BACKGROUND: Exposure to food advertisements is associated with poor diet among youth, and food and beverage companies are increasingly advertising on social media sites that are popular among youth.
OBJECTIVE: To identify the prevalence of social media advertising among fast food, beverage, and snack companies and examine advertising techniques they use on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Vine.
METHODS: We quantified the increase in the creation of social media accounts from 2007 to 2016 among 200 fast food, beverage, and snack brands from the United States. We conducted content analyses to examine the marketing themes and healthfulness of products featured in 2000 posts from a subset of 20 brands and used multilevel regression to assess associations between marketing themes (eg, adolescents socializing) and interactive tools (eg, hashtags).
RESULTS: Two hundred brands collectively managed 568 accounts in 2016. Content analyses revealed that unique social media features (eg, geo-tags) appeared in 74.5% (n = 1489) of posts, and 31.5% (n = 630) were interactive. Posts featuring adolescents were more likely to be interactive than posts featuring adults (P < 0.001). Two-thirds (67.9%; n = 362) of foods shown were unhealthy, and 61.2% (n = 435) of beverages were sugar sweetened.
CONCLUSIONS: Social media food advertising is pervasive and uses interactive tools to engage with users.
- social media
- social media marketing
- Beverages/statistics & numerical data
- United States
- Fast Foods/statistics & numerical data
- Social Media/statistics & numerical data
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health Policy
- Nutrition and Dietetics
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health