Meaning Negotiation and Customer Engagement in a Digital BELF Setting: a Study Of Instagram Company Interactions

Marie-Louise Brunner, Stefan Diemer


The use of communication strategies in BELF has been analyzed mainly in face-to-face and video-mediated interactions, as well as in computer-mediated communication. This study focuses on customer communication in the social network Instagram. Instagram is a key company advertising and webcare channel for companies that address an international and young customer base. In these international settings, English is the main medium of interaction. The basis for this study is a collection of Instagram posts and comments by 20 European companies from 2018. The data is analyzed qualitatively with a focus on customer engagement strategies and meaning negotiation. Customer engagement through emotional and plurilingual framing in the initial posts is comparable to rapport strategies in international teams using BELF. Culture-specific images may prompt intercultural negotiations in the comments section, engaging customers further. The use of plurilingual resources is frequent. Business-specific vocabulary is foregrounded, with both company and customers partaking in domain-specific discourse. This leads to meaning negotiation and interactive clarification strategies, which have also been documented in other BELF contexts. In sum, customer interactions on Instagram show how the intercultural and plurilingual environment is used to engage customers and create rapport, and how meaning in a business context is negotiated successfully. 


BELF; corpus linguistics; linguistics

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