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What drives interaction in political actors’ Facebook posts? Profile and content predictors of user engagement and political actors’ reactions

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Based on a quantitative content analysis of political actors’ Facebook posts (N = 1915), this study investigates profile-level and post-level drivers of user engagement (comments, likes, and shares) by employing a multilevel approach. For the first time in extant research, we also examine the factors that drive political actors to react to user comments. Findings indicate that the number of followers, the use of an official fan profile, and party vote share were negatively related to political actors’ reactions to user comments. Furthermore, party profiles were least successful in stimulating user engagement. On the post level, we found that reasoning, post length, and references to competitive political actors have the potential to increase different types of user engagement. Negative, but not positive tonality increased user engagement and positive emotional expressions had a stronger effect on user engagement than negative emotions. Furthermore, humorous posts were more likely to be commented, liked, or shared, while mobilization cues had predominantly negative effects on user engagement.
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Keywords: Content analysis; deliberation; emotions; humor; interactivity; multilevel analysis; negativity bias; political participation; social media; user engagement

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Communication, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Publication date: August 24, 2019

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