Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Public Relations (Communication)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Don. W. Stacks

Second Committee Member

Robert Stahr Hosmon

Third Committee Member

Cong Li


This study looked into Twitter usage as represented by top U.S. retail corporations in a quantitative way. A content analysis was conducted comparing two groups of retail corporations — one came from the “top 100 customer loyalty brand leaders” as identified by Brand Keys (2011a), and the other came from the Fortune 500 retailers, but excluded from the top-100 loyalty leaders list. This study aimed to find out the dominant purpose of Twitter usage by major U.S. retail industry companies, and to what extent the relationship maintenance strategies were incorporated in Twitter. In addition, the study aimed to test a proposed model that delineates relationship as a precursor of brand loyalty. The study results indicated Twitter as an important channel for corporate communication and relationship maintenance. It was found that for the retail industry, Twitter was mainly used for consumer relations. Access was the most widely used strategy (91.6%), followed by assurance (36.4%) and positivity (28.2%). In addition, the retailers in the brand loyalty leader group were discovered more inclined to use Twitter in a two-way communication manner, while the Fortune 500 group were more one-way oriented. Meanwhile, two relationship maintenance strategies were found significantly more frequent in use in the brand loyalty leader group than the Fortune 500 group – positivity and assurance. Further more, evidence was found to support that the retail companies in the brand loyalty leader group utilized Twitter to a greater level as a communication tool than the Fortune 500 group.


Relationship maintenance strategies; public relations; social media; Twitter; brand loyalty; retail