Understanding crisis narratives with large-scale Twitter data: The role of celebrity and emotions in the virality of #MeToo social media activism messages

Xuerong Lu (PhD Alum), Yen-I Lee (PhD Alum), and Yan Jin. (Forthcoming). “Understanding crisis narratives with large-scale Twitter data: The role of celebrity and emotions in the virality of #MeToo social media activism messages.” Narratives in Public Communication (Eds: Fuyuan Shen and Heidi Hatfield Edwards). Routledge.

Abstract: This study, grounded in the perspective of public-centric crisis communication and narrative, conducted a computer-assisted content analysis, using the Latent Dirichlete Allocation (LDA), to identify what and how different crisis narratives about the #MeToo social movement made Twitter users spread the #MeToo campaign message quickly and widely. The results showed:  First, celebrities made the issue of the #MeToo social movement become salient and evoked Twitter users to share and comment on celebrities’ posts. However, tweets with celebrity stories did not trigger Twitter users to create their own #MeToo stories to mutually share stories among each other. Second, when different crisis narratives are examined, blame-based narratives tweets motivated higher sharing while renewal-based narratives tweets led to both higher sharing and commenting. Third, gender stereotype was detected in tweets about the #MeToo social movement. Our findings suggest that, for social movement driven public communications aimed to increase public discourse and foster dialogues on Twitter, renewal and blame narratives, with celebrity figures highlighted, seem to be most effective in enhancing social issue engagement among users. Practically, this study provided guidance for organizations to engage in social media activism, telling compelling narratives and reaching a mutual beneficiary relationship between organizations and the public.

Yan Jin  Xuerong Lu 

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