The interaction between consumers’ personality traits and their engagement with social media content: A marketing perspective

  • Thomas Bowden-Green

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The research reported in this thesis investigates the relationship between five-factor personality traits and social media behaviour in order to understand how and why personality traits influence consumers’ interaction with marketing material online. Whilst this research therefore has relevance to the practice of marketing, it also contributes to the wider study of personality traits and social media behaviour, as well as studies of the effectiveness of ‘microtargeting’ specific traits with advertising content. The findings in this thesis are presented through seven main chapters; these can be broadly grouped under two overarching themes:
A. The relationship between five-factor personality traits and social media;
B. The relationship between extraversion in particular and responses to advertising content.

First the thesis systematically identifies studies relating five-factor personality to social media behaviour in order to identify themes in the 190 studies published to date. Literature is grouped into six broad themes explored by these studies: 1) content creation, 2) content reaction, 3) user profile characteristics, 4) patterns of use, 5) perceptions of social media, and 6) aggression, trolling, and excessive use. In particular, differences are identified between extraverts and neurotics as discussed at length in two separate chapters. Extraverts are likely to use social media, spend more time using one or more social media platforms, and regularly create content. Those with high trait neuroticism do not access social media particularly frequently or for long periods of time, nor do they frequently update their status or react to the content of others through commenting or liking. Differences between all five traits are then summarised in a dedicated chapter relating trait behaviour to marketing activity with specific reference to the traditional marketing ‘funnel’.

The thesis then presents the results of primary research to assess whether the relationship between personality traits and the frequency of social media use is similar across online environments. This research finds that those scoring higher for extraversion are consistently frequent users of many social media platforms. There are also similarities in the traits of both Instagram and Facebook users. There are however subtle differences in the stated motives for using social media given the ‘social distancing’ conditions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with extraverts in particular driven to ‘maintain’ their offline relationships via social media.

Under the second theme, having demonstrated the role played by personality traits in determining actual social media use, as well as motivation to use social media, the effectiveness of targeting a specific trait is tested using specific aesthetic cues. However, the studies demonstrated that when offered the choice of two social media adverts, extraverts do not prefer a ‘congruent’ advert. Furthermore, across both Facebook and Instagram, adverts designed to display aesthetic cues congruent with extraversion failed to appeal to extraverts, therefore suggesting that despite consistencies in behaviour there are some practical difficulties for marketers attempting to implement microtargeting.

To investigate the lack of congruence identified between trait scores and aesthetic cues, a final study again studied congruence but this time using advertising materials for which congruence had already been demonstrated. Rather than aesthetic cues, materials now ‘framed’ product benefits as either reflecting facets associated with high extraversion or low extraversion (i.e. introversion). This final investigation did demonstrate congruence for higher extraversion, replicating previous findings. Yet, congruence was not identified for introversion. Furthermore, extraverts viewing the congruent advert did not develop a positive brand attitude, positive thoughts, or positive behavioural intentions.

Overall this thesis contributes to the literature on personality and online behaviour, finding that personality traits contribute to consistent patterns of behaviour. This therefore underlines the importance for marketers of recognising personality traits alongside other individual differences such as demographic variables. Yet, the findings for congruence show mixed results, highlighting the difficulty in tailoring materials to appeal to specific traits, and suggesting many more avenues for future research to explore in order to build on this work.

The full list of studies included as chapters within this thesis, is as follows:
1. How is extraversion related to social media use? A literature review
2. Understanding neuroticism and social media: A systematic review
3. Social media, marketing, and five-factor personality: A review and synthesis of the literature
4. Personality and social media use: An investigation across social media environments
5. Personality and motives for social media use when physically distanced: A uses and gratifications approach
6. The effectiveness of microtargeting using aesthetic cues: Studies based on personality traits
7. Self-schema and advertising congruence: An investigation into extraversion and congruent advertising materials
Date of Award1 Nov 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAdam Joinson (Supervisor) & Joanne Hinds (Supervisor)


  • Big Five
  • Five-Factor Model
  • Personality
  • Social Media
  • Marketing

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