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How emotions from content social relevance mediate social media engagement: evidence from European supermarkets during the COVID-19 pandemic

Jacopo Ballerini (Department of Management, Universita degli Studi di Torino, Turin, Italy) (Department of Marketing, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Gazi Mahabubul Alam (Department of Foundations of Education, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Malaysia)
Katarina Zvarikova (Faculty of Operation and Economics of Transport and Communications, University of Žilina, Žilina, Slovakia)
Gabriele Santoro (Department of Management, Universita degli Studi di Torino, Turin, Italy)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 29 August 2022

Issue publication date: 11 April 2023

476

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to examine the antecedents of consumer engagement with supermarkets' social media accounts. Drawing on regulatory fit theory and social sharing of emotions theory, the authors test if the content posted on the social media brand pages of supermarkets dealing with a topic of high social relevance, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, stimulates social media consumer engagement and if and how the engagement is mediated by the arousal of positive and negative emotions.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors retrieved data from the Facebook accounts of the top 20 European supermarkets identified in the Deloitte 2020 Global Powers of Retailing report during the first wave of the pandemic from 1 March to 30 June 2020, collecting a sample of 2,524 posts from 8 different countries. After a content analysis to classify COVID-19 content, the authors applied the Baron and Kenny (1986) methodology to verify the hypothesised relationships.

Findings

The findings highlight a positive direct relationship between the social relevance of a topic (COVID-19) and social media consumer engagement mediated by the arousal of positive and negative emotions.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is one of the earliest empirical research using Facebook data to investigate the role of the social relevance of content as an antecedent of social media consumer engagement with a specific focus on supermarkets. The paper contributes to the stream of social media literature investigating the antecedents of social media engagement behaviour, exploring the role of topics' choice and aroused emotions, which to date are both under-investigated.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

A preliminary version of this study has been accepted and presented at the annual SIMA conference which took place in Milan from the 29th of June to the 1st of July 2022. The authors would like to thank all the peers for their constructive feedback and comments. Finally, the authors would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their help in improving the outcome of this research.

The paper is an output of the project NFP313010BWN6 “The implementation framework and business model of the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and smart transport”.

Citation

Ballerini, J., Alam, G.M., Zvarikova, K. and Santoro, G. (2023), "How emotions from content social relevance mediate social media engagement: evidence from European supermarkets during the COVID-19 pandemic", British Food Journal, Vol. 125 No. 5, pp. 1698-1715. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-06-2021-0695

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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