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Flow matters: antecedents and outcomes of flow experience in social search on Instagram

Leslie Cuevas (Department of Hospitality and Retail Management, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA)
Jewon Lyu (Department of Textile, Merchandising and Interiors, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)
Heejin Lim (Department of Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)

Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing

ISSN: 2040-7122

Article publication date: 1 February 2021

Issue publication date: 19 May 2021




This study aims to identify key motivation factors for consumers’ social search and examine the role of flow in the process. This study assessed how content quality (i.e. visual aesthetics, textual information and timeliness) and system quality (i.e., intuitiveness and interactivity) influence flow experience. Additionally, this study tested how mental simulation and ease of task mediate this process and examined how the flow experience leads to purchase intention.


An online survey via Amazon MTurk was performed using the general consumer population in the USA. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was conducted to test proposed hypotheses.


Visual aesthetics, text information, intuitiveness and interactivity were found to increase consumers’ flow experience in social search on Instagram. The timeliness of information was not a significant predictor of flow experience. Additional analyses demonstrated the mediating role of mental simulation and perceived ease of task mediate in flow experience, ultimately leading to increased purchase intention.

Practical implications

The concept of flow should be taken into consideration in a setting of social media marketing. To create holistic consumption experiences, social media strategy should promote seamless information search by increasing both the content (i.e. visual aesthetics and text information) and system (i.e. intuitiveness and interactivity) quality.


This study expands the theory of flow by applying it to the social search process in social media. Mental simulation and perceived ease of task are distinctively recognized as essential factors for flow experience on Instagram.



Cuevas, L., Lyu, J. and Lim, H. (2021), "Flow matters: antecedents and outcomes of flow experience in social search on Instagram", Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 49-67.



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