Engineer Your Social Media Content to Engage Your Customers - Ideas for Leaders
Idea #752

Engineer Your Social Media Content to Engage Your Customers

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A study of Facebook user response to more than 100,000 Facebook posts by companies and organizations reveal that in social media marketing, emotions engage customers, product information increases leads, and adding to the tsunami of holiday messages has no impact whatsoever.


From General Motors to the local hair salon, every company, business and organization knows that marketing today inevitably includes social media marketing. Visibility is important: marketers will exert great effort (e.g. through search engine optimizing) to attract greater numbers of prospects and customers to their site. But what happens when customers arrive? Are they engaged enough by the content to ‘like’ or to ‘share’ what they see? Do they click-through to buy the product or service?

To answer these questions, a team of researchers combined the work of human coders with sophisticated algorithms to code the language in more than 100,000 Facebook messages posted by nearly 800 companies between September 2011 and July 2012. (Because the newsfeed algorithm can also impact customer engagement, the team modelled the influence of the newsfeed algorithm separately to better measure the impact of content.) Thus, content in messages that sought to highlight the brand’s personality — such as emotional, humorous or philanthropic content — was coded as ‘persuasive.’ Content that provided marketing information — such as price comparisons, product mentions or new deals — was coded as ‘informative.’ 

The researchers then correlated this coded content to user responses in terms of likes, shares, comments, and click-throughs. The analysis revealed that content makes a significant difference in customer engagement. Specifically, the researchers found:

  • In terms of customer engagement, messages that contained only persuasive content — messages that included humour and emotion, for example, were likely to elicit more likes, comments and shares.
  • The mention of holidays, coded as persuasive, actually significantly reduced the number of likes, comments and shares. 
  • Messages that contained only informative content — messages that included mentions of price and deals for example, were likely to elicit less likes, comments and shares.
  • Some informative content, such as deals and promotions, did lead to a greater number of click-throughs – i.e. a greater number of sales.
  • Combining persuasive and informative content led to the best results in terms of customer engagement (likes, comments and shares).

The researchers also separated the coded messages and user response data by industry, to determine if different industries elicited different responses. Industry categories in the research ranged from consumer products, local businesses and restaurants and non-profit organizations to entertainment pages, such as movie pages, and the pages of celebrities or public figures.

The researchers found some differences in the results when differentiated by industry. For example, messages that included emotional and philanthropic content more significantly engaged the customers of ‘organizations’ — non-profits, educational organizations and religious groups. The mention of holidays reduced customer engagement except in the case of organizations. And the mention of products or price also reduced customer engagement for most industries except pages categorized as celebrity — people remain engaged even when their favourite singers or athletes are pitching a product or service.


This research can be used as a guide to engineer the content of social media messages to increase customer engagement and click-throughs. For example, the study results indicate that adding emotional content to a Facebook post that has no emotional content can significantly increase the number of comments and Likes — reflecting a substantial increase in customer engagement for that post. The study also emphasizes the effectiveness of adding informative content — which through improved click-throughs generate immediate leads — to brand personality-building persuasive content, which through consumer engagement lays the groundwork for long-term brand reach.

Companies and organizations are working hard to capture the attention of overwhelmed consumers buried in marketing social media messages. For social media marketing strategies to succeed, improved engineering of content on social media channels for their audience is key.



  Dokyun Lee’s profile at Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business
  Kartik Hosanagar’s profile at The Wharton School
  Harikesh Nair’s profile at The Stanford Graduate School of Business
  The Wharton School Executive Education profile at IEDP


Advertising Content and Consumer Engagement on Social Media: Evidence from Facebook. Dokyun Lee, Kartik Hosanagar & Harikesh Nair. Management Science (November 2018).

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Idea conceived

November 20, 2018

Idea posted

Sep 2019
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