Appealing to the Heart: How Social Media Communication Characteristics Affect Users' Liking Behavior During the Manchester Terrorist Attack

Xinyan Zhao, Mengqi Monica Zhan


Social media enable users to exchange information, sympathy, and support in disasters. To understand the communication characteristics leading to users’ liking behavior, we examine how social media audiences react during disasters to various message features, including emotional appeals, informal tone, and message frames in textual and visual forms. A content analysis was conducted on a random sample of tweets related to a terrorist bombing in 2017. Our results from multilevel modeling (N = 698) reveal that the number of likes a tweet receives is positively predicted by the presence of emotional appeals, human-interest frames, and inconsistent text-image framing. The results provide a sophisticated understanding of social media audiences’ message preferences during disasters. It is recommended that practitioners employ personally relatable messages that accommodate people’s emotional needs during disasters.


social media, disaster communication, emotional appeals, framing, terrorism

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