2 min read

Why Does Social Media Disengagement Happen?

Why Does Social Media Disengagement Happen?

Maintaining consumer engagement is crucial for brands.

The focus has often been on how to attract and retain customers, but a recent study published in the Journal of Marketing sheds light on the lesser-explored aspect of social media disengagement and its implications for brand perception.

Understanding Social Media Disengagement

Social media disengagement refers to instances when consumers distance themselves from a brand on social platforms, often leading to unfollowing the brand.

This phenomenon can have profound consequences for the brand, as it diminishes the reach of future marketing content.

The study identifies one potential driver of social media disengagement: the observation of socially unacceptable mentions of a brand on social media.

These mentions involve violations of implicit or explicit rules governing consumer interactions when mentioning a brand.

For example, profanity-laden tweets directed at a brand can be considered socially unacceptable mentions.

Key Findings of the Study

The research reveals that when consumers encounter things like these, they are motivated to distance themselves from the brand:

Profanity-Laden Comments

Users may use explicit language when referring to a brand, its products, or its services. For instance, a customer might tweet, "I can't believe how [Brand Name] messed up my order. Their service is %#$@!"

Hate Speech

Some individuals may express discriminatory or offensive views associated with a brand. For instance, posting racially insensitive comments or using derogatory terms in reference to the brand can be socially unacceptable.

Negative Associations

Users might associate a brand with controversial or unfavorable topics. For example, if a brand is mentioned alongside a scandal or unethical behavior, it can damage the brand's reputation.


Trolls may target brands with provocative or inflammatory remarks, often seeking to provoke a reaction. These comments can range from sarcastic jabs to outright harassment.

Inappropriate Imagery

Sharing offensive images or memes featuring a brand's logo or products can tarnish the brand's image. For example, using a brand's logo in a meme with inappropriate content.

False Accusations

Accusing a brand of unethical or illegal actions without evidence can be damaging. For instance, making baseless claims of food contamination against a restaurant chain.

Brand Hijacking

Unauthorized individuals or groups may take over a brand's social media account, posting inappropriate content on behalf of the brand. This can lead to significant backlash.

Political Controversies

Brands may become embroiled in political debates, leading to polarizing discussions that can negatively impact the brand. Users may express extreme political views associated with the brand.

Customer Complaint Escalation

While customer feedback is valuable, some individuals may escalate complaints with aggressive language or threats, making the conversation socially unacceptable.


Brands and their employees may become targets of online harassment or cyberbullying, which can involve hateful messages, threats, or personal attacks.

It's important for brands to address these socially unacceptable mentions promptly, either by moderating their social media content, providing clear guidelines for user interactions, or responding tactfully to defuse potentially damaging situations.

Failure to manage such mentions can lead to negative brand perception and social media disengagement, as highlighted in the research discussed earlier.

When People Do or Don't Disengage From Social Accounts

Crucially, the impact of socially unacceptable mentions is not uniform across all consumers.

It is particularly significant for individuals who have strong connections to the brand.

These individuals tend to incorporate the brand into their self-identity.

Therefore, when they witness socially unacceptable mentions, it reflects poorly on their shared brand-related identity, leading to feelings of vicarious shame.

What Brands Can Do About Social Disengagement

For brands seeking to prevent social media disengagement among their loyal customer base, here are some practical tips:

  1. Proactive Moderation: Brands should proactively moderate social media content to remove socially unacceptable mentions promptly. This helps prevent highly connected consumers from wanting to disengage.

  2. Transparency and Education: Brands can mitigate the risk of disengagement by explaining to consumers why specific content was removed. Providing clarifications can help consumers understand the brand's stance and foster a sense of community responsibility.

  3. Crowding Out Negative Mentions: Brands can counteract socially unacceptable mentions by consistently producing high-quality, engaging content. Positive content can drown out negative mentions and maintain a positive online atmosphere.

Social Media Disengagement Does Massive Damage

This research highlights that social media disengagement is a real concern for brands, and it affects even highly connected, loyal customers.

Brands should not underestimate the impact of socially unacceptable mentions on their image and actively work to manage their social media environments. 

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