“Actually Having Conversations and Talking to People”: Defining Social Media Engagement

Curt Gilstrap, Nigel Holderby


While previous attempts to conceptualize social media engagement have yielded limited building blocks to clarify the phenomenon, those attempts primarily resulted in frameworks generated by advertising, organizational literature, and media histories.  Instead of asking users how they understand engagement within social media contexts and spaces, previous attempts myopically defined the concept by pointing at the way users use the social tools given them.  This study asked heavy social media users to provide a definition of social media engagement without referencing previous advertising, marketing, organizational, or media research terms, and without referencing specific social media spaces or technologies.  The results show that users conceptualize social media engagement as a connective and interactive phenomenon where users attend to others in ways that speak to collective understanding of the world and time.  Generated from these thematics, social media users appear to comprehend engagement as communication that requires attentiveness to others without being constrained by technology.


social media engagement; social media; social media users; social media engagement definition

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