Relationship building through reputation and tribalism on companies’ Facebook pages

Jiangmeng Helen Liu (School of Communication, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, USA)
Michael North (Department of Communication, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, USA)
Cong Li (School of Communication, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, USA)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Publication date: 2 October 2017



The purpose of this paper is to adopt the uses and gratifications theory (Katz et al., 1974) to understand the phenomenon of relationship building on Facebook. In addition to company-related uses and gratifications, self-related uses and gratifications – expressing self-concept and seeking social interactions and entertainment – were identified. Company reputation and tribalism were incorporated in the theoretical model as underlying mechanisms to explain the effect of the company Facebook page usage on relationship building and engagement behaviors.


A survey was conducted in a Southeastern university in the USA with 459 college students. A three-phased model was proposed and analyzed using structural equational modeling.


The study results demonstrated that the use and gratification of expressing self-concept led to better perceptions of company tribalism and improved relational outcomes (trust and satisfaction). Company-related uses and gratifications, on the other hand, increased trust and satisfaction by increasing perceived company reputation. Satisfaction was found to significantly encourage individuals’ word-of-mouth activities about the company as well as Facebook engagement.


Although extensive research has been conducted on the topic of companies’ social media pages, most prior studies focused on company communication practices and strategies. This study explored this phenomenon from the public’s perspective regarding various usage motivations and patterns. Company tribalism, as a relatively new concept, was introduced to explain how expressing self-concept through companies’ social media pages could benefit relationship building and eventually result in engagement behaviors.



Liu, J., North, M. and Li, C. (2017), "Relationship building through reputation and tribalism on companies’ Facebook pages", Internet Research, Vol. 27 No. 5, pp. 1149-1169.

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