The Role of Parasocial Relationship in Social Media Marketing: Testing a Model Among Baby Boomers

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International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management





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Purpose: This study aims to apply parasocial relationship theory to understand the hospitality brand-consumer relationship on social media. Aiming to examine brand-initiated mechanisms that drive relationship development, the study identified two sets of brand actions as antecedents, namely, content-related (utilitarian and hedonic benefits) and interaction-related factors (perceived interactivity and openness). This study also investigated the subsequent impacts of parasocial relationships on customer engagement behaviors and brand loyalty. As baby boomers are an important but understudied consumer cohort in social media marketing, this study empirically tested the proposed model for this specific group. Design/methodology/approach: A survey was conducted electronically with baby boomer consumers from the USA. The partial least squares analysis was used to test the model validity for this consumer group. Findings: The results of this study showed that content-related factors had significant effects on the parasocial relationship, which, in turn, significantly influenced customer engagement and brand loyalty. Research limitations/implications: This study responds to the recent calls from scholars on developing and expanding a nomological network of parasocial relationships to understand consumer-brand relationships in social media. By focusing on baby boomers, this study adds unique insights on understanding online relationships and engagement, specifically for this cohort. Future studies should expand the study by examining other generations, platform differences or using longitudinal methods. Practical implications: This study informs hospitality marketers in the development and implementation of a successful Facebook relationship building campaign targeting baby boomers. Originality/value: According to the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study known to have developed a coherent parasocial relationship model that combined content-related benefits, interaction-related factors, online engagement and brand loyalty. It also represents one of the few to examine how hospitality brands can build a parasocial relationship with baby boomers, an important but cohort, on social media and provide actionable insights to hospitality marketers for this generation.


Baby boomers; Brand communities; Brand loyalty; Customer engagement; Parasocial relationship; Social media


Marketing | Social Media



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