Alcohol Education Guide
to Reducing Harmful Drinking

Using Facebook to Deliver a Social Norm Intervention to Reduce Problem Drinking at University



Implementer: University of Sydney

Program Overview: This social norms campaign used Facebook to deliver normative feedback to university students with the aim of reducing hazardous drinking.

Program Design: Students participating in the intervention received personalized normative feedback via Facebook private messaging. The first, of three message sessions was delivered one week after an initial screening questionnaire. Message sessions included feedback comparing the individuals perceptions of classmates' drinking behaviors to their classmates' actual reported consumption behaviors. Students were also given a ranking of their consumption compared to their classmates. Because these students were screened as hazardous drinkers they were also given their AUDIT score and an explanation of the score, the associated risks, and ways to reduce these risks. Facebook messaging allows the program implementer to see when the message has been read, but an additional step was added in order to ensure that the messaging was not only read, but understood. The feedback messages were followed with a hyperlink to an online questionnaire asking students to recall and interpret the feedback they were given. If a student reported incorrect responses a follow up message was sent immediately to address the error.

Evaluation: Students were selected for participation based on an initial online screening questionnaire which included AUDIT questions, to identify hazardous drinkers. 95 students were identified as hazardous drinkers and included in the study. These students were randomly assigned to participate in the control or intervention. Students in both groups were surveyed at baseline and again at one and three months after the intervention.

Key findings: Comparisons of self-reported quantity and frequency between control and intervention students revealed statistically significant differences:

  • Intervention students reported significantly lower quantities of alcohol consumption at one and three month follow ups
  • Students in the intervention group also reported significantly less frequent alcohol consumption at one and three months after the intervention


1. Ridout, B. & Campbell, A. (2014). Using Facebook to deliver a social norm intervention to reduce problem drinking at universityDrug and alcohol review33(6), 667-673.

Target Audience: University/young adults (18-21 years)
Issues: Underage Drinking
Setting: Media (including social media)
Approach: Social Norms
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