Twitter as a Technical Communication Platform: How IT Companies’ Message Characteristics Relate to Online Engagement

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Abstract

Purpose: Twitter is a promising technical communication platform for companies, but a thorough understanding of how it works best is lacking. This study analyzes characteristics of IT companies’ technical communication tweets and relates them to users’ online engagement (likes, retweets, replies). Three message characteristics were included: content, message elements, and communication strategies. Method: We collected technical communication tweets posted by four IT companies in two weeks (N = 1,604). We developed a content categorization and also coded the tweets for message elements, communication strategies, and online engagement. Message elements and communication strategies were compared with those used in the companies’ corporate and marketing communication tweets. Negative binomial regression analyses were used to map relationships between message characteristics and online engagement. Results: Ten content types were distinguished, illustrating the versatile nature of technical communication on Twitter. Hyperlinks were the most prominent message element; two types of elements were less prevalent: elements enhancing attractiveness (photos, videos, emojis) and elements connecting to a broader Twitter discourse (hashtags, mentions). Communication strategies did not include community-building tweets; evoking action was most prominent. Several links were found between message characteristics and online engagement: Providing user instructions or updates and feedback opportunities, including photos or videos, and providing one-way information promoted online engagement. Conclusion: Although Twitter might work differently for technical communication than for other domains, it seems fruitful to add more attractive message elements and explore community-building strategies within technical communication. However, there is also reason to relativize the importance of online engagement indicators for technical communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-35
Number of pages18
JournalTechnical communication
Volume69
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022

Keywords

  • microblogging
  • online engagement
  • social media
  • technical communication
  • Twitter
  • 2023 OA procedure

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