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How Posting Goal-related Photos on Social Media Affects Consumer Goal Motivation: The Divergent Effects of Photos About Goal Intent versus Goal Pursuit


Innumerable people choose to make a public commitment to their personal goals in order to achieve success. The basis for this decision is that announcing goals in the presence of others can provide a strengthened commitment in those pursuing them. While prior literature has focused on the effect of public commitment on online social support communities, very few studies have examined whether similar success would be attained by those who voluntarily share their goal pursuit photos in social media settings. In this research, we explore how posting images can impact consumers’ motivation to persist with goal-focused behaviors, which then has the potential to increase the amount of goal-pursuit activities. Furthermore, we investigate how posting goal pursuit photos affects the perceived proximity between the current goal state and goal attainment, which in turn influences motivation. Moreover, we distinguish between photos that signal goal pursuit and goal intent and show they have divergent effects. Across seven studies - one field study and six lab experiments - we discover that posting goal pursuit photos online leads to an increase in motivation, which then increases goal persistence. However, these effects are nullified or even reversed when goal intent photos are posted because it signals that goal pursuers have made not sufficient progress. This research suggests that marketers can improve the efficacy of goal programs online by harnessing the benefits of posting goal pursuit photos.

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