Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics

Information

This article was written on 20 Dec 2019, and is filled under Current Issue, Volume 14 2019, Volume 14 No 4.

Current post is tagged

, , , , , , , ,

Designing and implementing an online social media intervention: A discursive case study presentation from the perspective of a novice research assistant

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Paula Lamaj BScN (student) 
Daphne Cockwell, School of Nursing, Ryerson University

Suzanne Fredericks RN, PhD
Professor, Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Ryerson University

Jacky Au Duong
Centre for Communicating Knowledge
School of Professional Communication; Ryerson University

Designing and implementing an online social media intervention

Abstract

Background: The use of branding and marketing-based interventions within academia has become a necessary endeavor. Higher education institutions are now required to maintain a social media profile by using various platforms as a means of interacting with the community, attracting possible donors, ensuring admission numbers are met, and profiling of faculty and students’ scholarly work. As a research assistant, I was provided the opportunity to assist in the design and evaluation of a specific branding and marketing-based social media intervention. 

Aim: The aim of this discursive paper is to critically examine the challenges and associated strategies used in the design and implementation of a social media intervention.                

Discussion: Specific challenges associated with reviewing of literature, designing specific intervention components, selecting appropriate intervention vehicles, formulating the structure of social media platforms, individualizing interventions, and lack of research knowledge and experience will be addressed.                                                                                              

Implications: Engaging in a thorough synthesis and critique of the literature pertaining to the intervention of interest in advance of the design of the tool was put forward as an implication for future research in this area. As well, ensuring a well thought out program of research is formulated prior to evaluating this intervention is essential.

Introduction

Across academic settings, the use of social media has evolved from a vehicle for online discussion, to branding and marketing of institutional values, outcomes, and affiliations. In particular, the use of branding and marketing-based interventions within academia has become a necessary endeavor. Higher education institutions are now required to maintain a profile using various social media platforms as a means of interacting with the community, attracting possible donors, ensuring admission numbers are met, and profiling of faculty and students’ scholarly work (Belanger, Bali, & Longden, 2013). As a research assistant, I was provided the opportunity to assist in the design and evaluation of a specific branding and marketing-based intervention. Throughout this experience there were significant challenges that were encountered. 

Aim

The aim of this discursive paper is to critically examine the challenges and associated strategies used in the design and implementation of a social media intervention. The impact of these challenges on the research process will also be discussed. However, a brief overview of the intervention in question will first be presented.

Social Media Intervention: A Brief Overview

The case study in question consisted of a social media intervention that was designed to market and promote a University based, Graduate Nursing Program. The intent of the intervention was to profile the scholarly work of faculty and students; promote the program to attract donors, candidates for admission and potential research partners; and to enhance the overall reputation of the program and its faculty. The intervention consisted of a number of mediums that included Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Information in varying formats was delivered using these channels at different points in time to maximize their effectiveness in producing intended outcomes. During the design and implementation of this social media intervention, a number of significant challenges were experienced. The challenges presented are from the perspective of a novice research assistant (RA). Reflections pertaining to each challenge identified is presented along with specific strategies that were used to address each difficulty encountered.

Challenges,  Reflections, and Strategies    

The most significant challenge occurred during the design of the intervention. The RA was tasked with the responsibility of designing a draft version of a branding and marketing based social media tool. Not having any experience in this field, the RA used Sidani and Braden’s (2011) framework for intervention design. Sidani and Braden suggested there needed to be a comprehensive understanding of the intervention and its purpose prior to its design. As a result, the theoretical and empirical literature on branding and marketing tools were reviewed and critiqued with several purposes in mind that included: gaining a better understanding of why social media tools are used, how they can be designed, and to identify the various components that make up this specific type of intervention. Once a basic understanding of the intervention and its purpose was identified, the literature pertaining to the specific characteristics of the intervention, as it pertained to medium, dose, timing, and actual design was then reviewed.

Reviewing the literature

Throughout the RA’s engagement in this literature search, it became difficult to navigate the vast array of materials that addressed social media tools. As well, due to the large volume of material it became increasingly difficult to narrow down the search, as well as, to know which articles to review in detail and which to toss aside. This was the RA’s first experience reviewing such a vast array of literature, and as a result found it to be quite overwhelming to start. Throughout this process, the RA spoke and met regularly with members of the research team, who helped to ease anxiety experienced by refocusing the RA’s attention back to the intended purpose of the literature search. The RA was encouraged to keep with them at all times a sheet of paper containing the purpose of the literature search, any anticipated outcomes, and other specific search parameters when engaged in reviewing the literature. Whenever the RA started to feel overwhelmed, she was encouraged to look at the sheet of paper then ask herself whether or not the articles she was reviewing, addressed any of these items. Upon reflection, the RA found this to be a useful strategy, as it helped to keep her focused throughout the literature search process.

Designing specific components of the intervention

Upon completion of the literature review, the RA was required to design the various elements that would encompass the social media intervention. She was required to create approximately 40 flyers and two videos that would make up the social media intervention. The flyers and videos contained materials that were grouped into specific categories that included: 1) professional development workshops; 2) student engagement sessions; 3) faculty, student, and alumni biographies; and 4) notices of upcoming program related events. All of the flyers incorporated the use of bright, vivid colours. In deciding which colours would be used for the flyers, the RA began a rigorous search process to identify colours that were popular for the intended audience. Upon review of the literature, the RA noted certain colours were associated with certain themes (Hanada, 2017). For instance, white represented health and purity, while blue was associated with being in an emotional state. As she began to design the flyers and videos, the RA was not aware of the internal branding policies associated with the institution in which she was employed. The institutional policies outlined the specific colours that were to be used on any document that served to promote and/or advertise any program, school or faculty associated with the institution. As the RA was not familiar with institutional branding policies, she was required to attend a “Branding and Design” workshop in which these policies were outlined.

