LA Tech marketing doctoral candidates win Best Paper Award at American Marketing Association Conference

RUSTON — Breanne Mertz and Louis Zmich, College of Business doctoral candidates at Louisiana Tech University, received an award for Best Paper during a special doctoral student research session focusing on future trends in consumer behavior at the 2022 American Marketing Association conference.

The paper titled “#SocialMediaWellness: Exploring a Research Agenda for Healthy Social Media Consumption,” stresses the need for social media wellness by introducing a conceptual definition of social media wellness, exploring consumer’s perceptions and experiences of social media usage through topic analysis, and providing a research agenda for scholars to pursue. 

“There is a hunger to understand the balance between our digital and physical lives, and a need to talk about it,” said Zmich. “Hopefully, our research can begin to shift the conversation from “social media is bad/good” to how these platforms are specifically designed to keep one engaged for hours on end, so having an issue with social media consumption is not a fault.”

Mertz and Zmich co-authored the paper with Dr. Kelley Cours Anderson, Ashley Hass, and Dr. Timothy Kaskela. The group will also present their paper at the upcoming Stukent Digital Summit, which provides instruction and training for educators.

“In just the past five years, time spent on social media has increased by 38 percent despite research pointing to various negative repercussions such as decreased well-being, compromised mental health, and even suicidal ideation,” said Mertz. “Such repercussions have been examined by various disciplines, however, most research within the marketing discipline (both in research and pedagogy) focuses on optimizing social media in ways that strategically yield the greatest returns for businesses. Though important, this research emphasis overlooks how social media usage can negatively affect consumers.”

Both Mertz and Zmich are fourth-year Doctor of Business Administration students with concentrations in marketing. Mertz’s research focuses on topics related to well-being within the domains of services marketing and consumer behavior, while Zmich’s research interests sit at the intersection between social media and sales.

“I specifically explore topics related to well-being within the domains of services marketing and consumer behavior,” said Mertz. “In my research related to services, I examine how the treatment of employees (e.g., workplace dignity) can have a positive impact on organizational outcomes and employees. Within the consumer behavior domain, my dissertation and other research explore topics related to consumer well-being and maladaptive behavior within the context of social media usage.”

Zmich works with social media influencers to test what mechanisms are at play when someone purchases from an influencer or sponsoring company.

“My dissertation, for example, works with a regional influencer and tests their audience on how specific levels of creativity lead to increased or decreased purchase intentions,” he said. “I believe that the most impactful data comes from the followers, the sales managers, and the salespeople on the ground making moves for the company. As such, I try to work with those companies/people to explore topics that increase both engagement and sales.”

Both candidates have held notable positions in the marketing research world, including time as American Marketing Association DocSIG officers. Zmich served as Chair, Chair-Elect, and Assistant Vice Chair of Special Projects and Partnerships, while Mertz served as Chair of Media Relations and Coordinator of Best Practices.

The two will graduate this year and have accepted Assistant Professor roles—Mertz at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and Zmich at the University of Tampa in Tampa, Florida.

“It is difficult to adequately put into words how the doctoral program has impacted me,” said Mertz. “In short, I can confidently say that during this program, I have grown more academically, personally, professionally, and relationally than in any other time of my life. I now have the chance to have the same positive influence and impact on my own students that my professors had on me during such a pivotal point in life.”

Zmich agrees. “The College of Business faculty become your friends and colleagues throughout the program, encouraging you to seek answers to your burning questions,” he said. “Instead of simply guiding one through the program, they continuously mentor, encourage, and provide the resources needed to get impactful work done. That’s been what I am most grateful for—having people in my corner to offer a hand when needed, and become a friend and colleague once the finish line is crossed.”

For more information on Louisiana Tech’s DBA program, visit business.latech.edu/doctorate-of-business-administration-d-b-a/.

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