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Examining the impact of negative, user-generated content on stakeholders

Michel M Haigh (College of Communications, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, United States.)
Shelley Wigley (Department of Communication, University of Texas, Arlington, Texas, United States.)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to (n=472) examine how negative, user-generated content on Facebook impacts stakeholders’ perceptions of the organization.


At Phase 1, stakeholders’ perceptions about the organization – public relationship, corporate social responsibility, attitude toward the organization, and reputation of the organization were assessed. A week later, at Phase 2, participants were exposed to negative Facebook comments. This study employed the theory of inoculation as a way to bolster stakeholders’ attitudes to protect against attitude shift following exposure to negative, user-generated comments.


Paired sample t-tests indicate stakeholders’ perceptions of the organization – public relationship and corporate social responsibility significantly decrease after stakeholders read negative, user-generated content. The pattern of means supports the idea inoculation can prevent against attitude shift.

Practical implications

Strategic communication professionals should be aware of the impact negative posts can have and develop a strategy to respond to negative comments on Facebook.


There is limited experimental research examining the impact of negative Facebook posts on stakeholders. It extends current literature and provides practitioners with some guidance on the impact of negative, user-generated content.



Michel Haigh would like to thank Dan LePera, Michelle Turli, Lindsey Nelson, Anna Zwolak, Kyle Casey, Brittany Caplin, Katy Reedman, Emily Stubler, Joyce Callada, and Jomil Medina, undergraduates in the College of Communications at the time the study was conducted, for their assistance in coding and monitoring the lab. Special thanks to Yu-Tai Chung, system administrator for the College for his assistance in helping prepare the randomization for the online survey. This project was funded by an Undergraduate Research grant.


Haigh, M.M. and Wigley, S. (2015), "Examining the impact of negative, user-generated content on stakeholders", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 63-75.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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