Men, Linjuan Rita, & Tsai, Wan-Hsiu Sunny (2015). Infusing social media with humanity: Corporate character, public engagement, and relational outcomes. Public Relations Review, 41(3), 395-403.


This study links the factors central to social media communications, including perceived corporate character, parasocial interaction, and community identification, to public engagement and organization–public relationships. Based on American users’ engagement behaviors on corporate Facebook pages, the study underscores the effectiveness of a personification approach in social media communication to construct an agreeable corporate character for enhancing public engagement and inducing intimate, interpersonal interactions and community identification, which in turn improves organization-public relationships.


An on-line survey was conducted with 250 Social Networking Service (SNS) users who followed at least one company on Facebook in 2013.

Key Findings

  • When a company comes across on SNSs as friendly, pleasant, open, empathetic, and supportive, and acts like an honest, sincere, trustworthy, and responsible person (agreeableness), publics are more likely to actively engage with it on its SNS page.
  • An agreeable corporate character directly nurtures quality organization public relationships.
  • Despite a company being perceived as ruthless, publics may still actively engage with it on its SNS; however, the engagement behaviors may involve posting negative complaints and criticisms.
  • Users who are more deeply engaged with corporate SNS pages tend to be more trusting of, more satisfied with, more committed to the organization, and more empowered in the relationship.
  • Users who are more engaged with an organization on its SNS page tend to perceive a closer interpersonal relationship with the corporate SNS communicators and believe they are an integral part of the company’s SNS community. Such interpersonal connections and community identification in turn form lasting and committed user relationships with the company.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should strive to humanize themselves as a friendly, agreeable, supportive, sincere, empathetic, and responsible person to induce intimate user interactions with the corporate communicator. Although engagement behavior could involve negative elements, such open communication paves the way for further dialogues and provides organizations opportunities to engage in collaborative problem solving, mitigate the issue, manage the conflict, and repair or improve relationships. Strategies to deepen community identification, such as gamification ideas of using corporate or brand badges and techniques such as “leveling up” and “points” could not only could mark users’ achievement, status, expertise, or loyalty, but also boost a sense of community belonging.

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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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