Selecting appropriate intervention vehicles

Following the design of the flyers and videos, the actual social media vehicles had to be selected. The RA was not aware that the specific type of social media platform that was to be selected needed to be based on empirical evidence in terms of their effectiveness when used by our intended population of interest. She had originally selected: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat as the social media platforms that would be used to build the branding and marketing tool. However, following further investigation into the characteristics of these platforms,  it was noted that not all of these mediums were relevant to the population of interest. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram appeared to be most popular with adults in their mid-20s to late-30s. Snapchat however, was not seen as an ideal vehicle for promoting and/or advertising content, as it was created as an ephemeral entity in that materials were only visible for a few minutes before being deleted. Thus, the overall design of the branding and marketing tool had to be revised as the incorrect social media platforms were initially selected. This revision resulted in a significant delay in the research process. Upon reflection, the design of future interventions will entail a detailed critical overview of the empirical and conceptual literature pertaining to all relevant aspects of the intervention. Experts will also be consulted for feedback on the intervention design, prior to its implementation. 

Structure of social media platforms

In addition, another challenge that resulted in significant delays to the research process, related to the inherent structure of specific social media platforms. Twitter, for example is restricted by the total number of characters that can make up a tweet (i.e. 140), while a Facebook group is restricted by the total number of members (i.e. 250) allowed to join (Odhiambo, 2012). These restrictions limited comments about upcoming events and workshops; as well as limited access to the number of individuals who could access the information. As a result, numerous Facebook groups were created and all flyers that were designed used the 140-character restriction to allow for them to be used across all platforms. This ended up being beneficial as posts and comments were shorter and easier to read; and contained key information that viewers were searching for such as: event name, date, cost, and time. In addition, a link was also posted on each flyer for easy access to more detailed information about the session/workshop in question.

Individualizing branding and marketing interventions

Furthermore, when designing and implementing interventions, theorists (Sidani & Braden, 2011) suggest individualizing interventions to maximize their effectiveness. The task of individualizing mass tweets, posts, and updates appeared to be impossible. Instead through the design of tweets, posts, materials, and videos, it was anticipated that these would capture the attention of the viewer and increase their likelihood to respond or engage with the message. Ensuring the messaging was well written, clear, and attractive became the main focus during the design of this branding and marketing intervention. 

Lack of knowledge and experience

As well, as a novice research assistant, many personal obstacles were encountered. During the designing and implementation phases of the study the RA had to be diligent about her time management between summer school, the study, volunteering, and a second job. The stress encountered did not emerge from the amount of work that needed to be completed, but rather the quality of work which was required. The RA did not have the knowledge related to communication technology or intervention design, as she was in the second semester of her first year in an undergraduate program. In terms of designing flyers and creating videos, she was unsure as to the quality of work produced. As a result, she consistently uploaded the work she had completed onto a Google drive and routinely requested feedback from the research team. Regular meetings were held with the research team, in which materials were reviewed and critiqued.

In addition to the creation of the intervention, the RA was invited to engage as a co-author on a number of manuscripts. She feared the drafts that were put forward would not be well written or would not meet the eligibility requirements for publication. As a result, the RA spent a significant amount of time rereading drafts of manuscripts and editing printed copies using a pen, as opposed to working off of a computer screen. The RA also met with the research team to discuss the quality of her work along with areas for revision. Even though this was a significantly challenging experience, she has become more knowledgeable in the area of intervention design. As well, the RA gained a better appreciation for the research process, as well as manuscript writing.

Conclusion

In conclusion, reflections from a novice research assistant tasked with designing and implementing a branding and social media tool was presented. Several challenges related to reviewing the literature, designing specific intervention components, selecting appropriate intervention vehicles, the structure of social media platforms, individualizing interventions, and lack of research knowledge and experience were presented along with reflections on how each of these were addressed. For future research endeavors involving an intervention, a thorough synthesis and critique of the literature pertaining to the intervention of interest should be conducted in advance of the design of the tool. As well, individuals who have expertise in the design, use, and evaluation of the intervention should be consulted on a routine basis to ensure the intervention is being designed and implemented properly. 

References

Bélanger CH, Bali S, Longden B (2013) How Canadian universities use social media to brand themselves. Tertiary Education and Management. 20(1), 14–29. http://doi.org/10.1080/13583883.2013.852237 

Hanada M (2017) Correspondence analysis of color-emotion associations. Color Research & Application. 43(2), 224–237.

Odhiambo CA (2012) Social Media As A Marketing Tool of Marketing And Creating Brand Awareness.Vaasan Ammattikorkeakouly University of Applied Sciences. Retrieved from https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/44591/Christine.A.Odhiambo.pdf?sequence=1.

 Sidani S, Braden CJ (2011) Design, evaluation, and translation of nursing interventions. John Wiley & Sons.

Biographies

Ms. Paula Lamaj is entering her third year of the undergraduate Nursing program at Ryerson University. Currently, she is a research assistant working on a number of studies with Dr. Suzanne Fredericks.

Dr. Suzanne Fredericks is a Full Professor in the School of Nursing at Ryerson University. She is a clinical scientist whose program of research focuses on designing and evaluating interventions to support individuals following invasive cardiovascular surgical procedures.

Mr. Jacky Au Duong is a manager of The Catalyst for the Faculty of Communication and Design at Ryerson University. The Catalyst is a research space that supports potential, nascent, and ongoing projects emerging from researchers and their collaborators.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.