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  • Writer's pictureRiya Wadhwani

Just a LIKE away

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Written by: Riya Wadhwani, Ph.D. Student at Indian Institute of Management Udaipur, India

Navigating through the layers of social media responses. An in-depth conversation with Dr. Chedia Dhaoui and Prof. Cynthia M. Webster on social media engagement.

Dr. Chedia Dhaoui (Lecturer at the School of Information Systems and Technology Management UNSW Business School, Sydney, Australia) and Prof. Cynthia Webster (Head of Department for Marketing at Macquarie Business School, Sydney, Australia) examine the behavioral aspects of consumer-brand engagement on social media in their recent IJRM paper, Brand and consumer engagement behaviors on Facebook brand pages: Let's have a (positive) conversation (Volume 38, Issue 1, March 2021).

What’s more about social media engagement?

The impact of brand-generated social media content on consumer online behaviors has been studied heavily in the recent past. In contrast, there is less research investigating consumer-to-consumer online interactions. Networks of social media interactions are complex, consisting of multiple interconnected individuals who influence – and become influenced – by each others’ actions. Drawing from a large longitudinal dataset of 2,740 Facebook brand pages across 25 industries, Chedia and Cynthia examine the intricacies of interactions between brands and consumers as well as between consumers themselves.

How do consumers engage online?

Online consumer chatter is a powerful and efficient way for brands to communicate with their customers. Consumers engage online by liking, sharing, and commenting on brand posts. They may also engage with other consumers online by commenting or liking each other's comments. When consumers comment on the brand's posts, other consumers have the opportunity to respond, creating threads of conversation. By engaging in conversation forums online, consumers are exhibiting conversational behavior. In addition to replying to comments, consumers may also “like” others’ comments to express their agreement or consensus on the content. In addition to liking, commenting, and sharing (on brand posts) behaviors, the authors also examine the factors that influence consumers' tendency to engage in “conversation” or show “consensus” on the content posted by other consumers.

What influences consumer engagement behaviors?

Brands connect with consumers by publishing posts (presence behavior) and by responding to consumers’ comments (responsiveness behavior). The present study uniquely demonstrates the differential effects of brand presence and brand response on consumer engagement behavior.

When brands post, it “indirectly” affects consumer comments through increased liking and sharing behavior, but this effect gets weaker over time. As a key parameter, liking promotes positive comments and attenuates negative ones, while sharing stimulates positive and negative comments. These effects of liking and sharing vary as a function of the format of the post (photo vs. video). Posting photos and videos lead to more likes, while videos are the only format that has a direct influence on consumer comments on the brand’s posts.

Contrastingly, frequent and timely brand responses “directly” lead to more positive comments and conversations than negative ones. Brand replies to consumer comments, even delayed ones, have little impact on negative conversations. However, prompt brand responses are more appreciated by consumers leading to increased positive comments.

Cynthia M. Webster at EMAC Conference, 2023

"The timing, promptness of brand responses, the format, type or quantity of content- when online, all this matters!"

- Cynthia M. Webster


Marketers are concerned with creating favorable conversation threads on social media. However, the highly contagious nature of social media networks bears significant risk leading to the rapid generation and spread of negative comments. Brands should be cautious because the impact of negative comments on negative conversations is stronger than that of positive comments on positive conversations. However, timely responses by brands could intervene and calm the online firestorms. Interestingly, the authors also showed the strength of a loyal brand community. In times of crisis, brand advocates defend brands by redirecting negative comments and conversations.

“If you have strong brand community, they will help you out and social media helps build that community.”

- Chedia Dhaoui

Key Takeaway

Chedia and Cynthia highlighted the importance of an often overlooked yet crucial aspect of online engagement- likes. Likes strongly and directly influence comments on brand posts, promoting positive comments and attenuating negative ones. Overall, they demonstrate a robust and positive carryover effect of likes on positive comments, conversations, and consensus which captures the importance of likes in driving positive consumer engagement.

“It is amazing to learn that despite the intensive reseach on social media and social media engagement, there are still some unresolved and unrealized intricacies some of which are addressed in this research.”


Read the paper!

Let's explore more about our likes, comments, and share online, check this link to know more!

Want to cite the paper?

Dhaoui, C., & Webster, C. M. (2021). Brand and consumer engagement behaviors on Facebook brand pages: Let's have a (positive) conversation. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 38(1), 155-175.


Meet the Authors

Dr. Chedia Dhaoui

Lecturer at UNSW Business School; Founder of Insight Social Networks

A ritual/practice/exercise that you can’t miss or start your day without?

Motivational quotes on Twitter. I need it the most for Mondays.

What is the number one question do you hope to answer during your career (something that drives you)?

One question that I hope to answer during my research career is about future of augmented reality and how the metaverse is shaping.

If you could retain only one concept in marketing, what would it be?

Virality and what makes content viral

If you would not be a marketing researcher, what would you be?

Information systems researcher

Prof. Cynthia Webster

Professor at Macquarie Business School

A ritual/practice/exercise that you can’t miss or start your day without?

Morning stretches gets me started and keeps me going throughout the day.

What is the number one question you hope to answer during your career (something that drives you)?

I am curious to understand and find answers about why people engage in behaviors that they know are not benefiting them, and I am no exception to that.

If you could retain only one concept in marketing, what would it be?

Consumer value

If you would not be a marketing researcher, what would you be?

Social science expert


This article was written by

Riya Wadhwani

Ph.D. candidate at the Indian Institute of Management, Udaipur (Rajasthan, India)

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