This blog post is a summary of “Effects of Corporate Online Communication on Attitude and Trust: Experimental Analysis of Twitter Messages,” by Dr. Ji Young Kim and Dr. Jinhyon K. Hammick, University of Hawaii at Manoa. For the full study, please visit the PR Journal.

The 21st century is defined by the emergence of social media platforms and its ability to infiltrate every facet of a person’s life. Twitter is recognized as one of most popular, fast-paced social media platforms. It currently has over 320 million monthly users and approximately 80 percent of those users post from their mobile devices, making their 140-character thoughts immediate.

Even though Twitter is extremely popular, there has been very little research conducted analyzing the relationship between corporate communication via Twitter and the corporation-consumer relationship. Because of this, Dr. Kim and Dr. Hammick focused their study on examining the effects of Twitter on consumer attitudes of a company. The study focuses on two main factors: the relationship between Twitter and consumers and the interactivity indicators of Twitter messages. Dr. Kim and Dr. Hammick then analyze whether these two factors influence a consumer’s trust of a corporation and whether Twitter is recognized as a persuasive and informative tool in the corporate world.

Methodology
In this study the independent variable is defined as “the type of relationships and perceived level of interactivity,” while the dependent variable is defined as the attitude or trust toward a corporation (Kim, J.Y., Hammick J.K., 2017, p.3). There are also two control variables: medium credibility and medium familiarity. Six hypotheses are proposed:

  1. The type of relationship of corporate tweets will affect customers’ attitude toward the corporation.
  2. The perceived level of interactivity of corporate tweets will affect customers’ attitude toward the corporation.
  3. There will be an interaction effect between the type of relationship and the perceived level of interactivity of corporate tweets on customers’ attitude toward the corporation.
  4. The type of relationship of corporate tweets will affect customers’ perceived trust on the corporation.
  5. The perceived level of interactivity of corporate tweets will affect customers’ perceived trust on the corporation.
  6. There is an interaction effect between the type of relationship and the perceived level of interactivity of corporate tweets on customers’ perceived trust on the corporation.

Dr. Kim and Dr. Hammick also include another four hypotheses when they are controlling the effects of the control variables:

  1. When controlling medium credibility, the type of relationship of corporate tweets and the perceived level of interactivity of corporate tweets will affect customers’ attitude toward the corporation.
  2. When controlling medium credibility, the type of relationship of corporate tweets and the perceived level of interactivity of corporate tweets will affect customers’ perceived trust toward the corporation.
  3. When controlling medium familiarity, the type of relationship of corporate tweets and the perceived level of interactivity of corporate tweets will affect customers’ attitude toward the corporation.
  4. When controlling medium familiarity, the type of relationship of corporate tweets and the perceived level of interactivity of corporate tweets will affect customers’ perceived trust toward the corporation.

Kim and Hammick had 182 undergraduate student participants from the state university. Of the 182 participants, 146 were females and 35 were males. The experiment design has two categories of relationships: communal relationship and exchange relationship. The experimental conditions also has three levels of interactivity: low, medium and high. Interactivity relates to the use responsiveness indicators on Twitter, such as hyperlinks and retweets. Each of the participants were chosen at random and assigned to six experimental conditions: communal-low/medium/high interactivity and exchange-low/medium/high interactivity. The participants were then given a brief introduction explaining the experiment and a booklet with the experimental stimuli, the standard format of a Twitter page, and a questionnaire.

The independent variables, the relationships and interactivity, were manipulated by the types of messages. Communal messages include posts that don’t expect immediate responses, such as tips or participation encouragement. On the other hand, interactivity was measured by the responsiveness of the corporation and its usage of Twitter indicators, such as hyperlinks and retweets, that generate a direct response.

Attitude, one of the dependent variables, was measured by five-point items: reputable/unreputable, responsible/irresponsible, financially stable/financially unstable, established/fly-by-night and long-run oriented/short-run oriented. Trust, the other dependent variable was measured on a five-point Likert scale.

Findings
The research indicated that communal and exchange relationships of the Twitter messages impact the audience’s attitude and trust toward a corporation. Communal messages have a more positive effect on the attitudes and trust of the public and are therefore, necessarily in building relationships. However, there was not a significant correlation between the perceived level of interactivity on the attitude and trust of a corporation. There was only a distinguishable impact on the attitude and trust toward an organization.

The results also indicated that customers would build positive attitude toward the corporation when they perceive that the company is actively engaged in two-way communication with their customers, especially in the exchange relationship condition. Moreover, the outcomes appeared quite consistent even when the effect of media credibility and familiarity were controlled. This may be interpreted in the following way; customers are affected by the content of the messages delivered by the company in forming their attitude and trust, no matter how much they trust Twitter as a medium or how familiar they are with its technical features and or the way of messages transfer.

While this study did explore the relationship between Twitter and the attitudes and trust toward the social media platform. It was a limited study because the interactivity was not tested on the actual Twitter page. Therefore, the participants were lacking an interactive experience. Overall, the study shouldn’t have been limited to Twitter and should have been expanded to Facebook as well. With more platforms tested, researchers could’ve better understood the impact and influence of social media on the consumer-relationship. This, in turn, would create a more trustworthy and positive, mutually beneficial relationship between the consumer and corporation.


Madison Hallman is a public relations student at the University of Florida.

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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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