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How unsponsored, online user-generated content impacts consumer attitudes and intentions toward vaccinations
Journal of Marketing Communications  (IF),  Pub Date : 2019-10-04, DOI: 10.1080/13527266.2019.1671479
T. J. Weber, Darrel D. Muehling, Ioannis Kareklas


Consumers typically lack the expertise to evaluate the legitimacy and accuracy of health information online. Considering that unsponsored, user-generated content is increasingly commonplace online, particularly as it relates to health decisions, understanding how consumers are affected by this unique type of information is important to practitioners of both health and digital marketing. While unsponsored online content is ubiquitous across a variety of contexts, research investigating how these elements affect consumer decisions is scant. In the present work, we undertake three empirical studies examining the interactive effect of unsponsored, user-generated content and accompanying social media user comments on readers’ vaccination-related decisions. Findings suggest that the influence of unsponsored content is an interactive function of the valence of the content, the valence of accompanying comments, and consumer perceptions of the commenter’s level of credibility. We conclude by outlining important insights for digital marketers and health practitioners alike.