Feelings generated by threat appeals in social marketing: text and emoji analysis of user reactions to anorexia nervosa campaigns in social media

  • Rita Ferreira Gomes
  • Beatriz CasaisEmail author
Original Article


Threat appeals in social marketing have been widely researched regarding their effects in behaviour change. However, little is known about their emotional effects in individuals. Feelings generated by threat appeals have proved to be ambiguous. Considering that understanding the emotional effects of message frames has implications in long-term behaviour change, this paper aims at understanding the feelings generated by threat appeals, considering the inconsistent findings in the literature. The research analyses the feelings produced by threat appeals in two social networks - Facebook and YouTube. A sentiment analysis of forty non-governmental campaigns regarding anorexia nervosa awareness was conducted through two methodological forms. First, we have analysed the content of the comments made by users by text analysis; second, we have coded the emoji expressing feelings from the users in the same campaigns and have quantified their interactions. Results indicate that feelings generated by threat appeals regarding anorexia nervosa campaigns in social media may be both positive and negative, with a great expression of fear, sadness and empathy, corroborating the ambiguous findings. Positive feelings are most prominent in emoji and reveal support, compassion and admiration both for campaign messages and for people suffering from anorexia. Negative feelings, such as fear and sadness, arise especially as a consequence of awareness and concerns. The paper contributes to the discussion of this ambivalent topic of research and also experiments two different sentiment analysis techniques – text and emoji analysis -, with different result outcomes.


Threat appeals Emoji analysis Social media text analysis Anorexia campaigns Sentiment analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Economics and ManagementUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal
  2. 2.Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and AveBarcelosPortugal
  3. 3.IPAM PortoPortoPortugal
  4. 4.CiTURLeiriaPortugal

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