This summary is provided by the IPR Digital Media Research Center


This study explored the phenomenon of publics’ negative social media engagement by investigating the antecedents that can influence negative peer communication about companies on social media and its impact on the relationships. Specifically, this study used the socialization and social learning theory as the theoretical foundation to examine two types of factors: individual factors (i.e., tie strength, social media dependency) and corporate factors (i.e., perceived reputation of companies, public interactions with companies) and how they influence negative peer communication on social media and the final effects on organization-publics relationships.


An online survey was conducted by recruiting participants via MTurk. The data were collected from December 2017 to January 2018 and ended up with 356 valid responses. A dichotomous screening question, “Have you ever discussed with your peers on social media about your negative experiences with a company?” was used to recruit qualified participants. All participants were required to recall and specify the name of the company they had most recently negatively discussed with their peers on social media. Participants were then asked to answer questions based on their experience of negative communication about this company on social media.

Key Findings

  • Publics’ negative peer communication about a company on social media negatively influenced their relationships with the company.
  • Regarding the individual-level predictors, closer tie strength among peers motivates publics to share their negative personal experiences about a company on social media, but publics’ social media dependency did not show significant relationship with their negative peer communication behavior on social media.
  • Regarding the corporate-level predictors, the better publics perceived the reputation of a company, the less likely they developed an urge to negatively discuss about this company with their peers on social media. However, their interactions with the company on social media did not show significant effect on their negative peer communication behavior.
  • Publics’ perceived reputation of a company and their interaction with the company on social media both showed direct positive effects on the quality of organization-publics relationships.

Implications for Practice

  • Negative peer communication should not be underestimated as such behavior is detrimental for the organization.
  • Companies should proactively monitor (negative) public discussion on social media, develop sensitivity to negative sentiments of publics, identify factors that may have led to public dissatisfaction, and then incorporate the determining factors in decision making to address public concerns and mitigate the negative effects of negative peer communication.
  • Practitioners should pay attention to the information, particularly negative discussion about companies, conveyed by those “social influencers” who are opinion leaders and can amplify the influence of negative peer discussions. Companies can also partner with these social media influencers and digital advocates to initiate positive discussions about the company and foster favorable relationship building with the publics on social media.
  • Companies should develop effective social media strategies by engaging with publics and developing social content that helps build the reputation of the companies.
  • Companies should invest efforts in developing a friendly online community in which publics can have authentic conversation with companies and provide valuable feedbacks or suggestions, which may decrease publics’ tendency to spread derogatory information or negative peer discussion when they have dissatisfying experiences with the company.



Qin, Sunny Yufan, & Men, Linjuan Rita (2019). Exploring negative peer communication of companies on social media and its impact on organization-public relationships. Public Relations Review45(4), 101795.


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