Tugging at the heartstrings? : examining discrete emotion in nonprofit Twitter messages and its effect on pass along behavior
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The rise of social media has provided organizations with new tools for interacting with customers and building relationships and have created an ideal place to foster and nurture emotional connections. Nonprofit organizations now strongly rely on the sharing of their social media messages to deliver important information, build community, and mobilize supporters (Lovejoy & Saxton, 2012). However, research regarding the extent to which nonprofits use emotions in social media communications is quite limited. The inclusion of emotional content is important in message virality, however, only very limited research exists on the types of emotional content that is included in nonprofit Twitter messages. Therefore, relevant data and descriptive frameworks are essential to helping us understand how nonprofit organizations are using microblogging sites to engage with their target audiences. This research takes a first step in this regard to investigate the effect that emotion can have on pass along behavior. Using Social Sharing of Emotion (Rime Finkenauer, Luminet, Zech, and Philippot, 1998, Rime 2009) as the theoretical foundation, this dissertation specifically examines nonprofit usage of discrete emotion and its effect on pass along behavior. This research found that nonprofits are using emotional content in their Twitter messages to communicate with their public. Specifically, nonprofits are using the focal eight discrete emotions as follows: Trust (33.3%), anticipation (30.4), joy (27.9%), fear (17.2), surprise (13.8%), sadness (13.6%), anger (12.2%), and disgust (7.1%). Additionally, results indicate that using emotive content in nonprofit Twitter messages can influence pass along behavior. Specifically, results indicate that nonprofit messages that utilized fear, sadness, surprise, or trust positively influenced pass along behavior. In contrast, use of anticipation-related words had a negative impact of pass along behavior, and thus while it is currently the second most utilized emotion it should be used cautiously. Therefore, nonprofits can now better employ emotive content to extend the reach of the messages to see their messages spread further.