Linjuan Rita Men, Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai, Zifei Fay Chen & Yi Grace Ji (2018). Social presence and digital dialogic communication: Engagement lessons from top social CEOs. Journal of Public Relations Research, 30(3), 83-99. DOI: 10.1080/1062726X.2018.1498341

The study focuses on a selective group of “top social CEOs” and evaluates their Facebook communication. Specifically, through a content analysis, the study explored how dialogic internet principles and social presence strategies were implemented in top social CEOs’ Facebook posts to generate public engagement outcomes. Results showed that top social CEOs used a variety of dialogic principles on Facebook. Yet, one-way information strategies were still more commonly used than two-way dialogic principles. Dialogic principles, such as providing information of interest to publics and creating dialogic loops, and the affective and cohesive strategies for projecting social presence effectively enhanced public engagement outcomes of reactions, likes, shares, and comments. Overall, the results indicate that leadership dialogic communication capitalizing on the conversational, personal, relational, dialogic, and communal features of social media is crucial for public engagement.

This research used a data mining approach and a content analysis investigating naturally occurring data from top-rated social CEOs’  Facebook pages. 24 available top social CEOs’  Facebook pages were used as the sampling frame and the final sample consisted of 658 qualified CEO posts from 24 top social CEOs and 502 public comments posted between February 2016 and October 2017.

Key Findings:

  • Top social CEOs used a variety of dialogic internet principles when communicating on Facebook. Overall, one-way informative features, such as providing links to other websites, news resources, offering options for additional information, and providing information of interest to publics were more commonly used than two-way strategies such as replying to a user’s comment to create a dialogic loop.
  • Top social CEOs use affective, interactive, and cohesive strategies to project social presence on Facebook. These CEOs often openly expressed their emotions, demonstrated a sense of humor, and shared details of personal life to show their human side and project a genuine image. They also often addressed others directly by name, complimented others, and used inclusive pronouns to create a sense of familiarity, intimacy, and community.
  • CEOs’ use of dialogic communication strategies effectively fostered public engagement on social media. In particular, the dialogic internet principle of providing information of interest to publics satisfies publics’ information needs and leads to more public interactions and advocacy. CEOs’ engagement in a dialogic loop such as direct response to, including liking and reacting to publics’ comments, soliciting feedback by asking questions, or initiating a conversation by tagging someone, contribute significantly to publics’ likes, shares, comments, and reactions.
  • Affective strategies, demonstrated by CEOs’ expression of emotions, use of humor, and disclosing personal details and feelings, work to personify the public figure and establish a sense of intimacy among the followers, and are thus more engaging. Similarly, cohesive strategies such as addressing others by name and using inclusive pronouns work to create a sense of community and inclusiveness lead to a higher level of engagement.

Implications for Practice
Public relations professionals should counsel CEOs to provide sufficient and value-added information tailored to publics’ needs and interests on their social media pages. CEOs should capitalize on the functional dialogic features of social networks such as hashtagging, replying, and reacting to publics’ comments to complete the dialogic loop. They should genuinely express their emotions (e.g., love, joy), sense of humor, share personal life stories, use conversational tones, and emphasize a sense of community and inclusiveness. CEOs should also project their personalities and show authentic empathy in their interactions to create social presence and psychological intimacy with the digital publics.

Article Location
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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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