Abstract: Due to the increasing importance of social networking sites as sources of information, news media organizations have set up Facebook channels in which they publish news stories or links to articles. This research investigated how journalistic texts are perceived in this new context and how reactions of other users change the influence of the main articles. In an online experiment (N = 197), a Facebook posting of a reputable news site and the corresponding article were shown. The type of user comments and the number of likes were systematically varied. Negative comments diminished the persuasive influence of the article, while there were no strengthening effects of positive comments. When readers perceived the topic as personally relevant, comments including relevant arguments were more influential than comments with subjective opinions, which can be explained by higher levels of elaboration. However, against expectations of bandwagon perceptions, a high number of likes did not lead to conformity effects, which suggests that exemplifying comments are more influential than statistical user representations. Results are discussed with regard to effects of news media content and the mechanisms of social influence in Web 2.0.
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