Segmenting and understanding publics in a social media information sharing network: An interactional and dynamic approach

Xinyan ZHAO*, Mengqi Zhan, Chau Wai Wong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


This study segments social media publics and analyzes their informational behaviors during organizational crises. With a public-centric perspective, our study highlights how social media publics interact with each other (i.e., interdependence) and share different information through crisis stages (i.e., dynamics). Following the situational approach to segmentation, we identify different types of social media publics (i.e., influentials, broadcasters, and followers) based on their informational behaviors and their positions in an information sharing network. Crisis managers are recommended to pay more attention to publics with higher influence, namely key influentials and broadcasters. In addition, we try to understand social media publics’ changing concerns by analyzing whether and how publics share messages of different themes and forms in different stages of a crisis. Crisis managers are recommended to customize crisis communication content to fit publics’ needs, prioritize organizational resources, and maximize positive communication effect. With big data from Chipotle’s E. coli crisis, we analyzed the Twitter activities surrounding this crisis over a 6-month period. Our segmentation receives initial support from the network analysis and content analysis on the Twitter data, which lays the foundation for effective social media crisis management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-45
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Strategic Communication
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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