Facebook News Feed Ads: A Social Impact Theory Perspective

Document Type


Publication Date



Mass Communication and Journalism




Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of “social information” in Facebook News Feed ads on American users’ advertising responses, including ad credibility, attitude-toward-the-ad, brand interest, intention to click and purchase intention. Using social impact theory as a conceptual framework, three factors were tested – relationship strength, physical distance and number of affiliated friends. The moderating role of product involvement was also investigated.

Design/methodology/approach: A 2 (strength of relationship: weak vs strong) × 2 (immediacy of relationship: close distance vs long distance) × 2 (number of friends: one vs several) between-group factorial design was used, and 397 research participants were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk).

Findings: Significant main effects were found for relationship strength and physical distance. Product involvement was identified as a moderating variable. No significant effects were found under the high involvement condition. Under the low involvement condition, however, relationship strength and physical distance significantly affected Facebook users’ advertising responses.

Research limitations/implications: Research samples were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk). It is possible that the characteristics of this specific social group might have influenced the findings of the study. Only one specific product category, fast casual restaurant, was tested. Participants were asked to imagine themselves in certain scenarios. Even though the scenarios were carefully tested in the pretest and clear instructions were given, field experiments might be helpful in future research to better reflect the actual consumer experience.

Practical implications: Marketers should take advantage of the “social information” feature in Facebook News Feed ads, especially for low involvement products. Names of friends with stronger social relationships and within close physical distance should be included in the ads.

Originality/value: The study is one of the first to examine the effects of “social information” in Facebook advertising. It also confirms the Social Impact Theory in a social media setting.

Publication Title

Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing

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