Watkins, Brandi, & Lewis, Regina (2014). Initiating dialogue on social media: An investigation of athletes’ use of dialogic principles and structural features of Twitter. Public Relations Review, 40(5), 853-855.


Public relations scholars have considered engaging in dialogue to be an effective strategy for building relationships with the public. This study extends research on using social media to engage in relationship building activities by applying Kent and Taylor’s (1998) dialogic principles to the posts from professional athletes on Twitter. Additionally, this study examines how the structural features of Twitter can be used to facilitate dialogue. Like many studies on dialogic activity on social media, the findings of this study indicate that professional athletes under-utilize the direct two-way communication capabilities of social media, but through the use of structural features of Twitter like marking a tweet as a “favorite” or “retweeting” a message from an athlete, allow a form of dialogue to take place. Thus, based on these findings, it can be argued that the definition of dialogue on social media should be expanded to include structural features beyond direct replies.


This study employed a quantitative content analysis of 990 tweets from 22 professional athletes. The authors coded tweets for dialogic principles, frequency of Twitter activity, and user interaction.

Key Findings

  • Nearly half of the tweets (46%) in the sample were coded as dialogic in nature.
  • Of the dialogic principles, athletes in the sample used the generation of return visits the most.
  • Findings from this study support the use of dialogue and interaction via the structural features of Twitter has positive influences on relationship building.

Implications for Practice

Scholarship has placed a lot of emphasis on the use of the two-way communication capabilities of social media as being a key factor in the building relationships between organizations and stakeholders on social media. However, as this and many other studies have shown, this two-way communication is not taking place based on this current conceptualization of dialogue. This study points toward a new understanding of dialogue on social media – one that moves away from the idea of direct replies as the only form of dialogue on social media to incorporating more of the structural features of the platform to promote and enhance engagement on social media. For practitioners, developing a better understanding of how users engage with organizations (or in this case, public figures) on social media can help them develop strategies that capitalize on these different forms of engagement as well as begin to consider how to measure the effectiveness of this engagement.

Article Location

The full article is available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S036381111400126X

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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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