Transcending click rates and page views using social sciences research

May 26, 2017
Robyn Dugas, Content Specialist, Mitacs, Inc.

York University postdoc applies anthropology principles to social media strategy

If you’re running a company, a social media presence is probably an essential component of your marketing strategy. Your impact can be measured in terms of clicks and impressions — but what if you wanted to get a deeper, more personal idea of how social media works?

Treefrog, based in Newmarket, Ontario, knows all about social media for businesses. It provides a variety of marketing services to clients, including ‘traditional’ social media strategy. But a series of conversations between Sean Stephens, Treefrog CEO, and Laurie Baker, then an anthropology PhD candidate at York University, sparked a shift in how the company approaches social media.

Together, Sean and Laurie decided to embark on a project that would see Laurie bringing her anthropology expertise to strategy development, with financial support from the  Mitacs’ Elevate program. Rather than focusing on traditional outcomes like lead generation and promotion, Laurie engaged in a deep dive for Treefrog’s clients: Who are the people behind social media? What are their individual pinch points? How are end users reflected in social media posts? How could an in-depth examination of the people behind a company drive that company’s social media strategy?

Simply put, Laurie theorized that a people-centred approach based in anthropological practice — examining social media channels as individual ecosystems, exploring people’s relationships to technology, and better understanding the people on both ends of a social media exchange — would not only yield desirable business outcomes, it could provide a more engaging social media presence for Treefrog’s clients. And she was right. In addition to its existing services, Treefrog now offers clients “digital ethnographies,” which apply ethnographic research to digital spaces (rather than geographic ones).

One of the rewards for Laurie has been the opportunity to play an influential role in an emerging field of study: “It’s only within the past five years that digital anthropology has been a serious subject of study,” she explains. “This project is helping serve as a bridge not just to clients, but also back to the academy. Due to its relatively young age, social media doesn’t yet have an established theoretical understanding. So it’s both exciting and challenging to be at the forefront of this research.”

Postdocs: Build your career through a two-year research management training program and postdoctoral fellowship. Mitacs Elevate is accepting applications until June 14, 2017, at 5 p.m. PDT.

Mitacs is hosting the following events at Congress:

About Mitacs
Mitacs is a national, not-for-profit organization that delivers research and training programs for graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. We work with universities, companies and not-for-profit organizations, international partners, and governments to build partnerships that support social and industrial innovation in Canada.