Disentangling social media influence in crises: Testing a four-factor model of social media influence with large data

Xinyan ZHAO*, Mengqi Zhan, Brooke F. Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Social media empower publics by providing a platform for their voices during crises. Digital-enabled platforms allow individuals to become influentials by sharing their insights and expertise with others. Confronted with the fast-paced and complex dynamics of crises, we lack a systematic conceptualization and a valid measure of social media influence in the crisis context. By integrating diverse perspectives on influence, we propose a new framework that theorizes different dimensions of social media influence based on publics’ communicative behaviors during crises. This integrated framework offers a refined conceptualization and measurement of social media influence in crises by incorporating the network perspective. We tested the framework with large-scale Twitter data from four crises. Results from multigroup CFA on Twitter influencers suggest that social media influence is composed of four factors: output, reactive outtake, proactive outtake, and network positioning. Each factor is associated with a distinct set of users’ behavioral indicators (e.g., retweet). Implications for crisis communication and public relations are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-561
Number of pages13
JournalPublic Relations Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Communication
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Marketing

User-Defined Keywords

  • Crisis communication
  • Influencer
  • Measurement
  • Social media influence


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