How source-level and message-level factors influence journalists’ social media visibility during a public health crisis

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

10 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2627-2645
Journal / PublicationJournalism
Issue number12
Online published4 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


Social media has become a channel through which journalists distribute their work, reach audiences and gain visibility. Informed by the frameworks of journalistic branding, the heuristic-systematic model, and hypertextual elements, the present study examines the extent to which the source factor (journalists’ branding on social media profiles) and message factors (communication styles and hypertextual elements) influence visibility (i.e. the popularity of the account and the number of favourites and retweets of the posts). We analysed the Twitter profiles of 98 health journalists from seven major media organizations in the US and conducted a manual content analysis of a representative sample of their public tweets (n = 3982) published during the Covid-19 pandemic. In contrast to expectations, branding contributed little to any indicators of visibility, and profiles with institutional branding had fewer followers. Both affective messages and rational messages received more likes and retweets than messages without these elements. Tweets containing images or news-related hyperlinks received more retweets, whereas the number of @mentions in a tweet was negatively related to visibility. Journalists from traditional media, those who tweeted more often, and those with more followers had higher levels of visibility. © The Author(s) 2021.

Research Area(s)

  • communication style, heuristic-systematic model (HSM), hyperlinks, journalistic branding, public health, social media, visibility