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Wednesday, July 13 • 10:46 - 12:15
Rethinking Social Media Information Disclosure: An Application of Users and Gratifications Theory

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG02, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
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  • Kathryn Waite,Heriot Watt University
  • Gary Hunter, Illinois State University
  • Ian Grant, Strathclyde University


Digital privacy research suggests that individuals view personal information disclosure negatively (Ellison et al 2011). However, social media users repeatedly share personal information with individuals and commercial organisations (Kang et al 2014). Indeed, consumer engagement research indicates that users actively seek social media connections with brand fan pages in return for a range of benefits (Brodie et al 2011, de Vries et al 2012). We seek to understand whether the extent of information disclosure to an organisation is related to the benefit being sought. Our work tests whether brand engagement motivations meaningfully classify social media users and then examines the extent to which information disclosure varies between user classifications.


To apply Uses and Gratifications Theory (Katz et al 1973) to identify the motivations behind social media users’ engagement with brands and relate these motivations to differences in information disclosure.


We surveyed 400 college students and achieved a sample of 249.  Validated scales were adapted to the context of social media brand engagement: Smock et al (2011) for Facebook Uses and Gratifications and Milne et al (2004) for personal information disclosure. Responses were measured on a 7-Point Likert scale, where 1 is “Strongly Disagree” and 7 is “Strongly Agree”. There were three stages of analysis: (1) an exploratory factor analysis to identify the dimensions of brand engagement motivation (2) a hierarchical cluster analysis to classify social media users according to motivations for engaging with brands; (3) an ANOVA to identify differences in information disclosure between user classifications.

Results: We identify three motivational dimensions for social media brand engagement: ‘Better Treatment’, ‘Brand Connection’ and ‘Brand Entertainment’. Using these motivational dimensions we classify users into three segments: ‘Brand Skeptics’, ‘Brand Value Seekers’ and ‘Brand Enthusiasts’. Results show that Brand Skeptics are not motivated by brand entertainment, brand connections or better treatment and provide evidence of scepticism towards online commercial advances (see Grant 2005). Brand Value Seekers are motivated by financial reward (commercial deals and better prices) and do not seek brand entertainment or brand connection. Brand Enthusiasts are motivated by brand entertainment and brand connection. We find a relationship between brand engagement motivations and the nature of information disclosure. Specifically that Brand Value Seekers are more likely to engage in privacy protection behaviors such as blocking requests for contact, changing default privacy settings and excluding certain personal information from the exchange. The findings have implications for the information solicitation strategies used by brands within social media. Our work shows that offering financial reward will result in limited disclosure whilst offering entertainment and a connection to the brand will gain greater access to information.

Future Work:

Results reveal salient social media user segments with different motivations for engaging with commercial organisations that relate to the extent of information disclosure. We will apply these insights to examine brand engagement motivations and information disclosure among users from different cultures and of different ages.


Brodie, R. J., Ilic, A., Juric, B., & Hollebeek, L. (2013). Consumer engagement in a virtual brand community: An exploratory analysis. 66 (1) Journal of Business Research. pp 105-114

De Vries, L., Gensler, S. and Leeflang, P.S., (2012), Popularity of brand posts on brand fan pages: An investigation of the effects of social media marketing. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26(2), 83-91.

Ellison, N.B., Vitak, J., Steinfield, C., Gray, R. and Lampe, C., (2011) Negotiating privacy concerns and social capital needs in a social media environment. In  Privacy online (pp. 19-32). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Grant, I. (2005). Young Peoples’ Relationships with Online Marketing Practices: An Intrusion Too Far?. Journal of Marketing Management, 21(5/6), 607-624.

Ibrahim, Y., (2008). The new risk communities: Social networking sites and risk. International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, 4(2), 245-253.

Kang, J., Tang, L. and Fiore, A.M., (2014). Enhancing consumer–brand relationships on restaurant Facebook fan pages: Maximizing consumer benefits and increasing active participation. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 36 (Jan), 145-155.

Katz, E., Blumler, J. G., & Gurevitch, M. (1973). Uses and gratifications research. Public Opinion Quarterly, 37(4), 509-523.

Milne, G. R., Rohm, A. J., & Bahl, S. (2004). Consumers’ protection of online privacy and identity. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 38(2), 217-232

Smock, A. D., Ellison, N. B., Lampe, C., & Wohn, D. Y. (2011). Facebook as a toolkit: A uses and gratification approach to unbundling feature use. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(6), 2322-2329.

Tufekci, Z. (2008). Can you see me now? Audience and disclosure regulation in online social network sites. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 28(1), 20-36.

Wednesday July 13, 2016 10:46 - 12:15 UTC
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG02 Goldsmiths University, Building 2