Consequences of customer engagement behavior: when negative Facebook posts have positive effects

Consequences of customer engagement behavior: when negative Facebook posts have positive effects

Sofie Bitter1 & Sonja Grabner-Kräuter1

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Received: 23 March 2015 /Accepted: 11 March 2016 /Published online: 1 April 2016 # The Author(s) 2016. This article is published with open access at

Abstract Sharing product information has become an inte- gral part of today’s online social networking world. This re- search study addresses the effects of customer engagement behavior in online social networks on other consumers in or- der to understand how online social connections impact deci- sion making. We investigate how different variations of a brand-related Facebook post trigger different response reac- tions. In particular, we analyze under which conditions nega- tive posts can have positive . The results of two online experiments set in a restaurant context suggest a differ- ence when the user knows the restaurant brand. For users who are familiar with the restaurant brand, a positive effect of neg- ative information posted by distant acquaintances is found with regard to the visiting intention of the user. The results of both experiments demonstrate that information posted by a close friend is perceived to be more diagnostic. For users not familiar with the restaurant brand, negative posts from strong ties induce the highest diagnosticity levels.

Keywords Social networking sites . Facebook . Customer engagement behavior . Valence . Tie strength . Diagnosticity

JEL Classification M31 Marketing


Online social networking is more popular than ever before and increasingly impacts consumer purchase decisions. Resulting in a facilitated access to other consumers’ feedback, the prolif- eration of social networking sites offers fundamentally new ways of engagement and interaction among existing as well as potential consumers and brands (e.g., Hess et al. 2011; Kabadayi and Price 2014). Nowadays, it is impossible to imag- ine online life without engaged and active users. Following this, the concept of customer engagement behavior, defined by van Doorn et al. as Bcustomer’s behavioral manifestations that have a brand or firm focus, beyond purchase, resulting from motivational drivers^ (2010, p. 254), has become an issue that is currently the focus of much attention and activity.

For both marketers and academics, it is of interest to understand the consequences of customer engagement in online social networks (OSNs). Nonetheless, there is a pau- city of scholarly research related to a coherent understand- ing of how social connections in OSNs impact decision making (Takac et al. 2011). In other words, little is known about Bthe relationship between customer behavioral en- gagement and other proximal constructs^ (Gummerus et al. 2012, p. 858); for example, to what extent the forma- tion of consumer attitudes is driven by specific consumer Bengagement^ cognitions, emotions and behaviors, or what effects on consumer purchase intentions can be expected (Hollebeek and Chen 2014). This illustrates the need to examine the outcomes that result from customers’ brand- related interactions in OSNs. Besides, the majority of pioneering research has tended to focus on positively valenced customer engagement and thus has largely overlooked potential negatively valenced manifestations of this emerging concept and their implications for (other) con- sumers and firms (Hollebeek and Chen 2014).

Responsible Editors: Ulrike Baumöl and Linda Hollebeek

Sofie Bitter and Sonja Grabner-Kräuter contributed equally to this work.

* Sofie Bitter;

1 Universitätsstrasse 65-67, 9020 Klagenfurt, Austria

Electron Markets (2016) 26:219–231 DOI 10.1007/s12525-016-0220-7

This study seeks to address this void by examining poten- tial effects of both positively and negatively valenced behav- ioral manifestations of customer engagement on Facebook. The interest in Facebook is motivated by the undeniable pop- ularity of the platform – Facebook is the largest and most widely used social networking site in the world, connecting over 1.39 billion monthly active users (Facebook 2015) and hosting over 50 million brand pages (Facebook 2013). Naturally, one could argue that positive brand-related Facebook posts trigger positive impressions and negative posts result in negative impressions. Contrary to this intuitive expectation and building on previous research (e.g., Berger et al. 2010; Ein-Gar et al. 2012; Hamilton et al. 2014), we suggest that, under certain conditions, a small piece of nega- tive information, such as a negative Facebook comment, might affect the product evaluation in a positive way.

Previous studies have shown that the conseq

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