Online entrepreneurial communication: Mitigating uncertainty and increasing differentiation via Twitter
Research shows that some narratives and symbolic actions produced by entrepreneurial firms can help to reduce audience uncertainty about their quality and differentiate them from rivals. But can communications via online social media channels – which we characterize as “communicative streams” – be used to reduce uncertainty and enhance differentiation? This seems debatable, given that such streams comprise multiple, brief messages (a) that encode signals lacking narrative cohesion; (b) are only fleetingly accessible; and (c) are minimally customized. We address this puzzle using qualitative methods to compare the communications enacted by eight firms that are using Twitter in order to pursue growth. Our theoretical contribution rests in positing links between specific types of communicative streams and audience responses that reflect reduced uncertainty or enhanced differentiation. Our analysis suggests that firms enacting a “Multi-dimensional” communicative stream (which entails a high volume of posts, a high proportion of which signal quality, relational orientation, distinctiveness, and positive affect) are most likely to elicit audience affirmation of firms' quality and/or distinctiveness. Implications for theory, research methods and practice are discussed.
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