The MAIN Model for Determining Technological Affordances and Credibility in Social Media Platforms


            Online advertising is a billion dollar industry that continues to grow due to mobile device adoption. Social Media is an increasingly contributing factor to the growth of mobile advertising expenditures. A prominent issue facing advertising scholars, marketers and publisher is source credibility in an online environment. The overall ambiguous nature of Internet based communication has left researchers, marketers and consumer with little to measure in terms of source, platform or feature credibility. Specifically, as social media modalities gain strength in strategic communication efforts, researchers will seek to uncover the affordances, features and credibility within an online environment.  Message credibility can lead toward product, service or message consumption. However, with the growing number of sources, platforms and advertisers, credibility is a complex set of items to measure in an online environment. This research explores the utility of the MAIN Model for measuring technological affordances and heuristic cues available in online messaging and how it coalesces with a new breed of credibility measures. The first part of the study explores the MAIN Model for assessing technological affordances available in social media modalities. This assessment will be used to determine and qualify acts of credibility based on two dimension; expertise and trustworthiness. This is an attempt at creating a credibility scale for social media modalities and technological features and affordances. This research proposes a new conceptual framework for understanding message credibility in a social media environment for the 21st Century. The implications for identifying credibility measures in social media modalities impact both personal and commercial applications to leveraging social media platforms. This particular study has implications for marketers, publishers and advertisers leveraging modalities across facebook, twitter, instagram and tumblr.

Research Memo

As I begin to dive a bit deeper into my research,  I want to be a bit more descriptive and purposeful in my approach to tackling issues in my area of interest, marketing, communications and technology in higher education.  

This is a great exercise for any researcher or practitioner trying to find their are of interest, target their passions or map out their area of focus. 

As a young person considering my path in life, I was always fascinated with the human cognitive condition as it relates to consumer behavior. The reasons, motivations and factors as to why we make the decisions we do to convert and purchase a product, or even make a decision.  In undergrad, I focused my research and studies on consumer behavior and domestic marketing practices in terms of digital experiential conditions. As I moved on to graduate school, I wanted to get a better understanding of the systemic changes in education, so I focused on distance learning and researched how instructional systems design was changing the landscape for higher education institutions. As I transitioned into a full-time staff-role in higher education, I quickly assimilated these skill in an enrollment management unit, which was a natural fit for exploring the behavior of a prospective student. Taking my passion and ability in understanding technical needs and forecasts of a unit seeking to grow and sustain enrollment, I found a space where I could blend my understandings of marketing, consumer behavior and technology in education. These together, created a exploratory outlet to look into ways new students could connect, apply and enroll in terms of the institutions digital presence.  If I were to explore and connect with one subject it would be the practices, disciplines and trends in higher education marketing and what factors affect institutional decisions as it relates to goals and strategies. This early in my inquiry, I will assume that the empirical and academic knowledge base in this area as it relates to educational institutions is very limited. With this assumption, comes a fear that there is little interest from an academic and scholarly perspective on this particular topic. However, my assumption (and apprehension) could be reinforced by the changing climate of higher education as a tuition driven enterprise, which hinges on enrollment and matriculation. The knowledge and scholarly base exists in the business and management fields, I would simply need to find an opportunity to intersect these areas.

I suspect my initial goals would be to explore the literature in terms of marketing in higher education publications and research but not limiting my queries to higher education enterprises.  Identifying the top scholars in this arena would also facilitate a better understanding of the leaders in the field and what their concerns and interdisciplinary focus might be. Framing this research as it applies to leadership practices, will position my research to be in line with my current course work and prescribed literature.

 feel there is a general disconnect within educational organizations in which administrators, program directors and faculty understand the value in public perception/awareness and the means to improve, shape or change these assumptions. Whether the general public or prospective students, I would seek to uncover the importance this has with the future of an academic institution.  Helping to alleviate this disconnect by informing leaders and educators on the practices in which they can advance their program, school or institution is an opportunity for research and exploration.

Through this exploration, I have identified three goals that will drive my research:

1.  Why is it important that a school, institution or program worry about public perception and awareness?

2. How is online education and technology changing the way students access and find educational institutions or programs?

3.  What are the practices, standards and innovative happenings in the field of educational marketing?

I believe that I have a unique advantage that I currently work within an institution in a department concerned with the marketing and communications for the enterprise.  I have a specific background and interest in consumer behavior strategies and research, along with the technical acumen to peer ahead into the future of this field. My goals are very broad, but I believe they are in line with the interest of potential educators, researchers and administrators. Additionally, I feel I understand the meaning on behalf of the research subjects in a study. That is, the cognition, affect, intention and their overall perspective on matters in which I would inquire (Maxwell, 2005, 22).

Conversely, I recognize the disadvantages inherent in my pursuit to uncover these questions through research. Some participants and constituents might not find an overall need or value in uncovering answers about their institutions public perception and awareness. Another possible disadvantage for further research could be the lack of literature base and foundation as it relates to scholarly inquiries in higher education marketing.


Maxwell, J.A. (2005).  Qualitative research design:  An interactive approach (2nd ed).  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage.