Khang, Hyoungkoo, Ki, Eyunjung, & Ye, Lan (2012) Social media research in advertising, communication, marketing and public relations, 1997-2010. Journalism and MassCommunication Quarterly, 89(2), 279-298.


Drawing upon the social media phenomena in both practical and academic arenas, this study explored patterns and trends of social media research over the past 14 years across the four disciplines. Findings exhibit a definite increasing trend in terms of the number of social media-related studies. This indicates that social media has gained incremental attention among scholars, and in turn, they have been responding and keeping pace well with the increased usage and impact of this new medium. We suggest that future scholarly endeavors emphasize the prospective aspects of social media, foreseeing applications and technological progress, and elaborating theories.  


Content analysis of all of the peer-reviewed articles addressing the topic of social media in 17 journals in the four disciplines, advertising, communication, marketing and public relations, during the fourteen-year period from 1997-2010.

Key Findings:

1) A definite increasing trend was exhibited in terms of the number of social media-related studies across the four disciplines. The increase in articles coincided with the emergence and rising significance of social networking sites (e.g., Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006).

2) Scholars most greatly emphasized “social media usage, perception, attitude towards social media,” followed by “social media as a mass or personal communication tool” and “social (i.e., race, gender etc) or political (i.e., political candidates, campaigns, etc.) issues regarding social media”  across the disciplines, with the exception of marketing.

3) About 40% of social media research employed explicit theoretical frameworks, which is an encouraging finding when compared to past studies that indicated only 15% of Internet-related articles and 8% of general articles were based on theoretical approaches. 

4) In examining the methodological rigors of social media research, quantitative research (58.8%) is more prevalent than non-quantitative research (35.3%).

Implications for Practice

This study’s findings reveal an increasing pattern of research examining the effects of social media over the course of the period studied, indicating that scholars have recognized and responded well to social media’s impacts on our lives and society. As the results of this study are consistent with those of previous studies, we suggest that future scholarly endeavors focus on the prospective aspects of social media, foreseeing applications and technological progress, and elaborating theories. Future expectations: 

1)Social media research will continue to grow and keep pace with the evolution of social media usage, continuing to document resultant impacts and applications.

2) Advertising places greater emphasis on the persuasive power of social media (e.g., how to grab consumers’ attention, build brand image and garner greater attention, interests, and desire), while marketing is more interested in social media’s potential for action.

3) Social media research has achieved a certain level of theoretical rigor that consequently enhances the validity and accuracy of its findings.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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