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PhD Defence Shu Zhang | IT Companies on Social Networking Sites - Understanding Microblog Practices and User preferences in Western Countries and China

IT Companies on Social Networking Sites - Understanding Microblog Practices and User preferences in Western Countries and China

The PhD defence of Shu Zhang will take place (partly) online and can be followed by a live stream.

Shu Zhang is a PhD student in the research group Communication Science (CS). Supervisor is prof.dr. M.D.T. de Jong and co-supervisor is dr. J.F. Gosselt from the Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences (BMS).

The rise of SNSs has profoundly changed the way in which companies communicate with the public. Indeed, leading companies have almost universally adopted them within their practices. To stand out from the competition, companies must understand how to best utilize this medium and adopt well-considered SNS strategies. Furthermore, globalization has made cross-cultural communication ever-more prevalent. Understanding cultural differences as well as their potential impact on communication between companies and their users constitutes another important step toward effective SNS communication.

Therefore, this dissertation aimed to contribute to the current scientific understanding of communication between companies and users on SNSs, and how cultural differences affect companies' microblog practices and their user preferences. In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of companies’ communication activities, a specific type of company— large IT (information technology) companies— were chosen for the studies.

This dissertation contains five studies that shed light on SNS communication between companies and users from different perspectives. It started with a content analysis of companies’ microblogging practices, which provides a comprehensive overview of companies’ arrangements of accounts and their message characteristics. Next, a detailed examination of companies’ technical communication tweets presents a more comprehensive perspective on the human-technology relationship. Following that, the comparison of Chinese and Western companies’ uses of microblogs revealed the comprehensive and multifaceted cultural differences in microblogging platforms. Furthermore, differences between Chinese and Western users’ preferences were distinguished. Chinese and Western users differ in terms of habits, motives, and online behaviors related to companies. The results illustrate the complexity of communication between companies and users on SNSs, question the effectiveness of some widely encouraged communication strategies, and require relativizing the importance of the universal importance of online engagement indicators.