Social networking sites (SNSs) may influence the behavior of SNS users by exposing them to information about the number of other users who engaged with a SNS post (i.e., user engagement) and any comments left in response to a post (i.e., user-generated comments [UGCs]). The current study hypothesized that beer advertisements with higher user engagement levels and pro-drinking UGCs would be positively associated with the desire to drink and ad engagement. The effect of ad content in relation to regulatory compliance was also investigated.
A 2 (regulatory compliant vs. noncompliant) × 2 (low vs. high user engagement) × 2 (pro- vs. anti-alcohol UGC) mixed factorial experiment was used. A total of 120 young adults viewed two compliant and two noncompliant ads. Participants were randomized into four groups: ads with high or low user engagement values, which were paired with either pro- or anti-drinking UGCs. Dependent variables included desire to drink and engaging (i.e., Liking or Sharing) with the ad.
When associated with high user engagement values, the desire to drink was 3.5 times greater in the pro-drinking UGC group compared with the anti-drinking UGC group (odds ratio = 3.48, 95% CI [1.60, 7.55]). Ad engagement was 2.3 times greater among those exposed to pro-drinking UGCs (odds ratio = 2.30, 95% CI [1.09, 4.85]).