Wang, Ye; Qiao, Fei; & Peng, Wei (2015). Is the size or the valence of proactive engagement associated with purchase intention? A Case study of branded blogs of Starbucks. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 9(3), 197-216.


With an increasing number of organizations and brands involved in content marketing, it is becoming increasingly urgent for businesses to make strategic use of social media. Meanwhile, the debate over “loss of control” calls for in-depth understanding of the dialogue between the brand and the public on branded social media sites. Given this background, a case study is employed to examine three branded blogs of Starbucks. The findings show that the socializing purpose of online communities is related to the effective and evaluative valence of proactive engagement. The use of conversation starters is significantly related to the size of proactive engagement. The use of hyperlinks is not associated with the evaluative valence of engagement. A significant positive relationship is revealed between the evaluative valence of proactive engagement and purchase intention. The findings suggest that the evaluative aspect of the emotional process links engagement with purchase intention, and brands should increase the sociability of their branded social media sites for brand lovers.


A case study was conducted on the corporate blog of Starbucks, a fan blog of Starbucks, and an interest group blog of Starbucks. Ninety blog posts and 1731 comments were collected from January 1, 2012 to July, 2013. A quantitative content analysis examined topical areas, hyperlinks, and conversational starters of blog posts; and, expressed purchase intention, evaluative and effective valence of comments. The number of comments each blog post received and the number of unique commenters were recorded as well.

Key Findings

  • Online communities with the purpose of socializing have more positive proactive engagement than those without a socializing purpose.
  • The use of hyperlinks in blog posts is not found to be associated significantly with more positive evaluations of the brand.
  • Conversation starters, a technique that intends to increase the interactivity of human-to-human conversation, exhibit a significant effect on the scale of participation in blog discussions.
  • The more positive evaluations occur in the discussion following a blog post, the more the explicit statements about intending to buy there will be.

Implications for Practice

When designing a branded social media site, strategic communication professionals should designate socializing as the community purpose. This purpose should be included in meta-descriptions as well as the site copy as part of search engine optimization strategies. Affection for the brand should serve as the relational connection of the community. In addition, to grow and maintain interaction on social media, communication strategies should focus on enhancing human-to-human interaction, essentially the conversation. Content strategies should guide the social team in choosing topics to which participants can easily relate. Techniques such as conversation starters can be applied to encourage more people to join the conversation, especially to elicit positive evaluations of a new product. It should be noted that when it is necessary to limit the interactivity of the conversation, it may not be appropriate to use conversation starters. The use of conversation starters should be restricted when topics are controversial, such as legal disputes and political debates.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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