could be addressed, and strategically and creatively think about what you can do to contribute to the body of knowledge.

Hope you all have a great day!

Best Wishes,