Relationship Cultivation via Social Media During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence From China and the U.S

Qiongyao Huang, Benjamin J. Lynn, Chuqing Dong, Shijun Ni, Linjuan Rita Men*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This study explored the relationship cultivation and social media strategies companies used to cultivate relationships with their publics in two culturally distinct markets of China and the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. A quantitative content analysis of Weibo (n = 756) and Twitter (n = 645) posts from Fortune 500 companies in China (n = 30) and the U.S. (n = 30) respectively was conducted to examine the effects of their relational efforts on public engagement. Results showed that certain relationship cultivation strategies and use of social media functions effectively increased public engagement in both China and the U.S., although on different levels. Both Chinese and U.S. companies most frequently adopted the strategy of openness. While the openness strategy was most effective at raising engagement levels in the U.S., publics of Chinese companies became more engaged when companies used the access strategy. Also, publics of Chinese companies showed higher levels of engagement and more positive emotions toward companies’ social media messages than their U.S. counterparts. The findings advance our understanding of organization-public relationships in a worldwide disaster setting, with insights informing the global public relations theory and practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)512-542
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Business Communication
Issue number2
Early online date5 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)

User-Defined Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • disaster communication
  • relationship
  • social media


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