Content versus community focus in live streaming services: how to drive engagement in synchronous social media

Johann N. Giertz, Welf H. Weiger, Maria Törhönen, Juho Hamari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Purpose: Social live-streaming services are an emerging form of social media that is gaining in popularity among researchers and practitioners. By facilitating real-time interactions between video content creators (i.e. streamers) and viewers, live-streaming platforms provide an environment for novel engagement behaviors and monetization structures. This research aims to examine communication foci and styles as levers of streaming success. In doing so, the authors analyze their impact on viewers' engagement with the stream. Design/methodology/approach: This research draws on a unique dataset collected via a multi-wave questionnaire comprising viewers' perceptions of a specific streamer's communications and their actual behavior toward them. The authors analyze the proposed impact of communication foci on viewing and donating behavior while considering the moderating role of communication style using seemingly unrelated regressions. Findings: The results show that communication foci represent a double-edged sword: community-focused communication drives viewership while reducing donations made to the streamer. By contrast, content-focused communication curbs viewing but drives donating. Practical implications: Of specific interest for practitioners, the study demonstrates how streaming content providers (e.g. influencers) should adjust their communications to drive engagement in the context of synchronous social media such as social live-streaming services. Beyond that, this research identifies unique characteristics of engagement that can help managers to improve their digital service offerings. Social implications: Social live-streaming services provide an environment that offers unique opportunities for self-development and co-creation among social media users. By allowing for real-time interactions, these emerging social media services build on ephemeral content to provide altered experiences for users. Originality/value: The authors highlight the need to distinguish between engagement behaviors in asynchronous and synchronous social media. The proposed conceptualization sheds new light on success factors of social media in general and social live-streaming services specifically. To maximize user engagement, content creators in synchronous social media must consider their communications' focus (content or community) and style (utilitarian or hedonic).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-58
Issue number1
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Community
  • Content
  • Engagement
  • Influencers
  • Social media
  • Streaming

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Strategy and Management


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