Zhang, Xiaochen; Tao, Weiting; & Kim, Sora (2014). A comparative study on global brands’ micro blogs between China and USA: Focusing on communication styles and branding strategies. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 8(4), 231-249.


This quantitative content analysis compares global brands’ use of communication styles and brand anthropomorphism between two leading culturally different micro-blogging sites, Twitter in the U.S.A. and Sina Weibo in China. Results show that, despite some differences, communication styles on both sites are more task-oriented than socioemotional-oriented. However, global brands adopt more “give suggestions” style (task-oriented) on Twitter but apply more “tension reduction” communication style (socioemotional-oriented) on Weibo. As for brand anthropomorphism strategies, global brands use more “first and second personal pronouns” on Twitter but more “nonverbal cues and consumer nicknames” on Weibo. By applying Interaction Process Analysis (i.e., task- and socioemotional-oriented communication styles) and brand anthropomorphism frameworks to culturally different social media settings, this study extends our current understandings of how global brands use social media to communicate with their publics.


A quantitative content analysis of 20 global brands’ tweets and posts on Twitter and Weibo, including 3,549 messages, was conducted.

Key Findings

  • Task-oriented (vs. socio-emotional) communication was more dominant on both sites
  • Weibo had more give/ask opinion and tension reduction (humor) than Twitter
  • Brands used more personal pronouns on Twitter and used more nonverbal cues on Weibo

Implications for Practice

Traditional branding (i.e., anthropomorphism) and interpersonal communication (i.e., IPA) approaches could be strategically adopted by practitioners on both Twitter and Weibo. Humanizing brand strategies should be encouraged on social media platforms regardless of cultural differences. Global brands can also adopt various communication styles to engage consumers with different cultural orientations on Twitter and Weibo. In particular, task-oriented communication styles such as asking for suggestions could induce conversations with consumers whose culture prefer direct and straightforward messages. Socioemotional-oriented communication styles such as reintegration (i.e., praise and appreciation) and tension reduction (i.e., humor) tend to offer global brands a more personal and emotional approach to reach consumers who prefer indirect messages and value long-term relationships.

Article Location

The full article is available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1553118X.2014.886251


Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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