Evaluating the effectiveness of a physical activity social media advertising campaign using Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram

Celine Northcott, Rachel Curtis, Svetlana Bogomolova, Timothy Olds, Corneel Vandelanotte, Ronald Plotnikoff, Carol Maher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Technology-based physical activity programs are a novel solution to the major public health issue of physical inactivity. However, to be successful, there must be a large and population-appropriate uptake, which depends heavily on promotion. This study evaluates the effectiveness of an advertising campaign to disseminate a physical activity smartphone app. The experiment used a 3 × 3 × 3 full-factorial design, examining platforms (Facebook; Facebook Messenger; Instagram), selling-techniques (hard-sell - sending viewers directly to (a) Apple Store or (b) Google Play, and soft-sell - sending viewers from an ad to a (c) landing-page, then to an app store) and themes (Health and Wellbeing; Body and Self-Confidence; Social Enjoyment). Outcomes were reach, click-through, and app downloads. Advertisements reached 1,373,273 people, achieving 2,989 clicks and 667 downloads. Instagram and Facebook Messenger had higher reach compared to Facebook (F[2,27] = 27.17, p <. 001), whilst Facebook and Facebook Messenger both produced higher click-through (F[2,27] = 8.98, p <. 001) and downloads (F[2,27] = 4.649, p =. 018). Selling-technique differed, with soft-selling ads producing greater reach (F[2,27] = 4,616.077, p <. 001); however, both hard-selling ads (Apple Store and Google Play) had greater click-through (F[2,27] = 10.77, p <. 001) and downloads (F[2,27] = 3.791, p <. 001). Advertising theme varied, with Social Enjoyment themes producing less click-through (F[2,27] = 5.709, p =. 009) and downloads (F[2,27] = 5.480, p =. 010). We recommend future studies to consider Facebook and Facebook Messenger, using hard-selling techniques, with themes relating to Health and Wellbeing and Body and Self-Confidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)870-881
Number of pages12
JournalTranslational Behavioral Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • advertising campaign
  • health promotion
  • online social networks
  • physical activity
  • social marketing


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