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How CEO Social Media Disclosure and Gender Affect Perceived CEO Attributes, Relationship Investment, and Engagement Intention

Social media and its impact on corporate communication is significant. Posting on social media is a way for a CEO to humanize themselves as well as their company, thus building rapport and organizational identification that is arguably good for business.

Researchers at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, led by doctoral student Cen April Yue,  wanted to better understand the role of CEO as “chief engagement officer,” with a focus on CEO’s social media content disclosure as a tool for branding and public relations.

The authors wanted to know if a CEO’s personal disclosure via social media heightened the CEO’s attributes (i.e., perceived likability and competence) and perceived relationship investment more or less than if the CEO focused on posting only about the company. They also wanted to know if publics’ perceptions of the CEO and their company vary based on the gender of the CEO posting the material. They studied perceived relationship investment instead of more typical relationship quality indicators such as trust, satisfaction, or commitment.

Findings suggest that high levels of personal disclosure did not enhance perceived CEO likability, competence, relationship investment, nor did it increase publics’ engagement intention with the CEO and their company. However, publics reported stronger relationship-building efforts from the CEO and their company when the CEO’s posts were primarily professional and corporate-oriented.

While there was no evidence that a male CEO would be perceived as more likable or competent than a female CEO with similar levels of personal disclosure on Twitter, participants from this study reported receiving stronger relationship investment efforts from the male CEO and were also more likely to engage with the male CEO.

Findings have practical implications for CEOs as well as other senior executives and public relations professionals. The study shows that the publics prefer professional, corporate-related posts from CEOs as opposed to posts that are more personal in nature. This allows CEOs to post on social media as a representative of their organizations without sacrificing details of their personal lives.

Future research should examine self-disclosure of a personal nature in more depth, as well as consider measuring gender stereotypes of participants. Both efforts would bring more information to light about gender roles regarding CEOs and how they represent themselves on social media.

The original research paper, “How CEO Social Media Disclosure and Gender Affect Perceived CEO Attributes, Relationship Investment, and Engagement Intention,” appeared in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 2020.

Authors: Cen April Yue, Yoo Jin Chung, Tom Kelleher, Amanda S. Bradshaw, and Mary Ann Ferguson, all from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.

 This summary was written by Marie Morganelli, Ph.D.

Posted: August 30, 2020
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