Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Millennial Students Relationship with 2008 Top 10 Social Media Brands via Social Media Tools

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Terry Rentner (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Jim Foust (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Emily Freeman Brown (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Seth Oyer (Committee Member)


The purpose of this study was to examine links between organization-public relationships and Millennial students' active social media behavior. The Millennial Generation is a key target audience who many public relations practitioners are certainly trying to reach. Social media tools are emerging as technology medium must-haves for public relations practitioners. This study looked at the collision of the new social media tools and the Millennial audience within the four models of public relations (Grunig and Hunt, 1984) through the relationship management framework lens. Four research questions and hypotheses were posed. Millennial students from two Midwestern universities were randomly selected to complete a survey on their relationship with the top 10 most social companies/brands as named by Ad Age, as well as the engagement with social media tools in general and specifically with those top 10 companies/brands. A total of 1,062 participants completed the survey. The break down of gender for the sample was consistent with the demographic makeup of both campuses as a whole with 43.6% male (n= 463) and 56.4% female (n= 599) completing the survey. Findings highlighted that Millennials engage with e-mail and social networking (e.g., MySpace/Facebook) more than other social media tools. For all companies/brands except CNN and Dell, as participants' general use of social media tools increased, their wanting to continue a relationship with the company/brand also increased. However, when Millennials were exposed to a variety of social media tools by each company/brand, no significant correlations were found for wanting their relationship to continue with that particular company/brand. No significant differences were found between gender and interaction with social media tools.