Motivation, ability, and trigger to promote a desired behaviour on Instagram: A Celtic FC snapshotFootball

Motivation, ability, and trigger to promote a desired behaviour on Instagram: A Celtic FC snapshot

This blog post follows on the article «Juventus FC brand content on Facebook designed for heuristics» and discusses how motivation, ability, and trigger need to unfold in a logical way to promote a desired behaviour in social media, specifically Instagram. The post explains how social media managers could ask their followers to engage in a certain behaviour and what it means in regard to motivation and ability. Theory suggested by Yocco (2016) will be presented before analysing Instagram efforts of the 2016/17 SPFL champions Celtic FC.

Yocco (2016, p. 72) notes, “According to motivation, ability, and trigger, behavior happens when a person is motivated, has the ability to engage in the behaviour, [and] is effectively presented with a trigger that will cause the behaviour. […] These three elements must align at the right moment for the intended behavior to occur.” The following figure depicts the model.Yocco (2016, p. 71 – Motivation, ability, and trigger), adapted by Sebastiano Mereu.


In order to complete a desired task, people need to be motivated. Yocco (2016, p. 76) explains that people are motivated by (a) the opportunity to experience pleasure or avoid pain, (b) increase hope and reduce fear, and (c) by the desire of social acceptance and avoidance of social rejection.

Experience pleasure, avoid pain – increase hope, reduce fear

The following three Instagram posts convey the opportunity to experience pleasure of winning with Celtic FC and avoid the pain of not winning. The first post is an aesthetic figure (cf. Nies, 2013) portraying the three competitions won by the club in the season 2016/17. The second post is a referential photo (cf. Nies, 2013) showing manager Brandon Rodgers with the trophies. The third post captures on-pitch celebrations of the Celtic FC players.Celtic FC on Instagram 2017 – Treble Winners #inVIncibles

Celtic FC on Instagram 2017 – Treble Winners #inVIncibles

Celtic FC on Instagram 2017

Furthermore, the Instagram posts displayed above depict the benefits of following Celtic FC on Instagram, which leaves users better off than their current state due to positive emotions conveyed through posts (i.e., messages). In general terms, Yocco (2016, p. 79) describes that certain components of design can inspire hope and/or reduce fear users might have in using a product or website – or a social media app:

  • Simple navigation. Users hope they can find what they’re looking for.
  • Clear jargon-free terminology, side-by-side comparison of products. Users hope they choose the correct product.
  • Progress bars and straightforward error messages. Users hope they’ll complete the task they engaged in.
  • Clearly displaying the benefits of using your product. Users hope your product leaves them better off than their current state.

A simple navigation is given by Instagram as well as general technical help, such as progress bars and error messages. Celtic FC does not have any influence on the navigation of the app. However, the club can influence how their Instagram posts are received by followers by choosing which content and messages to publish through Instagram Stories or on the general account feed. In regard to jargon, it can be argued that various sports brands have a certain jargon they use, because it is anchored in the culture of the club and their fans. Hence, it might be necessary to use jargon to a certain extent, however, without alienating general spectators and/or potential fans.

Social acceptance, social rejection

Sports brands can convey that following them on social media is socially acceptable. This can occur by (a) allowing their followers to share links directly to their posts, (b) display the number of times the link has been shared, (c) encourage and promote comments and reviews, among other interactive activities. Points (a) and (b) are a given in the case at hand due to the features offered by Instagram as a social network platform. Posts that clearly encourage and promote comments and other interactions on the Instagram account of Celtic FC – as mentioned in point (c) – were not found in the chosen sample of posts. However, posts that promote a strong fan community – hence, socially acceptable – were found. Next, two examples:Celtic FC on Instagram 2017

Celtic FC on Instagram 2017


According to Yocco (2016, p. 76) – and according to common sense–, in order to complete a task, people need the ability to do so; the contributing factors include time, money, physical effort, mental effort, social acceptability, and routine. Using an established platform such as Instagram, which is used by hundreds of millions of people (TechCrunch, 2017), ensures that Celtic FC’s followers know how to access that specific communication channel – hence, are able (and willing) to do so – and to receive the messages the club wants to convey. If Instagram would be less practical in terms of usability, or communication would be noisier than on other channels, users’ ability would decrease. Yocco (2016, p. 80) notes, “Good user experience respects the time and effort a user needs to spend to learn and use a product.” In the case at hand, it can be argued that Instagram as a communication channel, as well as the way Celtic FC crafts the messages through their posts, increases users’ ability to accomplish the intended task, which is: Continuously follow the Celtic FC brand on an easy-to-use and socially acceptable platform (Instagram) through free and enticing content.

Celtic FC on Instagram 2017


Yocco (2016, p. 76-77) explains that people need to be presented with effective triggers to engage in a task. However, in order for triggers to be effective, motivation and ability need to have reached critical mass. The three types of triggers presented by Yocco include (a) a facilitator that assists users to engage, (b) a spark to boost a person’s motivation, e.g., email with limited time offer, and (c) signals, e.g., a call-to-action, that can also be applied to all senses.

The following Instagram post assists users in the desired behaviour by asking them to ‘click the link in the bio’. This seeks to facilitate the reception of the message Celtic FC wants to get across.Celtic FC on Instagram 2017

The next post is an aesthetic figure (cf. Nies, 2013) that seeks to stimulate the simple behaviour of using the #inVIncibles hashtag in the context of Celtic FC’s invincibility in all domestic competitions in season 2016/17. The spark can include a signal or morph into one.

Celtic FC on Instagram 2017 – #inVIncibles

The four Instagram posts below show how Celtic FC signal an intended communication. Although Yocco (2016, p. 82) argues that signals tell a person to do something, e.g., in the form of a call-to-action, a hashtag, as presented in this case, can be regarded a signal because of its interactive nature as a link that enables users to click on it and provide them with more dedicated posts and information.Celtic FC on Instagram 2017 – #inVIncibles

In conclusion

As suggested by Yocco (2016, p. 83), “Motivation, ability, and trigger give us insight into the importance of well-placed triggers. Often, you’ll have multiple opportunities to present users with triggers. You’ll benefit if you base the presentation of these triggers on behavioral data from users and the timing is in line with high levels of motivation and ability.” As the case of Celtic FC shows, the club has plenty of opportunity to motivate users to follow them through pleasure, hope, and social acceptance, as well as by reducing pain and fear. The features and reach of Instagram, as well as free content offered by Celtic FC provide then the ability for users to follow the club. Last but not least, facilitations (pointing users towards doing something), sparks, and signals trigger a desired behaviour, as depicted in the model at the top of this post.

Try it out, or analyse this model in the context of a social media channel of a sports brand and share your findings with us. Have fun.


Yocco, V. S. (2016). Design for the Mind: Seven Psychological Principles of Persuasive Design, 1st ed., Shelter Island, NY: Manning Publications.

Nies, M. (2013). Fotografie – Referentialität, Bedeutung und kultureller Speicher. In: H. Krah and M. Titzmann, ed., Medien und Kommunikation: Eine Interdisziplinäre Einführung. Passau: Stutz, 3rd ed.,pp. 291-323.

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