How Ephemerality Features Affect User Engagement with Social Media Platforms

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Publication History

Received: September 3, 2020
Revised: July 15, 2021; June 6, 2022; November 4, 2022
Accepted: February 22, 2023
Published Online as Articles in Advance: November 30, 2023
Published Online in Issue: December 1, 2023

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User engagement, a key factor in the success of social media platforms, has long been based on permanent content. A recent paradigm shift in platform design has led large social media providers to implement ephemerality features that by default make shared content disappear after a certain amount of time. However, very little is known about how ephemerality features affect user engagement and behavior in social media. Drawing upon the technology affordance perspective, we conducted a qualitative multimethod study involving individual interviews and focus groups. Our findings show that the affordances arising from features with varying degrees of ephemerality (i.e., snaps and stories) differ from those of permanent content features in terms of self-presentation, browsing others’ content, and communication. Adopting a multidimensional conceptualization of user engagement, we show the positive (e.g., more content sharing) and negative (e.g., cognitive burden from context loss) effects for snaps and stories that should be cautiously considered by social media platforms aiming to introduce such features. Finally, we reveal new user behaviors that relate to sharing snapshots of fleeting value as snaps or experiences of transient value as stories.

Additional Details
Author Christiane Lehrer, Ioanna Constantiou. Christian Matt, and Thomas Hess
Year 2023
Volume 47
Issue 4
Keywords Ephemerality features, social media platforms, user engagement, technology affordances
Page Numbers 1663-1678
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