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Do Passionate, Excited Fans Post on Social Media More?

Feb. 1, 2017

NASCAR is notorious for its faithful fans. Thousands of fans flock to motor speedways around the country to support their favorite drivers and enjoy exciting events with like-minded people. But will those passionate fans post on social media more because they're excited? That's the question Kirk and Robin Wakefield asked at a NASCAR race in Miami.

The hypothesis and the event provided the perfect opportunity for the Wakefields to meld their respective fields of research. Edwin W. Streetman Professor of Retail Marketing and Executive Director of the Sports Sponsorship & Sales Program Kirk Wakefield's previous research focuses on sports marketing and the implications of passion on sports marketing. His wife, Associate Professor of Information Systems Robin Wakefield, has focused her research on social media usage from the user experience perspective. With the help of a grant from the Wharton Consumer Analytics Initiative, they merged their interests and investigated how passion and excitement affect the frequency of social media postings during an event—in this case, a NASCAR race.

"Passion affects everything you do," Kirk said. "If I know what you're passionate about, I can predict your behavior about whatever it is and your social media usage."

Researchers met fans at the event and emailed them surveys after the event's conclusion. They asked respondents about their usage of Facebook and Twitter, during the three-day NASCAR event. The researchers were interested in the effects of passion and excitement on social media posting frequency.

The results were analyzed and culminated in the article "Social Media Network Behavior: A Study of User Passion and Affect," which was published in the Journal of Strategic Information Systems. In the article, the researchers constructed a conceptual framework that allows them to better understand the influence of passion and excitement on social media postings.

"Overall, how we measure passion is heart, mind, body and soul," Kirk said. "So if you would label it a passion, spend a lot of time thinking about it, prioritize your time for it, and feel like you can't live without it, it's a passion."

The Wakefields found that although excitement isn't always a significant motivator for content creation or engagement online, excitement in conjunction with passion is…at least at meaningful events.

"Just because [respondents] were excited didn't mean they were going to use social media," Robin said. "Feelings didn't drive use of technology."

The Wakefields believe this research provides insight into opportunities for businesses marketing to consumers online.

"When an organization is thinking about a business to consumer social media strategy, they can increase their engagement with their customers if they find something that their customers are passionate about, and then create excitement around that passion," Robin said. "It might drive social media use."

Kirk suggested the use of passion for an activity to predict behavior in marketing and information systems is new and advances the literature. Their model acts as a basis for future research. The duo suggested harmonious or obsessive passion would be interesting extensions of the literature.

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