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Understanding social media governance: seizing opportunities, staying out of trouble

Annelieke C. van den Berg (Graduate School of Communication, Amsterdam School of Communication Research, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Joost W.M. Verhoeven (Amsterdam School of Communication Research, University of Amsterdam , Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 6 February 2017




The rise of social media such as Facebook and Twitter has provided employees with means to share work-related information. Increasingly, social media governance policies are implemented to negotiate the risks and opportunities of such behaviors. The purpose of this paper is to unveil the motivations behind managers’ attempts to govern these behaviors.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten communication managers of various organizations. Higgins’ regulatory focus theory (Higgins, 1997) was used to examine whether managers adopted a prevention or promotion focus to social media, and whether regulatory focus affected the measures taken toward social media governance.


Prevention and promotion foci were both observed among managers, and differed per communication model. Managers who employed dialogic models of communication were primarily promotion-focused and emphasized opportunities to improve stakeholder relations, while managers who employed one-way models were primarily prevention-focused and highlighted the risks of social media (e.g. the risk of employees publishing messages that contradict corporate communication and confuse stakeholders). Social media governance differed depending on regulatory focus. In the prevention scheme managers usually attempted to regain control by restricting social media to private use only, while in the promotion focus managers trained and facilitated employees for work-related social media use, to various extends.


By examining the interplay of regulatory focus, communication models and governance, this paper sheds light on the rationale behind social media governance policies that are implemented in organizations.



van den Berg, A.C. and Verhoeven, J.W.M. (2017), "Understanding social media governance: seizing opportunities, staying out of trouble", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 149-164.



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