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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published online by De Gruyter Mouton March 25, 2022

The power of Facebook friends: An investigation of young adolescents’ processing of social advertising on social networking sites

  • Sanne Holvoet , Liselot Hudders EMAIL logo and Laura Herrewijn
From the journal Communications


This study investigates the underlying mechanisms of how young adolescents process social advertising (i. e., advertising on social networking sites which shows how many and which of the user’s friends have ‘liked’ the brand’s page). Particularly, two experiments examined the role of brand trust in adolescents’ attitude formation and how brand trust is predicted by theories of social proof and persuasion knowledge. In addition, the moderating role of brand familiarity and brand value is investigated. The first experiment (N = 142) showed that higher brand trust was induced for social advertising for unfamiliar but not for familiar brands through the principle of social proof. This means that friends’ likes may reduce uncertainty and increase trust in unfamiliar brands through social advertising, something which enhances brand attitudes. Persuasion knowledge could not explain the effects of social advertising. The second experiment (N = 72) showed that social advertisements are more effective for brands that are symbolic (versus non-symbolic). Managerial and policy implications regarding social advertising targeting adolescents are discussed.


This research was funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), grant number FWO.OPR.2017.0027.01 (funded doctoral fellowship of the first author) and grant number FWO.3E0.2015.0035.01 (funded post-doctoral fellowship of the second author).


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Appendix 1:  Login screen.
Appendix 1:

Login screen.

Participants logged into the research tool using their first and last name. They filled in the grey boxes and continued by clicking on the purple button.

Appendix 2:  Pre-questionnaire.
Appendix 2:


The fourth question asks respondents to indicate their best friend from the class list (as example, three options are available in this screenshot).

Appendix 3:  The personalized mock-up Facebook newsfeed showing the social advertisement for Vidé sneakers.
Appendix 3:

The personalized mock-up Facebook newsfeed showing the social advertisement for Vidé sneakers.

At the top of the advertisement, the snippet of text “Laura Desmet and 12 other friends like Vidé” represents the social endorsement. The advertisement headline mentions “The new autumn collection is here! Discover it now!” The purple button in the bottom right corner redirects the participant to the questionnaire.

Appendix 4:  Personalized mock-up Facebook newsfeed showing the non-social advertisement for Nike sneakers.
Appendix 4:

Personalized mock-up Facebook newsfeed showing the non-social advertisement for Nike sneakers.

In this non-social advertisement, the endorsement is absent.

Appendix 5:  Blurred Facebook newsfeed.
Appendix 5:

Blurred Facebook newsfeed.

Appendix 6:  The social advertisements for non-symbolic versus symbolic sneakers.
Appendix 6:  The social advertisements for non-symbolic versus symbolic sneakers.
Appendix 6:

The social advertisements for non-symbolic versus symbolic sneakers.

Left: Vidé representing a non-symbolic sneaker brand. The advertisement headline mentions “These simple and comfortable shoes are perfect for long walks”. The image features two particular characteristics of these non-symbolic shoes: “Practical and solid” and “Completely waterproof”. Right: Vidé representing a symbolic sneaker brand. The advertisement headline mentions “These stylish and unique shoes cannot be missing from your wardrobe”. The image features two particular characteristics of these symbolic shoes: “Customizable” and “Luxury edition”.

Published Online: 2022-03-25

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