Online engagement: Implications of the ‘like’ button

D. Van Heerden, M. Wiese, and G. Van Heerden

Vol 16 | Issue 2, pp. 109-134


The main purpose of the study is to explore the implications of online engagement from a behavioural engagement perspective within Facebook brand communities through a sense-of-community lens. Convenience sampling was used, and 381 questionnaires were collected through the use of an online consumer panel. The results of the structural equation modelling show that consumers experience a sense of belonging as an implication of online engagement and that it also holds financial and non-financial benefits for the firm. Unlike previous studies, which were either confined to a one-sided view of behaviour, or lacking a clear focus on the possible implications, or the benefits of online engagement, especially for firms, the current study investigated engagement from a behavioural perspective (including various engagement activities), as well as reflecting the affective component of engagement through a sense of belonging; and it included various implications for brands. Marketing practitioners/brands should realise that ‘Lurkers’ could be of more value to brands than their so-called ‘Superfans’.

It is evident that Facebook brand communities have positive financial, as well as non-financial implications for brands. Consequently, Facebook brand communities can yield valuable information that could help create strategies to target different types of consumers more effectively. Although studies have been done on engagement in virtual communities, they lack a strong theoretical foundation. This paper contributes to engagement and virtual community research by underpinning the online engagement behaviour in Facebook brand communities with a sense of community theory.

Keywords:       Online engagement, Facebook brand communities, Facebook brand fan pages, Sense of belonging, online engagement activities, shopping intention, WOM, online social interaction propensity, sense of community theory

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