Online Program

Blurring the Lines Between Consumers and Producers of Fast Food: A Case Study of a User-Generated Content Campaign

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Linnea Laestadius, PhD, MPP, Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Hui Xie, MA, School of Public Health, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Megan Meyer, MDT, Community and Behavioral Health Promotion, Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, Milwaukee, WI
background. Corporations are increasingly using the Internet not only to promote their products and solicit ideas, but also to encourage consumers to promote their products for them via user-generated content on social media. Via user-generated content campaigns, corporations producing harmful and unhealthy products can transform consumers into advertisers. This phenomenon is relatively unexplored within the public health literature. We examine the intersection of corporations and social media users through a case study of a user-generated content hashtag campaign run by a large fast food chain.

methods. First, we documented the content of the campaign and media portrayals of the campaign. Second, we performed a content analysis of one week worth of user-generated social media posts with the campaign hashtag across multiple social networking services. Finally, we examined the ways in which the corporation publicly utilized user-generated content.

results. We analyzed 501 user-generated posts made by 488 social media users. A majority of posts were explicitly or implicitly positive toward the fast food chain. Posts frequently included images of food and branded packaging. 16.8% of posts were made by users estimated to be age 15 or under. Further, the corporation promotes user-generated content by mirroring such content with faux-user-generated content. Faux content and true user-generated-content are frequently indistinguishable.

discussion. Corporations are successfully converting social media users, including children and adolescents, into positive advertisers for unhealthy products. As previous advocacy strategies have targeted corporations and government entities rather than individual consumers, novel efforts will be needed to counter corporate user-generated content campaigns.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe how corporations are making use of user-generated content campaigns to transform consumers into producers of advertising. Explain the ways in which corporations seek to blur the lines between corporate and user-generated social media content. Identify challenges to regulating such content.

Keyword(s): Social Media, Marketing

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I developed this study and completed the data analysis and interpretations of findings. I hold a PhD from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and have been building a research program that includes a focus on new media technologies and public health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.