With over 1bn users worldwide, it is perhaps unsurprising that research analysing the significance of a Facebook "Like" was the most read academic article by Warc's subscribers in 2012.

The study, which was by far the most popular academic paper, profiled three major brands – Starbucks, Southwest Airlines and Microsoft Bing – to measure the impact of this core currency on the social network.

Second place went to a piece of analysis which described how public service marketing has generally lacked any theory or best practice, hindering the development of appropriate media strategies in this arena.

Research covering the evolution and growth of social media, and the impact it is having on consumers and brands, took third.

The global study, by adverting agency Universal McCann, identified social media usage trends, motives and behaviours of internet users between the ages of 16 and 54 years old.

Coming in fourth was a paper attempting to understand when and why sponsorship works in shaping brand image. The cited research consisted of two pre-tests and one main study.

Another academic article of major interest was an analysis of Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty. Manipulated images of a model were presented in varying shapes and sizes in attempt to establish if the Dove campaign was effective in influencing the way women perceive beauty and attractiveness in themselves and others.

For more details about the most popular material featured on Warc in 2012, click here.

Data sourced from Warc