INTERVIEW: Dr. Stephanie Tikkanen on Social Media for Marketers

By Ciara Sebecke


Dr. Stephanie Tikkanen is an assistant professor in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University.  She has a Ph. D. in philosophy and communication and an MA in communication, and now teaches classes on interpersonal communication and other communication classes. She is not only an avid user of social media, but an expert on how people use it.
Dr. Tikkanen stands out as a professional due to her research on the growing role of new media  in interpersonal relationships. She studies how new trends and technologies such as mobile phones and social networking sites affect relationships between people.
Social Media is a new form of media but it is quickly surpassing traditional forms of media. It is vital that marketers embrace this growing new form of communication and use it to its full potential. Today, Dr. Tikkanen shares her thoughts and insights on the best ways brands can  use social media and how that may change in the next few years.

Ciara: What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring social media professional?
Dr. Tikkanen: Keep an eye out for anything new: a new network, a new analytics tool, a new app, anything. Social media changes very rapidly, so you’ll need to be on the cutting edge to stay informed and effective. By being an early adopter, you’re going to be the one who helps shape how the app is used—but you also get first crack at a cool username!
Ciara: What companies or organizations do think are “doing it right” when it comes to social media? Why?
Dr. Tikkanen: I think one of the most important things that a company can do is to match their social efforts to the demographic they’re trying to reach, which requires an understanding of how that group uses that technology. One example is how Taco Bell uses Snapchat. They have cornered a very specific market, and do some really creative stuff to connect with them!
Some other organizations that use social media well are some of the pro sports teams. I had a chance to talk with the social media managers of the Penguins and the Indians last semester, and it was fascinating to hear how they’re using social to connect with fans during the games but also keeping them engaged during the off-season, as well. 

Ciara: What do you think is the most important upcoming trend in social media and why is that trend important?
Dr. Tikkanen: This is fairly basic, but I think that the emphases on mobile technology and imagery will continue to grow. Companies that are not adapting traditional website content to mobile formats will lose a lot of younger followers who are no longer tethered to a desktop. In a related vein, companies need to focus on image-based content; on mobile devices, people do not want to read long articles. Many viewers need to see images and videos to stay engaged. 

Ciara: Do you think that all brands should embrace social media for marketing purposes or do you think it is inappropriate for certain companies or organizations? Why?
Dr. Tikkanen: I’ll reiterate: a brand needs to use the best medium it can to match its products/services with the intended consumers. Since so many consumers are on social media, I think it’s a perfectly suitable place to reach most of them! In fact, you can reach really highly targeted audiences, which gets you more bang for your marketing buck. However, if a company is trying to advertise to, say, individuals who are trying to go “off the grid,” perhaps Facebook isn’t the most appropriate medium to reach them. 

Ciara: What do you think is the best way for a brand to embrace the trend of cell phones being used as a “second screen” with television viewing?
Dr. Tikkanen: I personally love the incorporation of twitter conversations! I have been known to use a show’s hashtag to join a larger conversation.
However, I don’t really think this is sustainable; a growing proportion of viewers do not watch shows in real time, opting for streaming services like Hulu or Netflix. As a result, tweeting when you watch may just result in spoilers—and lost followers. 

Ciara: Do you use social media differently now that you study it and have done research on social media use? (Personally and/or professionally)
Dr. Tikkanen: ABSOLUTELY, and in many ways! I actually study how people respond to distressing disclosures in online settings and how we use social media to garner support. As a result, I have to read and craft a lot of “vaguebooking” messages—you know the kind, the really needy-sounding tweets or statuses that are designed to elicit attention. As a result, I find myself unwilling to post anything like that on my own social media.
I also find that I am more mindful of the types of content that I put on each type of social media as I am more aware of who my audiences are. For example, I use twitter to communicate with my students, Instagram with my friends, and Facebook for a huge mix of all sorts of people. Consequently, the types of content I put on those three sites are wildly different.

Also: I will NEVER use Snapchat. I’ve heard too many horror stories. Just… no. I don’t care how good Taco Bell is.

To sum it up– If you are a brand,  you want to think like your intended audience. Stay up to date and make sure your content is visual and engaging. All social media platforms are different and every audience uses social media in a different way.
If you are a student or social media professional, keep educating yourself and stay a step ahead of the latest social media trends. Consider your audience while posting on any given social platform because the ideal content is vastly different for each site. Social media is a huge part of marketing and advertising in our world today, so to be successful in the industry you must stay ahead of the game!
Dr. Tikkanen does all of this and more. She continues to stay ahead of the curve and is constantly making new connections and insights on how people use social media. To connect with Dr. Tikkanen on her social media sites or to read more information on how people use social media, check out the links below:

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