Purpose: Social media is increasingly drawing the attention and interest of business-to-business (B to B) organizations. Yet, B to B organizations remain cautious in their social media pursuits, in part based on a stated lack of understanding for best practices. The purpose of the current work is to take initial steps to address this challenge by identifying specific social media message features that influence online users’ engagement with B to B organizations. Methodology/Approach: This work examines the Twitter feeds of the top 50 social B to B brands (as reported by Brandwatch in 2015) to examine the effects of message features (hashtags, text difficulty, embedded media, and message timing) on user engagement, captured in terms of Twitter likes and retweets. Findings: We argue that message features that enhance fluency (e.g., images) should enhance engagement. In contrast, those that disrupt fluency (e.g., hasthags) should result in lower levels of engagement. Consistent with these predictions, we find that hashtags and text difficulty correlate to lower levels of engagement whereas embedded media in the form of images and video correlate to higher levels of engagement. Also consistent with the proposed fluency framework, we find that tweets from B to B organizations generate greater engagement on evenings and weekends. Research Implications: This research applies a fluency lens to identify specific message features that influence online engagement. In doing so, it highlights fluency as a powerful construct for understanding the drivers of B to B social media brand engagement. More generally, this work suggests fluency as a valuable conceptual lens for developing effective B to B social media strategies. This research also speaks to the complexity of B to B social media strategies–organizations must go beyond content and platform decisions, to also consider the specific features of the message. Practical Implications: Social media is becoming more and more important to B to B organizations and is as yet an underutilized engagement tool. The current work offers initial strategies regarding message features that business practitioners can incorporate into their content development strategies to strengthen engagement. Specifically, efforts should be made to attain high levels of fluency in B to B social media content development. Originality/Value/Contribution of the Paper: The current work offers initial insights as to the importance of understanding not only how social media topics/content influence engagement, but also the influence of message features (e.g., hashtags, embedded media). In doing so, it highlights fluency as a novel conceptual lens for developing more effective B to B social media strategies. Finally, it draws on actual tweets from leading B to B brands to examine the proposed influence of message features on engagement.

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Journal of Business-to-Business Marketing
Sprott School of Business

McShane, L, Pancer, E. (Ethan), & Poole, M. (Maxwell). (2019). The Influence of B to B Social Media Message Features on Brand Engagement: A Fluency Perspective. Journal of Business-to-Business Marketing. doi:10.1080/1051712X.2019.1565132