Like What You Like or Like What Others Like? Conformity and Peer Effects on Facebook

27 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2011 Last revised: 19 Aug 2014

See all articles by Johan Egebark

Johan Egebark

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

Mathias Ekström

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics; Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

Date Written: October 14, 2011

Abstract

Users of the social networking service Facebook have the possibility to post status updates for their friends to read. In turn, friends may react to these short messages by writing comments or by pressing a Like button to show their appreciation. Making use of five Swedish accounts, we set up a natural field experiment to study whether users are more prone to Like an update if someone else has done so before. We distinguish between three different treatment conditions: (i) one unknown user Likes the update, (ii) three unknown users Like the update and (iii) one peer Likes the update. Whereas the first condition had no effect, both the second and the third increased the probability to express a positive opinion by a factor of two or more, suggesting that both number of predecessors and social proximity matters. We identify three reasonable explanations for the observed herding behavior and isolate conformity as the primary mechanism in our experiment.

Keywords: Herding Behavior, Conformity, Peer Effects, Field Experiment

JEL Classification: A14, C93, D03, D83

Suggested Citation

Egebark, Johan and Ekström, Mathias, Like What You Like or Like What Others Like? Conformity and Peer Effects on Facebook (October 14, 2011). IFN Working Paper No. 886. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1948802 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1948802

Johan Egebark (Contact Author)

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden

Mathias Ekström

Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) - Department of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5035 Bergen
Norway
+47 55959817 (Phone)

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden

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