Master of Mass Communication (MMC)


Mass Communication

Document Type



Corporations worldwide are realizing the potential to build relationships with publics using social media. The microblogging site, Twitter, has transformed from a platform in which people merely update the Twitterverse about their daily activities to a communication channel where interpersonal conversations between millions of users thrive. As public relations practitioners, it is important to utilize new media to reach out to publics in order to build mutually beneficial relationships. This study examines how 47 corporations use Twitter as a communication and relationship-building tool and works towards developing guidelines for practitioners on using and evaluating their communication efforts on Twitter. Grounded in Grunig’s four models of public relations, Hon and Grunig’s (1999) relationship indicators, and theories of interactivity, this thesis utilized a content analysis to investigate corporate use of Twitter as a means of communication. This study analyzed 47 corporations’ Twitter homepages (n = 94) and tweets (n = 1,577) during a one-week sampling period. This research is important because companies dedicate time and resources to communicate with publics through Twitter. Not only do public relations practitioners need to know how to effectively utilize this medium, but they also need to be able to demonstrate to corporations their return on investment. The data show that 44.4% of the tweets follow the two-way symmetrical model of public relations, and 63.3% of the corporate tweets demonstrated a desire on behalf of the corporations to form communal relationships with users. In addition, trust and control mutuality were the most common relationship indicators used. Finally, the data reveal that corporations post higher interactive tweets, utilizing the “at reply” function to converse with publics. While these results reflect the tweets as a whole, when analyzing individual companies, many are not following commonly accepted relationship building and communication strategies. The first study of its kind, this thesis illustrates how corporations are using Twitter as a communication and relationship-building tool. This study concludes with implications of using Twitter and how public relations practitioners can effectively use Twitter for developing and maintaining long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with publics.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Dahmen, Nicole