Clicking Responses on Social Media: Analysis of Audience Engagement on Posts and Tweets of MNAs of Pakistan.

Byline: Savera Shami


Over the last 10 years there has been an enormous increase in the importance of new technology and hence, the exploration has amplified tenfold. Some scholars strongly believe that digital public relations through Social Media is the most emerging form worldwide and it is the future of Political Public Relations. Social Media has changed the conditions and rules of social interaction. The dialogical, interactive and relational global properties of digital media have forced public relations practitioners to abandon their traditional one-way, message-oriented, asymmetrical and ethnocentric paradigm of practice (Grunig, 2009)). Since social media stimulates two-way communication, it gives an opportunity to build-up a dialogue with a larger audience, social media offers possibilities to cultivate and maintain relationships to the users.

The existing literature shows that politicians, like others, have also been using social media for the purpose of PR and political communication. Social Media tools are now considered to be extremely effective means of self-publicity and promotion.Being a direct channel of communication, Social Media is making it easier for politicians to bypass the heavily mediated connections offered by traditional media (Hallahan, Holtzhausen, Van Ruler, VerAiA, and Sriramesh, 2007) and to "draw the public's attention" (Broersma and Graham, 2012) to the issues of their own choice;thereby empowering the politicians and giving them an opportunity to cultivate the relationship with the audience through direct communication. It is said that communication is the spine of political strategy and public relations.

Newer platforms like Facebook and Twitter have made this more flexible, they have provided new avenues for politicians, including personalized messages and exchange with the specific communities of interest. Facebook posts and Twitter feeds have the power to rotate the whole political mood in an upside notation (Frame and Brochette, 2015). These newer platforms have also given access to political leaders to personalize their profiles and bring forward information and shed light on their own views that have the capacity to change the opinion of masses. That is why, now widespread adoption of social media is challenging the way traditional media have been used to disseminate news and to debate on most important social and political issues (Yang, Chen, Maity, and Ferrara, 2016).

The politicians and citizens link and communicate on social media, boost digital engagement through likes, shares and comments that increase their visibility in public. The politicians are using social media and posting the content of their own choice with the intention to form the public opinion and sometimes to lead and direct the discussion. Most of the literature demonstrate that the central purpose of political public relations is to consume media channels to convey specific political issues in order to gain public support for political policies (Froehlich and Rudiger, 2006). But on the contrary, it has also been observed that states people are engrossed with their political image and not concerned much about engaging in a discourse with their voters (Momoc, 2013), while the social media idealists believe that digital political public relations infer huge involvement of the consumers, means the audience.

Many scholars have supported the idea that the politicians are using social media to build their political image and are not doing much to create a relationship and discourse with their votes. This also strengthen the prevailing idea that regardless of the potential advantages, politicians tend to hesitate the active involvement of online users (Hoffmann and Suphan, 2017). The internet has become an increasingly effective tool for the people to not only get political knowledge, but to become a part of political process itself but unfortunately communicators tend to use new media in the same way they used the old media (Grunig, 2009).

In this scenario, various scholars have suggested that it is imperative to study that how elected representatives present themselves to their voters in order to increase their chances of getting elected again (Koop and Marland (2012). According to Taylor and Kent (2010) the scholarship in public relations and social media should spread onto more important issues as most of the attention of the research has been to study technology interfaces (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), instead of subjects involving shareholders, publics, communication, interpersonal issues etc. In many cases it has been observed that they don't respond to the audience on Social Media, thus involving themselves in one-way communication, undermining the scope of Social Media. If the politicians are interested in generating more audience and gain social capital, then they must be aware of the fact that what type of posts and tweets are more liked and shared by the audience.

The primary goal of this study is to explore a relationship between the posts and tweets of the Pakistani MNAs and the audience involvement by investigating the type of Facebook posts and tweets that generate more audience engagement. The analysis of audience engagement would help the politicians to know what they should post and what should be avoided if they want to have more followers and cultivate a life long relationship with their audience. Therefore, the primary objective of this study is to explore the level of audience engagement across different purpose, nature and language of posts or tweets of MNAs which would help in analysing their relationship cultivation strategy.

1.1. Research Questions

In the light of the literature studied, the following research question have been formulated:

R.Q.1. Does level of audience engagement differ across different purpose of posts and tweets of MNAS of Pakistan?

R.Q.2. Does level of audience engagement differ across different PR tactics of posts and tweets of MNAS of Pakistan?

R.Q.3. Does level of audience engagement differ across language of posts and tweets of MNAS of Pakistan?

Relationship Cultivation and Management: Review of Literature

The audience engagement reflects the relationship cultivation strategy of users, as more audience engagement means better relationship and less audience engagement means not so good relationship with the audience. There are not much studies on Relationship Cultivation and Management, Karlsson, Clerwall and Buskqvist (2013) stated that there aren't sufficient studies done on relationship management in digital political public relations. The authors investigated whether political parties are utilizing the digital media platform for long-term commitment and reciprocity using the 2010 Swedish campaign election as a case study. The result indicates that social media tools are mainly used at the time of the election and just before that, it was observed that the exchange between the parties and the voters is weak and insubstantial. There were some differences in frequency of use, but all parties shared the same activity pattern.

The aggregated predictive model classified retweeting behavior with a success rate of 6.7%. The number of followers of the one originating the tweet matters significantly in retweeting behavior and when the emotion of the tweet is negative it appears to be retweeted more which is quite the opposite of the previous work (East, Hammond, and Wright, 2007; Wu, 2013). In addition, certain types of tweet content are associated with very low level retweeting, such as tweets including the originator's personal life, whereas the content related to fear appeals or expressions support for others also get high levels of retweeting. Furthermore, Hoffmann and Suphan (2017) explained the significance of social media and how it provided new avenues for politicians, including personalized messages and exchange with the specific communities of interest. However, regardless of the potential advantages, politicians tend to hesitate an active involvement of online users.

In this scholarship the author studied the influence and impact of politicians' online boundary management on the use of social platforms. The connections made by social media profiles could be entrenched in diversity of social backgrounds ("Contextual collapse"). Professional communicators faced difficulties in the management of the division between the professional and the private online self-presentation.

In addition to this, Stanyer (2008) talks about the image politicians create of themselves to their voters using the Internet. The article talks about various methods used by the serving study of 106 German parliamentarians, the author explained the four different types of boundary management schemes and analyzes the effect of these on the social media usage...

To continue reading