Date of Award

12-1-2016

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Veenstra, Aaron

Abstract

Researchers have suggested that social networking sites are especially suited to creating a two-way communication with audiences as described by Kent & Taylor’s dialogic communication theory. However, researchers have also shown that most organizations are failing to actually create this type of dialogue with their followers on SNS. This leads to the question: why are organizations failing to realize this potential? In this study, I consider one possible reason: that organizations are following advice offered online by self-appointed “experts” on SNS strategy and that advice is not effective. I performed a content analysis of 29 websites that promise easy tips to increase social media engagement, identified by their placement at the top of Google search listings, then tested some of the most common advice from these sites on the Facebook and Twitter pages of a group of state-level advocacy organizations to see whether that advice is effective in increasing engagement or overall reach. I found many sites advising organizations to interact with followers, create engaging content and to include visual elements in posts. However, the recommendations were often hedged with limitations, or backed up by unreliable statistics or anecdotal evidence. My own experiment showed that using a call to action increased engagement on Twitter and including a photo increased reach on Facebook, but no other test variable had an effect on impressions, reach or engagement on either site. This suggests that the advice offered online is not reliable, and organizations may fail to create dialogic communication with their followers because they are relying on faulty advice to build their SNS strategies.

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