This post, originally published in the Public Relations Journal, is provided by the IPR Street Team, a group of student writers who help IPR bring the latest research that matters to the practice. 

For the full study, visit the PR Journal here. 

Patrick D. Thelen, Ph.D. and Rita Linjuan Men, Ph.D., APR, from University of Florida recently published a study examining how the Office of the President at the University of Florida has strategically utilized Facebook. A content analysis was conducted on 146 posts published by the Office of the President and the 977 comments that these posts received between December 2014 and June 2017.

Key Findings:

  • A majority of posts utilized dialogic principles.
  • At least three major message strategies were observed.
  • Public engagement varied depending on which message strategy was utilized.

A Majority of Posts Utilized Dialogic Principles

Kent and Taylor (1998) proposed the dialogic communication theory as a way to develop and maintain effective relationships between organizations and their publics.

Their theory is composed of the following five principles:

  1. Dialogic loop
  2. Usefulness of information
  3. Generation of return visits
  4. Ease of the interface
  5. Conservation of visits


  • On average, the Office of the President’s Facebook page utilizes 12.4 percent of its capacity for dialogic communication in each post.
  • The most widely used principle is conservation of visitors (25.1%)
  • Dialogic loop (7.4%) and generation of return visits (6.3%) were utilized the least.
  • The most popular topic referred to “Activities, ceremonies, distinctions and facilities at the University of Florida” (53.4%).
  • A majority of posts utilized at least two dialogic principles (78.8%)

The Implemented Message Strategies

This study focuses on three message strategies: message appeals, vividness and interactivity.

Message Appeals

Messages appeals are broken down into rational appeals (presentation of facts in a straightforward, objective manner,) and emotional appeals (target an individual’s psychological, social or symbolic needs).

  • Emotional appeals were the most frequently used (47.3%)
  • Humor was the least used appeal (11%)


Vividness refers to tools that stimulate a direct sensory experience. Vivid messages decrease the level of mental effort required to process information.

  • 8% of studied posts used audio or photo/graphics.
  • 5% of the posts used video.
  • 7% of posts used text solely.


Interactivity is defined as the number of clickable links on a website. In this study, interactivity was measured using the number of links/hashtags included in each post.

  • 9% of posts had low interactivity.
  • 24% of studied posts had moderate interactivity.
  • 2% of posts had high interactivity.

Public Engagement Varied Depending on Which Message Strategy was Utilized

The total amount of engagement per post increased year by year. Content and format of posts impacted public engagement.


  • Posts with videos or Facebook Live sessions show higher rates of positive or neutral comments.
  • Videos and Facebook Live sessions performed better than regular photos or graphics.
  • In messaging, humor and emotional appeals had the highest number of reactions.
  • Functional and vision appeals had the lowest number of reactions.
  • Vividness showed no statistically significant results in terms of engagement.
  • Higher levels of interactivity had a negative effect on the measured engagement behaviors.
  • Posts that included information of interest to stakeholders had significantly more engagement.

Engaging audiences through Facebook and other social media platforms gives leaders an opportunity to participate in meaningful interactions and expand their reach. Message appeals, specifically emotional and humor messages, play a powerful role in developing relationships and generating engagement. Educational leaders can effectively use social media to inform their audiences about the university’s stance and position on social and political issues, listen to the feedback provided by the community and engage in dialogue.

For the full study, visit the PR Journal here. 

Amanda Carr is a junior at the University of Florida. She is majoring in public relations and is the Vice President of Public Relations for the University of Florida chapter of PRSSA. Follow her on Twitter @amandaraecarr98

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