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PhD Studentship in Social Networking and Career Management

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PhD gown
CC image courtesy of Sarah Cady on Flickr

I (loosely) keep an eye on funded PhD opportunities in digital marketing, social media, and so on. My own PhD (researching webfilms before the advent of YouTube) was funded through a studentship (thanks, Queen Margaret University!) and I don't think I would have been able to do it otherwise.

I'd love for other capable, smart students to have the same opportunity and hence keep a look out for any digital / social related PhD studentships in Scotland. Below is one I discovered offered by Edinburgh's Napier University (at their excellent Institute for Informatics & Digital Innovation) - here's why I think it looks great and is very timely!

PhD Studentship in Social Networking and Career Management Skills

Napier University's research project investigates social media / social networking in the context of job search and career development. We all know how important LinkedIn is these days - I always insist that any student of mine who wants a career in Marketing join it (if you want to work in Marketing and you're not on LinkedIn, you're not a Marketer). It's good to put some research behind what we already know, or suspect to be true.

What I'm particularly interested in however is this:

As part of the study, the research will test and develop Social Network Analysis (SNA) as a research approach of value to the study of social media adoption.

This struck a chord because my professional experience has largely been that in social, there is little actual evaluation and analysis of the data. Tools like Radian 6  are good at churning out plenty of data noise but I've yet to be convinced of their value in creating actionable business insights from social media (I've used 3 paid tools and a good number of free ones).

Social Network Analysis
CC image courtesy of Andy Lamb on Flickr

I've also been at the receiving end of plenty of sales calls by social media monitoring / analysis companies that try to persuade me that we should spend e.g. £20k / month (yes, really) on a tool that promises to collect all conversations about a client on social. Their sales pitch is that ongoing, real-time monitoring is absolutely essential for effective digital marketing and reputation management of a company. In my experience, it isn't, and many clients (especially SMEs) can't afford to spend £££ / month just to see what the Twitterverse talks about for 2 seconds.

A valuable, effective research approach and framework to analyse social networks, that is not commercially biased, is therefore needed.

Another strong point of the research project and its studentship is that it's not just theory-based, with little relevance to real life. Existing academic research in social media is unfortunately often conceptual, out of touch, and sometimes simply wrong, as I have discovered in my (admittedly short) time as a lecturer.

I believe that we need more research that is useful and has a real-life impact, and this PhD research promises to

 make practical recommendations on the use of social networking in the development of CM [career management] skills, and in the operation of career information and advice services

It'll help people and organisations use social media effectively, and align their activity with business objectives. That's exactly what's needed and as such it certainly sounds like an exciting, worthy project.

For more info, read Professor Hazel Hall's blog post inviting applications, or go to Napier University's Vacancies page. The deadline is 31/07/14.

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