Stimulating online consumer engagement for social marketing messages within social media networks
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 03:35 by Helen (Elham) Siuki
Using social media as an interactive platform to communicate with and engage consumers about product and brand-related information is one of the most effective promotional strategies employed by today's successful organisations (Ashley & Tuten, 2015; Yang et al., 2016). Governments, commercial organisations and NGOs working in the areas of public health and social marketing are taking advantage of the benefits social media marketing offers. Exponential diffusion across geographical borders, time and cost-effectiveness, customised messaging and effective audience targeting are among many of social media advantages (Dobele, Toleman, & Beverland, 2005; Woerndl et al., 2008). Organisations that positively engage consumers online benefit from the power of consumers as independent sources co-creating value by generating electronic word-of-mouth (e-WOM) and reacting to content by liking, commenting, tagging and sharing messages (Barger, Peltier & Schultz, 2016; Wolny & Mueller 2013). Despite growing attention, few studies look into the factors driving consumers to engage in social media, especially with regards to social marketing messages promoting behaviour change. Exploring what prompts consumers to react and engage with social marketing messages is even more crucial, as social marketing offerings typically promote challenging social, behavioural and lifestyle changes, which are usually intangible, invisible and considered as unappealing or unpleasant by many consumers. To stimulate consumer online engagement and to encourage e-WOM for social marketing messages, social marketers need to employ effective strategies by designing appealing and valuable offerings, crafting persuasive messages, and using appropriate incentives which enhance individuals' extrinsic motivations and do not come into conflict with their intrinsic motivations. This thesis contains three papers written for publication and investigates key factors stimulating online consumer engagement for social marketing messages within social media networks. Among the marketing factors examined, the three papers focus on how different types of incentives interact with consumers' extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Based on existing literature (e.g. Dubé, Xueming & Zheng, 2017; Gneezy, Meier & Rey-Biel, 2011; Jin & Huang 2014), the current thesis argues and empirically demonstrates that offering incentives, especially monetary rewards, negatively affects consumer motivation and reduces consumer engagement. Paper 1 proposes a conceptual framework identifying product type and message content as independent factors, incentives and the online context as moderators, with consumer motivation as a mediator influencing e-WOM. Paper 2, through a series of laboratory and field experiments on Facebook, empirically examines the effects of different types of incentives (monetary and non-monetary) and message appeals (fear, informative, promotion-focused and prevention-focused) on online consumer engagement behaviour for health-related social marketing messages (smoking and alcohol consumption). Paper 3 extends the empirical research and investigates the role of individual factors such as regulatory focus, personality and involvement on both consumer engagement behaviour and intention for health messages. Thesis results indicate that fear advertisements outperform informative advertisements and promotion-focused advertisements outperform those that are prevention-focused. With some exceptions, where incentives encourage some types of Facebook activities, overall results show that publicly offered incentives demotivate and reduce total consumer engagement behaviour for health-related social marketing messages. This research finds significant main effects for both incentives and message appeals, as well as significant interaction effects between incentives and message appeals for almost all types of engagement (i.e. likes, comments, shares, total engagement) in the two field experiments. Taking into account individuals' personality traits, extroverts are significantly more likely to engage given a non-monetary incentive while introverts engage more offered a monetary incentive. Results suggest promotion-focus and extroversion as significant drivers of online engagement and e-WOM intention. With regards to the positive impacts of high product involvement on consumer engagement suggested in existing literature, this research shows that product type matters. Although regular smokers are significantly more likely to engage with the smoking ads, individuals who classify themselves as heavy drinkers are not more likely to engage with the alcohol ads. By shedding light on key factors facilitating online consumer engagement, the findings enable social marketers and activists in health industries to better engage consumers, raise public awareness and promote behaviour change. This research also proposes some significant insights into the influence of individual characteristics, namely regulatory focus, personality and involvement, assisting in more effective audience segmentation, and selection, tailored messaging and thus more successful targeting.