On SAGE Insight: Law Firms’ Organizational Impression Management Strategies on Twitter

From Journal of Creative Communications

Goffman (1959) was the first to introduce the theory of Impression management (IM), which states that individuals create, manipulate and try to enhance their image to others. IM has its roots in dramaturgical theory and symbolic interactionist sociology theory. In organisational settings, organizations become the actors who strategically try to sway public perceptions to enhance their overall image or brand through Organizations Impression management (OIM)

This study used law firms, the business that is bound by legal and ethical constraints, as an example to examine business’ OIM strategies on social media. The ‘disclosure culture’ of social media directly conflicts with that of law firms, which embraces confidentiality, privacy and conservatism (Vinson, 2010). There are legal consequences for violation of American Bar Association (ABA) rules, as well as issues of violation of discovery rules, client and witness contact, among a host of other violations. Nonetheless, law firms have increased their use of social media, although hesitant. This study is not only beneficial to the legal industry, but additionally, this research can benefit managers through examination of how OIM strategies are used by an industry constrained by legal and ethical boundaries.

Among all the social media platforms available for businesses, Twitter is by far one of the widely used social media sites for organizational communications (Mathioudakis & Koudas, 2010) and one of the two most popular platforms (Twitter and LinkedIn) among law firms, although ethical issues remain a major concern for law firms. This study examines the most successful US law firms’ OIM strategies on Twitter. The knowledge of how successful law firms use OIM via social media within a highly regulated industry may assist others in formulating effective communication strategies. Marketing or corporate communication managers in other industries may possibly refer to our results as a benchmark to develop a set of best practices to improve or enhance public perceptions of company image or brand.


This study examined the organizational impression management (OIM) strategies adopted by the US law firms on Twitter. The Diction software package for textual analysis of nearly 10,000 tweets, coupled with statistical analysis, was used to assess the significant differences among law firms over 5 years. Although higher revenue law firms were found to exhibit higher certainty and optimism than lower revenue firms, analysis via repeated measures analysis of variance did not show significant differences. When companies’ OIM strategies were observed over a period of 5 years, there was a statistically significant difference in activity between 2011 and 2014. The findings add to the body of corporate communications research through examination of social media OIM strategies used by financially successful US law firms.

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Article details

Law Firms’ Organizational Impression Management Strategies on Twitter
Doula ZaharopoulosLinchi Kwok
Journal of Creative Communications
First Published March 23, 2017
Journal of Creative Communications
DOI: 10.1177/0973258616688969


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