Genuine, fake or does it matter? Exploring engagement behaviour for self-presentation

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Customer engagement (CE) research is enjoying rapid growth in the business domain. CE is evolving from an extension of loyalty to a complex networked phenomenon underpinning customer/brand relationship, influencing how firms execute their marketing strategy and affecting the way value is co-created in service ecosystems. However, although engagement is viewed as a key marketing concept, research addressing its outcomes has produced mixed results. Existing research is based on two key assumptions. Firstly, engagement emerges from pre-existing relationships between customers and brands; secondly, engagement is associated with a genuinely held disposition towards a focal object manifesting in voluntary contributions broadly seen as beneficial. We explore engagement in social media, a key context associated with networks, connectedness, ubiquity and ability to influence a range of actors. However, literature on social media indicates a prevalence of activity motivated by a desire for self-presentation as opposed to more genuine motivations. Crucially a need to present the self in a certain way may result in content lacking veracity or, to a greater or lesser extent, faked. Adopting a ‘theories-in-use’ perspective our paper explores the role of self-presentation in motivating engagement behaviour.

Through a series of focused conversations with social media users focused on Facebook profiles we identify three alternative forms of engagement with differing levels of disposition and relationship with the focal object. In addition, we identify four drivers of engagement for self-presentation which diverge from existing literature. We followed this up with interviews with managers to further inform the results. Here we discover that, for organisations, our results trigger responses around brand awareness, trust and control. Our research has significant implications for engagement researchers who may fall into a trap of assuming that all engagement is genuine and offer two main contributions. Firstly, we question the approaches used to measure engagement, specifically the failure to account for engagement dispositions. Secondly, we critique the predominant view that places engagement within predictable purchase relationships.
Period9 Feb 2022
Held atUniversity of Glasgow , United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • Engagement