29 June 2023 Pub Med; J. Adolesc Health; Rufina H W Chan 1Tak Yin Wong 1Dong Dong 1Jean H Kim 2 DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2023.05.007


Purpose: The near universal use of social media by young people in many parts of the world has led to increased exposure to alcohol social media marketing (SMM). This study aimed to examine the content of SMM posts from alcohol brands and venues in the southern China region.

Methods: This study randomly sampled posts from Hong Kong Facebook pages of 10 well-known alcohol brands (n = 639) and four popular drinking venues (n = 335) between 2011 and 2019. Content analysis, using deductive and inductive coding, was conducted on SMM posts to identify common marketing strategies (e.g., promotional giveaways) and themes.

Results: Alcohol SMM posts increased eight-fold during this period and showed continuous adaptation to regional tastes and drinking culture. Alcohol SMM strategies included explicit encouragement to drink, real-world event tie-ins (e.g. concerts, sporting matches), and special postings during local holidays such as Chinese New Year. Viewers were actively encouraged to interact through “likes”, shares, and comments on SMM posts. Alcohol brands had substantially higher user interactions than drinking venues (mean = 228.7/post vs. 19.0/post; p < .05). Alcohol SMM themes included celebratory events, friendship, cultural heritage, and popular music. SMM also promoted an exclusive, aspirational lifestyle, and emphasis on the high quality of their products. Only 8.1% of the brand posts and none of the venue posts contained responsible drinking messages.

Discussion: Alcohol SMM has been increasingly promoting social norms that encourage heavy drinking in young people. Future policy discussions in this emerging alcohol market region should consider regulation of alcohol SMM.

Keywords: Alcohol; China; Marketing; Qualitative research; Social media.

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