In today’s social online world there is a variety of interaction and participatory possibilities which enable web users to actively produce content themselves. This user-generated content is omnipresent in the web and there is growing evidence that it is used to select or evaluate professionally created online information. The present study investigated how this surrounding content affects online advertising by drawing from social influence theory. Specifically, it was assumed that web users sharing an interpersonal relationship (interpersonal influence) and/or a group membership (collective influence) with authors of user-generated content which appears next to advertising on the web page are more strongly influenced in their response to the advertising than unrelated users. These assumptions were tested in a 2 × 2 between-subject experiment with 118 students who were exposed to four different Facebook profiles that differed in terms of interpersonal connection to the source (existent/non-existent) and collective connection to the source (existent/non-existent). The results show a significant impact in the case of collective influence, but not in the case of interpersonal influence. The underlying mechanisms of this effect and implications of the results for online advertising are discussed.
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