ECSM 2016 EM Normandie, Caen

IMG_0518 FullSizeRender-5The third European Conference on Social Media ran this week in Caen, France at a business school: Ecole de Management (EM) Normandie. Small but lively conference with delegates from a big range of countries – certainly not just mainland Europe.

As always I am an event tweeter, using Twitter to meet like-minded researchers, connect, share links and remember points that can so easily flash fleetingly through the mind at presentations and soon be gone for ever – faster than Snapchat. A few hours or days afterwards I get to think about my and others’ tweets and reflect on them in this blog.

There were two major themes for me at the conference: social media marketing and social media (SM) in learning – schools, vocational learning and Higher Education. The marketing focus was strong from the outset with challenges set by Ali Ouni of Spectrum Groupe, a consulting company in Normandy and questions raised which reverberated through the sessions on how to measure the impact of social media marketing (SMM). An insistence on ROI provoked hot debate as people sought to find other ways to justify SMM. My guess is that when companies learn how to justify spend on PR and brand awareness and CRM, they will find the way to justify spend on SMM. At least with social media you can measure click-throughs and stimulate discussion and rapid customer feedback, whereas the old-fashioned column-centimetres metric for PR really does not get us far.


James Fox with an image of Darth Vader impressing students with the dark side of social media profiles

Many of the presentations I attended (mostly SM and learning) touched on how to help students understand privacy settings and potential future impact of unwise profile-building online. Some excellent work by Michael Fox and team at Bristol set out student folders containing all they could learn (subject to ethical research approval) on their students and offered them advice once the reality hit home.


Britt and Hannelore from Ghent Uni discussing Twitter tasks

The over-riding apps were Facebook & Twitter in research studies at the conference – even though many agreed Facebook was being consigned to a parental generation and beyond while younger or more connected and cautious students look for end to end encryption (WhatsApp for example) or time-limited exposure (Snapchat etc). A paper from Hannelore and Britt at Ghent Uni found students really didn’t much care for using open social networking on Twitter for academic work, and wanted closed, teacher-led online communities. So much for student-centred autonomy in Higher Education! But of course the devil is in the detail – more study needed here.

There was a great PhD colloquium which I attended and found some very professional presentations from the students.

Athena Choi shows in depth study of the fashion blog in HK

Athena Choi shows in depth study of the fashion blog in HK

Great to see visual affordances of social media being researched from different perspectives. Also to hear that HR professionals consider internal communications entirely their own affair (marketing would be unhappy to hear that) when it comes to internal social media, though none of them had heard of the keywords used in academic research to describe what they were doing – thanks here to Mark Verheyden in Brussels who presented this research. Intriguing presentations too from Britt Adams relating to advertising literacy among young people (given the ubiquitous inserted ads in social media chat forums), Karin Hoegberg’s extensive and wide-ranging interviews in the hotel industry concerning social media adoption and usage, drawing attention to the idea that people’s personal use of SM was likely to affect the advice and direction they gave to their organisations, Zuzana Homanova tackled the tricky topic of social network use in elementary schools and Poornima Srikant gave a quantitative evaluation of the relationship between SMM and brand trust as she reviewed the Facebook pages of four quite different organisations.

selfie at the PhD colooquium led by Conference Chair Christine Bernadas

selfie at the PhD colloquium led by Conference Chair Christine Bernadas

There were some great posters on display at the conference – my favourites where Dr Alison Iredale’s account of her blended programme at Leeds Beckett uni, and Ted Clark’s poster on sociomateriality of social software:


Ted Clark’s poster on sociomateriality of social software – does the media become an extension as well as an expression of the writer?

I had been invited to give the keynote presentation on the second conference day – choosing the topic of Unlearning learning with social media. This was a chance to do some creative theory linking for me as I read widely around not just social media use but also the concept of unlearning – having been first alerted to this by Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock (1970) (sad to hear of his death just a couple of weeks ago on 27th June 16). There’s a link to my slideset on the ECSM website here. According to the tweets, the presentation went down well, causing much discussion – my argument was based around the “deep unlearning” identified by Rushmer and Davies produced by an internal cognitive dissonance rather than the “wiping” associated with external imposition of change. For me, social media has affordances of intimacy, speed and serendipity which can trigger personal cognitive and affective responses, just the sort of thing that could occasion deep unlearning. And without unlearning, we face a steady aggregation of filtered responses based on unquestioned attitude foundations – a bad way to think and behave. In view of the positive response, I need to take these ideas further.

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As always at ACPI conferences, Sue Nugus organised the event, our logistics, the parallel sessions, the conference dinner and the publications superbly. Thank you Sue.

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