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Social media governance: regulatory frameworks for successful online communications

Anne Linke (Department of Communication Management/PR, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany)
Ansgar Zerfass (Department of Communication Management/PR, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 26 July 2013



When comparing the annotated relevance and the actual application of social media, enormous discrepancies show. This paper aims to introduce the concept of “Social Media Governance” as a means to accelerate the establishment of social media in communication practices and seeks to analyse its status quo in German organizations.


The data presented here stem from a quantitative online survey among communication professionals that was carried out in Germany.


The results indicate that although many organizations claim to have strategies for social media communications, nine out of ten had no explicit regulatory frameworks. Strategic pillars, such as managerial commitment and a participative corporate culture, were reported by one third of the organizations. This is crucial, because correlation analyses have revealed that the presence of such structures has a positive effect on skill levels, strategies and the level of activity.

Research limitations/implications

In terms of theory, the concept of governance may be used in order to analyze the dynamics of introducing new modes of online communication.

Practical implications

According to structuration theory, the actions of individual agents will only succeed if everyone involved can resort to structures in the sense of a common stock of (informal) rules and resources. This research indicates that public relations (PR) practices should focus on developing basic structures for social media communications and should not be limited to communications activities.


While previous studies have focused on single aspects of social media governance, e.g. guidelines, very little research has been done on the overall concept. Also, the interconnection of strategic and structural aspects of social media communication has been neglected as a research topic so far.



Linke, A. and Zerfass, A. (2013), "Social media governance: regulatory frameworks for successful online communications", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 270-286.



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