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EMAC 2020 Annual Conference

The Effect of Sentiment and Complexity on Consumer Engagement With Brand-Themed User-Generated Content

Published: May 27, 2020


Eunhee Ko, Northwestern University; Douglas Bowman, Emory University


brand-themed posts; consumer engagement; visual content


We study consumer engagement (likes, comments) with brand-themed user-generated content – image-based social media posts tagged with #brandname – an increasingly common way that consumers engage with brands. We describe consumer engagement using characteristics (sentiment and complexity) of the image and the text of a post, and characteristics of the focal brand, while controlling for the extent of the user’s (individual who posted) social media network size and activity. We study over 84,000 Instagram posts collectively hashtagged with over 150 product brand names. First, we find a positive effect for both visual and text sentiment. Second, while too much information from either images or text attenuates consumer engagement, around the middle of the range of visual complexity there is an optimal level that makes a post rich and engaging. Finally, we find that brand visibility and brand involvement are positively associated with higher levels of consumer engagement.