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Research Insight | Content That Engages Your Customers: The Role of Brand Congruity and Promotions in Social Media

In September 2020, Budweiser launched a “Pupweiser Contest” on Instagram. Fiat and Starbucks used pets, babies, and zodiac signs in their Facebook posts. These campaigns are incongruent with these brands’ identities, but they were used in attempts to attract fans’ attention and induce online engagement. Is this strategy effective? Researchers find the answer is no. The degree of congruency between the online content and the brand identity matters, as it positively affects the amount of rebroadcasting activity. Furthermore, posts that include promotional incentives trigger shares only when online content is congruent with the brand fan page. This happens because these kinds of campaigns generate less customer reactance and increase altruistic motivations.

What You Need to Know

  • Using likeable cues (e.g., puppies) does not lead brands to more online engagement.
  • Firms should carefully consider the congruity of a post with their brand identity, particularly when the post embeds a promotional incentive.
  • Incongruent posts activate fans’ reactance, whereas congruent posts with promotional incentives trigger altruism.


Every day, social network users worldwide spend an average of 1 hour and 47 minutes on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, and they forward online content to friends. Nonetheless, 87% of posts to brand Facebook pages go unanswered. To reduce this negative outcome and attract fans’ attention, companies post content that is not necessarily congruent with their brand and that contains promotion-based themes. The question is whether this strategy is effective in boosting rebroadcasting. The authors propose a conceptual framework that explains how two key post themes—congruency and promotions—influence consumers’ propensity to share and why. They validate it through a multimethod approach. First, the authors document the existence of the effect between congruency, promotions, and rebroadcasting by analyzing one year of posts for four leading brands. Second, the authors run a field experiment with Samsung Mobile. They find that the degree of congruency between online content and the brand positively affects the amount of rebroadcasting. Posts that include promotional incentives generate fewer shares, but this negative effect reverses when the post is congruent with the brand. Third, the authors conduct two online lab experiments to explain why this happens and show that fans’ reactance and altruistic motives play a central role.